The Four Errors to Avoid when Putting Together Your Resume (Part Three)

How many resumes do you think an HR Director or hiring manager receives for each job posting they advertise for? Would you guess twenty? Thirty? I hate to break it to you, but if it is a sales position you had better revise your estimate way up. Try over seventy or eighty – and that is just in the first couple of days of posting the job!

Now ask yourself how hiring managers decide who to put in the “to call” pile or folder, and who to disqualify and delete. If you think that appropriate skills and experience are the most important parts of a resume, think again.

As you will see, there are many other factors that affect what qualifies a resume for a call back versus the delete button. Before we get into the best way to write and organize your resume, let us first start with the common problems you want to avoid – problems that can automatically get your resume disqualified regardless of your experience or appropriateness for the job.

Because of the volume of resumes a hiring manager receives, the first thing they tend to do is quickly review all the resumes in an attempt to separate out the bad ones from the good ones. You obviously don’t want your resume to get disqualified out in the very beginning, so here are four errors to avoid so you can keep in the running.

Error Number One: Obvious spelling errors or out of date resumes. While this may go without saying, the first thing you want to do is thoroughly spell check your resume. Even one misspelled word can flag your resume – and you as a job applicant – as not being detailed enough or well prepared enough to be taken seriously. At the very least it can move your resume to the bottom of the stack.

Your resume is your written representation of yourself, and if you submit one with obvious spelling (or grammatical) errors, it raises the red flag that you may not be organized, detailed, or careful in your job either. Obviously, this is not the impression you want to give a hiring manager.

It is easy to avoid these errors, and you begin by using your spelling and grammar check. If you are unsure of any errors, then take the time to research them on Google, and then choose the best words and tenses that you can. In addition, always have someone else read and comment on your resume before you submit it. Another pair of eyes on a document that you have labored over is crucial to uncover errors that you may not see anymore.

Error Number Two: It is important that you list the dates on your various jobs properly. Two things to be careful of here: The first is that none of your dates overlap; the second is that there is no time lapse between jobs is longer than two months.

The first is easy to do. If you worked at the xyz company from March of 2009 to July of 2013, then your next job should begin on August of 2013. Don’t make the sloppy mistake of putting down that your new job started on July of 2013. This is a red flag that gets the hiring manager to wonder how you worked at two different jobs at the same time. If you happened to begin the new job sooner, or if you worked at both jobs during the same month, then just stagger the start dates so it appears contiguous.

So the jobs should read:

ABC Company September 2013 — Present
XYZ Company March, 2009 – August, 2013

The point here is to show that after you left one job you were immediately employed (and thereby employable) by another. There are no questions here and so no red flags. You want to make your employment history clear to your potential employer.

There may be some situations where there was a three or four month gap between jobs. This isn’t bad per se, but unexplained time gaps on resumes are red flags that put suspicions and doubts into a hiring manager’s mind. What you need to do here is put in a brief description of the time lapse (and I mean brief – a sentence or two).

To explain the lapse of time make sure and choose the right way to describe it. For example, if you spent the summer with your folks at the lake house in Minnesota, don’t write: “Summer 2013: Spent three glorious months at our family’s lake house.”

Instead, write: “Summer 2013: Took a brief vacation break then resumed job search and found the right opportunity. Began ABC Company November 2013.”

If the gap is longer than three months (sometimes job searches can last for six months to a year or more), then you can phrase the gap like this (or something else just as appropriate):
“During the break between employments, I attended ongoing educational classes to better prepare for my next job opportunity. Began ABC Company February 2014”

The point here is to explain any large gaps in your employment history – you don’t want the hiring manager wondering why you were unemployed so long. Your goal is to be brief, professional and positive.

Now that you have corrected any spelling or grammatical errors, and have explained or accounted for any time gaps between employment longer than two months, it is time to turn your attention around to the length not only of your resume, but, most importantly, to the length of time of employment at each company.

