Why You Need Phone Scripts

Everyone has an opinion on whether or not you should use phone scripts when selling or prospecting over the phone. Those who don’t believe in using them cite many reasons including:

• Using scripts makes you sound like a telemarketer
• Following a script is too confining – you have to “go with the flow” of a conversation
• You can’t consult with a prospect if you’re following a script
• Scripts all sound so “salesy” that it turns prospects off
• People can always tell that you’re reading something, so you sound unprofessional
• You can’t script out everything – sometimes you just need to be able to adlib a little
• Script were O.K. in the beginning, but now that you’re a “pro” you don’t need them…

And so on. I bet you can think a few reasons yourself why you’d never be caught dead following a script…

And then there are those who believe that you absolutely must follow a script. Having written several books on phone scripts, you can imagine I subscribe to this group. Some of the reasons I believe you should follow a script are:

• Following a script actually makes you sound more professional
• Following a script ensures that you ask all the right qualifying questions
• Scripts make your job easier because you know where you’ve been and where you’re going
• Scripts allow you to truly listen to what your prospect is really saying…
• Having a script to follow gives you confidence and control over the sales process
• Following a scripted sales approach allows you to practice perfection on every call

Each of the above reasons for following a scripted sales approach powerfully affects each stage of your sales process, and any one of them can make or break a sale. But the real argument I present to those who insist on not using scripts is this: Where you know it or not, you already are following a script.

Think about it: If I were to record all your calls for a week and then transcribe them and hand them back to you, isn’t it true that what I’d be giving you was your own “script”? Isn’t it true that you are saying the same things, over and over again, each time you get a question, objection or blow off? Sure you are!

You see, right now everyone is already using a script of some kind, but the problem with most of them is that they were developed in the heat of the sale, while they were taking “in-coming” from a prospect or client. Most of the responses sales reps use were thought up on the spot and in response to (and often in defense to) some type of difficult sales situation.

Just think about how you habitually respond to blow offs like, “What is this call in regards to?” or “We wouldn’t be interested,” or “Just email me something.” Chances are, you are using ineffective responses that just cause you frustration and phone reluctance.

On the other hand, one of the biggest benefits to using professionally prepared scripts is that you can design the most effective response in advance, and then deliver your lines like a professional. I often like to cite Marlon Perkins from the old TV show, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” when making this point.

If you remember, his associate, Jim, was always out in the field “wrestling with the alligators,” while Marlon was reporting from the “safety and comfort of the land rover.” I always remember Marlon then taking a sip of ice tea and thinking, “When I grow up, I want to be Marlon and not Jim!”

In sales it’s the same thing. If you are not following a prepared and effective approach, then each time your prospect answers, you’re suddenly like Jim, “wrestling with the alligators.” If you take the time, however, in the safety and comfort of the conference room, to craft out the best responses, statements and questions to the selling situations you run into day after day, then you can calmly and coolly deal with those situations. And even take a sip of ice tea in between responses!

As I’ve just mentioned, 80% of the selling situations you face are the same ones you faced yesterday, last month, etc., and they’re the same you’ll be in next week and next month. This is one of the best things about sales that most sales reps never take advantage of. The top producers in any industry know this and use it to their advantage by taking the time to script out the most powerful and effective responses to them, and then they drill, practice and rehearse them so they sound natural. That’s why top producers sound so smooth and professional. They have taken the time to internalize the scripts so they can deliver their responses naturally.

And just a word about practice. Did you notice I didn’t say they “read their scripts”? Every professional – whether it’s an actor or dancer or football player – spends hours and hours learning their craft and practicing their techniques so when it’s time to perform, they do it automatically. Don Shula, the Superbowl winning coach of the Miami Dolphins, once said that his players practice every day until their assignments and techniques become automatic. He said that come game time if a player needs to “think” about what to do next it’s already too late!

And it’s the same with any sales professional. If you need to think about how to respond to a question, a blow off, an objection or stall, then it’s already too late! If you have scripted out the best approach or response and memorized it, however, then you can handle those situations like a professional. And this gives you the best chance of succeeding.

So, should you learn and use well-crafted, real world responses that give you the best chance to succeed in the selling situations you get in day after day? Or should you continue to make things up as you go along, hoping that what you say will occasionally work while you keep wondering why sales seems so hard for you, but easy for the top producers in your office?

