Monthly Archives: June 2010

5 Closing Questions You Must Be Asking

I get a lot of Ezine topic requests each week, and the majority of them are requests for different questioning techniques to use during the qualification stage. I?m glad to see these requests because it means people understand the importance of identifying and then spending time with buyers.

I’ve written many feature articles over the years that address these kinds of questions, and if you’ve missed any of them I encourage you to pick up a copy of my best-selling book on how to double your income selling over the phone. It?s called, ?The Real Secrets of the Top 20%.?

Last week, however, I got a request for questions that could be used during the close or presentation stage. That was a good question, and today?s feature article will cover 5 of my favorites. These questions will vary from taking a prospect?s pulse to see if they are with you, to finding out if a benefit you just listed would work for them, all the way to a trial close.

All of these questions are crucial to ask during the close, and after you read them I encourage you to put these into your closing scripts and outlines. They will give you the feedback you?ll need (and don?t get because you?re not in front of your prospect) to close the sale. To get the most benefit from them, begin using them today:

#1 After giving any part of your presentation, you can ask, ?Are you with me so far?" You can vary this with, ?How does that sound?? or, ?Do you see what I mean?? and, ?Does that make sense??

Always listen carefully to not only what they say, but to how they say it. And always allow a few seconds after they respond to give them time to add something else.

#2 Anytime you give a benefit, ask, ?How would you use that?" or, ?Could you use that?" or, ?Would that work for you?? or, ?Would that be of benefit in your situation??

Again, LISTEN to what and how they respond?

#3 Another good question to ask throughout your presentation is, ?Do you have any questions so far?"

This is one of the best questions to ask, and it?s also one of the least used. You?d be amazed by the kinds of questions you?ll get, and each one reveals what your prospect is thinking. You must use this question often!

#4 Trial closes are always good ? ?Does this seem to be the kind of solution you are looking for?" or, ?How is this sounding so far?? or, with a smile in your voice, ?Am I getting close to having a new client yet??

Even though that sounds cheesy, you?d be amazed by how it will often break the ice and get your prospect to lower his/her guard!

#5 When you’re done with your presentation, always ask, ?What haven?t I covered yet that is important to you?"

Boy is this a great way to end your presentation! If they tell you they don?t have any questions, then you get to ask for the order! If they do have questions, you answer them and then ask for the order!

The bottom line is that asking questions — and then shutting up and listening — is still one of the most important things you can do either during the qualification stage or during the close.

Use the above questions during your next presentation and watch your closes get stronger and your income get bigger!

Straight Selling – The Quickest Path To The Top 20%

What?s one of the biggest differences between the Top 20% and the bottom 80%? The bottom 80% are still using stale, phony techniques that don?t work, and they are still trying to trick the gatekeepers and assistants as they try to get to the decision maker.

All this does is identify them as another pesky sales rep trying to sell something the prospect doesn?t want.

The Top 20%, on the other hand, have found that by being honest and real ? I call it ?Straight Selling?- they not only differentiate themselves from their so called competition, but they are also able to make a real connection and so establish the rapport crucial for any sales transaction.

Here are a couple of scripts you can use to begin practicing straight selling:

If while cold calling your prospect says they are not interested, use this response:

?I don?t blame you________, you?ve never heard of me and you don?t know what my company does or how it can help you. I?m sure you get sales calls all the time, but I?m also sure that sometimes the calls turn out to be truly worthwhile. This happens to be one of those calls?? (Now provide a benefit, or ask a question)

If you reach an assistant and are told they would take a message, say:

?You know ________, I?m sure you work closely with _______, right? Great. Listen, I?ll be honest with you ? I don?t want to bother you by calling and calling trying to reach _______, so let me tell you why I?m calling and you can tell me if you think this would be something he?d be interested in hearing more about?? (Now ask qualifying questions to see if they?d be a fit)

If your prospect is avoiding you after you?ve sent info, or is putting you off, try:

?________I?m glad I finally reached you, and let me ask you something and please be honest with me ? I?ve tried to connect with you several times, and the timing just never seems to be right. Level with me ? is this just something you?re not really interested in at this time, or do you sincerely want to schedule another time later to go through this with you. You tell me?? (Now shut up and listen to their response)

As you can see, these ?Straight Selling? techniques will not only give you the respect you deserve, but they will separate the buyers from the non-buyers. And that is one of the most important Top 20% techniques of all!