Error Number Three: Listing a history of jobs lasting two years or less. I can’t tell you how many resumes I have seen where a job applicant has not been at a single job (or perhaps only one) longer than two years. When you list five or six jobs that you stayed at for 24 months or shorter, it screams to the hiring manager that they will have you for less than two years at their company as well. And this means that all the time, energy and money they will invest in you will be wasted because you will leave them in under 24 months. Even if you have good reasons for leaving your jobs every two years, it will look to the hiring manager that you are a short term player with a history of quitting often.

There are several things you can do if this represents your job history. The first is prominently display and describe the job that you were at the longest. For example, if you were at one company for five or six years, then make sure and describe how you took on more responsibility, talk about the production and awards you earned, and talk about the skills you used that are appropriate to the new job you are applying for.

In addition, if any company you worked for was taken over by a new company or renamed, then don’t list this as a new company! Instead, mention it in your job description, as well as any other job title you took. Many people make the mistake of listing a new company as if it helps their experience, but it doesn’t. What helps you is to show a potential employer that you are a long term player who is loyal.

If you do have a string of jobs that you stayed at for under two years, you have a couple of options. The first and best thing to do is to explain why you left each company. Here again, your answer needs to be brief and professional. “Found a better opportunity” is NOT the right reason regardless of whether it is true or not. Putting that down just tells the hiring manager that you are always on the lookout for something better, and when something comes up for you while working at their company, you will probably just leave there, too.

Much better reasons include things like, “Company reorganized and position was eliminated,” or “Company slow down resulted in layoffs”. These are both good, professional reasons that hiring managers can identify with. Others (if true, of course) can include things like: “Company relocated out of state,” or “Company was acquired by another firm and positon eliminated.” List other reasons like these if the company you worked for had to let you go (and it was not your fault).

If you did leave the company for a better opportunity, then you can state that, but always explain any increased job responsibilities or positions: “Was recruited into a team lead role,” or “Was hired by ABC Company to head up new lead generation division.” The point here is to show increased job responsibilities or positions which required better skill sets or offered job growth. Opportunities like this that show career advancement make you seem more desirable to the hiring manager.

Error Number Four: Making your resume too long. Many job seekers think that more is better. That is not the case with your resume. Similar to the above example of not listing too many short term job stays, what you want to strive for with your next resume is to keep it under two pages total. Even one page is preferable, if possible. The way you will do this is to limit the number of jobs – and years – you have been working.

I hate to tell you this, but listing every job you have had since you got out of High School is not what the hiring manager is looking for. In fact, by listing page after page all the jobs you have had, you will once again be raising a red flag that tells them that you tend to move around a lot. Furthermore, the only thing a hiring manager is looking for is current, similar experience. So listing many different types of jobs and companies – especially if the job responsibilities were different – is not going to help your cause.

Instead, what you want to do is list the most recent – and the most relevant jobs you can – that line up with what your prospective employer is looking for. If you have a few jobs that don’t relate specifically to the skills or responsibilities that are asked for, then find a way to connect them. For example, if you were a customer service rep who is now applying for a job in sales, then you should stress how many phone calls you took, how much your success relied on working with and solving problems with customers, and even how you uncovered up-sell opportunities. These are transferrable skills and will mean a lot to the hiring manager.

Next, as a rule of thumb, you want to keep your job history to the last ten years. Again, no one cares how long you have been working – whether it has been eight years or twenty eight. What they care about is how relevant your job history is to what they need you to do. As such, keeping your list of jobs – and so the length of your resume – short and to the point is what is going to make you more attractive to the hiring manager. If, while on the phone or during the interview, the hiring manager wants to know more about your job history, then you can tell them. But for moving your resume to the top of the list, don’t submit a four page resume thinking that you are going to wow them with your long and extended job history. The fact is, this will work against you.

The bottom line with the length of your resume, is you want to make it easy for a hiring manager to get through it. You don’t want them to have to navigate three or four pages trying to discern which jobs are relevant and which aren’t. The hiring manager doesn’t need to know your first job was at McDonalds. What they want to know is how your current experience lines up with that they are looking for now.

