The Proper Way to Set a Call Back

Not all sales close on the first – or even second or third, etc. – closing call. Because of that, it’s often necessary to set a call back to continue the conversation. Like most parts of a sale, the call back is one of those recurring situations that you, or your sales team, will find yourself in countless times a day or week.

Because of this, it’s important that you develop and then script out a best practice approach to handle it effectively. Unfortunately, many sales reps have never given the call back (or very many other parts of their sale) much thought. Instead, they adlib it and so develop ineffective and bad habits.

Some of these include:

“Ah, when should I follow up with you?”

This is obviously a weak set up and gives all control of the call – and the ensuing sales cycle – over to the prospect. As strange as it may sound, this is how over 50% of sales reps handle the call back.

Another ineffective approach:

“When will you be speaking with ________? O.K., would it be alright if I followed up after that?”

Again, this is a weak approach and gives all control to the prospect.

While there are some instances when you need to find out what the next step is, (i.e. talking to a partner, meeting with a committee, etc.), what’s important is that you, the sales rep, take control of the call back timeframe AND get commitment from your prospect.

Here are some examples of the proper way to set a call back:

“__________, in terms of talking to your partner, what time today can you do that?”

Sometimes it’s better to assume they can and will be speaking with the other person that same day. This works best in a small company or in a business to consumer sale. If you know it’s going to be later in the week or another time, then change the script accordingly. Try:

“__________, when is the soonest you’ll be speaking with them?”

By doing it the first way, you’ll either be setting or confirming the time frame and controlling the call back. If they can’t do it that day, then they’ll come back with a more definite day and time and that will keep you in tighter control of the sales cycle. After they let you know, say:

“O.K., great. I’m looking at my calendar for that day – what’s better for you on that Tuesday – morning or afternoon?”

Now you’re locking down not only the day, but also the time. You’re getting them involved and having them check their schedule. Once again, YOU are controlling the call back, and by doing it this way you’re not letting a lot of time pass between when they speak to their partner and when you next speak again.

If there are a lot of decision makers involved, or if it’s going to be a longer process, then you should schedule a “progress call” to access their level of interest and to keep yourself in the loop.

Try:

“I understand you’ve got several people involved in this and that you’re talking to other vendors. Here’s what I’d suggest: since you’re likely to have some questions come up between our next call, how about I reach out to you in (one week; two weeks, whatever is appropriate) just to see if there is anything I can answer for you.

“I’ve got my calendar in front of me – how does (suggest a day and time) look for you?”

Once again, you are driving the sales cycle and the call back. This is crucial to keep you top of mind and to allow you to head off any problems that might come up during the decision process.

And another:

“I’ll go ahead and send you the information we just talked about, and then I’ll schedule you for a call back next Tuesday. Do you have your calendar handy?”

Noticing a trend? Once again, I’m in control of the call back time frame. And don’t worry – if that’s not O.K. with them, they’ll suggest another day/time that is. Setting a call back like this keeps the sale moving forward and keeps them from “falling through the cracks.”

Now what happens if they want to call you back and won’t allow you to set the call back? Two things: One is that this isn’t a good sign. It means they want to control the sales cycle (which is never good), and, number two, it can also mean there is an objection that is standing in the way of the sale.

When this happens, you should try to move the call back date out just a little further and still try to control when you get to call back. Try:

“I understand. What’s the timeline for this?”

Qualify for timeline first. Then:

“Tell you what: If I don’t hear from you in the next (30 days – whatever is appropriate), then I’ll get in touch with you to see if there are any questions. What do you prefer, mornings or afternoons?”

Once again, you’re in control of the call back, and you’ve got a definite time frame and time of day to call back.

The bottom line with the call back call is to keep control of when it happens. Never leave it up to your prospect. Try to lock down the soonest date after any “event” that is going to happen, like them speaking to a partner, etc. Next, get them involved by having them check their calendar and identify a time of day. Try to get their buy in on that day.

By getting better at directing the sales cycle, you’ll get closer to making deals happen. Make it a point to get good at this – and all other – parts of the sale. As you do, you’ll move closer to becoming a top producer in your company and then in your industry.

Top Characteristic Part Ten: Invest Daily in Your Attitude

Now that you have resigned from the company club, you can use that time and energy to do the one thing that will have the most impact on your performance and your life: Find ways to build up your attitude on daily basis.

Before we get in to some ways to do that, let me emphasize the importance of investing time and energy every day to improving, strengthening and elevating your attitude. The “every day” part is the key. Think about it:

How many times a day do you eat? If you’re like most people, then you probably eat three times a day and have some snacks in between. Now let me ask you: If you skipped breakfast, how would you be feeling by, say, 11am? Cranky? Hungry? Unable to concentrate much?

How about if you also skipped lunch that day? How would you be feeling around, say, 3:30pm? Would you be ready for that big presentation? Or that meeting with your sales manager or boss?

O.K., now let’s say you got home by 6pm and you didn’t eat anything all day. How would you be around your wife and kids? (Or roommate or girl/boyfriend?) Would you want to be around you?

