How to Sell A Pencil – Or Any Product or Service

NOTE: While this article talks about using this technique as an interview question to determine what kind of sales rep you’re about to hire, it’s also a great technique for managers to use to diagnose what is wrong with reps who may not be hitting quote consistently. Call them in, one by one, and see how they do…

If I gave you a pencil and asked you to sell it, how would you go about it?

This is one of the most basic of interview questions I use for prospective sales reps, and the answer reveals so much about their previous training, their understanding of the sales process, and ultimately about what kind of sales rep they are going to be.

So, what is the most effective way to sell a pencil?

Let’s first look at how most sales reps go about doing it. When I’m interviewing sales reps this is my favorite question. After letting a rep tell me how good of a closer they are, I pull out a pencil, hand it to them, and tell them to sell it to me. And off they go!

80% of sales reps start the same way – they start pitching. “This pencil is brand new, never used. It has grade “2” lead and a bright yellow color so it’s easy to find. It comes with a built in eraser,” etc.

Some reps can (and do!) talk about it for 5 minutes or more before they ask a question or ask for an order (more rare). As the sales rep rambles on, I begin to yawn, roll my eyes, etc. Amazingly, this just makes them talk even more! “What’s wrong with these people?” I think.

Now let’s look at how the Top 20% go about selling a pencil. As soon as I give a top rep the pencil, they pause, and then they begin asking me questions:

“So how often do you use pencils?”
“How many do you go through in a month?”
“What other locations does your company have that use pencils, and how often do they order them?”
“What quantity do you usually order them in?”
“Where are you getting them from now?”
“Besides yourself, who’s involved in the buying decision?”

Quite a difference, isn’t it? I’ll tell you right now, I listen to hundreds of sales reps in a month and they can easily be separated into these two groups: Those who pitch, pitch, pitch, and those who take the time to understand their prospect’s buying motives and properly qualify to understand the entire selling process.

Now let’s see which category you fit in. When you speak with a prospect for the first time, how much of your script is focused on describing and pitching your product or service as opposed to questioning and uncovering buying motives?

If yours is like most scripts I review, then it’s filled with descriptions of what you do and how your product or service helps people. Most scripts attack the prospect with a barrage of “value statements” that turn people off and make them want to get you off the phone as quickly as possible.

Want a better way? Then take a tip from some of the best “pencil sales reps,” and change your script and your opening so it focuses more on questioning and qualifying. Seek to discover whether or not you are actually speaking with someone who is a good fit for what you offer.

Without knowing this, you will just end up with a lot of frustration and a lot of unsold pencils at the end of the month.

Most Popular Article of 2016

If you are a subscriber to my weekly ezine, then you know I publish a new article every week. That’s fifty-two new tips, scripts, strategies, and current techniques to help you succeed selling over the phone.

It’s not surprise, then, that the most popular article I wrote in 2016 is one that gives you, the front line sales rep, a proven way to overcome some of the resistance you face each and every time you pick up the phone to make a cold call.

If you happened to miss this, then you have another opportunity today to learn and begin using a proven way to deal with the common brush off: “We are all set.”

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Most Popular Article of 2016:

I receive emails from my readers all the time asking me how to handle various objections and resistance statements. A common request I get is how to handle the initial resistance statement “We are all set.” A variation of this is anything along the lines of:

“We are okay with our present system.”

OR

“We’ve already got a company that handles that.”

OR

“We’re fine for right now.”

As you can see, these are all basically the same, and, more importantly, they aren’t objections – rather, they are initial resistance statements or blow offs. Essentially they are saying something along the lines of: “I’m not interested in being pitched right now, please go away.”

Now here’s the thing: Because this is simply resistance and not an objection (it’s not an objection because you haven’t pitched your product or service yet. It’s like when you walk into a department store and the sales rep asks if they can help you and you blow them off with, “I’m just looking.”) Again, “We’re all set” is not an objection, just sales resistance.

And the key to handling resistance is NOT to try to overcome it (remember it’s not an objection), but rather you simply want to bypass it and engage and qualify.

