Don’t Say That, Say This!

Sales is set of skills that anyone can learn. If you learn and then practice the right skills, then things will be easier for you, and you’ll have more success. But if you don’t learn and use the right skills, then you’ll tend to wing it and make it up as you go along. This strategy is proven to lead to more frustration and less sales. It’s sad but true: most sales reps use ineffective skills and techniques that actually make it harder for them to succeed. And until you change what you do, you’ll just keep getting those poor results.

Below are five examples of poor techniques, I call them “Don’t say that,” followed by what to say instead. Look at these and ask yourself how many of these you are using and then make a commitment to begin using the more effective statements instead, and see for yourself how much easier selling over the phone becomes…

While prospecting, don’t say:

“Wonder if I caught you at a good time?”

OR

“Is this a good time for you?”

While I know it sounds polite to ask permission before you begin a conversation, giving your prospect a chance to avoid speaking to a sales person (you) is almost always a bad idea. If I’m ever given that option, I always say it’s a bad time just to get you off the phone. There is a better way to acknowledge that you are barging into someone’s day unannounced, and here it is:

Say this instead:

“________ I know you’re busy, so let me briefly ask you just one thing: we provide (your product – to other like companies or clients) and it may help you, too. Quick question:

“How do you currently..”

OR

“When was the last time you compared…”

OR

“Are you the right person to speak with regarding this?”

This technique works on several levels: First, you’re acknowledging they are busy and letting them know in advance that you’re going to be brief. Second, the opening is short and you immediately get to a qualifying question. And by getting to a question quickly, you’re giving your prospect the opportunity to tell you if they’re busy or not – don’t worry, if they don’t have the time, they’ll tell you. This is much better than offering them the out in the beginning. Third, by asking a qualifying question (and feel free to customize what you want to ask), you’re actually learning something about your prospect. Overall, this is the much more effective opening.

While prospecting, don’t say:

“I’m calling to learn a little bit more about your company…”

Quick: what’s the one thing you and your prospects don’t have enough of? Time. One of the biggest causes of resistance from your prospects is the idea of a sales rep taking some of their precious time to pitch them on something they probably don’t want anyway. I groan when a sales reps calls me and starts pitching, and when you’re at home and a telemarketer calls you, how do YOU feel?

While opening your call by asking, “I’m calling to learn a little bit more about your company,” might sound consultative and in your prospect’s best interest, it isn’t perceived that way. That’s why it’s much better to:

Say this instead:

“________ briefly, we help companies do XYZ, and I just have a quick question to easily find out if this is a fit for you as well…

“How do you currently..”

Or

“When was the last time you..”

OR

“Are you the right person to speak with regarding this?”

Once again, the key is to be brief and to get to a qualifying question quickly. Your prospect will appreciate that you’re getting to the point right away, and this immediately separates you from all the other sales reps calling to steal their time.

While prospecting, don’t open your call like this:

“The reason for my call is that we provide accounting solutions for companies that process more than 150 employees in a month. Our solution is ideal for companies like yours in that we can save you both time and money handling…..”

Believe it or not, most sales reps start a call with a product dump monologue that instantly puts prospects in a bad mood. Nobody cares what you do or how you do it. Instead, what they want to know is if it’s a fit for them and how it can help them. And that’s why you must, absolutely must, get to the point quickly and ask them a question so they can engage with you. Try:

Do open your call this way instead:

“The reason I’m calling is to see if you’d be a good candidate for what we do. _________ in a nutshell we have a super easy solution that saves companies as much as 15% monthly in the way they process their employee checks. Let me ask you just two quick questions:

One: Who are you using now to process employee payments?

Two: If we could also save you 15% of your monthly expenses, how open would you be to seeing if this would be a fit for you?

This opening is much better for several reasons. First of all, it’s short (always a good thing on a cold call). Next, it lets them know you’re simply calling to see if they would be a fit (which is what they want to know as well before they’re willing to invest more time to speak with you). It also tells them your solution is “super easy” (and who doesn’t like that?). Then it gives them a benefit (the 15%). Lastly, you’re immediately giving them an opportunity to interact by asking them questions.

While prospecting, don’t say:

“Are you the person who would be making a decision on something like this?”

The biggest problem with this approach is that it’s closed ended. It requires a “Yes” or “No” answer, and that allows the prospect to hide behind a smokescreen answer. It’s much easier for them to say yes and avoid getting into the real decision tree that you’ll unfortunately find out later on (when you’re trying to close the deal).

Say this instead:

“Besides yourself, who else would weigh in on a decision like this?”