Now imagine going two days without food. Try three. I think we could all agree you’d be pretty much worthless by then (if not way before!).

The reason I bring this up is that your mind, your attitude, needs feeding just like your body does. If you don’t make a concerted effort to feed it regularly, then it, too, will get sluggish and worthless. If you don’t spend active time feeding your mind, feeding your attitude positive material, then you will be more susceptible to negativity, more susceptible to members of the club, and each time you have a bad outcome – client doesn’t reload, new prospect doesn’t buy, you don’t make your lead numbers – you’ll get more and more discouraged.

And if you let that happen, then you’ll begin searching for reasons why you won’t succeed. And if you let that continue, you’ll find them or you’ll make them up…

Top producers always spend time consciously feeding their minds positive stories and positive examples and cultivating a “can do,” positive attitude. They spend time taking in other positive thinker’s ideas and strategies, and they purposefully employ those strategies in their lives. They are constantly listening to audio books, or reading (or re-reading) books on how to get better and do better. Many top performers also spend time with affirmations and visualizations along linked to purposeful and motivating goal setting.

And all this pays off. Those producers who are in the habit of developing a vision, and who dedicate themselves to achieving it – no matter what – those are the top producers, the top athletes, and other top performers who always out perform their competition.

But it all starts by making a commitment to developing, feeding and cultivating a positive, can do attitude. And the key, again, is to do this daily (several times a day, actually).

So how do you get into the habit of doing this? A good start is to find the medium that works best for you. If you are a reader, then get some books that resonate with you and commit to reading a certain amount of pages each day.

If you prefer audio books, then get those books on MP3 and listen to them on the way to and from work or when you get home, or at the gym, or when you’re walking the dog.

One resource I still work with today are subliminal recordings. Subliminal recordings are great because they speak right to your subconscious mind which runs just about everything in your life. I listen to recordings either during meditation or during relaxation sessions. I also use them to go to sleep with sometimes. A great resource for these can be found here.

Another good thing to do is to pick up a few books or audio programs on setting goals. Just listing what it is you’re going to accomplish this year (or what’s left of it) can be highly motivating by itself. As soon as you define your vision, you’ll find that you begin to automatically feel more positive and motivated. When setting goals, just remember:

Whatever you want to have or achieve is possible. Other people around the world are having and achieving the very thing that lives in your heart. If they can have it and do it, so can you! But you’ll need to work for it first. You’ll probably need to rearrange your consciousness so that it can fit a new expectation of what you believe is possible. And this is where affirmations are useful.

Affirmations are simply statements or images that you feed yourself, thoughts and emotions that you tend to dwell on all the time. Everybody uses affirmations – you’re using them right now. The problem is that most people are using the wrong affirmations and getting the things they don’t want as a result.

The reason for this is that most peoples’ random self-talk is incredibly negative. That’s where affirmations come in. Affirmations are nothing more than carefully constructed words, phrases and stories that you design in advance that support the goals you’ve identified are important for you.

There are many books on this subject, and you can easily do a search and find the one(s) that speak to you.

But affirmations are key to you feeling positive about yourself and your career, and for helping you maintain the positive attitude that will enable you to persevere and succeed.

With all of the resources above: books, CD’s/MP3’s, subliminal recordings, goal setting, affirmations, etc., you’ll be able to put together a varied and full course of “food for your attitude” that you’ll be able to munch on throughout your day.

If you’re not doing this now, or have stopped, then start today. It is amazing how just a little bit of positive energy can turn around a day, a week, month and a whole life. Remember, all top producers have a positive, can do attitude. If you don’t believe me, then get around one of them – their attitude is contagious. Yours needs to be, too.

In ending this series on the Top Ten Characteristics of Top Performers, I hope you’ve seen some ideas that resonate and that you feel will work for you. Just adopting a few of these habits will have a dramatic effect on your career in sales, and on your life in general. Hopefully you’re already using some of the characteristics, and you already know how valuable they are.

Make a commitment today to put even more of them to work for yourself. I guarantee the more you use, the better you’ll feel and the better you’ll perform.

Top Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers (Part Nine)

These last two parts will focus on the one characteristic that is perhaps the most important of all. You’ll find this characteristic in ALL top performers, not just in top sales producers. You’ll see it in top athletes, actors, musicians, dancers, top business people, academics, etc.

All top producers have this quality in abundant amounts, and parts nine and ten will focus on how to develop, grow, protect, and maintain it within the sales arena. And here’s what it is:

“All top producers develop and maintain a
positive, can and will do, attitude.”

Top Characteristic Part Nine: In order to develop and protect your positive attitude, the first thing you need to do is resign from the company club.

What I mean by this is that you have to stay away from the group of sales people in your office who do nothing but grumble about how bad or unfair things are in your company or about how bad the economy or industry is.

You know what and who I’m talking about. You usually find them congregating in the break room or hallway or warehouse, or they are outside smoking cigarettes or waiting for the food truck. Every company has them, and they are poison for your career and your life.

This “company club” can be made up of average sales people or a mix of under producers and unhappy managers who feel they deserve more, or even above average sales people who think they should be treated better.

