Four Ways to Get Past the Gatekeeper

Getting screened out by the receptionist or gatekeeper is still one of the biggest causes of phone aversion. Questions like, “Will he know who’s calling?” or “Will he know what this call is about?” or “Has she spoken to you before?” are enough to keep any inside sales rep up at night, and the sad thing is it doesn’t have to be this way! If you follow the basic philosophy provided below and then adapt and use any of the scripts provided, you can instantly increase your transfer rate to the decision maker.

The basic philosophy on getting gatekeepers to put you through is this: Stop trying to hide, trick or fool the gatekeeper into thinking that you already know or have spoken to the prospect before. And this means stop just giving your first name or not providing your company name, and most of all, STOP pitching the gatekeeper. The rule is this:

Gatekeepers just need to know your full name and your company name so they can let the decision maker know who’s on the line. In most cases, that’s it. Use the following proven techniques to fly by them and be connected directly with the decision maker the majority of the time:

Technique #1: Please, please, please. I’ve written about this technique before, but it remains the absolutely most effective and easiest one to use to increase your chances of being put through up to 65 – 75% of the time (I still use this every single day and it WORKS!). Here’s how it goes:

Receptionist answers: “Thanks for calling the ABC Company, how can I help you?

You: “Hi, this is _______ _______ with (your company name), can I please speak with ________, please?”

That’s it. Simple, easy and very effective. The key is to say this with a warm smile in your voice, and make sure you use “please” twice and use the instructional statement: “can I please speak with…” The other key is that you give your full name and your full company name as well (even if it doesn’t mean anything to them).

Technique #2: If you don’t know the name of the contact you need to speak with, use the “I need a little help, please,” technique. Try:

Receptionist answers: “Thanks for calling the ABC Company, how can I help you?

You: “Hi, this is _______ _______ with (Your company name), I need a little bit of help please.”

[It’s crucial that you WAIT for the person to ask how they can help you…]

“I need to speak with the best person who handles (your product or service), who would that be, please?”

Over 50% of the time, if you’ve asked this nicely enough and waited for their response, the receptionist will route you to the right department. When you get there, simply use the previous opening again, and you’ll most likely be connected with the right contact.

The key here is to: 1 – Be polite and put a smile in your voice, 2 – Use please, and 3 – Make sure and WAIT for the person to respond BEFORE you ask for the right person. This works, if you follow the above 3 steps.

Technique #3: If you don’t know the name of the contact, an alternative is to ask to be put through to a department instead, and then use the technique above. This is a great way to completely bypass the gatekeeper and so avoid all screening. Use this:

Receptionist answers: “Thanks for calling the ABC Company, how can I help you?

You: “Hi, could you please connect me with the marketing department, please?”

Again, be assumptive and use that powerful word, “Please.”

Technique #4: If you get screened further, you absolutely MUST know exactly how to respond. Use any of the following techniques:

If the receptionist asks: “Is he expecting your call?”

You answer: “I don’t have an appointment, but could you please tell him that _______ _______ is holding please?”

If the receptionist asks: “Will he know what this call is about?”

You answer: “Not specifically, but please tell him it’s about (his lead tracking), I’ll be happy to hold on, please.”

(The key to the above answer is that you ARE NOT going to pitch the receptionist, and you ARE going to use please and use an instructional statement.)

If the receptionist asks: “Have you spoken to him before?”

You answer: “Not about his lead tracking, but could you please let him know that ________ _________, with __________ is holding please?”

Don’t mistake how simple these techniques seem – they are powerful and they work IF you deliver them warmly and exactly as stated. Just remember, a gatekeeper’s main goal isn’t to screen you out, but rather to pass on accurate information on who is calling from what company, regarding what. Will you run into some gatekeepers who are harder to get through? Of course. And will these techniques work all the time? Of course not. But if you use them consistently, you’ll find that they will work about 70% of the companies you call into. And I’ll bet that’s a lot better than how your current techniques are working now, isn’t it?

Five New Ways of Handling the “Just Email Me Something”

While the method of this stall has changed throughout the years: it went from, “Just put a brochure in the mail, and I’ll look at it,” to “Why don’t you fax something to me, and I’ll look it over,” to now it’s, “Just email me your information, and I’ll look it over,” unfortunately, it all still means the same thing: your prospect either doesn’t want to take the time to be pitched, or they don’t need what you’re selling.