So, with that in mind, here’s how you handle the “We’re all set” blow off or/and any of its variations:

“We’re all set”

Response One:

“That’s great, and I’d just like to see if we could get on your vendor list for the next time you’re in the market. Let me ask you…”

Now get into your qualifying questions…

Response Two:

“Most companies I speak with are ‘all set’ and that’s why I’m reaching out to you now – I want to give you an option for the next time you’re in need of this. Let me ask you…”

Back to qualifying…

Response Three:

“No problem. Let me ask you: the next time you’re in need of this, what’s number one on your wish list?”

Response Four:

“I understand – I didn’t expect to catch you in the market right now. Instead, let me get an idea of your perfect profile, and then I’ll send you some information you can keep on file next time you need this…”

Now re-engage by asking a qualifying question.

Response Five:

“Got it. Let me ask you: the next time you are in need of this, are you the right person to speak to about it?”

If yes, then qualify them for that next time – especially asking about timeframe, budget, etc.

Response Six:

“Understand, and let me ask you: When is your next buying season for this?”

Then keep the conversation going by asking additional qualifying questions.

Response Seven:

“That’s fine; I totally understand. And let me ask you – the next time you are in the market for this, how many companies are you going to reach out to?”

And then ask how you can become one of them, what their budget is, who the decision makers are, etc.

Response Eight:

“No problem. What you might find helpful is to know about our special pricing and the additional services we provide. Did you know that….”

Then pitch one or two things you do that others don’t – and use a tie down!

Response Nine:

“I’m glad you said that. What I’ve found is that those companies who are already using a vendor for this are surprised to learn that….”

Give them a shocking statement about how you’ve just been rated number one, or that you give free delivery, etc. Something that will peak their interest…

Response Ten:

“No problem. Could I be the “next in line” company you call the next time you’re in the market for this?”

If yes,

“Great, let me get your email and send you my info…”

Then:

“And just out of curiosity, what would have to change for you to even begin looking at someone else?”

Look for an in here…

So there you have it – ten new ways of handling this age old blow off. Just remember, your goal isn’t to try to overcome this – rather, it’s to sidestep this resistance statement and get information you can use to create value and continue the conversation.

Two Questions to Close a Sale

I was having breakfast with a client in Denver before a training program I was giving, and we were talking about the importance of asking questions and listening. He told me that a few years ago he was working for a company selling an IT solution, and that while dealing with the Director of IT, he suddenly had an opportunity to meet the new CFO. This was unexpected and he had to think fast!

Here’s what happened:

As he was leaving, and right after meeting with the IT Director, he asked him how he could get in front of the new CFO (knowing that the CFO was the ultimate decision maker). Just as he asked this question, an executive was walking down the hall toward them. The Director said, “That’s the new CFO right there. Let me introduce you to him.”

As he was introduced, my client asked the CFO, “I’d love to spend a few minutes with you and wondered when we could get some time on your calendar to do that?” To his surprise, the CFO said, “I have about 10 minutes right now, come on into my office.”

He followed the CFO into his office, sat down across the desk and the CFO said, “So, what’s on your mind?” My client’s mind went blank, and he just sat there for a moment. He hadn’t expected to be here at this time and found himself unprepared.

Luckily, that didn’t last too long and before he knew it he said, “I have just two questions for you. First, when a client of yours leaves you and buys from someone else, what is the main reason for that? And second, what is the main reason a new client goes with you rather than your competition?”

After that, my client opened his notebook, pen in hand, and waited.

And waited. And waited…

After nearly five full minutes (a nerve racking five minutes to be sure), the CFO finally began to speak. “That’s a great question, and I’m going to have to think carefully about that. In fact, no one has ever asked me that before…”

The CFO then went on to give his thoughts about this, and, after he was done, he thanked him and promised to follow up with more information – which he did. After a few weeks, the CFO then followed up again and made a purchase from my client and his company.

He said of the interaction: “The two questions you asked me were the best two questions I’ve ever been asked. They forced me to evaluate the only two things that really matter – what means the most to our clients.”

My client was obviously pleased with how this turned out, but he told me that the real lesson he learned from the interaction is just how long some prospects take to think about questions they are asked.

He told me, “Since I was there when I asked the question, I could see he was carefully thinking about my questions. Since I could see that, I didn’t interrupt him – instead I just shut up and let him think.

He continued: “This situation revealed the real challenge we face as inside sales reps. When we ask questions over the phone and don’t get an immediate response, we tend to keep talking. This is the worst thing we can do. We absolutely have to train ourselves to ask questions and then remain quiet and listen.”