To summarize the list of the four errors to avoid: The first thing you want to do is make sure your resume is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Your resume represents you – make sure it does this well. Second, you want your dates of employment to match up. In addition, if there are any lapses of employment longer than three or four months, be sure to explain these in a professional way. Third, make sure you don’t list job after job with a length of time of two years or less. Remember, whatever you put down in terms of how long your average length of employment is, that is how long the hiring manager will think you will stay with them as well.
And finally, number four is to keep your resume short. One page is ideal, but one and half will do if absolutely necessary.

Now that you know what you should avoid, in our next installment of this series, I will tell you what you should do to write a solid resume that will put you on the top of the list of who to call back for an interview. What you will discover is that it is easier than you think – if you know what to do!

How to Write a Simple yet Powerful Cover Letter (Part Two)

Did you know that over 85% of resumes received by hiring managers arrive without a cover letter?

While that may not mean much to you, it means a lot to the people reviewing and vetting resumes for the job you are applying for. Resumes that are sent in without someone taking the time to write a cover letter appear to the hiring manager to be submitted almost blindly. It is as if the job applicant has sent their resume in to lots of jobs – shotgun approach – hoping someone might call them back. It shows a lack of preparation and even implies a lack of interest in whether the person gets the job or not.

This is NOT the kind of first impression you want to give a hiring manager.

On the other hand, those resumes that do arrive with a cover letter get extra attention and are often the first resumes an HR person reviews. A cover letter tells the hiring manager that you care enough about the job you are applying for that it is important for you to stand above the competition. When you take the time to write a cover letter, it also shows initiative and evidences your ability and willingness to go that extra mile. It signals that you are someone who is attentive to detail and that you are willing to do what others applicants (and workers) are not willing to do.

In essence, it shows that you are organized, capable, and professional. A well written cover letter tells the hiring manager that you are serious about getting the job, and it gives you the best chance (along with a relevant resume) of landing an interview and ultimately the job you really want.

While a cover letter is a huge benefit for job applicants, there are both things to avoid and some definite best practices you can use to insure your cover letter is heads and tails above anybody else’s.

How to Address your Cover Letter:

Let’s start first with what to avoid. The most obvious thing you want to avoid is writing a generic cover letter that is unspecific to the job you are applying to. Doing so erases any benefit of putting one together to begin with. The first thing you want to avoid is addressing your letter to the generic: “To Whom it May Concern.” This, once again, just lumps you into the generic cover letter pile, and doesn’t differentiate you from the other applicants.

To avoid this, try to find out the hiring manager’s name or job title, and direct the cover letter to him/her. If this is not possible, then the following addresses are best:

1) Address your cover letter to the department head you are applying to. So if it is sales, use: “Dear Hiring Sales Manager,” or “Dear Hiring Marketing Director,” or “Dear HR Director.”
2) If you don’t know the department, then a good address is: “Dear Hiring Manager,” or “Dear Human Resources Director.”
3) If you do know the name of the hiring manager, then always use their name as such: “Dear Mr. Brooks,” or “Dear Ms. Collins.”

This is the kind of detail that takes just a minute or two to customize, but it makes a huge first impression on the hiring manager. Again, it evidences that you care enough – and are resourceful enough – to take the time to go beyond what the majority of job seekers are not willing to do. The inference is that you will also be more organized and detail oriented on the job as well. And this is the kind of person hiring personnel are looking for.

Next, the content of the cover letter is where you will make or break a good impression. Now, don’t be intimidated here. The hiring manager is not looking for a college essay, nor are they looking for a sample of your writing skills. What they do want, however – and what you want to give them – is why you are uniquely qualified for this particular job. In other words, they are looking for relevant experience that matches up specifically to the position you are applying for.

Let me say that again because this is key: What the hiring manager is looking for is relevant experience of yours that directly relates to the specific job skills and duties they are hiring for.