Either way, this stall sets up one of the most frustrating parts of sales – the chase. Think about it: how many times have you sent off your information and, when you’ve been fortunate enough to “catch” the prospect again, you’ve heard: “I haven’t looked at it” or “We’re not interested at this time”? Probably a lot, right?

The way to avoid this is to earn the right to ask a few key qualifying (or disqualifying, as I like to call them) questions so you can save both of you a lot of time and effort later on (to say nothing of saving yourself a lot of disappointment as well).

The solution, as always, is to be prepared for this brush off with a good script that fits your personality and product or service. Take the time now to adapt and customize one or more of the responses below so you are prepared the next time your prospect uses this stall.

Response One:

“I’ll be happy to do that, but once you see the material, you’ll probably have more questions than answers…so let’s do this first: I’ll ask you just a couple of quick questions to see if this is even a fit for you at this time, and then, if it is, I’ll send you some targeted information – sound fair?

[If Yes – ask any appropriate of the questions below]

“First, would you be the right contact for handling (XYZ)?”

OR

“I know I called you out of the blue, but if you found that you could (give a benefit of your product or service), what might your timeframe be for considering making a decision on it?”

OR

“How are you currently handling (XYZ), and what might motivate you to consider making a change?”

OR

“How open are you to seriously considering making a change (or making a move on) XYZ in the next one or two months?”
Now note about this rebuttal I put in the question: “sound fair?” at the beginning. You can leave that out if your prospect is in a rush or if you can tell you’ve caught him/her at a bad time – you’ll need to decide on a case by case basis.

Response Two:

“You bet I can – what’s your email address?”

[Take it down and then email them your information!]

“O.K., I just sent it. Now while you open that up, let me ask you a quick question:

“How do you get involved in ordering/handling/working with the XYZ?”

OR

“From a needs standpoint, how motivated is (your company/department/are you) to change/fix/replace/buy XYZ right now?”

OR

“What would you need to see in the information I just sent you for you to become interested in learning more about what we do?”

Response Three:

“I’d be more than happy to do that – where would you like me to email that?”

[Take it down and then email them your brochure.]

“O.K., it’s on the way to you. What I’d like to do right now is take just two minutes to get an idea of what’s important to you, and then I can direct you to that part of the information when you get around to it. Let me ask you:

“How do you get involved in ordering/handling/working with the XYZ?”

OR

“From a needs standpoint, how motivated is (your company/department/are you) to change/fix/replace/buy XYZ right now?”

OR

“What would you need to see in the information I just sent you for you to become seriously interested in making a change in how you’re handling XYZ now?”

Response Four:

“I have a better idea: rather than send you something you may not be really interested in, I’ll save you the time of going through it – or deleting it! – by asking you just a couple of quick questions now to see if there’s really a need. If there is, then I’ll have my assistant email you something:

“Are you the best person to talk to about changing/replacing/ordering the (XYZ)?”

OR

“I know I called you out of the blue, but if you found that you could (give a benefit of your product or service), what might your timeframe be for considering making a decision on it?”

OR

“How are you currently handling (XYZ), and what might motivate you to consider making a change?”

OR

“How open are you to seriously considering making a change (or making a move on) XYZ in the next one to two months?”

Response Five:

“Be happy to do that – where do you want me to email that to?”

[Then]

“And while you have me on the phone, let me briefly ask you just a couple of quick questions which will determine whether or not it makes sense for me to follow up on information I’ll send you. For example:

“How likely are you (or your company/department) to be in the market to make a change in (the way you handle XYZ) if you found a better alternative?”

OR

“If you like what you see in the information, what would the next step for us be?”

OR

“What would realistically stand in the way of us doing business together in the next few weeks if you saw some value in the information?”
There you have it – five new ways to handle the age old brush off – “Just mail/fax/email me some information.” As will all new scripts, take some time to adapt them to fit your product or service, and to fit your personality and style. Once you do develop an effective way of delivering this information, then commit to practicing, drilling and rehearsing it until it becomes automatic for you.