They grumble and talk negatively about any and everything: The leads are bad or marketing is doing a crappy job, or the good leads are being given to the top producers only. They grumble about the product, or the pricing of the product, or the warranty or durability. They grumble about their office environment, the phone system, the computers or their desks and noise level. They grumble about the commission structure or the salary or benefits, or the bonuses they did or didn’t get.

They are lazy and set a low standard and drag everyone who will let them down to their level. Instead of focusing on solutions or on making things work, they look for reasons why a new sales campaign or lead source won’t work. They are a cancer to all companies, and they are especially deadly to you and your sales attitude.

The answer? Resign from their club.

When I was a bottom 80% producer, I used to love the club. Every morning the club would meet in the kitchen to eat the free donuts or bagels the company provided. Were we grateful and thankful for the free food and coffee? No. If they gave us bagels, where was the salmon? If they brought donuts, where were the bagels?

And once we poured our coffee and started in on the free food, we’d start in on the leads, or the industry, or the company or on how the top producers always got preferential treatment. We grumbled our way through the food, grumbled our way back to our desks, and grumbled our way through lunch.

If we missed a sale, we’d reconvene in the break room to talk about how we could never sell this stuff with all the things that were wrong with it. How in the world did they expect us to be competitive if they were going to put out such trash? And the leads! On and on we would go until it was finally time to go home. And then we’d grumble to our wives or husbands…

Everything changed, though, when I made a commitment to become a top producer. Once I had, the first thing I did was resign from the company club.

Instead of commiserating with the club, I’d arrive at the office an hour early and start cold calling or closing leads I had set up the night before. When the club finally wandered in, I usually already had a deal on the board and was going for another one. I declined invitations to go to lunch with them, and instead I ate at my desk.

When the club members came over to my desk during work hours, I didn’t stop calling to talk with them. Instead, I went right on calling and working. They soon got the hint. When they tried to engage me in the breakroom, I was pleasant but told them I had to meet my call quota and wanted to get back to work. After a while, they left me alone.

What was interesting is that I noticed that the other top producers acted the same way I now did. They were the ones who also came in early and left late. They were the ones who were more focused on working than they were chatting, and if they did want to talk, it was usually to strategize a better way of closing a deal. I almost never heard them grumble or talk bad about the company or the industry or the market.

The top producers (of which group I began a part) were more interested in finding ways to succeed and exceed quota. They didn’t mind working harder, or getting help or leveraging management’s or each other’s experience. When we spoke with each other, it was usually to challenge one another to do better. We competed in a positive way to up each other’s game. We shared resources and closing techniques.

What I found is that we had our own club, but it was lightly attended because we had work to do. On those occasions when we did get together, it was to talk about better things like what neighborhood we were moving into, or whether we liked Mercedes or BMW better, or how we were setting up our retirement accounts. These were not the kinds of subjects that were ever discussed in the company club.

What I find even now as a consultant is that all the companies I work with have a company club. When I’m onsite, I can see them gathering and chit chatting. I also see the top producers at their desks working away. I’ve found that top producers are usually loners who are always working, always looking for ways to improve. At the end of my training, the company club members thank me politely and then head off to the break room to talk about what a waste of time the training was.

The top producers, however, are in the training room picking my brain for a new technique or to discuss one of the scripts or closes I’ve developed for them. They are thirsty for information and you can see the commitment on their faces. They are top producers who are always looking for a way to up their game.

So the question for you is: Are you a part of the company club in your office? If so, then resign today and start finding ways to build your attitude rather than spending your time ripping it down. And you can begin building it up by following Top Characteristic Number Ten.

Top Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers (Part Eight)

In Top Characteristic Part Eight, we’re going back to cold calling and qualifying to reveal an important skill all top producers possess:

Top Characteristic Part Eight: Treat all gatekeepers with courtesy and respect.

If you have to make cold or warm calls to prospects, then you probably have to deal with your share of gatekeepers. These can be receptionists, office managers, assistants, etc. No matter what role they have, whoever stands between you and your prospect is someone you have to deal with first.

Most sales people struggle to effectively deal with and get past these so called “gatekeepers.” And the majority of the time, the problems they have they bring on themselves. The reason is because most sales reps treat these people as obstacles to get past by using tricks or by acting authoritatively or by being downright rude. And you can imagine how that goes.

In addition, many sales people simply don’t understand some basic rules in regards to how to speak to gatekeepers, and so they create their own problems by giving incomplete information which just triggers the gatekeepers to do their job and keep them away from the decision maker.

Here is a common mistake:

Rep: “Oh hi, is Mr. Jones in?”

Gatekeeper: “Can I tell him who’s calling?”

Rep: “This is Bob.”

Gatekeeper: “Bob who?”

Rep: “Bob Smith.”

Gatekeeper: “With what company?

Rep: “The XYZ company.”

Gatekeeper: “Will he know what this call is regarding?”

Rep: “Ah, it’s about his (whatever the rep is selling…)”

Gatekeeper: “Has he spoken to you before?”