Ah, the power of the open ended, assumptive questions. This question immediately cuts through any smokescreen your prospect would otherwise use, and it automatically gets them to reveal who else is involved. And let’s face it, most people will consult with someone (or multiple people) when making a decision. Isn’t it better to find out in advance?

While closing, don’t respond to the objection:

“I’ll run this by my regional manager (or boss or partner, etc.) and see what he/she says”

With:

“And when should I get back with you?”

So much time and energy can be saved if you prepare yourself for this common stall in the beginning and learn how to answer it correctly. First of all, the last thing you want to do is hand control of the close over to your prospect by asking when you should get back with them. Instead:

While closing, do respond to this objection this way:

“Terrific, and if he gives you the O.K. to move on this, what other questions would you have for me?”

OR

“O.K., and let me ask you: Based on what you’ve seen so far, is this something that you’d be inclined to move forward with if the decision were up to you?”

[If Yes]

“And how much influence do you have with your regional in deciding on something like this?”

One of the big keys to success in sales is to understand that 80% of the objections you’re going to get are the same ones you got yesterday and that you’ll get again tomorrow. In other words, they’re all the same! Once you realize this, you’ll have a distinct advantage if you take the time to prepare the right responses to the stalls and objections you know you’re going to get.

The response above allows you to isolate the stall at the end of your close and get right to the real objection. In other words, if the prospect isn’t sold, then speaking to someone else is just a smokescreen that won’t go away when you call them back. Finding out now gives you the ability to deal with the real objection, and it’s best to do it now while you’re in the closing arena.

As you can see by the techniques above, sales is a series of skills that anyone can learn. The key, however, is to learn and use the right skills! Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect; it only makes permanent. If you use poor skills over and over, you’re not going to improve. Conversely, making small adjustments in the techniques you use can have a BIG impact on your results.

But don’t take my word for it. As always, try these scripts for yourself and see how much better of a reaction you get, and how much easier your cold calling and closing presentations go.

How to Qualify Prospects without Interrogating Them

Qualifying prospects during the initial call is one of the most important things you can do in sales, but for anyone who’s done it, you know that what’s difficult is asking a series of good questions without sounding like you’re interrogating your prospect.  Admittedly, there is a fine line between having a dialogue with someone and asking enough questions to see whether they qualify for your product and service, but how exactly do you do that?

It’s easy if you follow the steps below. Remember to always feel free to customize these questions to suite your personality and your product or service:

Step One: The first thing you need to do is frame an opening question that gives you the right to continue asking questions. Strange, I know, but the key word here is “frame” your question to earn the right to qualify. Here are some examples:

“_________ would it be O.K. if I asked you just a couple of quick questions to see if this would be a fit for you?”

OR

“_________, it sounds like this might work for you; do you mind if I ask you just a few questions so I can find the right fit?”

OR

“__________, I know you’re busy, and I’ll be brief. There’s just a few questions that will help give me an idea of what best to focus on when we next speak – do you have just a couple of minutes for me now?”

OR

“__________ let me get a clear idea of just a couple areas of importance for you, and then I’ll be in the best situation to tailor a demo for you next week.”
OR

“_________, would you mind if I took a few minutes to ask you a couple of questions so I can understand exactly what you might need, and how we can help?”

Framing your qualifying questions in this way always gives you some leeway in where to start and what to start asking. It also sets the right expectation for your prospect, and earns you a window to begin the qualification process.

Step Two: The way to seamlessly continue the qualification process is to use layering questions, when appropriate, to drill down on some of your prospect’s answers. Layering questions are simply questions that tag on to the previous question, and they are used to get even more information on a specific area.

Most sales reps have never taken the time to learn the fine art of the layering question, and haven’t developed the ability to truly listen enough which is a prerequisite for using them effectively. If you’re willing to learn and use them, though, you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of information which will make the closing process that much easier. Here’s some examples:

Question: “And besides yourself, who else weighs in on the decision?”

Layer: “And how do you figure in to that?”

OR

Layer: “And how much influence do they have?”

Another:

Question: “In terms of budget for this, how would our solution at (your price point) fit in right now?

(If their budget is tight right now, or they are not sure, then use:)

Layer: “What other department or bucket could you get the budget from if you really liked this?”

OR

Layer: “When you find something that you absolutely must have, where do you borrow the budget from?”

OR

“How have you made something like this fit in before?”

Another:

“What one thing can you think of that might prevent you from moving ahead on this in the next two weeks?”

