What is executive sponsorship?
Executive sponsorship is where an executive becomes an advocate or champion for a project. All projects will have a project manager, but they may or may not have an executive sponsor. The main benefit from having this for a sales opportunity that you are working is it will create having someone who at a senior level endorse the project or purchase, looking over it, and help it to move along.
How to get acquire executive sponsorship?
Sponsorship at an executive level is not always an easy thing to secure. Below are four steps to take to help make this happen.
1.Identify a potential sponsor: Identify which executive would be the right individual to sponsor the project. This ideally would be the senior manager that is impacted most by the project and the person that would have the most interest. It would also be worth while to identify why this person has not already sponsored the project.
2. Build business case: Build a business case of how the project or purchase of that you are working on will benefit the company and benefit the executive. This may have already have been done as part of the sales process and if so it may need to be tailored to any interests that are particular to the potential sponsor.
3. Ask for meeting: Ask for a meeting with the executive to present the business case that you have put together and are working on. If not handled correctly, this is the step that could get the most resistance as the executive’s time is both valuable and limited and you can get push back. If push back is received, the best response is to realize that your time is valuable too, as are the benefits that you are proposing that you will bring to the company.
4. Ask for executive sponsorship: When you meet with the executive, present your business case for why the project makes sense and all of the expected benefits. Once you confirm their understanding and agreement with what you presented, simply ask for their executive sponsorship of the project.
Why is executive sponsorship so important?
Executive sponsorship important as it will drastically improve your probability your sale closing and it will also drastically shorten your sales cycle. This is because having an executive bless and endorse a project, people in the organization will be more likely to work with you and help move the project along. Also, if the project gets off track, you then have a senior person to go to for guidance, advice, and support. Lastly, this process can help your close rate because it can help you to disqualify opportunities that only have potential to waste your time with no revenue.
When cold calling for sales, we are often find ourselves trying to get a point across in a very brief amount of time. Typically, you are trying to share how you might be able to help the prospect and why they should do business with you. And one of the most powerful ways to accomplish this is by using the technique of storytelling.
Here is an example of how this can be powerful.
Scenario A(This scenario that does not pertain to direct sales to attempt to step away from true selling.)
Take two young boys that go to school together. One of the boys consistently picks on the other. The boy that is the brunt of the jokes and antagonizing is clearly bothered by the behavior of the other.
A teacher steps in and talks to the boy that is doing the bullying and tells him to stop and it is not very nice. As the boy listens to this, he thinks it is no big deal and it is funny. The instructions go in one ear and then out the other and nothing changes. The teacher was trying to sell the boy on not bullying but the message did not have enough of an influence to get attention and change behavior.
Scenario B (Same scenario as above, but now add a component of storytelling.)
As the teacher tells the boy that he needs to stop, he then goes on to tell a story of two boys that were also bullied while in school. The teacher then shared how the bullying caused stress, anger, and depression and bothered the boys at such a degree that they wanted to harm others. Then the teacher shared that the two boys ended up bringing guns to the school and ended up killing twelve students, one teacher, and injuring twenty-one other, before taking their own lives. The event directly impacted thirty-six different families and indirectly impacted an entire community and nation. And this all started with a one boy picking on another.
A harsh story, but it displays the power a story can have (details taken from the school shooting at Columbine High School in 1999). Which scenario do you think has a better chance at getting attention and motivating behavior and action?
Scenario C (Applying to a sales scenario)
If we are cold calling for sales and have a prospect on the phone, we can apply storytelling to quickly paint a picture. Below is an example:
Hello Ms. Gonzales, my name is Tony Waters, I am with Trinket Corp. Purpose for my call is that is that we have been working with your competitor, Tucker Energy, and have helped them to improve their inventory turnover by 30%. This lead to an increase in revenue of $250K the first year that we worked together. This all started with a 30 minute discussion with them. Are you available to put a few minutes on the calendar to explore if we can drive the same results for you?
As you can see, when you add a quick story while cold calling for sales, you can quickly paint a picture for how you can help them and why the should invest some time talking with you at a minimum.
When cold calling for sales, it is likely get screened by a gatekeeper. It is important to be aware that, just like sales professionals are trained on selling and cold calling, gatekeepers are often trained on screening calls from sales people. This is because it is the gatekeeper’s job to minimize them amount of unsolicited sales calls that get through. But even with that being the case, there are very simple things that we can do to get around the gatekeeper and those are outlined below:
When the gatekeepers answers a sales call, they are quickly trying to determine if the sales person is a friend or foe. Friend is somebody that the company already knows and respects and foe is a stranger trying to get in.
One way to quickly avoid giving the gatekeeper the impression hat you might be a foe is to name drop other people in the organization. By mentioning other people that you have met with in the organization, the gatekeeper will be more comfortable passing you through as you presenting yourself as being already on the inside.