Rep: “Ah, no……”

Once a sales rep gets into that kind of dialogue with a gatekeeper, they will rarely win. Over and over again they will get turned away.

The way to fix all this is easy: Always give your first and last name and the company you’re calling from right away. And this is crucial: always end with an instructional statement like: “Is Bob available please.”

And by the way that’s crucial, too: always be polite and use please – two or three times.

Here’s an effective opening:

Rep: “Hi could I speak with Bob please?

Gatekeeper: “Can I tell him who’s calling?”

Rep: “Yes please, please tell him that (your first and last name) with (your company name) is holding please.”

If you do this right and with a smile in your voice, you’ll avoid 80% of the screening that you get now. Guaranteed.

In addition, if you don’t know a contact’s name, use the “I need a little bit of help, please,” technique. But always wait for them to respond before you ask for it:

Rep: “Hi, I need a little bit of help please.”

[Now pause long enough the gatekeeper to respond]

Gatekeeper: “What do you need?”

Rep: “I need to speak with the person who handles your _________. Who would that be, please?”

This is very effective if again you say it with a smile in your voice.

Last technique: Speaking of a smile, always put a BIG smile on your face right before your prospect (or gatekeeper) picks up the phone. It does wonders for how you project your attitude and opening line.

And, don’t be afraid of building a little bit of rapport with the gatekeeper as well. Ask them if they’re happy it’s Friday, or how Monday is going, or if they’re glad it’s hump day. Ask about the weather. Anything to be personable and to show them that you value them as people rather than just an obstacle to get around.

The bottom line is that top producers know how to interact with gatekeepers and know how to gain their trust and get them on their side. By using the techniques above, you can now begin doing that as well.

Top Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers (Part Seven)

How many times do you ask for the sale during a close? Once? Twice? The number of times you should be asking might surprise you…

Top Characteristic Part Seven: Be prepared to ask for the sale five times – or more!

Most sales reps I listen to (while reviewing their closing and presentation calls), ask for the sale once. If they are get a stall or objection, they generally go away in defeat. It’s rare that I hear someone ask for the sale more than three times. Think about that for yourself. How many times do you ask for the sale before you give up?

Years ago I was taught that the close doesn’t even begin until the prospect has said no at least five times! I was taught that in order to win the sale, I needed to show enthusiasm and confidence, and that I needed to be persistent and show that I believed in the reason the prospect should buy more than he/she believed that she shouldn’t.

Now please don’t misunderstand me here. I can just hear some of you complaining that you don’t want to be a telemarketer, you don’t want to be an obnoxious sales person, don’t want to be unprofessional or pushy. Good, because I don’t want you to be either.

But what I’m talking about is something completely different. Let me explain:

To start with, you must be working with a qualified prospect. One who has a legitimate interest in your product or service, has a need, is a decision maker, has the budget, etc. This is the first step. If you don’t have any of these things and you begin closing five times or more, then guess what? You’re going to become a pushy sales person.

But if you do have all these qualifiers in place, then you can feel confident that you’re dealing with someone who can and will benefit from your product or service. And if that’s true, then it’s up to you to present value, overcome stalls and objections, and ask for the sale five or six or even seven times or more.

You have to remember that many times a prospect is on the fence, and the only way to push them off it (and onto your side), is to be persistent and overwhelm any doubt or hesitation they have with your belief, confidence and enthusiasm. Here’s how you do it:

First, you have to have solid and proven rebuttals to all of the common stalls or objections you’re going to get. You must know these responses inside and out so you’re not put off when you get them. So many sales reps act like a deer caught in a headlight when they get an objection. Many give up as soon as they do.

You can (and must) avoid that defeated feeling be being prepared with a rebuttal that not only addresses the concern, but that then leads you back into building value. In other words, you need a way back into your pitch. You can use something as simple as:

“I totally understand how you feel – it does seem that way at first, but actually the way it works is that…”

And then continue to build value or discuss a benefit and give them a further reason to buy! And once you’ve answered the objection, you must confirm your answer with: “Do you see how that works?” (In other words, use a tie-down.)

And if you get a yes, then you ask for the order: “Then here’s what I recommend we do…”

And BOOM! You’ve just asked for the sale again! And when you then get another objection or stall, you answer it, confirm your answer and ask for the sale again!

This is the long lost art of closing the sale. You must be prepared to keep pitching, keep building value, and keep asking for sale – five, six seven or even ten times.

Now again, for any of you rolling your eyes, you obviously need to be in tuned with each prospect and if someone is getting upset or really isn’t going buy or commit right then, then you back off. Of course you can still try getting back into the close with something like:

“You know ________, I love to learn: do you mind telling me why?”

Keep trying to reopen the sale.

If you are willing to do what the other sales reps are not going to do, then I recommend you get your favorite ten or fifteen closes together to handle the five to eight common objections you always get (see Top Characteristic Number Two). Then you’ll memorize them and be ready to deliver them automatically and perfectly.