Layer: “And how would you get around that?”

OR

“How have you been able to side step that in the past?”

OR

“And what would you propose to do if that happens?”

As you can see, with the proper use of layering questions, you will not only learn more information about the important qualifying areas, but you’ll also be able to seamlessly continue the conversation. Layering questions allow you to extend the qualification phase naturally as each question is a continuation to the question that was asked previously. This is the way you’ll earn the right to continue qualifying without sound like you’re interrogating someone.

Step Three: Address any Red Flags that come up during the process. One of the biggest problems sales reps run into is hearing possible problem areas come up and not addressing them. Many sales reps just hope these problems will go away or not come up again, but if they’re honest, they know they never do. In fact, the truth about Red Flags is that they almost always come back up and often tend to ruin the deal in the end.

By addressing them when you hear them, you not only have a chance to qualify them, but you also earn the right to keep asking questions while keeping your prospect engaged. Here are some examples:

Red Flag: “Well, I’ll have to run this by corporate.”

Ask: “What has their answer on something like this been in the past?”

OR

“And what do you think the chances of them approving this is?”

OR

“Based on where you see them leaning, what do you think they’ll say?”

And then:

“How can we best get them to approve something like this?”

Red Flag: “We’re getting several quotes on this…”

Ask: “Which one do you like best so far?”

OR

“What does the winning quote have to look like from your point of view?”

OR

“Our price point on this will be X. How do you think that will stack up with what you’re willing to spend on something like this?”

OR

“And what do you think they’ll need to see to pick us?”

Red Flag: “Well, we’re in no hurry on this.”

Ask: “And what is your realistic time frame like?”

OR

“What might change that?”

OR

“What’s going to motivate the decision to finally act on something like this?”

As you can see, asking questions of prospects – without sounding like you’re interrogating them – is easy if you take the time in advance to prepare the right kinds of questions. And don’t forget why you’re asking all these qualifying questions: 80% of the sale is made during the qualification call. If you do this part of the process correctly, then your closing percentage will go up effortlessly. And if you don’t thoroughly qualify, then you’ll likely just continue putting unqualified leads into your pipeline, and you already know how that turns out…

So reframe the prospecting call and learn how to earn the right to ask, and continue asking, qualifying questions without sounding like you’re interrogating a prospect. As you can see, it’s easy if you know how.

Want to download a script book filled with proven scripts to help you cold call and close more sales over the phone?  Click Here and see why Jeffrey Gitomer recommends my “Complete Book of Phone Scripts”!

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The Two Most Important Qualifiers (And How to Ask For Them)

Based on my last article “A Fresh Prospecting Approach for You,” many people are wondering what the two most important qualifiers are for any given sale. That’s a good question, and I’ll tell you that over the years I think they have changed. In the past, budget was the big stumbling block and the issue that sales reps really needed to drill down on. Now don’t think that budget isn’t important – it is! – but now with pricing being so transparent on websites and across social media, I don’t think that budget qualifies anymore as one of the “Big Two” qualifiers.

Before I go on, let me remind you that there are six main areas of qualifying that you need cover and know the answers to. They are:

• Why a prospect will buy (their buying motives)
• Why a prospect might NOT buy (potential objections)
• The budget
• Who the decision maker is (or decision makers)
• What their timeline is for making a decision
• And who your competition is for this sale

For all you sales managers out there, if you want greater control over your team, and you want them to get out more qualified leads, then simply put a checklist together for each lead that goes into the pipeline, and make your reps get the answers for the six areas above. I’ve covered in-depth qualifying questions for each of these areas in my book, “The Ultimate Book of Phone Scripts,” so I won’t go over them again here. If you’re a sales rep, remember you still must qualify for ALL SIX of these areas, but I believe now even more emphasis needs to be placed on the “Big Two” below:

• Decision Makers & Competition

The reason these are now so important is because of the Internet. It is now estimated that because of the plethora of information available online (social media sites, websites, blogs, customer reviews, wholesale sites, etc.) that over 60% of a sale is already determined before a prospect even talks to a sales rep. What this means is that the old sales standbys of yesterday “features and benefits” are far less important than they used to be. And that means competition and the decision tree is more important.

So here are some techniques and questions you can use to qualify for these two important areas:

For decision makers start with this basic question:

“And ________, besides yourself, who else weighs in on this kind of a decision?”

Asking this DM question in the assumptive (“who besides yourself”) rather than the closed-ended way of “Are you the decision maker…” often times exposes who else is involved and can even reveal what the decision time-line is like, too.