The answer to that question will determine whether or not you choose to learn and use scripts, and how successful – or unsuccessful – you’ll be in your career…

Prospects Hiding Behind Voicemail? Here’s What to Do…

I received the following email from regular reader of my Top 20% Ezine:

Good morning Mike, Bob Martin here in Denver.

Mike, I wanted to thank you for your e-mails like this one I get from you, I’m a huge fan and have learned so much from you over the years. If you’re looking for topics, I have one to suggest:

You know what I’d so much like for you to share your wisdom with us on? How to deal with a horrid issue these days, people who hide behind their e-mail and voice mail and ignore you, won’t reply, won’t engage, makes me crazy! Besides being rude it’s unprofessional. Sad commentary on our business environment today. I’ve tried enticing them with new information, using curiosity. I recall a webinar I was part of with you and another trainer where she suggested a “voice mail campaign” great idea and yet…not much results, What suggestions would you share with your following on how best to handle such a frustrating problem?

Take care Mike, have a great 2015!

Bob Martin I Account Executive

Bob – thanks for the topic, and, yes, this is a frustrating problem, but one you CAN do something about. Here are some suggestions:

1) If this is a regular problem, then the first thing you need to do is make sure you’re qualifying properly. Many times, when you’re speaking to influencers (and are unclear of how much influence they actually have), they are quicker to put you off and not return calls. The reason for this is that they’re not directly invested in the outcome. So the solution is to make sure you know their role, and, if possible, get through to the decision maker in the beginning.

2) If you can’t do this – or even when you get through to the decision maker – get a commitment and an appointment from them to reconnect with you to give you an update. The important thing here is to let them know that even if they don’t have an answer yet, or if that answer is they aren’t interested, it’s still important for them to let you know that. Tell them you simply want to know how to follow up appropriately, and you’ll need some sort of an answer so you can do that. Tell them you can take a no as well as a yes, but it’s important that they commit to take a follow up call.

3) Also, get an idea of their schedule and when they’re almost always at their desk and available to speak for five minutes. Simply ask, “(Prospect), if I need to connect with you briefly, what is almost always the best time to just have a five minute check in call with you? In other words, when are you almost always at your desk and available?” Write these times down and call during those hours.

4) If they don’t make the agreed upon appointment time, then send them an email that includes these elements: “Sorry, I missed you…” “I don’t want to keep calling or emailing you, so when you read this, please simply send me a reply letting me know where this stands – even if you have no new information yet…” “Much appreciated and I’ll follow up based on what I hear back from you.”

5) Let as much as four days go by before you reach out to them again. Try calling a couple of times during the times she/he told you before. If you don’t hear from them in seven to nine days, send another email simply asking if they got your last email. That’s it.

6) Two weeks or so, after you’ve followed the protocol above, use the “Should I Stay or Should I Go Email” below.

Subject line of the email is: “Should I stay or should I go?”

“_________ I haven’t heard back from you and that tells me one of three things:

1) You’ve already chosen another company for this and if that’s the case please let me know so can I stop bothering you,
2) You’re still interested but don’t have enough information or the time to get back to me yet.
3) You’ve fallen and can’t get up and in that case please let me know and I’ll call 911 for you…

Please let me know which one it is because I’m starting to worry… Thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Honestly, all kidding aside, I understand you’re very busy, and the last thing I want to do is be pain in the neck once a week. Whether you’ve just been busy, gone another direction, or don’t quite have an answer yet, I would appreciate it if you would take a second to let me know so I can follow up accordingly. Thanks in advance…”

This email gets about a 60% return rate. If this doesn’t work for you, then take that as an answer and move on!

Bob (and all others), if you follow the advice above, you’ll dramatically increase the amount of responses you’ll get from your prospects. If anyone reading this has any other suggestions, please email me here: mike@mrinsidesales.com

Six Steps for Creating a Successful Inside Sales Team

Inside sales – already an important component for many company’s sales efforts – is expanding as more companies develop or add to this valuable sales channel. Here are six things to consider to insure your new sales team is effective and profitable.

#1 Define the role of your inside sales team. When considering building or adding onto your inside sales team, defining their role will guide every decision you make, including who to hire, how to compensate, and how much training and supervision will be needed. Ask yourself: Is your inside sales team going to take just inbound calls or will they make outbound, prospecting calls as well? Will the majority of their calls to be existing customers, as in either growing accounts or upselling, or will they also be responsible for bringing in new business? And what part of the sales cycle will they contribute to – appointment setting, qualifying leads or closing sales? All these considerations will help define not only the role of your inside sales team, but will make other decisions more straightforward as well.