Once you do, you’ll then be able to persevere and ask for the sale over and over again. And when you do, something amazing will begin to happen: You’ll begin closing more deals. You’ll begin closing prospects who you would have given up on before. Your confidence will go up. Your weekly checks will go up.

And before you know it, you’ll have arrived.

You’ll suddenly be in the top 20% of your company, and as you revise your pitch and get better and better, you’ll move into the top 5%.

And then the top 1%.

And once you’re at the top, you’ll wonder how you ever did it any other way.

Top Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers (Part Six)

Top Characteristic Part Six is difficult for many sales people to develop and practice, yet it’s one of the most important of skills to cultivate. And it is:

Top Characteristic Part Six: Learn to build rapport before, during and after a sale.

While most people think that sales people have the “gift of gab” and can seemingly talk to anybody, it’s not that way at all. If you don’t believe me, just listen to a few of your own recordings or those of your teammates…

The truth is, knowing how to honestly and naturally build rapport with someone takes a lot of skill, practice and patience. Unfortunately, most sales reps are in a tremendous hurry to get their pitch out and so they treat many prospects as an obstacle to go through to get a sale.

This is a big problem.

Years ago, my first sales manager (my older brother, Peter), taught me an important lesson. As I rushed through a pitch to qualify and then tried to close people, he told me that I was missing out on the most important thing – connecting with and treating people with respect and with genuine interest.

He told me, “Michael, these are people you’re speaking with. Treat them as such and you’ll go much further than you are now.”

It took a while for me to lower my guard and overcome my fear of rejection, but as I got more successful, I began to develop a genuine interest in the people I was speaking with. Once I remembered that they had lives, responsibilities, fears and goals just like me, it made talking to them, rather than at them, so much easier.

And once I did that, it was much easier to build real rapport.

You’ve probably all heard the saying that people buy from people they like, know and trust, right? When selling over the phone, learning how to develop genuine rapport will help get someone to like, know and begin to trust you.

There are three areas that you can learn to develop rapport: before (during the initial qualifying call), during (during the close or presentation), and after (once your prospect becomes a client).

Here are some tips on how to build rapport during all three stages:

1) On the prospecting call. This is perhaps the hardest time to do this because your prospect doesn’t know anything about you other than that you’re a sales rep trying to sell them something. This is when their defenses are the highest.

The way to build rapport during this phase is to concentrate on relating with them right in the beginning – before you start pitching. You do this by asking any number of things like how the weather is (“Is it still over a 100 degrees there?”), or by asking how the new conversion or transition is going, or if they’re super busy now that it’s Monday, or if they’re relieved that it’s Friday. Find some common ground and build some rapport around it before you launch into your pitch. Your goal is to try to build a connection before you put your sales person’s hat on.

One good way to do this also is to develop a touch point plan of leaving voice mails and sending emails if you’re not able to reach someone right away. By leaving a carefully constructed series of messages beforehand, you can start your conversation by asking if they received your messages and if they’ve had a chance to read them yet. If not, then build rapport as above before you go into your pitch.

Building rapport this way takes a little practice, but if you truly become interested in each and every person you speak with, they’ll feel it and you’ll separate yourself from all the other sales reps just trying to sell them. Believe me, this will pay dividends…

2) Build rapport during your presentation. Most sales reps are in a hurry to get through their pitch so they can see if a prospect is going to buy or not. This is not only bad technique but it is also rude.

Top producers, on the other hand, continue their interest in their prospect and concentrate on having a conversation throughout their presentation rather than making their pitch a monologue. The way you do this is by putting lots of tie downs, open ended questions and even trial closes into your presentation. Your goal should be to check in with and involve your prospect in a conversation rather than give a pitch.

An example of this is by checking in with your prospect after you’ve given a benefit or explained how something works. Asking things like, “How would that fit in with what you’re doing,” or “Would that help you?” is a good start.

Using open ended questions is good, too. Instead of asking, “Are you with me?” you should ask, “What questions do you have for me so far?”

By building rapport in this way, you also begin getting an idea of how interested or engaged your prospect is. The more engaged they are, the better your chances of advancing the sale.

Spend some time this week to rewrite your demo or presentation giving your prospect opportunities to acknowledge, engage and ask lots of questions. The more rapport you can build during the close, the better.

3) After the sale. Many sales reps are surprised to hear this, but aftercare of a new client is just as important as getting one to begin with. Most sales forget a client once their check is in, but top producers know that right after a prospect has purchased is the best time to either up sell them or get a referral.

And the way you do this is by once again having a conversation and expanding upon your rapport. Get in the habit of calling your new clients a week or so out just to see how they’re doing. Offer any assistance and continue to develop a relationship with them.

If you have a chance to offer an additional service or product, do so. If not, then have your referral script handy.

Also, consider drip marketing to your new customer by using a greeting card system such as Send Out Cards. The more you can “touch” your new client, the stickier they are going to become and the more likely you’ll be able to do more and longer term business with them.

In conclusion, building rapport seems to be a lost art for many sales people. This is why most people (yourself included) hate getting calls from sales reps. But top producers know the value in treating people with respect and with genuine interest.