And the good news is there are some easy, sure fire, best practices you can follow that will immediately give them what they are looking for. Here is how to go about it:

Number One: Carefully review each employer’s ad description and pick out specific words and phrases that describe the skills and day to day activities they are advertising for. An example would be the phrase:

“Relevant experience in prospecting by phone, candidates should be prepared to make between 50 to 75 cold calls per day. In addition, the ideal candidate should also have experience in contacting existing or non-active accounts to expand and grow client base.”

Once you see something like this, it is telling you exactly how to write your cover letter. What you need to do next is match up any (or as many as possible) of your past positions where you performed similar duties. And then include a brief description of that in your cover letter. For example:

“The skills and duties which you are seeking – specifically prospecting by phone and calling into non-active accounts – are exactly the kind of work I did at Sherman Rentals and ABC Financial. I am highly adept at cold calling and regularly average 68 prospecting calls per day.

“In addition, I was also responsible for calling into existing accounts and even won awards for my ability to reactivate and up sell existing customers.”

Now how easy was that? By taking just a few minutes to highlight specific words and phrases and repeat them in your cover letter, you will be doing what 98% of your competition simply won’t take the time to do. Your effort will get noticed and it will move your resume to the top of the stack.

By the way, if you didn’t win any awards, then don’t make it up! Instead, talk about the achievements you did accomplish and the results that you did get. Your goal here, again, is to match up your relevant experience that directly relates to the specific job skills and duties they are advertising for. Remember, the key is to use their exact words and phrases when describing your experience in your cover letter.

Taking this simple step is 75% of writing a powerful cover letter. The other part is to show a sincere interest in their company and job opportunity, and to keep it brief. Here is a complete, best practice cover letter that you can use as a template:

Dear Sales Hiring Manager,

My name is Mike Brooks, and I was very excited to find your job listing on I have always been interested in the online advertising industry (whatever industry their company is in), and feel that I have the relevant experience you are looking for that would enable me to be highly successfully with your company.

The skills and duties which you are seeking – specifically prospecting by phone and calling into non-active accounts – are exactly the kind of work I did at Sherman Rentals and ABC Financial. I am highly adept at cold calling and regularly average 68 prospecting calls per day.

In addition, I was also responsible for calling into existing accounts and even won awards for my ability to reactivate and up sell existing customers.

I would enjoy the opportunity to learn more about the position of account manager you are advertising for, and look forward to exploring how my career experience can be an asset to your company.

I have attached my resume for your review and would be happy to discuss my experience or any questions you may have.

The best way to reach me is by my cell phone: (515) 555-1234. Alternatively, you can email me here:

I hope my experience meets what you are searching for, and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Mike Brooks

Use this template for any sales job you are applying for. (Or any other kind of position as well.) Simply change the name of the company and type of job where appropriate and match up your skills and duties as discussed previously.

By taking just a few minutes to customize a carefully worded cover litter like this, you will instantly become one of – if not the very first – candidate that gets a call back. You will be very much in demand and soon you will have your pick of which opportunities to pursue. And having many companies who are interested in hiring you gives you the leverage to ask for and get things like a higher salary, a better commission structure and even a possible hiring bonus. But we’ll cover these in a little while.

Once you have perfected your cover letter, the next step to landing the job of your dreams is to make sure your resume matches up with what a potential company is looking for. You also want to make sure not to make the common errors so prevalent with most resumes that are submitted – errors that often get resumes rejected right away. All of these points will be covered in next week’s Ezine, so make sure and be on the lookout for it next week.

In the meantime, try practicing a few cover letters and see for yourself how easy it is!

Better Selling in Under 5 Minutes: “How to Handle the ‘I need to speak to someone’ stall.”

Welcome to our new video series: “Better Selling in Under 5 Minutes.”  We’re launching this series today to help inside sales reps and teams handle selling situations more effectively.  Today’s topic is, “How to Handle the ‘I need to speak to someone’ stall.”  If you like the video, please pass it on to other sales reps who can benefit from it.

Please click on the YouTube link to watch.

All the best and happy selling!