Stop Managing the Pipeline, and Start Managing Your Sales Team

How much time and money do you devote to your company’s sales pipeline? Think about the resources, the software, the meetings, the forecasting, the managing and measuring you do, and the time and effort you give it. If you’re like most CEO’s or VP’s or sales managers, your sales pipeline is your life blood. It’s what you run your company by; it’s how you make decisions, and often times it even drives your stock prices.

While the pipeline is a vital part of the sales process, it is also where the most fundamental mistake is made, and this mistake costs companies millions (if not billions) of dollars every year.

The problem is that most companies spend too much time, money and energy on measuring and managing the pipeline rather than managing and improving the quality of leads that go into – and ultimately come out of – the pipeline.

In other words, most of the leads that go into your pipeline are never going to close, should never have been put in and, as a result, your company wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars generating and then chasing, and measuring and managing leads that will never close. That’s the real problem.

Ask yourself: "What is my sales department’s closing ratio?" I’ll bet you can answer that, can’t you? A typical company will report that it takes an average of 50 cold calls or contacts with decision makers to set 15 appointments out of which 10 will turn into proposals or pitches which will result in 1 or 2 sales.

And once this metric is established (as measured by the sales pipeline, of course) the sales strategy is set – to get more sales, you just have to set more appointments. And if you want more appointments, then you have to get your sales team to make more calls! Suddenly everyone works harder, goes out on more appointments, and…and…the desired results don’t come, do they?

And here’s why: until you address the fundamental problem- the quality of leads that go into your pipeline – you won’t improve your close ratios or your sales. Remember, you can’t close an unqualified lead, so stuffing more of them into your pipeline isn’t going to get you the results you want. In fact, it will just cost your company more money, frustrate your managers and wear out your sales team.

You’ve got to stop managing your pipeline and start training your sales teams how to generate more qualified leads. That’s the only real answer.

In fact that’s the secret of all top sales producers. Look at your own top reps. What are their closing ratios? I’ll bet they are the highest in your company, aren’t they? They would never consider setting and running 15 appointments because they don’t have the time to waste. They would rather spend their time qualifying (I call it disqualifying) out the non-buyers so they can spend their time finding, qualifying and working with real buyers. And they know how to do this because they understand sales. Unfortunately, 80% of your sales team doesn’t.

And that’s why sales training is your only real answer.

But sales training is what most companies don’t do well. In fact, if you want to know how well your own sales training is working, simply shop your sales team. Either call in, or get on your lead list and have some of your reps call you. Try throwing them some objections and see how they do. If you’re like most companies, you’ll be appalled by the results.

Again, this is the real problem. Until you solve this basic problem of training your sales team, having them generate and stuff more unqualified leads into your pipeline won’t get you the results your company needs. That’s why most companies end up spending so much time and effort managing and measuring the pipeline. It?s something they know how to do.

If you want to get out of this unproductive cycle and actually start improving your sales and revenues, then here?s what you need to do: Get back to the basics of sales training and redefine what makes up a qualified lead. Identify all the elements and create a qualifying checklist. Make your reps fill it out completely before any leads are generated. If you’re not sure of a lead, have a manager re-qualify it for them.

The bottom line is you must train your sales force (and sometimes your managers) how to find and qualify real buyers. The more of these you identify and put into your sales pipeline, the more meaningful it will become.

So take the emphasis off managing your pipeline, and start training and managing your sales team. If you do it right, I guarantee you it will finally give you something you’ll be happy to measure – more sales!

Should You Train Unmotivated Sales Reps?

I have been consulting with a lot of sales managers and business owners who need and want sales training, but they are concerned that the training might be wasted on some of their sales reps (sometimes as much as one-third of their team) because this portion of the reps are either resistant, or simply unmotivated.

?Why should I spend the money if one-third of my sales reps are going to tune out?" They ask me.

While I understand this is a reality for some sales teams (sad but true) what I remind these managers and business owners is that the training isn’t for ?this group", but rather for the other part of their team that is actually going to use and benefit from the training.