By doing so, you can not only develop a long and loyal customer base, but you can begin to enjoy what you do more as well. Sounds like a win/win to me.

Top Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers (Part Five)

In today’s ongoing series of the “Top Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers,” I’m going to give you a powerful way to open your closes. This is a technique that top producers use all the time, but that most sales reps are afraid of using.

If you do this right, however, you’ll have the confidence to ask for and get the sale the majority of the time. It is:

Top Characteristic Part Five: Requalify your prospect at the beginning of your closing presentation.

Let’s start with how most sales reps give a closing presentation or demo. Most sales reps get a prospect on the phone and then go through a long winded presentation, seldom checking in, and then at the end vaguely asking for the order with a weak statement like:

“So what do you think?”

A client of mine once described his sales team as “spraying and praying.” They “sprayed” a long presentation, and then at the end “prayed” the prospect was onboard and wanted to buy.

If that’s how you’re doing it now, then you know how sick of a feeling it is to finally ask for the deal (and usually be turned down).

Top producers handle this in a very different way. First, top producers get much better quality leads out because they follow Top Characteristic Number Four of fully qualifying their leads.

Next, when they get a prospect back on the phone, before they jump into their demo or presentation, they take the time up front to requalify their prospect so there are no surprises when it comes to asking for the sale at the end.

What they are requalifying for are things like decision making ability of the person they are pitching, the timeline for making the decision (especially using a trial close like: “And if at the end you like what you see today, is this something you can move forward with?”), and any other qualifying areas that weren’t covered during the qualifying call.

Here is a list of some sample questions you can ask at the beginning of your presentation:

“I know you mentioned last time that you were particularly interested in learning about ________. Is there any other area you wanted to see today?”

AND

“You mentioned that you were the one who would decide on something like this – is that still the case?”

AND

“I know you said you wanted to find a solution as soon as possible, so let me ask you: if this is everything you’re looking for, are you prepared to move on this today?”

AND

“You know ________, we talked about the range of investment being between $10,000 to $50,000 depending on which program you went with. If you do like this today, what kind of commitment are you thinking of making?”

AND

“I’m happy we have some time to go over how all this works and let me ask you: If after you see all this you agree this is what you’re looking for, is this something you can give me the go ahead to put to work for you today?”

If some of these questions seem daunting to you, it’s probably because you haven’t been thoroughly qualifying your prospects to begin with. You may be more used to the “spray and pray” model.

I’m here to tell you that you’ll close more deals, avoid more frustration, and confidently close more deals if you begin requalifying your prospects up front.

The benefits of doing this are many. To start with, if you find that a prospect isn’t going to make a decision at the end but rather has lots of concerns or objections already, then you can adjust your pitch accordingly. You can shorten it or ask for their main interests points and address those first. Then after you’ve answered any questions, you can begin overcoming some of the obstacles or ascertaining if this is a prospect who is ever going to close or not.

If you find that most of your prospects aren’t going to make a decision at the end of your presentation, then you can go back to your qualifying script and put in more definite questions so you get better qualified leads for your next closes.

On the other hand, if you find out that your prospect is indeed ready to go, then you can use more tie downs and trial closes during your presentation and then confidently ask for and get the sales sooner.

Either way, you’ll know where you stand at the beginning of your pitch and what you’ve got to do to win the deal.

Take some time this week to restructure the opening of your presentation or demo and put some of the requalifying questions you’ve read above. Or, adapt some of your own. The more you ask these kinds of questions, the stronger of a closer you’ll become.

And one last note: Don’t be afraid that you’re going to scare off buyers by doing this. Know one thing: buyers will respond to these kinds of questions. Only non-buyers will give you trouble, and wouldn’t you rather know up front who is going to buy and who isn’t?

Top Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers (Part Four)

In today’s ongoing series of the “Top Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers,” I’m going to introduce you to one of the main differences between the Top 20% of sales producers versus the other 80%.

And in a sentence it is this: “You can’t close an unqualified lead.”

Top Characteristic Part Four: Thoroughly qualify each and every prospect and client before you set up your close or demo or run your appointment.

I’ll start with a story: I was in the Bay Area giving a training to a group of tech sales reps, and I was talking about what makes up a qualified lead and how important it is. I went over the six things you need to know about each prospect before you set up a close, and then I covered specific scripted questions (along with rebuttals for any resistance) and how to get this information.

The sales reps sat around the conference table with a look of wonder on their faces. Only one person in the back of the room was smiling broadly and nodding his head up and down. Turns out he was a new rep who had just joined the team after working for IBM.

After I was done with the qualifying piece of the training, this rep raised his hand and told the following story:

“I know exactly what you’re talking about in terms of fully qualifying leads before setting them up for a demo or appointment. In fact, the number one rep in our division at IBM had a team of “qualifiers” who would make the initial calls and then turn the leads over to this guy for his approval.

“This rep (we’ll call him Brad), had put together a “qualifying checklist” of ten items he demanded his qualifiers ask, and if they turned a lead over without at least eight of the questions answered, he’d turn the lead back over and tell them to call back and get the rest of the questions answered.