Mr. Inside Sales


How to Apply For and Get a Better Paying Job (Part One)

According to a PNC survey, almost two-thirds of millionaires say their wealth is largely attributable to their jobs. Furthermore, these six figure earners are much better at applying for and landing better paying jobs and are far more inclined to negotiate better salaries and over all commission plans than their peers (says a study by In contrast, nearly 60% of their competition (all U.S. workers, in fact) simply settle for the first offer they get.

So what are their secrets? How do these top earners go about applying for, interviewing at and landing these better jobs? The good news is that, as always, success leaves clues, and by simply following some of their tried and true strategies, you, too, can begin applying for and landing not only better paying jobs, but also better positions at those jobs.

Now don’t be worried if you’re not a six figure earner – yet. By following the strategies and techniques below, you can begin making yourself more valuable at your current job, and more marketable to your next employer as well. In fact, if you are in the job market right now, using these proven tips will move your resume to the top of the list and get you an interview above everyone else who is applying.

How can I be so sure of this? Because my experience in hiring tells me so. Over the last 30 years, I have reviewed thousands of resumes of potential inside sales reps, admin support people, marketing people, etc. And as a consultant, I’ve worked with my client’s hiring managers, recruiters, HR Directors, V.P.’s of sales, sales managers, etc., helping them vet and interview thousands of more candidates. I can look at a resume for one minute and tell you whether a company would be interested in speaking with you or not.

And after all that experience, sadly, I can tell you now that we (myself, hiring managers, etc.) throw away about 95% of all resumes received for an inside sales position. Ninety five percent! That’s a horrendous statistic, and it just shows how unprepared (or uninterested) most sales reps are about applying for and getting a new job. It tells me that the majority of job seekers carelessly put together their resume, and then rapid fire it out to as many potential jobs as are advertising. It’s the shotgun approach to landing a job. And it does not work.

Lucky for you that with just a little bit of time and effort ahead of time, you can create a cover letter and resume that will make hiring managers anxious to call and meet with you. By just putting in a little bit of work before you attach or upload your resume to a job posting, you can all but be assured that you’ll be sitting in front of the hiring manager for the job you’d really like to get.

Moreover, if you follow some of the other tips you’ll read in this Special Report, you’ll also be able to negotiate things like a signing bonus, a performance bonus, higher salary and/or commission schedule. And, with just a little bit of planning, you can even begin applying to and landing positions in management. And all of this will mean more money, more prestige, and more opportunity in your future.

In the following Special Report, I will walk you through, step by step, the ways that you can:

1) Write a cover letter that will separate you from 90% of the resumes a company gets.
2) Easily develop a resume that will put you into the top 1% of what a company is looking for – and ensure that you get interviewed first.
3) How to make yourself more valuable to your current company, as well as future employers as well.
4) How to ask for and get higher positions in management and so make more money.
5) How to get the largest starting pay – including asking for and getting a signing bonus.
6) How to negotiate for salary and bonus reviews which will keep your earnings going even higher.

You can apply for and get a better paying job, but you must know how to do it first. In next week’s Ezine, I will teach you the secrets of crafting a simple, yet powerful, cover letter that will immediately separate you from the hundreds of other resumes a hiring manager receives each week.

This tip alone will move you, and your resume, above the competition applying for the job you want!

How to Turn Cold Leads into Warm Leads

Staring at a list of cold names you have to call can be discouraging. Calling those names and leaving voice mails that never get returned is also discouraging. And finally reaching someone only to be quickly blown off can be downright heart breaking! Don’t you wish there was a way to turn cold names into warm leads?

There is!

It’s called a “touch point plan,” and it’s very effective if done right. A touch point plan is simply a combination of carefully scripted voice messages and emails used in combination over a period of time. How many messages and over what period of time is variable, and I’ve seen some studies recommend as many as six phone calls and five emails over a month’s time.

I’ve been successfully using a bit less – five to seven total messages – but I supplement this strategy by making calls in between trying to “catch” the prospect picking up their phone. If they don’t answer, I don’t leave a voice mail.