Once they reveal they have to talk to their regional manager, boss, or partner, you can then begin drilling down on this. Use any of the following layering questions:

“And how are you involved in the decision?”

Or

“And how much input do you have in this?”

OR

“And if you make a recommendation, do they usually go with it?”

OR

“Based on what you know of where they’re leaning right now, do you think this is something they might be interested in?”

OR

“What do you know about their timeline for something like this?”

OR

“What’s your gut telling you about the viability of this going through?”

OR

“What do you think they’d need to see to say yes on something like this?”

The point of layering your questions like this is so you can gather enough information to make your close easier later on. You see, nothing ambushes a closer more than getting to the end of their presentation only to be told that the prospect has to “Show it to someone else.” By qualifying in advance in this way, you’ll get information that you can then leverage at the end of your closing presentation to avoid falling into this trap.

For competition, you can use the following questions:

“And _________, who else have you looked at for this?”

[If they tell you a couple of names, then]

“And what do you think so far?”

OR

“And who do you like best so far?”

And then:

“And why is that?”

OR

“Who else are you going to reach out to for this?”

And then:

“And what are you hoping to accomplish by that?”

OR

“And why is it important to get several quotes?”

OR

“Who have you already looked at and said no to?”

And then:

“And what about them wasn’t a fit for you?”

OR

“Based on what you know of other company’s offerings, what do you like best about us?”

OR

“If you had three very similar proposals on the table, what would be the deciding factor of who you’d go with?”

OR

“What would you need to see from me to stop looking elsewhere?”

Asking these and other qualifying questions to uncover potential competitors will once again prevent you from being blindsided at the end of your presentation. Again, the Internet has changed the buying landscape for most companies and consumers, and it’s crucial to know these (and the other four) areas well before you go into your closing presentation.

And by using these questions, you will!

A Fresh Prospecting Approach for You

Like you, I get calls every week from inside sales reps trying to sell me their products and services. I used to just hang up on them, noting that I wasn’t missing much as most inside sales people are just not that good at engaging, listening, building rapport, etc. Lately, however, I’ve been listening more, realizing that I can learn just as much from a bad call as I can from a good one. Recently, I received a qualifying call from an appointment setter, and it turned out to be a fresh approach I’d not heard before. It also wasn’t that bad…

Here’s what happened: The call I received was from a company selling some sort of oil drilling private placement investment. For those of you unfamiliar with these, this is the kind of investment that a private company can sell directly to an individual investor. In other words, the company usually (and I use “usually” very loosely – check with your individual state governing body) doesn’t have to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and so can “usually” avoid a ton of administrative and regulatory red tape. But…

The big “but” here is that this type of investment vehicle can “usually” only be offered to, and sold to, what is known as an “accredited” investor, meaning someone who has at least a one million dollar net worth and income in excess of $200,000.

The company who contacted me is using a “qualifier” whose job it is to call and qualify people as an accredited investor before any sales rep speaks with them. This is a good strategy and one I’d not heard of before. Here’s how it went down:

Caller: “Hi, my name is Sonya, and I’m calling with the ABC Oil and Gas company here in North Carolina, am I speaking with Mike Brooks?”

Me: “Ah, yes…”

Caller: “Mike, this is not a sales call at all, and I only have two quick questions for you and then I’ll go, O.K.?”

Me: “Ah…sure, go ahead.”

Caller: “We have in our records that you are an accredited investor with a net worth of at least one million dollars, right?”

Me: “Sure”

Caller: “And is your income still at least $200,000 or over?”

Me: “Sure”

Caller: “O.K., great. One of our representatives will be in touch with you in the next few days. Good day…”

And that was it. She was gone almost as quickly as she appeared. And in the span of just a few moments, she had qualified me enough to pass me on (as a lead) to one of the closers. Very interesting. Let’s break down why this was so effective:

#1: She make sure she was speaking to the decision maker before she continued, “Am I speaking to Mike Brooks?”

#2: She sensed my hesitancy and immediately had a reply for it: “Mike this is not a sales call at all…”

#3: Next, she earned the right to ask just two questions because she then said she would be off the phone: “I only have two quick questions for you and then I’ll go, O.K.?”

#4: Then she qualified me for the two most important criteria in her sale – net worth and income.

#5: The ending was interesting. She told me that someone else would be following up, and before I could object, she hung up.

I’m not saying I love this call or hate it; I’m just impressed by how bold it was in qualifying, and how quickly she was able to generate a lead and then pass it on. Obviously, these two qualifiers are crucial to know before one of their sales rep gets involved, and this turned out to be an effective way to do it.