“Now here’s the thing,” this rep said, now almost shaking with enthusiasm. “All the other reps would have been happy if three or four of the questions had been answered. We’d all of considered that a good lead to call!

“But not Brad. Brad wouldn’t waste his time with what he called, “non-qualified leads” because he said he didn’t need the practice of trying to close sales. He said he’s only interested in pitching and closing qualified leads.”

And then he dropped the bomb that made believers out of all the other sales reps in attendance:

“And the thing was, Brad was the number one producer in our division and grossed over one million dollars a year in commissions!”

And that’s the characteristic you need concentrate on with each and every prospect or “lead” you generate. You have to make sure they are fully qualified. Ask this about every lead before you set a demo or appointment:

1) Why will this person buy? What’s their specific buying motive? Hot buttons?
2) Why won’t this person (or company, etc.) buy? What’s the likely objection that will kill the deal?
3) Who are all the decision makers? What is this person’s role?
4) Timeline! What is the decision process like? How long will it take? How many hoops do you need to jump through? How soon – or how long – are they going to take to make a decision on this?
5) Competition. Who are you competing against? Is their old supplier or vendor still in the mix? Why would they choose you?
6) Budget. What is your prospect or client looking to spend? Is your solution perceived as having enough value to justify your cost? If not, how can you build that?

These are the six basic qualifiers that you need to know about every lead before you enter the closing area. There may be more given your particular sale, and if so, you’d better create your own “qualifying checklist” and make sure that you know this information well in advance.

If, for some reason, you didn’t learn everything on the first call, then consider strongly “requalifying” at the beginning of your close or demo. Ask these questions at the beginning of the call so you’ll have the leverage you’ll need to confidently close later.

There is a reason Brad wasn’t interested in attempting to close leads that weren’t completely qualified. He knew the basic rule of sales: You can’t close an unqualified lead.

So stop trying! Fully qualify upfront and watch your closing ratio soar.

Top Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers (Part Three)

Last week, in Top Characteristic Number Two, I introduced the concept of scripting out the very best responses to the selling situations and objections you get into 80 to 90% of the time. I urged you to practice, drill and rehearse these responses until they become automatic.

The point here is that you are practicing the right responses.

You see, the thing about practice is that it doesn’t make perfect, as everyone has heard. Practice only makes permanent. And that’s why underperforming sales reps and sales team remain stuck in unsatisfactory results. They keep doing and saying the wrong things over and over again.

The truth is this: Only practice of perfection makes perfect.

That’s why Characteristic Number Two is so important. Only by practicing the right responses will you achieve perfection in sales. And this leads us to Number Three:

Top Characteristic Number Three: Record and critique your calls every day.

A top telemarketing sales trainer, Stan Billue, first introduced me to this concept. He said that nothing could help you double your income in 90 days faster than recording and critiquing your calls daily.

He also said that most sales reps would not be willing to do this (and he’s right). But, he said, if you are willing to do it, then you will quickly move into the Top 20% of the selling professionals in your company and industry (he was right there, too!).

By the way, all professionals record their performances and then use them to improve. Think about how much time football players spend watching game film, or dancers spend watching film of their practices and performances, or actors and directors watching a previous day’s shoot, etc.

Every professional records, critiques and gets better by analyzing and improving their performance using some kind of recording device. You need to as well.

Once I made a commitment to recording my calls, I was quickly amazed by how much I was missing, and I think you will be, too. Here are some things to be on the look-out for:

1) How well did you listen to your prospect or client? This is huge because once you begin hearing yourself on a sales call, you’ll be amazed by how much and how quickly you start talking. Often talking over your prospect.

2) Did you hear what your prospect or client was saying or did you just hear what you wanted to hear? Clients and prospects are always trying to tell us what’s important to them, but most of the time we never hear it. When you begin listening to your calls, you’ll see the need to begin using your Mute Button so you hear the buying signals – and the potential objections.

3) Did you ask all the right qualifying questions? Most sales don’t close because prospects just aren’t qualified to begin with. By listening to what questions you are missing, you’ll be able to strengthen your calls on the front end, thereby producing more qualified leads to close later on.

4) Did you follow your best practice script, or did you fall back on your old habits of ad-libbing. Following a new script is hard! Our tendency is to fall back on our old scripts and start shooting from the hip. By recording yourself, you’ll begin to hold yourself accountable.

5) When answering an objection, did you end by asking for the order or did you simply talk past the close? This is a big one as well because many sales reps are afraid of asking for the order for fear of getting more objections. But asking for the deal is crucial and must be done over and over again…

6) Did you introduce an objection by talking too much? This will give you shivers the first time you hear yourself doing it.

7) How about tie downs and trial closes? Most sales reps love to talk. It’s a bad habit because in inside sales, you have no idea what your prospect is thinking – unless you stop to ask them. By recording yourself, you’ll get an idea of how much you’re talking, and how much you’re listening.

8) Are you improving? This is big because we all need reinforcement. You need to hear yourself getting better, celebrate your improvement and see the benefits of all the work you’re doing to get better. By recording yourself, you’ll be able to do just that.