What type of a touch point plan you decide to develop (how many calls and emails) can depend on many factors such as whether it’s a business to business call – and what your target prospect’s title is – or whether it’s a business to consumer call and what hours you’re calling. You’ll find what your sweet spot is if you just experiment a bit.

The bottom line, though, is that the more times you reach out to a prospect, the more likely it is they will become familiar with you and your company. Many prospects will respect your professional and persistent attempts to reach them. Because of this, when you finally do reach a prospect you’ll have built some recognition and credibility, and your prospect will be more motivated to give you a bit of their time.

This is how you turn a cold lead into a warm lead.

Below I’ve listed a sample touch point plan that involves two voice messages and three emails. I first make about a week of calls without leaving a voice mail (assuming I don’t reach the prospect), and then I spread the following touch point plan out over two weeks.

If I haven’t gotten a response or reached anyone after the touch point plan, I then spend the fourth week calling again without leaving a message. I’ve had A LOT of success with this plan and at the end of the four week process, I’ve generally reached those prospects who are reachable.

Here is a sample touch point plan, with generic wording, that you can customize to fit your company and product or service:

Voice Mail #1:

Hi _________, this is (Your Full Name) with (Your Company).

_________, I’m calling about (Your brief value prop – example: “the effectiveness of your online marketing”).

I wanted to briefly introduce you to a way to save as much as 25% over what you may be spending now, and still maintain or even increase the effectiveness of your results.

If you would give me a quick call back at: (Your Number) we can set a time to speak.

Once again the name is (Your Full Name), with (Your Company Name) and the number is (Your Number Slowly).

I’ll follow this up with an email and another call to you if I don’t hear back. Have a good day.

Email #1 (To be sent right after you leave your first voice mail):

Subject Line: (First Name), I just left you a vm

Body of email:

{first name},

This is (Your Full Name) with (Your Company), sorry I missed you.

I understand that you’re in charge of your online marketing and I wanted to set up a time to briefly speak with you later this week. (If you are not in charge of the advertising, please forward this to the person who is).

We have a new way of maximizing your online advertising spend that reduces what your current budget, yet it also reaches more of the customers that fit your ideal demographic. (Obviously, insert your value prop here). Our model is so effective that you can literally save up to 25% over what you’re spending now!

I’d like to schedule a brief conversation to explain how this would work with your company, and I guarantee you’ll at least come away with a whole new way of looking at your online marketing.

If you would reach back out to me with a couple of days/times that might work that would be great.

If I don’t hear back, I’ll reach out to you again next week.

Looking forward to connecting with you.

(Your Name and Company Signature)

Voice Mail #2: (Three to four days later)

Hi _________, this is (Your Full Name) once again with (Your Company). My number is (Leave your number slowly).

_________ you probably received a voice mail from me already, and I also sent you an email along with a brief description of how we save companies up to 25% on their online advertising, while in many cases increasing their results. (Your value prop goes here)

I’d like to spend a few minutes on the phone with you next week, and I guarantee that it will be worth your time.

If you would give me a quick call back to let me know a day and time that would work for you that would be appreciated. My direct phone number again is: (Your Phone Number).

I’ll follow up again with you if I don’t hear back. Have a great day.

Email #2: (Send this email one to two days after your second voice mail)
Attachment: (Include an online brochure of your company and services)

Subject Line: (First Name), second attempt to reach you

{first name},

This is (Your Full Name) with (Your Company Name) once again.

I hope you’ve received my messages, and today I wanted to include some information on our company and a brief description of what we do.

As I mentioned earlier, we help companies reduce their spend on their online advertising by as much as 25% while maintaining or even increasing their results. (Your value prop here).

I’m sure that when you compare what we do to what you’re doing now, you’ll want to know more.

I’d simply like a few minutes to see if what we do would be a good fit for you. Once we speak, I guarantee you’ll come away with some good ideas, regardless of what you’re doing now…

I’ll give you a call in a few days after you’ve digested the attached information.

Or, you can reach back out to me to let me know your interest level.