When I asked him the best way to teach reps to do this, he said that using the mute button was the easiest and best way.

If you have read any of my articles or books, then you know my favorite four words are, “Shut up and listen.” You also know that I think the mute button is the most important button on your phone.

To prove this to yourself, make a commitment today to asking questions and using the mute button to let your prospect answer you. You’ll be surprised by what your prospects will reveal and how much easier it is to close sales.

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.

The Proper Way to Set a Call Back

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

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

Some of these include:

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

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

Another ineffective approach:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try:

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

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

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

And another:

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

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

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

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

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

Qualify for timeline first. Then:

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers (Part Six)

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

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

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

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

This is a big problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers (Part Five)

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

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

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

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

“So what do you think?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND

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

AND

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

AND

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

AND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers (Part Four)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Three Times to Handle an Objection

Most sales reps hate getting objections. When they get them, their hands start to sweat, their heart takes the elevator down into the pit of the stomachs, and they start wishing they had gotten that graduate degree and avoided sales altogether.

This is how most sales reps react when they get objections, but not the top producers. Top producers view and react to objections very differently. To start with, because top producers thoroughly qualify their prospects up front they generally uncover and deal with many objections during the qualifying stage. Objections like, “I’ll have to show this to my partner,” and others are already known and dealt with.

In addition, top producers have taken the time, long in advance, of scripting out two or three different rebuttals to the objections they get, so when they do get them, they know exactly what to say to overcome them. In other words, they are rarely caught off guard, because they know what to say to deal with them.

Third, because top producers know what the objections or stalls are likely to be in advance, and since they are prepared for them with solid scripts and techniques to overcome them, they are able to take advantage of the timing of “when” to handle an objection. Unlike most sales reps who feel they have to handle an objection the moment they get one (and hence instantly lose control of the call), top producers realize that they have three options as to when to handle an objection. They are:

1) When it comes up. Again, because top producers know what to say and how to effectively deal with objections, they have the choice of handling the objection when it comes up or of postponing it for later.

The first choice may be to handle the objection when it comes up. This is usually good if the prospect is rejecting a product or service at the beginning of the pitch because they haven’t been through all the details (features and benefits) of the pitch yet.

The way to handle this is to use a script, of course. But the key is to handle the objection and then move back into the pitch. An example would be if a prospect objects to the price at the beginning. It might go like this:

Prospect: “This is out of our budget – the price is just too high.” (Or any other objection.)

Rep: “You know, it might seem that way now, but the price actually breaks down to about $2.00 per (lead, incident, etc.), and when you look at it that way, it becomes very affordable – especially when you see how much time and effort it saves you. Let me just show you a couple of things…”

In this example, the rep answered the objection but instead of checking in with the prospect to see how the close landed, they instead kept control of the call by continuing on with the pitch.

2) The second option to handling an objection is to postpone it till the end of the pitch. This is ideal if the prospect seems willing to keep listening but is stuck on an issue or two. The important thing is to acknowledge that you heard the objection and promise to handle that at the end. It goes like this:

Prospect: “This is out of our budget…,” (Or any other objection.)

Rep: “I can understand that but let’s do this. Before you make any decision on this, let’s talk about all the things this can do for you first, and then you’ll be in a much better position to decide if this is worth it for you. I even have some payment options that might make the decision easier for you as well.

But first, let me show you this…”

What you’re doing here is delaying answering the objection and thereby retaining control of the call. The nice thing about this is that by the end of your pitch, many times the prospect won’t even bring up the objection at all! You’d be amazed by how often that actually happens once you begin using this technique.

In addition to this, if you know what the objection(s) are at the beginning of the pitch – or in the middle – you can begin pitching and building value around the known problem area (objection).

Postponing answering the objection like this is a great way to get your pitch in, keep control of the call, and prepare yourself for what you know might be coming at the end.

3) The third time to answer an objection is…never! That’s right. So many time prospects will test you and try to put you off with many questions, stalls and objections that it’s just best to not respond at all. Here’s how you do that:

Prospect: “This is out of our budget…” (Or any other objection.)

Rep: “Some of our clients felt like that until they heard about…” (Now give a benefit or two and keep pitching).

This way you’ve acknowledged the objection but you remain positive and so sold on your solution that you let your enthusiasm drive the call – and often times your prospect’s mindset. It is said that enthusiasm sells, and that’s true in many cases. The problem with most sales reps is that as soon as they hear an objection they start to give up.