9) How is your tone, your pacing and your energy? All of these things are crucial on a call, and if you’re not objectively listening to yourself, you have no way of correcting yourself.

10) You’ll find many other ways to improve as well – ways that would never occur to the other 80%.

As you begin listening to yourself, you’ll find that it’s painful in the beginning. Nobody likes to hear the sound of their own voice, and no one likes to hear how bad they usually are. But soon you’ll be happy you did, because nothing pays off faster than practicing this crucial characteristic.

The easiest way to start is to pick a partner at work and begin listening to each other’s calls during lunch. Get a buddy and make a commitment to tearing each other apart (all in fun!), but be ruthless in your effort to get better. What you’ll find is that when you’re back on the phone, just before you go off script or talk over someone, you’ll see your buddy’s face and you’ll hit Mute to avoid making a mistake that your buddy will point out later…

As soon as you can, find a way to record and download your recordings for playback and critique. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll leapfrog over your competition!

Top Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers (Part Two)

I’d like to thank many of you for your emails and comments regarding last week’s ezine article on the first characteristic of making a commitment to doing whatever it takes to be a top sales producer.

For those of you who are committed, you’ll find your sales and confidence will instantly go up when you practice the next characteristic:

Top Characteristic Number Two: Learn, practice and then automatically deliver the best responses and closes to 90% of the selling situations you run into day in and day out.

This is absolutely huge. The strange thing is though: 80% of sales people simply won’t take the time or make the effort to do it.

I’ve always said that the best thing about sales is that 80 to 90% of the objections, stalls, put offs and situations you run into day after the day are the same. The blow offs you got yesterday, are the same ones you got last month and that you’ll get next month – and next year.

Think about it: how many times do you hear this when you prospect or cold call:

From the gatekeeper:

“Will he know what this call is regarding?”

From the prospect:

“I wouldn’t be interested.”

“We already have someone who handles that.”

“Just email me something.”

Do any of these sound familiar? Of course they do! And I’ll bet you could add another five or seven, couldn’t you?

And how about when you close a sale? How about:

“We just aren’t ready to make a decision yet.”

“I’m going to have to talk to my partner/spouse/committee.”

“Your price isn’t in our budget.”

Are these sounding familiar? Of course they are! And, once again, you could easily come up with about five or seven more.

And here’s the point: There are only about seven or nine objections or stalls per selling situation per product or service. You keep getting them over and over and over again!

Now here’s the problem: Most sales reps don’t take the time to develop, script out, and then practice, drill and rehearse the most effective responses until they know them backward and forward and can deliver them automatically like a pro.

Instead, 80% of sales reps (and sales teams!) choose to ad-lib a different response – or worse, an ineffective response – each time they get one of these repeatable stalls or objections. This makes them uncomfortable when they get resistance, makes them give up easily, and makes them not want to cold call or call people back to close them (classic phone resistance).

It makes their sales lives a living nightmare…

The top producers, on the other hand, have taken the time to develop, memorize and then deliver effective responses to these objections, and so they easily handle and overcome them. They are not afraid of getting resistance, instead, they’re prepared for it. Knowing what’s coming and being prepared for it enables them to listen to what their prospect is saying, allows them to question the objection and find out what is really holding a prospect back.

And this makes them confident. This allows them to stay in the game and overcome stalls and objections when other sales reps fold and go away. This allows them to persevere and get the sale.

In addition, it allows them to do their job easily and without stress because they know in advance what’s coming, and they are prepared for it!

It’s like with the objection of: “I’m going to need to ask the boss.”

Eighty percent of sales reps handle this incorrectly by saying something like: “Well, when should I call you back?”

By doing it this way, they simply create a stall, and then they worry that when they finally do hear back from the prospect, the answer will be, “Well, the boss doesn’t want to do it.”

How many times does this happen to you?

A top producer, on the other hand, handles this very differently. She would say:

“I understand and let me ask you something. If your boss likes this and tells you to do whatever you think is best, based on what we’ve just gone over, what would you likely do?”

This is called isolating the objection, and based on what the prospect then says, the top producer will take the next effective steps.

This is what I mean by knowing what’s coming in advance, and then being able to effectively, confidently and easily handle it.

And that’s your assignment for this week. Start by making a list of all the stalls, put offs and objections you get with your sale during the various stages of contact. Then commit to learning, scripting and then practicing the best responses to them.

Once you’ve found the ones that work (and I recommend you script out three or four responses for each objection), spend the time practice, drill and rehearse those best practice responses until you can deliver them automatically.

I’m reminded of the importance of this when I recall an interview with Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins. He said that his players practice each move, each technique over and over again until they are automatic.

He said that if his players get into a game situation and have to think about what to do next, it’s too late. He said they had to be able to respond instantly, automatically with the best technique in every situation they get into.

It’s the same with you and sales.

If you are willing to do this – again, what 80% of your competition won’t take the time and effort to do – then soon you will enjoy closing more sales, making more money, and living a more confident and successful life as a sales professional.