(Your Name and Company Signature)

Voice Mail #3: (Final V/M – send three to four days after 2nd email)

Hi _________, this is (Your Full Name) with (Your Company) again.

I’m sorry we haven’t been able to connect yet. As you may know, we offer a unique way of increasing the effectiveness of your online marketing, while reducing what you’re currently spending by as much as 25%. (Your value prop here)

You may be involved in another initiative right now, so I don’t want to bother you if you’re busy or if you’re not interested.

When you get this message, could you either call back and leave me a voice mail or just respond to one of the emails I’ve sent you?

Just let me know what the next appropriate step would be for us to connect.

You can reach me by calling (Your Number Slowly), or you can email me at: (Your Email Address)

I really appreciate you taking the time to get back with me.

Thanks and have a great day…

Once you’ve customized and tested the voice mails and emails in this touch point plan, you’ll know whether you need to add another one or two messages. Just test a variation of plans and see what the best results are for you. And don’t forget to add in calls the week before and after the plan as well!

The most important part of a successful touch point plan is to consistently use one. Most sales reps fail to reach back out to prospects (both inbound and outbound leads), and many just make one attempt and then move on. The way to double or even triple your sales and income is to be detail oriented and to persevere until you reach your prospects.

Adopting the approach above will separate you from 90% of the other sales reps in your industry and catapult your effectiveness.

How to Get Your Voice Mails Returned

When voice mail first came out, it was the hottest thing in business. Everyone anxiously checked and even responded to their voice mail no matter who was calling. It was a beautiful thing…

After a while though, prospects stopped returning voice mail and turned their attention to email. And then that pretty much dried up, too.

Today, sales reps are asking if it’s even worth it to leave a voice mail, and I’m here to tell you that you CAN get effective results from voice mails IF you follow a few proven rules.

[Register Now for Mike’s All New Webinar: “5 Proven Techniques That Get Your Calls Returned” this Thursday, September 15th, at Noon Pacific / 3PM Eastern]

There are two strategies that will set your voice mails apart and give them the best chance of being returned. The first is to combine a set number of voice mails with a set number of dedicated emails to form a “touch point” plan that keeps you in front of a prospect for a specific length of time.

Studies have shown that repeated attempts to reach new contacts is crucial in not only creating a brand awareness, but also in increasing the odds of that prospect reaching back out to you. In addition, by making repeated attempts and leaving your contact information, you create a familiarity with that prospect so when you do finally connect, the conversation is more “warm” than “cold.” How long should this touch point plan or campaign be? Studies differ, but the best strategy tends to run from 22 days to a month.

When you compare that to how many messages – both voice mails and emails – you may be sending out now, your low contact rates may be the direct result of not enough attempts to contact your prospects. If you’re interested in learning exactly how to develop that touch point plan, make sure and sign up to my ezine as I’ll be publishing an article on how to do just that in the next week.

The other strategy is to leave a carefully crafted stand alone voice mail that follows some specific rules. I will be covering what those specific rules are in my upcoming Webinar, “5 Proven Techniques That Get Your Calls Returned” on Thursday (Register Here). Here are some of the important points and what we’ll cover in the Webinar:

1) First you need to know whether you should even leave a voice mail or not? Believe it or not, there are some best practices regarding this…
2) The next thing you need to do is use a script and stop with the um’s and uh’s. Furthermore, the right script will ensure that your voice mail is compelling. “What’s in it for them, etc.? Whatever you do, don’t say.
3) Stop making the one mistake 99% of people make that almost guarantee that a voice mail is not returned. In our free webinar, you’ll find out what that is!
4) Make sure and use the one technique that will motivate your prospect to pick up the phone and call you.
5) Sometimes leaving a voice mail might NOT be a good idea. You should make sure you’re familiar with the alternatives…

If you want to know the 5 Proven Techniques That Get Your Calls Returned, then… Register Now for Mike’s All New Webinar: “5 Proven Techniques That Get Your Calls Returned” this Thursday, September 15th, at Noon Pacific / 3PM Eastern.

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.


“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.