5 Things I learned from Stan Billue

Stan Billue, AKA, “Mr. Fantastic,” is a legend in the world of inside sales and telemarketing. A high school dropout and self-described failure at sales and life, Stan made one of the most dramatic turnarounds ever heard of. He did this by getting a mentor, committing to master sales and deciding to do whatever it took to be the best. And he did. Stan went on to become a top sales producer, international telemarketing sales trainer and consultant, and he’s mentored and trained more millionaire sales professionals than anyone I’ve ever met – including making me one, too.

In February this year (2015), Stan sent me an email letting me know of some terrible news: he had just received results from his internist that showed he has advanced pancreatic and liver cancer, and that he’s been given 3 to 6 short months to live. I’m in touch with Stan often, and as you might expect he has good days and bad days, good hours and not so good hours. He’s really living in the moment right now, and we wish him all the best.

In talking to him early during his diagnosis, I asked if there was a way I could help him, and asked if he would be willing to do one last webinar, and he graciously agreed. Because of his health, we recorded it and you can see it here. Stan gives some great tips from a lifetime of inside sales, and I highly recommend you watch and absorb it.

In today’s ezine, I wanted to list 5 things I learned from Stan that helped me become the absolute top of my profession. I hope you, too, find them useful:

1) In 1985, a financial services firm I worked for flew Stan in for a two-hour keynote in a swank Beverly Hills hotel. All the reps from 5 branch offices crammed into the meeting room, and Stan delivered one of his signature speeches that was packed with gold. The one thing I remember the most was when he gave the following advice on what it takes to separate yourself from the majority of mediocre sales reps to become the best:

He said, “If you’re willing to do the things that most sales reps will never do, then soon you’ll be able to enjoy the things that most sales reps will never be able to have or do.”

I took that advice to heart and vowed, then and there, to do the things that I knew I wasn’t doing (and that I knew 80% of the sales reps in the office weren’t doing), and within 90 days I was the top rep out of 25 in my office. Nine months later, I was the top rep out of all 5 branch offices. I’ve never looked back since…

2) Stan said that you could become an expert at any subject in the world, and that people would pay you for your knowledge in 1 year if you just committed to studying and learning a subject for one hour a day.

Boy is that still true today. I decided that I would study the craft and skill of sales for several hours a day (and more on the weekend), and I did become an expert that people pay a lot of money to. And it’s the same for anything you want to be today in your life: a real estate professional; an iPhonography expert; a therapist, the list goes on and on. If you’re willing to commit to something, you can become an expert and be highly paid doing what you love.

3) Record your sales presentations. Stan said there was just one thing you needed to do to double your income in 90 days – record, listen and critique your calls every day. I thought he was exaggerating, but I was willing to try it and guess what? I did double my income in 90 days! This is still the advice I pass on today, and I spend about 45% of my time as an inside sales consultant listening to and correcting sales team’s skills and techniques by listening to their calls. If you aren’t doing this now, no problem. Just start doing it and you, too, will make unbelievable strides in your career.

4) Learn to listen. While this may sound like a no brainer, it’s truly shocking at how bad I was at it. And, by the way, how bad 95% of sales people that I listen to are as well. Once I made a commitment to using my mute button, though, and as I listened to my recordings to see where I talked over someone or where I needed to improve, that’s when sales began to get easy and enjoyable for me.

5) Commit to lifelong learning in your chosen field or career. This is true in any professional field, but it’s amazing how sales people think they know it all and are resistant to investing the time, money and energy needed to get better. Stan said that if you were willing to become a sponge and were willing to continually improve yourself and your skills, then soon you would be one of the highest paid sales professionals in your industry.

And when you do become one of the best, you will enjoy the best homes, the best cars, the finer vacations and the peace of mind that most sales reps will never enjoy. And it will be yours for life. I’ve found this to be true in my life, and I can’t tell you how much it’s worth it. So many sales people struggle through life and wonder what’s wrong, while a select few enjoy the riches available to them through a career in sales. You can too – “If you’re willing to do the things that most sales reps will never do…”

I will never forget the things that Stan taught me years ago, nor the things he taught me just last week during his farewell webinar. Stan still has a ton of solid sales tips that are relevant, effective and very powerful. If you’d like to hear him discuss these things, or invest in his sales material, you can do so here.

