Monthly Archives: September 2014

How to Use Better Tie Downs

You’ve probably heard that nothing identifies you more as a sales person than using the worn out greeting, “How are you today?” right? Prospects know immediately who is calling and they can’t wait to get you off the phone. You know what else identifies you as a sales person? Using any of the following worn out tie downs like:

That’s a nice feature, isn’t it?
Would that make you feel better?
Are you with me so far?
And you’d like that, wouldn’t you?

There are many other tie downs that are so obviously a sales technique that using them makes you sound like a used car salesman. Besides being old and annoying, these kinds of tie downs are also closed ending statements that get your prospects saying ‘yes’ or ‘sure’ and nothing else. And that’s what you learn about your prospect’s buying motives – nothing.

Here’s a better way to use tie downs. First of all, remember what your purpose is in using tie downs: to take the pulse of your prospect to see if you’re losing them or if they’re with you, or if they’re bored or engaged, or if they have a question, etc.. In other words, because you’re selling over the phone and don’t have the visual cues you do when you’re in person, you must use some kind of check in statement to see how the conversation is going.

The key to successfully checking in with your prospect is to ask a tie down that engages your prospect and elicits some kind of response. What that means is that you must ask a question that is more open ended and sometimes even a little assumptive. It’s easy to change the worn out tie downs you may be using now, and here are some examples:

Instead of using, “That’s a nice feature, isn’t it?” you can ask:

“This will save you a lot of time over how you’re doing that now. Just out of curiosity, what are some of the things you might do with that extra time?”

Instead of saying, “Would that make you feel better?” you can ask:

“You’ll save money using our new processor, and how would that go over with the boss?”

Instead of saying, “Are you with me so far?” you can ask:

“You know, I’ve shared a lot of information with you so far, do you mind if I ask what you think about it?”

Instead of saying, “And you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” you can ask:

“Everybody obviously likes to save money (do less work, save time, etc.), how have you been able to save in this area this year?”

Again, the point is to ask questions (tie downs) that encourage your prospects to reveal information that you can then learn something from. If you’re listening carefully enough (remember to hit your MUTE button), then you’ll be surprised by the buying motives and hints to the sale you’ll hear.

By the way, if you’re a sales manager, this is a great exercise for a meeting. Get all your reps together and make a list of the worn out tie downs they are using now, and then brainstorm new ones that are open ended and that engage people. Your team will not only make more sales, but prospects will enjoy talking to them as well.

5 Secrets of Successful Opening Scripts

Cold calling is tough, I get it. Even if your marketing department is generating so called “warm leads,” the resistance of people who receive an unsolicited call can be fierce. Heck, you probably don’t like getting calls from home improvement or alarm companies when you’re at home either, do you?

So what can you do to make your calls sound different? What can you do to give yourself a fighting chance to engage your prospect and perhaps even begin a conversation? And what can you do to prepare for the inevitable objections, stalls and put offs you are going to get?

While I could talk to you for hours about all the techniques and skills you can develop and use to be more successful at cold calling, here are 5 secrets that will go a long way towards getting you in the door, building quick rapport and qualifying your prospect:

Secret #1: Clearly identify yourself and your company right from the start. Try:

“Is this John Sanders? Hi, this is Mike Brooks with Industrial Cleaning.”

While this might sound like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised by how many sales reps are still trying to trick people with false openings, or by just giving their first name. Prospects, just like you, know a sales gimmick when they hear one and will blow you off the moment they suspect one.

Secret #2: State the reason for the call quickly and ask a question to engage them:

“Briefly John, we’re offering a special on warehouse cleanings. Have you ever worked with a cleaning company before?”

The shorter the opening you can come up with, the better. The problem with most sales people is that they launch into a full blown pitch at the beginning of the call without engaging the prospect. This turns prospects off, and the sales rep doesn’t learn anything about the prospect’s needs. Asking a quick qualifying question at the beginning gives you information you can leverage, and by asking about their experience with your specific product or service, it sets you up nicely to talk about your offer.

Secret #3: Describe your offer in a sentence or two:

“Great, so you know some of the things a cleaning service can offer. While our service is similar to (the company they mentioned), there are a few important differences…”

Be careful not to pitch too much here. Again, a couple sentences should be enough to give them basic information like price, features and other important differences. Now, be prepared for the brush off!

Secret #4: Know how to side step the most common objections you get:

“I understand that cost is a concern, and many of the companies we do business with had the same issue. And that’s why we’ve come up with special packages designed for small business like yours that are both affordable and flexible.”

Your rebuttals need to be scripted out, memorized by your sales team, and delivered in a natural, relaxed tone. They also need to acknowledge what your prospect has just said, and give them a way to justify considering your proposal and get them wanting to know more.

Secret #5: Always insert a trial close in your first call:

“From what you’ve told me, I think you’d be a good fit for what we offer; let’s go ahead and set up an appointment for someone to meet with you to discuss your needs.”

There are a variety of trial closes you can use, including ones for setting an appointment, and all the way up to asking if a prospect would consider taking the next step if he/she likes what they see. These need to be carefully scripted to avoid using worn out sales techniques like, “Well, if you like what you see, this is something you’d move forward on, right?” That kind of language only turns people off and identifies you as a hungry salesperson.

While these five secrets form the backbone of any good opening script, there are other crucial elements needed here including qualifying questions to identify buying motives, decision makers and decision process, etc. You can find many of these related articles in my “Inside Sales Training Blog” on my website.

The bottom line is that you must script out your opening call to avoid sounding like everyone else and to give you the best chance of making a connection and furthering the sales process. Using these secrets is a good place to start.

The Three Most Important Metrics to Measure

What are your three most important metrics you measure to track and predict revenue?