But by acknowledging, remaining positive, and continuing on with your pitch, you can often override any initial objection and get further into your pitch. In fact if you’ve done this before, then you’ll often find that the prospect changes to a different objection the next time they bring one up!

These three times to handle an objection also work for questions as well. The important thing to remember is that it is up to you as to when to break your rhythm and deal with an objection. The whole point is that you must remain in control of the call.

Try using the techniques and scripts above during your upcoming week of pitching your product or sale. You’ll be amazed by how much easier your sale becomes – and how many more deals you’ll get.

Voice Mail: 5 Proven Techniques That Get Your Calls Returned! (Part Two)

Last week I gave you the first Three Proven Techniques to help you increase your chances of getting your calls returned. Now let’s look at the final two:

Proven Technique Number Four: Combine your voice mails with an email campaign for maximum effectiveness. The number one law in all marketing is repetition. That’s why Coke-a-Cola still buys millions of dollars of ads every year.

It’s the same with getting your prospects to notice you. The most effective way is by using a two month long campaign that goes like this:

First: Try to reach someone for a couple of weeks without leaving a VM.
Week One: Leave one VM and follow it up with an email that same day. Then leave a second VM that same week.
Week Two: Send email #2, then leave a VM at the beginning of the week and on that Friday.
Week Three: Send an email at the beginning of the week and at the end. Leave a VM in between.
Week Four: Send another email on Tuesday, and leave a VM on the Thursday.
Month Two: Send either one email or leave one VM per week for four weeks.
Also: Call in between and don’t leave a message.

Anytime between week two and three, one of your emails needs to be the “Should I Stay or Should I Go” email. If you’ve not heard of this email, then your return contact rate is about to go up by 60%! It goes like this:

Your subject line is: (Prospect’s First Name) Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Body of email:

Dear _________,

I haven’t heard back from you and that tells me one of three things:

1) You don’t have a need at this time or you’ve already chosen another company for this.

2) You’re still interested but haven’t had the time to get back to me yet.

3) You’ve fallen and can’t get up, and in that case please let me know and I’ll call 911 for you…

Please let me know which one it is because I’m starting to worry.

Honestly, all kidding aside, I understand you’re really busy, and the last thing I want to do is be pain in the neck once a week. Whether your schedule has just been to demanding or you’ve gone another direction, I would appreciate it if you would take a second to let me know so I can follow up accordingly.

Thank you in advance and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Kind Regards,

If you’re smiling from reading this, so will your prospect! Again, this is a high percentage email that gets a response about 60% of the time. Compare that to your current results.

Proven Technique Number Five: If your VM and email campaigns don’t work, then consider going that extra mile – as a top producer once said, “The extra mile is never crowded.” Even though a prospect may not be in the market now, as we all know, things change. And when they do, you want to be top of mind so they’re thinking about you when they are finally ready.

The most effective way to do this is by sending physical greeting cards. And the easiest way to do that is by using a company I use called Send Out Cards. (You can learn more about them here: www.SendOutCards.com/mrinsidesales )

I’ve been using SOC for years and they have made me a lot of money in sales to prospects I wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t been drip marketing to them regularly. I love SOC for many reasons including:

1) It’s extremely affordable to send a high quality card with a real stamp
2) It’s easy and fast – you create the cards in advance and they send them automatically without you having to do anything!
3) You can build “campaigns” so you can send cards at any interval you choose (and you can build lots of campaigns).
4) Every card is completely customizable – you can choose from 15,000+ of theirs (and include your own message) or you can completely create your own with your own images.
5) It’s highly effective. In fact, did you know that the number one salesperson in the world – according to The Guinness Book of World Records – is a guy named Joe Girard? He was a car salesman and he sold an average of six new cars EVERY DAY! How did he do it? He sent a card to every customer and every prospect every month (and one for Christmas), 13 cards in all.

Joe was so successful, that people had to make appointments with him to buy a car!

The good news is that sending physical greeting cards works in your business as well. And www.SendOutCards.com/mrinsidesales can make it easy and effective for you.

So there you have it: The Five Proven Voice Mail Techniques to get your calls returned. Follow them and you’ll be much more successful than you are now. Don’t follow them and, well, you already know how that goes…