Stan, thanks for time, effort and commitment you’ve invested in your life to helping sales professionals become superstars. I, for one, am grateful.

Eighteen New Ways to Handle “I’m Not Interested”

Regardless of what kind of prospecting you’re doing – whether you’re calling back in-bound leads who have contacted you, or old accounts who haven’t purchased in a while, or just straight cold calls – you’re still going to get a good dose of the blow off objection: “I’m not interested.” While I’ve provided many different ways of handling this in the past, here are eighteen new, customized responses for each of the lead categories from above. Here they are:

For “warm” leads who have filled out an online form or reached out to you in some other way:

“I’m not interested”

Response one:

“That’s perfectly O.K., _________, you’ve probably forgotten that you (filled in a form, requested info, etc.) so I don’t expect you to be interested in what you must think is a cold call. But just to remind you – on (date/time) you (visited our website/dropped by our booth/filled out a form, etc.) do you remember that?”

[If Yes]

“What did you need at that time?”

Response two:

“No problem _________, I also forget half the things I request info on. Just to remind you, we (what you do), and on (date/time) you (visited our website/dropped by our booth/filled out a form, etc.) do you remember that?”

[If Yes]

“Do you remember what prompted you to reach out to us at that time?”

Response three:

“That’s fine, quick question though: When you filled out (our online form, etc.) has anyone else from our office contacted you about it yet?”

[If No]

“I see. Well I do apologize for that. Just out of curiosity, did you get that handled yet or are you still looking?”

For inactive accounts or people you’ve not spoken to in a while:

“I’m not interested”

Response one:

“That’s fine _________, and I’m simply calling to update your account information for our records. Quick question: Are you still the right contact person who handles ordering the ________ for your company?”

Response two:

“Oh that’s O.K., I’m not calling to sell you anything today. Just want to make sure you still know we’re here in case you do need something down the road. By the way, do you guys still carry/use/order ________?”

Response three:

“I get that all the time, and just know that the only reason I’m calling is to introduce myself as your contact should you ever need to check pricing or availability on an item. Quick question: are you the right contact for _________?”

Response four:

“No problem _________. I’ll simply email you my contact information in case you ever do need anything, and then I’ll get out of your hair. By the way, would you be the best person to email this to, or is there someone else who is handling ________ now?”

Response five:

“That’s no problem at all – quick question: is it that you don’t need anything just now, or do you even order/carry/use ________ anymore at all?”

[“We do order, we just don’t need any now.”]

“Great. When you are in the market again, could I be one of the vendors/suppliers/sources you go to for a quote?”

For cold calling or prospecting calls:

“I’m not interested”

Response one:

“Quick question: Does that mean you’re not interested at this moment, but in a few months things could change, and I should keep in touch?”

Response two:

“Who else at your company do you think might have a need for something like this?”

Response three:

“I’m with you – quick question though: are you the right contact for this, or is there another department (or person) I should check with?”

Response four:

“When should I check back with you?”

[If given a date]

“Great. So I can be more prepared for that, quick question: are you the right contact for this?” (Then add other qualifying questions)

Response five:

“If you were to be interested, what is the typical (volume, amount, frequency, etc.) that you normally order/use/need?”

[If they tell you]

“And who do you normally get that from?”

Response six:

“When was the last time you were interested in something like this?”

Response seven:

“And what would have to change for you to be more open to something like this in the future?”

Response eight:

“Should I lose your number or put you on a 6-month follow up call?” (Say with a BIG smile!)

[If call back in 6 months]

“Great. What should I keep an eye out for in between then?”

Response nine:

“The next time you are interested in (your product), could I get back with you and see if we can help?”

[If yes]

“When should I follow back up with you?”

Response ten:

“Thanks for letting me know up front. If I were to get back with you in the future, what would I have to have to get you to be more open to something like this?

So there you have it. Eighteen more ways of handling the “I’m not interested” objection. Make sure to customize these to fit your product or service and to fit your personality. Once you find one that feels right, and that gets your prospects to open up, then stick with it and practice it over and over again. Remember: practice of the right responses will always make perfect.

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