#2 Define your sales process. CSOinsights.com reports that you can improve the performance of your inside sales team by as much as 33% if you first define your sales process. Surprisingly, many companies overlook this crucial step. Developing a defined sales process, or “DSP,” simply means that you’ve identified each step a successful sale goes through, and you’ve identified the best practices of each step. Knowing exactly what needs to happen at each step in the sales process allows you to not only teach best practice sales approaches, but it allows you to measure adherence to this best practice approach as well.

#3 Develop effective phone scripts. Effective phone scripts – that are rehearsed, internalized and delivered in a natural way – often mean the difference between a team who regularly hits their sales targets and those that don’t. Because sales is a set of skills that can be taught, learned and repeated, it’s important to give your team the tools they’ll need right from the start. Since 80% of the selling situations they run into are the same day after day, teaching your team the most effective responses to these stalls and objections, enables them to stay positive, win sales and stay empowered.

#4 Record your calls. This one tip is the essence of all successful inside sales teams. Every major company uses recordings to train, measure improvement, and help coach their teams to better performance. Sales reps find recordings especially helpful because it gives them the awareness they don’t have while they’re on the phone and in the heat of the sale. By stepping back and listening to opportunities missed, and to areas that can be improved, they’ll be able to make adjustments and get better.

#5 Learn how to onboard your new reps effectively. Many companies spend more time training on their products and services, and on their procedures, than they do preparing their new reps how to succeed on the phone. Several things you can do include intensive role-playing sessions to help prepare new reps for the selling situations they’re about to face. Also, playing recordings of other sales reps successfully handing common objections also teaches them not only to expect these objections, but it provides them with specific examples of how to overcome them. This builds confidence and helps them experience success quicker – all of which increases their chances of turning into a productive, long term hire.

#6 Give your manager the training they need. Most managers have risen through the ranks of a company, and it’s not uncommon for a top producing sales rep to find themselves promoted to sales manager. The owner’s thinking is that if they could sell well, then they should be able to teach others to do what they could do. Unfortunately, successful sales management involves many other skills besides just a knowledge of how to close a sale. People skills, leadership skills, management skills, etc. are all important components in helping a sales manager be successful at hiring, training, and growing a successful inside sales team. To prepare them for that task, you’ll need to provide your sales manager with the specific type of sales management training they’ll need.

Understanding the importance of phone scripts

We all dread it: Your phone rings at night, and you’re greeted by a person reading a script who asks you how you are doing. “Fine,” you think, “as soon as I get rid of you!” Telemarketers like this have given phone scripts a bad name, but don’t let them discourage you from the proper use of this highly effective – and crucial – tool for inside sales.

Look at this this way: for those inside sales reps who say they would never be caught dead using a script, isn’t it true that if you were to record them for a week, transcribe what they say day in and day out, and then handed it back to them, you’d find that they are using a script already? The truth is, they are saying the same thing over and over again, and that is their “script.”

The real problem with this is that what they are repeating on each call is often a bad combination of poor sales techniques. Most sales reps have never been taught how to handle objections and stalls correctly, and as such, when they get into these situations, they usually fail. Think about it: how does your team respond to someone when, after a presentation, the prospect says they need to talk to their partner or spouse or another party?

Most sales reps respond to this smokescreen stall by asking them when a good time to call back would be. Or worse, they ask to speak to the other party, completely buying in to the smokescreen and not getting to the real objection. By using proven scripts, however, sales reps can be taught to isolate this smokescreen and thereby advance the sale.

Here’s how they should handle the “I want to talk to someone else” objection:

“That’s perfectly O.K. (prospect). Just out of curiosity, if they say to do whatever you think is best, and based on what we’ve gone over just now, what would you tend to do?”

This prepared, scripted, response is geared to cut through this smokescreen objection and get the prospect to reveal how they really feel about the product or service. Any answer other than “I’d move forward” means that talking to another person is just a smokescreen. Unless it’s explored and handled here, getting back to someone usually results in a missed sale.

This brings up two important points about all sales. The first is that the great benefit about being in sales is that 80% or more of the selling situations, objections or stalls a sales rep faces are going to be the same, day after day, month after month. The benefit here is that because they know what’s coming, all it takes is a little preparation to craft and deliver an effective response to them.