Now, how could you use this technique? First, if you work with appointment setters, lead gen reps or qualifiers, then pick out the two most important qualifications and then use the script above to create your pitch. Here are three examples:

If you’re selling lead or marketing services, it could be: 1) “Do you handle the lead-generation for marketing?” And 2) “If you plan to compare services or companies in the next quarter, would you be the one to speak with?”

If you’re selling online advertising, it could be: 1) “How much do you get involved in the online advertising decisions?” And 2) “Are you open to at least knowing about options to improve your current results while perhaps also saving money?”

If you’re selling real estate, it could be: 1) “Are you the home owner?” And 2) “Do you have any plans to consider selling your home in the next 12 months?”

You get the idea. Almost any product or service has a couple of key questions that a qualifier can ask to pre-qualify a lead. And the best part of this script is that it takes under a minute! Again, you’re on and then off with a prospect very quickly.

And, as I found, the prospect is left somewhat expecting the next call – whether they want it or not…

So, what are the two most important qualifiers for your sale?

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.

A Bit of Wisdom for You for the New Year

One of my favorite essays by the master of motivation, Emmet Fox:

Take It Easy
By Emmet Fox, Find and Use Your Inner Power

Don’t hurry. You are going to live forever—somewhere. In fact, you are in eternity now; so why rush?

Don’t worry. What will this thing matter in twenty years’ time? You belong to God, and God is Love; so why fret?

Don’t condemn. As you cannot get under the other fellow’s skin, you cannot possibly know what difficulties he has had to meet—how much temptation, or misunderstanding, or stupidity within himself he has had to overcome. You are not perfect yourself and might be much worse in his shoes. Judge not!

Don’t resent. If wrong has been done, the Great Law will surely take care of it. Rise up in consciousness and set both yourself and the delinquent free. Forgiveness is the strongest medicine.

Don’t grumble. Consume your own smoke. Your own concept is what you see; so treat and change that.

Don’t grab. You cannot hold what does not belong to you by right of consciousness anyway. Grabbing postposes your good.

Don’t shove. You are always in your right place at the moment. If you don’t like it, change it scientifically by rising in consciousness. This will be permanent.

Happy New Year, 2015, everyone!

How to Get into the Holiday Spirit

This is going to be a short article because I’ve found there is an easy and sure way to develop a positive and giving attitude. I call it, “Get into gratitude.” If you will just take 10 minutes to follow this suggestion, then regardless of how you feel about the holidays, a transformation will take place for you. After you complete a gratitude list, you will find yourself in the holiday spirit.

Here’s how it works:

Whenever you’re not feeling particularly in the holiday mood, or if you’re in fear (any kind of fear – financial, emotional, professional, etc.), all you have to do is make a list of 25 things you’re grateful for. I like to use a notebook myself, but I suppose a computer or smart phone would do. The point is to write down 25 things you are grateful for today.

Your gratitude list can contain many different kinds of items. Here are some of the things you may be grateful for:

Having a loving family
Having a job
Making money yesterday or last month
Having your health
Having access to fresh water
Being in a position to help others through your work
Going on a vacation or just coming back from one
Being able to spend time with your kids
Having your kids be healthy
Your ability to enjoy a good meal today
Your ability to be able to afford a meal today
Working for a company that creates or sells a great product that helps so many people
Being able to walk without pain
Being able to sleep without pain
Having a home to go to
Having access to all the technology we have
Knowing that the NFL playoffs are right around the corner!
Having faith in God
Being blessed with good friends
Living in a country where you can do and become anything you want
Having options to completely change your life
Having access to great books, CD’s and other material to help you accomplish your goals
Having money in the bank today
Being able to read
Being free to act, think and do as you please

And so many more things. I’m sure you could add some really great things to be grateful for in your life, couldn’t you?

By acknowledging all the things you DO have, rather than the things you DON’T have – or are afraid you’re not going to get – you’ll realize that you are already blessed. In fact, the biggest blessing you have is that you’re alive. If you’re healthy, alive, and able to write a gratitude list, then the sky is the limit as far as what you can accomplish. And that in itself is something to be grateful for.

And if you’re not healthy right now, or if you’re in fear about something, or if some situation isn’t to your liking, just remember that it will change. Just try and think back to something you were worried about last year, or five years ago. What does that thing mean to you now?

The quickest way to get into the Holiday Spirit, or to develop a positive, healthy attitude about anything is to write a gratitude list. Start yours now and see for yourself.