The improvement this part of the team makes will not only pay for the training in a week, but it will continue to pay dividends weeks and months after the training. Let me put it another way:

Here is a test — let’s say you are a sales manager and you have 10 sales reps. Three of those reps are at 80% of quota, four are at 65%, and three are at 30%. Who should you spend the most time with?

Most managers say they should spend 70% of their time with the four reps at 65%, and 30% of their time with the other 30%. That’s wrong.

The correct answer is you should spend 60% of your time with the three reps at 80% of quota, and another 30% with the four reps at 65%, and just 10% babysitting the other three reps at 30%. Why?

Because you’re going to get the greatest return if you can get the three reps up to 100% of their quotas (and they will be more capable and motivated to do so anyway), and if you can move 65% up to 75 or 80% – great, but the three reps at 100%quota will be your biggest return (and easiest to do).

The other 30% — let’s face it, most of these reps aren?t even going to be there in six months, are they?

So the bottom line is that training always pays off and is worth it, if you’re focusing on who is going to benefit, and how that?s going to pay off for you.

So rearrange your time and resources and concentrate on the winners on your team who are going to give you the biggest return. Provide them with the training and resources they need. Remember, they are the ones that make it all worthwhile.

How to Save a Sale

Last week I was speaking with a new prospect who had called in to inquire about one of my inside sales training programs. I went over her needs, matched up my training to fit those needs, gave her the price options and then closed on dates.

And that?s when I got the old stall, ?Well, let me run this by my boss, and I still have to hear back from, blah, blah, blah.? Sound familiar?

What was worse was that a few days later she stopped returning my calls and didn?t respond to my emails. Now I can take a hint, and I know that she probably wasn?t going to be a deal. I?m sure you can relate, and so I want to give you a proven technique that will allow you to:

1) Open up the dialogue again.

2) Find out why your prospect isn?t going with you.

3) Get them to tell you what you can do to save the sale.

It?s called the ?I love to learn? technique and here?s what you do:

First, you?re going to have to be persistent and keep calling your prospect until you catch them and they pick up. Don?t leave any more voice mails. Once you get them, say the following:

?Hi __________, I?m glad I reached you ? how have you been?? They will likely try to brush you off here, so you say:

?That?s perfectly OK. I?ve been in sales long enough to know when we might not be a match for a company. Just a quick question, though. You know, I love to learn and I?m always trying to improve, what specifically about our (offer, quote, product or service) didn?t seem right for you??

Now shut up and listen! If you do this right, your prospect will tell you what was wrong with your proposal, and this will give you a chance to adjust or adapt it to fit their needs. Will it always work? Of course not, but if there is still a chance to get a deal, this technique will show you how. !

Saving Gas and Selling More: 5 Secrets of Top 20% Producers

I don?t have to tell you that times are hard for companies these days. And that means hard on you, the sales rep, too. Now when companies tell you that they don?t have the budget, you really believe them, don?t you?

Well not the Top 20%.

Top 20% producers are still making 80% of the sales because they know how to adapt in a changing market like the one we?re in today. They also know that companies are still buying their products and services, and what they are doing is adjusting how they sell so they can be more efficient with their time and energy. And one of their top priories these days is improving their phone skills.

Whether you only prospect and set appointments by phone, or if your entire sales cycle is conducted by phone, learning to use the phone more effectively is going to be crucial to your success in today?s economic environment.

Here are 5 Secrets of Top 20% producers and 5 critical phone skills you need to master today:

Secret #1: Use the phone to disqualify prospects rather than qualify them. With prospects taking longer to make a decision, the last thing you want to do is set a bunch of unqualified or so/so appointments and then spend your time, energy, and gas running around accomplishing nothing.

So do what the Top 20% do: when they get an answer that gives them that feeling in their gut (what I call a Red Flag), stop and qualify it! Ask the tough questions. For example, if your prospect says you can drop something off if you wish, ask:

?I?d be happy to. And let me ask you, after you see the information when are you planning to make a decision on it??

Or,

?I?d be happy to. What do you need to see in it to move forward and put my company to work for you??

Don?t be afraid to throw away the non-buyers! Remember: Leads never get better!

Secret #2: Be prepared with solid scripts to handle the common brush offs you get ? especially the, ?We don?t have the budget now?. When you get this, you should reply with:

?I completely understand. Like most companies, I know you don?t have extra money to throw around these days. But I also know that you still need to advertise your business and drive customers in the door. ________, let me ask you – if I could show you how advertising just $1,000 with us this month could bring you back $2,000 or more in business, isn?t that something you should know more about??