If you have not yet met with anybody in the organization yet, you could simply name drop people that you are planning on meeting with. You can even use the tern planning loosely to sound like it is on the calendar already when it is just in your plans to meet with them at some point.
With the resistance they give, it is easy to see the gatekeeper as the enemy. It can help to try to turn them from an enemy to an ally. This powerful not only because it can help you to get around them when cold calling for sales, but also because they are more powerful then we sometimes realize. They not only usually have information on processes and initiatives, but they can also have influence.
Mention an Initiative
You can mention that you are calling to schedule a meeting to discuss a particular initiative when a gatekeeper screens your call. This will give you credibility and let you appear like you are on the inside. If you have done your homework, you may know about an initiative that you can reference. But if you do not know of an initiative when cold calling for sales, there are some that every company has that you can mention like cutting labor costs, driving same store sales, etc.
Seek to Understand in Order to be Understood
Dr. Stephen Covey has written on a concept of “Seek to understand in order to be understood”. This concept is very powerful and can be used in any area where you are trying to build and maintain relationships. When you receive resistance from a gatekeeper when cold calling for sales, it can be helpful to let them know that you understand their position. You can do this by telling them that you understand that they get a lot of people calling trying to sell stuff and that you understand that it is their job to filter as much as possible. Once you let them know that you understand their situation, you can begin to help them to understand you and why it is safe to let you in.
Multitasking is a Must
The goal is not to eliminate multitasking as it is almost a mandatory part of a sales person’s day as a typical day is usually fast-paced with a lot of different things going on at any given time. Without the ability to effectively multitask, it would be impossible to maintain composure and mental health in the day of the life of a sales person with so much coming in from all different directions.
The Cost of Multitasking
The concern comes when we are multitasking 100% of the time and successfully giving a little bit of attention to all of the different tasks but at some level our effectiveness in each area is not at the highest possible level. For example, if we are multitasking while we are trying to prospect for new business and this involves calling and sending emails to existing clients and to internal staff while we are supposed to be cold calling new prospects. In this scenario, the sales person is very busy and effectively getting a lot down by multitasking and giving attention to multiple areas. But with this approach, consider what is being lost in area of effectiveness with finding new customers.
Decreasing Multitasking to Create Focus
The ideal way or area to apply this is to the larger tasks or areas of responsibility. For example, the areas of finding new business to increase sales, taking care of existing clients, training, and administrative tasks are examples of some large areas that a sales person will have tasks and objectives. By adding structure to the week to work on these areas of responsibilities and then turn off the multitasking during those times, the sales person will establish more focus and attention. This will help improve the level of effectiveness and productivity in each area, which is likely to help to better position a sales person to increase sales.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make in sales is to become complacent. Regardless of how long we have been working in an industry, working for a company, or have been in sales in general, there is always room to improve and get better. By adopting a philosophy of continuing to learn, you can improve your position for growth and improvement and this can help with your sales effectiveness.
Where to Focus
Below are some of the key areas for a sales person to focus on continuing to learn.
Product Knowledge: There is always room to improve the knowledge you have for the products that you sell. Learn more about the features, functionality, and benefits. Learn about the best type of questions to ask clients that help you position your products and services. Increase your knowledge of objections that could be expected and how to overcome them.
Understanding of the Customer: Learn more about the companies you sell to. Increase your knowledge of their businesses and the industries that they operate in.
Competitive Knowledge: Learn more about your competition. Become an expert on their portfolios, their strengths, and their weaknesses.
Industry Knowledge: Learn more about the industry that you sell into. Increase your knowledge of terminology, trends, challenges, recent events, etc.
Sales Skills and Techniques: Sales is a skill and there are a number of things we can do to improve our sales effectiveness. By continuing to learn about sales techniques and methodologies, you can continue to get better.
Where to Access Information
There are many different resources of information to use while attempting to continue to learn and some of those are outlined below.
Books: There are some great books on sales and improving your sales effectiveness. These are great resources of information and if you only take one or two things from a book that you use in your job, the time spent reading the book is worth it.
External company websites: Company websites are a great resource to use when learning about your customers and competitors.
Your company intranet: Most companies post detailed product information on the company intranet and this is probably the best place to go to when working on your level of product knowledge.
Classes, workshops, and seminars: Formal classes, workshops, and seminars are great resources to use to grow knowledge in the areas of sales, technology, and general business. There are very effective resources to help you to improve your sales effectiveness but they can be costly in terms of time and fees.
Trade and industry publications: Trade and industry magazines and websites are good resources for getting industry and competitive information.
Finding Time to Learn
A sales person’s day is very chaotic. And it can often seem as though there is not enough time to get the job done, much less spend time learning. One way to find time for learning is to find time during the week that is slow and allocate some of that time to for this.