But that’s a step most sales reps and management teams tend to overlook. In fact, if you record most sales reps, you’ll find that they are, for the most part, ad-libbing on the phone. Most reps are making it up as they go along, and this means their responses are seldom consistent or effective.

Scripting proven, prepared responses and training on these scripts solves this problem, enabling your inside sales team to have the proven tools they need to overcome the situations they run into most often.

The other important point in sales ties into the above. You’ve probably heard that “practice makes perfect,” right? It’s actually not true. Practice only makes permanent, and the problem with most inside sales teams is that they are practicing, day in and day out, ineffective responses to the same selling situations they get over and over again. This is why such a large percentage of sales reps fail to make their revenue numbers each month.

The answer to improved and consistent sales, and to a confident sales team that does not experience call reluctance, is to equip them with, and train them on, effective, proven scripts which they can practice, internalize and then deliver naturally. Once an inside sales rep learns how to respond effectively to the selling situations they face most often, they will be freed from
thinking about what they are going to say next. And this will allow them to begin practicing the most important sales skill of all: listening to the needs and wants of their customers.

Two Simple Questions to Close More Business in 2015

Everybody has heard the expression: “If you want different results, you have to start doing things differently.” This is why all our New Year’s resolutions include doing different things: Not eating that donut in the morning; going to the gym after work instead of out to dinner; helping out more around the house, instead of relaxing with our feet up after dinner, etc. Remember, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”

When it comes to closing more sales, what are you planning on doing differently? Are you going to come in earlier? Make more cold calls? Follow up with more customers? Ask for the upsell more often? While all these things will help, I’d like to give you two simple questions to begin asking during your qualifying and closing calls that can – and will – make a huge difference in closing more sales.

As many of you who have read my blog before know, the close is set up and, to a large part, determined by how good a job you’ve done during your qualifying call. Know the answers to the “five-qualifiers,” and you can be assured you’re dealing with a qualified lead. Anything less, and you run the risk of pitching unqualified leads – and that frequently means you’re just spinning your wheels. (click here to review what these five-qualifiers are)

Assuming, however, that you are dealing with a qualified lead, here are two questions you can insert in your calls that will have a dramatic effect on how much more business you close in 2015:

During the end of your prospecting call, simply ask this question: “(Prospect’s name) thanks for sharing all this information with me. So I can best prepare for our presentation next week, let me ask you this: What is the one thing you’ll be looking to learn more about that will determine whether or not you choose to put us to work for you next week?”

Then hit your MUTE button and LISTEN. If they don’t answer fully, simply un-mute and say, “OH?” and MUTE again.

Feel free to change this question to something suits you or your product or service better (like: “(Prospect’s name) if you were to lock onto one factor that will weigh most heavily on who you choose to go with for this, what would you say it is?”). Regardless of what question you feel comfortable with, get into the habit of asking it at the end of each and every qualifying call.

Next is what to say during the close. So many recordings of actual closes I listen to as part of my coaching and training consulting end in the same way: with the common stall of: “Let me run this by my V.P./owner/manager/boss, etc.” How many of YOUR presentations end in this way? More importantly, how do you respond?

Here’s the second question you should be using in these situations:
You: “(Prospect’s Name), I’m glad you brought that up and let me ask you: How long have you been working with (the V.P./owner, etc.)?”

Prospect: “Oh, about 3 years.”

You: “Great. So you’ve probably got a good idea of what he’s said in the past when you’ve run something like this by him. Let me ask you: given what you know about his priorities and where he’s leaning towards something like this, what do you anticipate he’ll say (or do)?”

Now, hit your MUTE button and listen for how this close is likely to go down. Once again, if you get a vague answer, simply un-mute yourself and say, “OH?” and MUTE once again. Next, depending on the answer, your next goal is to use layering questions and appropriate responses to isolate the real objection and move closer to the sale.

Like any and all techniques I recommend, don’t just take my word for it. Instead, use and practice these in your day to day calling and see for yourself how effective they are. Remember, though, the key is to use your mute button to let your prospect get everything out…

Closing more sales in 2015 is not only possible, but it’s going to happen to many sales reps and companies this year. But it will only happen if you keep to your New Year’s resolutions to do some things differently. I hope these are two new techniques you’ll begin using this week.