(Adapt this script to fit your product or service)

Secret #3: When closing, learn how to cut through smokescreen objections and find out what is really holding your prospect back ? and whether they are ever going to be a deal or not!

To do this, start questioning and isolating objections rather than answering them. If your prospect says: ?The price is too high,? say:

?I can understand that. Let me ask you ? if the price were right where you wanted to spend, is this something you would go ahead and order from me today??

Any answer other than yes means that this is just a smokescreen and answering it will get you nowhere.

Secret #4: Start recording your phone calls and make it a habit to begin listening to them and finding ways to improve.

This is without a doubt the most important thing you can do but, surprisingly, it?s the last thing 80% of sales reps will ever do. You will learn and improve more in a week than you will in 5 years of sales training. In fact, I?ve literally doubled my income in 90 days using this technique. Try it ? it?ll change your career?

Secret #5: Make a REAL commitment to improving every aspect of your phone calls and of your sales presentations. I call it Practicing Perfection. You?ve heard the saying that practice makes perfect, right?

Well that?s wrong! Only practice of perfection makes perfect. If you keep adlibbing your way through your qualification calls and closing presentations, you?re going to keep getting poor results.

But if you commit to finding and then using proven skills like the ones above, then you?ll improve on each call and you?ll make more sales. Just like the Top 20% do right now!

Three Interviewing Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

As the economy slowly recovers, companies are beginning to expand and hire sales reps again. If you?re looking for a job, or looking to change jobs, no doubt you will be sending your resume out, talking to hiring managers, and, if you?re lucky enough to get picked, even going on interviews.

Over the years, I?ve looked at thousands of resumes and interviewed thousands of sales reps. In fact, right now, I?m recruiting for several companies, and I?m amazed by how sales reps keep making basic, horrible mistakes that often times immediately disqualify them for any chance at landing a position. Often times, these mistakes even prevent them from getting an interview!

Here are the 3 worst interviewing mistakes sales reps are making, and what you can do to avoid them:

#1) Filling your resume with every job you?ve worked at for the last 10 years. The first mistake sales reps make ? and that hiring managers look for first ? is listing five to seven jobs (or more!) on their resume within an eight to ten year time frame.

Nothing will disqualify you faster than a history of job hopping, or a history of staying at jobs for less than a year. (One resume I saw last week listed 3 jobs this year alone!)

Obviously, the reason this is a red flag for companies is that they see themselves investing thousands of dollars hiring and training you only to think that their company will be the next one on your resume.

The Solution: Omit jobs you?ve stayed at less than a year, and never list more than four jobs in a ten year period (it?s better to have only three). You can disclose other positions once you move forward during the interview process ? in person ? after you?ve earned a change to wow them with your personality, experience, and obvious qualifications for the job.

#2) Talking for too long when asked a question. Whenever a hiring manager calls you and begins asking questions, make sure your answers are direct and short. You?d be amazed at how so many sales reps will go on and on and on?..

What the hiring manager is thinking is that you are a sales rep who will talk past the close, never listen to your prospects, and never close any business. ?No wonder they?re looking for a job,? frequently goes through my mind?

The Solution: Listen carefully to what you?re being asked, think about how to answer it directly, then answer it and shut up! This one technique will separate you from 80% of the sales reps interviewing for the same position.

#3) Don?t interview or interrogate the hiring manager. I know that you have questions about the job, and you should ask a few, but don?t interrogate the hiring manager! Nothing makes us more irritated than being grilled about every aspect of the job, especially about the pay and comp plan. You?re the one being interviewed, not the other way around.

The Solution: Ask some basic questions but save the majority of them for the END of the in person interview. Believe me, the hiring manager will appreciate it and be much more likely to bring you in.

If you?re serious about getting a new position or moving up in your sales career, then avoid these 3 interviewing mistakes. Your chance of getting the new job will increase 100% if you do!

Good luck and happy job hunting!

Three Ways To Qualify Interested Prospects

If you?re in a selling situation where you get to call back leads that have expressed an interest in your product or service, then consider yourself lucky. Whether they come from traditional advertising sources or from the internet, inbound leads save you the time, effort ? and often the terror! ? of cold calling. While these leads are great to get they also present some challenges that many sales reps aren?t prepared to handle.