That was the question I asked my LinkedIn “Inside Sales Management Group,” and the answers I received were quite interesting. Whether you’re a business owner, sales manager or even a sales rep, you know that metrics are a crucial way to measure your performance, predict revenue, and evaluate progress made. But which metrics are the most important? Before I give you my answer, let me share some of the answers I received:

One answer was: 1) Opportunities created, 2) # of times contacted, and 3) conversions, deals closed.

I thought that was an interesting answer, especially the “# of times contacted.” While I understand the opportunities created and conversion or deals closed, I don’t know that I’d include # of times contacted as one of the three most important metrics to measure. Obviously it’s important to know how much time a sales rep is spending chasing a sale, and also how effectively they are closing on each call, but I think there is a more important metric that I’ll share later on.

Another answer was: 1) Opportunities created, 2) Calls made on the accounts, and 3) Quality of the call.

This was obviously in relation to account management calls, and once again opportunities created was listed number one. The thing that I found interesting with this answer was quality of the call. As you’ll see later in the article, quality of the call, and, more specifically, how that quality is measured, is one of my top three metrics.

The most interesting answer came from VP of Sales, DJ Farnworth. Here was his answer:

1) # of open deals (times) 2) Historical win rate (times) 3) Historical ave. deal size = Pipeline. DJ said:

“One metric I’ve found very effective is: (# open deals) X (historical win rate) X (historical avg. deal size) = Pipeline. This takes some of the moving variables out of measuring just the numbers that are in the existing open deals and is based on past performance which should better indicate likelihood than a probability entered by the sales person.”

What I liked about this answer is that it seemed to most accurately predict the upcoming pipeline. I’ve sat in a lot of pipeline meetings, some worldwide even, and almost everyone in the room knows there is a lot of ‘wood’ that isn’t going to close. Getting an accurate account of what is truly likely to come in seems hard. This formula seems easy. You should try it.

O.K., now for my answer:

1) # of opportunities, 2) Close percentage 3) Script grading adherence evaluation per closing call.

#3 (Script grading adherence) is based on recording each call and grading adherence to your best practice script and scripted rebuttals. The reason is if a rep is winging it, they won’t get better and you can’t coach them. The manager’s job is to teach the best practice approach and then coach to it. Then you measure who is adhering to it and who isn’t. Every other metric (number of calls, number of contacts, trending to revenue for the month), etc., flows from that direct metric.

I always like to talk metrics with managers to see if they are measuring this very important component. Bottom line is if your reps aren’t using the best approach and handling objections and sales situations effectively, then the other metrics won’t improve much. If you ask them to make more calls, all you will get is more bad calls.

I’d love to hear about some of your favorite metrics, so visit our site and submit some. In the meantime, begin listening to how your reps are performing during their call, and begin improving their delivery and technique. That’s how you automatically improve all the other metrics.

The NFL Has a Playbook, Do You?

Now that Labor Day is past, it’s time to think about getting back to work, pushing hard in September to set yourself up for the fourth quarter and….and….wait a minute. Fourth quarter? That reminds me the NFL season has just begun! Are you ready for some football? I sure am!

In preparation for the season, all 32 teams have been working hard on scripting out every play on offense, defense and special teams. They have studied the talents of their players and developed plays to maximize their strengths. They have analyzed their competition looking for tendencies and weaknesses, and they have scripted out the plays most likely to be successful against them.

After they designed these plays, they organized them into a playbook and then gave a copy to every player and coach – usually on an iPad, by the way – and they told them to study, learn and memorize every play and position during that play. It’s absolutely crucial that the players internalize each play so they react rather than think. As Dan Shula, the Superbowl winning ex-coach of the Miami Dolphins once said, “If you have to think about what to do next, it’s too late.”

An NFL playbook is a sacred thing. Most players are responsible for always knowing where their playbook is, if not to always having it with them. They bring it to every meeting they attend, take it home with them, and spend hours each day studying it. The only time they let it go is if they get cut. And no player ever wants to be told, “Coach wants to see you. Make sure and bring your playbook…”

No NFL team is without a playbook because no NFL team could be successful without it. And the same is true for a company with an inside sales department. If you own or run or are a part of an inside sales team, your playbook is your complete script book. Just like in football, your playbook also has sections. These sections include cold calling and qualifying, closing the sale and objection handling, and for call backs. It should also have a section of best emails and voice mails.

And just like in the NFL, every one of your sales reps need to study, learn and memorize every best practice response for every situation they get into. Just like in football, your sales reps need to automatically know how to handle the situations that find themselves in. When they get an objection or stall, they must automatically know how to respond. If they have to think about what to say, it’s too late!

In football, as in sales, being prepared with a proper game plan is crucial for success. No football team would just go out on a Sunday and wing it. That would be suicide for the coach and the team. Yet it’s amazing how many sales reps and sales teams do just that. Instead of taking the time to script out the best responses, they insist on ad-libbing and winging it. And then they wonder why they don’t win more sales.

To succeed in the game of sales, take a tip from the NFL – identify the selling situations your team gets into, identify every objection, question and stall, and then script out the best, most likely to succeed response to each of them. Give them to your team members and make them drill, practice and rehearse them. The most prepared team on Sunday tends to win. And the most prepared sales rep tends to close the most deals.

If you’re in sales management or an owner of an inside sales team, then it’s your responsibility to equip your team with the tools and techniques they need to win. And that starts with a playbook of scripts that will help them properly qualify prospects, overcome stalls and objections and close the sale.

Remember: No NFL team would think of entering the season without a carefully constructed playbook, and your team shouldn’t either.

Note: If you need help in writing the most effective playbook with rebuttals and scripts that really work, then contact me. I’ve written script playbooks for companies of anywhere from 25 pages to over 135 pages, and the sales teams that use them see increases of sales of as much as 34% in 90 days. Your team can, too!