If you?ve called leads like these back, then you know what I mean. In many cases sorting through the shoppers, the people looking for the best price, people who were just bored and filled out the online form, etc., can be a huge task. The problem for most reps is two-fold:

1) They immediately assume that a warm lead is more qualified than a cold call and,

2) They?ve never been taught how to really qualify these kinds of leads.

Here are three things you must do to qualify interested prospects:

#1) Find out if they are a shopper or a buyer. Most sales reps (80% or more) automatically assume that a warm lead is interested and qualified so they immediately launch into pitch mode. This is a big mistake. The best way to open your call is to ask questions to find out how close your prospect is to making a decision. Good opening questions to ask include:

?Thanks for visiting our site; what motivated you to (request info, fill out our online form, etc.) today??

?Ideally, what are you looking for today??

?When are you looking to move on something like this??

Listen carefully to their answers and respond accordingly.

#2) Find out who else they are looking at. Let?s face it ? if your prospect has taken the time to fill out your on line form or call your company, they have probably filled out others as well. One thing you absolutely must do is find out who you?re in competition with. Try:

?Thank-you again for contacting us. Who else are you getting information from??

?What did you like about that (company, website, etc.)?

?Have you spoken with someone from that company yet??

?What did you like about that??

?Who do you like best so far??

While it may seem negative to bring up your competition, you absolutely must know what your prospect is thinking and how far along in the buying decision they are. It?s much better to know up front how likely they are to go with another company, and/or what you need to say or do to get them to buy from you.

#3) Find the key buying motive. While this may sound straight forward, you?d be surprised by how many reps think the buying motive is already there because the prospect called in or submitted a form, etc. That?s why most reps go into pitch mode and literally wait for the prospect to buy. Unfortunately, as many of you know, that doesn?t happen.

What you must do is ask specific qualifying questions to find out exactly what it?s going to take to get your prospect to buy. After you?ve asked the previous questions, try:

?Why have you decided that now is the time to finally act on this (product or service)??

?If you could get everything you wanted from this, (or ? were 100% satisfied) what would that be??

?Prospect, I?d love to earn your business with this, what do you think it would take for you to choose our company??

Ultimately, understanding why your prospect will and will not buy from you is what you need to know as a sales rep. And getting this information from an ?interested lead? is just as important as from a ?cold? lead as well.

I hope you use these three ways to qualify your interested prospects ? they are sure to save you a lot of time and energy?

Four Ways to Handle the “I’m too busy” Brush Off

Let?s face it ? we?re all busy. This is especially true if you are cold calling and are lucky enough to actually get a decision maker on the phone. Just like you, they?ll be in the middle of at least three things and be on their way to or from a meeting. Because of this, one of the most frequent objections they use these days to brush you off the phone is the, ?I?m too busy/don?t have the time objection.?

Now here?s the thing: while this may be true, it doesn?t necessarily mean they don?t need or aren?t interested in what you have to offer. Like all initial resistance statements, what you must do with this objection is to quickly control the situation, assess whether or not your prospect is or can be interested, and then find a way to quickly qualify them.

Sound like a lot? It is if you?re not prepared with proven and effective scripts like these:

Here are four ways to handle the: ?I?m too busy, don?t have the time? brush off:

Response #1:

?I know that feeling; my desk is full of things I need to do, too. I?d be happy to schedule a time to call you back, but I don?t want to bother you if you?re really not interested. Let me ask you a quick question and be honest with me: If I could show you a (system/product/service) that is proven to (reduce your overhead, generate more sales, etc.), would it be worth it for you and I to take for just 5 minutes to see how it could work for you??

If NO: ?No problem. Before I go, who else do you know that might be able to use a system like this??

If Yes: ?Terrific. Do you have 5 minutes right now??

If No: ?I?m looking at my schedule, what is a good time later today??

Response #2:

?___________ you probably get a lot of calls like I do, and my initial reaction is to say I?m too busy as well. But I can explain this to you in just 3 minutes and if you think it can help you we can schedule more time later – and if you don?t we can part friends, is that fair??

Response #3:

?I?m with you. Before I schedule time to get back with you, just a quick question: Is it a priority for you to (fix or improve what your product or service will do for them) this quarter??

Response #4:

?I?m glad you?re busy, that means that you don?t have the time to waste looking at things you have no intention of taking advantage of. Quick question: If I could show you a proven way to (get the benefits of your product or service), is that something that you would invest 5 minutes learning more about??

5 Ways to Sound More Natural On the Phone

I don?t know about you but I can always tell when a telemarketer is cold calling me. From the moment they begin speaking, ?Hi is that Mr. Brooks?? to the way they fumble through their scripts, I have them pegged before they get past their first sentence. And like I?m sure it is with you, too, I am immediately not interested.

If what you sell for a living means you have to pick up the phone ? either to set appointments, call prospects back, return calls to clients, etc., then you have to learn how to sound natural and how to avoid putting your prospects, gatekeepers, assistants, etc., on notice that you?re trying to sell something.

And the way you do that is by learning how to sound like you?re not selling anything, and you do that by learning how to disarm prospects, sound natural yet professional, and how to be friendly without being phony. Use these 5 techniques to not only sound natural on the phone, but to also close more business:

#1 ? Always use the prospect?s first name. I know that there are two schools of thought on this, one being that you should show respect for someone you don?t know and so use either Mr. or Mrs., but I don?t agree. I think you can show respect for someone by being courteous and professional, and I think you?re going to make a lot more progress if you use a person?s first name. Here are the two reasons to do so:

a. First, by using a person?s first name you aren?t immediately signaling that you?re a sales person! I mean how do you feel when someone you don?t know calls you and addresses you by ?Mr.? or ?Mrs.?? Also, when you use a person?s first name, you are starting the call equal, without giving them all the power.

b. Second, everyone likes the sound of their own name. In fact, psychologists have found that everyone?s favorite word is their first name! By starting with that you are immediately making a connection, and a personal one at that.

#2 ? Be polite. You?d be surprised by how many sales reps still try to trick or get around gatekeepers and assistants, and how many are even rude in doing so. Always, always use please and thank you when speaking with anyone over the phone (or in person for that matter).

Words like ?please? and ?thank you? go a long way when trying to make a connection with a prospect, and they work especially well when you?re trying to get through to a prospect as well. Examine your current scripts now and do all you can to insert the proper courtesies wherever you can.

#3 ? Be brief. Most reps go into pitch mode the moment they reach their prospect that it?s no surprise they can?t wait to get them off the phone. I review scripts all the time that essentially read the company?s brochure to the prospect the moment they reach them.

You can turn that around and sound so much better by briefly delivering your presentation and checking in with your prospect. Try things like:

a. Briefly, (prospect) the reason I?m calling is that we?ve been working with many companies like yours, and I just wanted to see if we can help you as well. Can I ask you just a couple of questions to see if we?d be a fit for you as well?

b. (Prospect), you probably get a lot of calls like these, so I?ll be brief. I?ll just ask you a couple of quick questions and if I think we can save you between 15 to 20% I?ll let you know and, if not, we?ll part friends, is that OK?

Get the idea?

#4 ? Make a connection. This is one of the easiest of all and it?s a great way to get your prospect talking. All you do is find something that you know is affecting your other clients (like new laws in their industry), and ask how it?s affecting them as well. Try:

a. ?You know (prospect) a lot of my clients have told me of the changes they?re having to make because of (the new law), how is that affecting you??

b. ?(Prospect) what are you planning to feature at the September trade show??

By addressing something that they are dealing with now, you can instantly make a connection and get valuable information. Warning: you have to fit this in after you?ve established rapport, and you have to address something that is relevant to them.

#5 ? Listen more. This may not sound like a way to sound natural on the phone, but believe me, it?s probably the most important of all. First of all, most sales reps are so busy talking that their prospect has turned off long ago. They are just waiting for an appropriate pause to get rid of them.

By listening you actually create space for your prospect to speak (and to think), and because of that you are allowing the conversation to flow. When the prospect has a chance to get their thoughts and feedback out, they feel comfortable with you. And that is the best way for the conversation to unfold naturally. Hit your mute button after you ask a question and count three 1000?s to see how well it works.

There you have it – five easy ways to sound more natural on the phone. The good news is that they are easy to implement, and, once you do, you?ll make more connections and you?ll close more business. Try them today!