For example, early Monday mornings or late Friday afternoons can sometimes be slow in terms of sales calls and those can be good times of the week to reserve some amount of specifically for learning. Additionally, reading some information after business hours can be beneficial as well.
Most businesses utilize some sort of customer relationship management (CRM) system. And every business also has a system in place to manage voice communications, whether that be traditional land-lines, voice-over-IP (VoIP), or even using mobile phones. What most is not common is integration between those two different systems. Although, there are some solutions on the market that tie these separate systems together and companies are starting to drive integration between their CRM with VoIP technology.
Below is a summary of benefits to answer that question.
Integrating a CRM with a VoIP system can enable to improve automation and eliminate steps entering data into the system. Features like “click to dial”, auto pop-up of a contact screen on incoming calls, and auto-creation of an “activity” can be enabled to eliminate a handful of clicks and data-entry steps for a sales person. This can add up to saving time improved efficiency, which can translate into more time selling and increased sales revenue.
Better Manage Customer Interactions
Through integration of a CRM with VoIP, a company will stand to collect valuable pieces of information like calls logs and call recordings and tie this data to records in the CRM. This information helps the sales staff to easily see when calls were made to their contacts to more effectively manage their activity levels for each contact. In addition, by having access to the call recordings, sales staff can get more information out of each conversation by having the ability to go back and listen to calls again to improve note taking.
Better Manage Sales Staff Activity Levels
With integration of a CRM with VoIP, sales managers will tremendously improve their visibility into what the sales staff is doing, how they are doing, and how much they are doing of it. By looking at the call logs that are produced by this system, a sales manager can easily manage sale staff activity levels and this can help to improve management of resources in terms of reward, disciplinary actions, and sales coaching, helping to decrease sales staff turnover.
Better Manage Effectiveness
When a company integrates their CRM with VoIP, they will be able to more easily manage and access call recording and this can help managers to more easily monitor calls to ensure that messaging and quality of service is on point. These call recording can provide tremendous value when management is looking to invest time and money in the areas of sales training and sales coaching.
Better Manage Remote Sales Staff
With the majority of companies looking to decrease costs, there is a common trend of moving employees to virtual and work-from-home environments. The two biggest challenges with remote sales staff is managing productivity and managing effectiveness. With the integration of CRM and VoIP, a manager will have call logs and call recordings and this greatly improves the ability to manage remote sales staff.
It can often be very emotionally taxing being a sales professional. There can be highs when deals are won and there are many lows the rejection that comes from cold calling and losing deals. These lows can wear on a person and that can have a negative impact on overall sales performance. Knowing this, if we train ourselves to more effectively deal with the lows, we could have a positive impact on our results.
One approach can be to use sales affirmations strengthen your mental state to better weather to fluctuation between highs and lows.
What is an affirmation?
An affirmation is simply a declaration of something that is true. And when you apply them to sales, you are simply stating something that is true about you, about what you are selling, and about the company you are selling for.
Why do affirmations help?
By getting knocked down during cold calling by people being rude and rejecting our interest in talking with them, we can easily begin to doubt ourselves and the products or services that we are selling. This doubt can increase reluctance for future activity and have a negative impact on performance in a way that it can it– Why should I cold call if nobody wants to buy anything? The other thing that the doubt can do is impact your presence when communicating to prospects as the doubt can create a lack of confidence and this can be heard in your tonality and what you say.
Sales affirmations help turn around the direction of doubt to the direction of confidence. The end result is less resistance to reaching out to prospects and cold calling anxiety and building a stronger, more confident presence when you communicating.
What good affirmations for sales look like?
If your goal is to use these statements to strengthen and improve your mental state, then you want them to be as strong and positive as possible. They should also be true and statements that you can stand behind and believe in. If you do not truly believe the affirmation or declaration, then it will not have as strong of an impact on strengthening your mental state.
Below are some areas to look when making affirmations.
Affirmations about you: While getting knocked down during cold calling, we can easily begin to doubt ourselves in our abilities and knowledge. We all have strengths and things that we do well. As part of building affirmations, explore all of the good things you bring to the table.
Affirmations about what you are selling: When we receive objections from prospects, it is easy you lose belief in what we are selling. But in most cases, what we are selling will deliver some sort of value and benefit to our prospects. We need to build affirmations that help us to never lose site of this.
Affirmations about the organization that we represent: When we are in the trenches fighting against these competitors and sometimes losing deals, we can lose confidence in the organization and company that we work for. Build out a list of your competitive advantages that you have against the competition and turn those into affirmations.
How to Use Sales Affirmations
Affirmations should be written or typed out on a piece of paper. As part of your daily warm up activities, you should read over the list to remind yourself of the points. It can be very helpful if the list of sales affirmations can be printed out and posted somewhere where you will see them and read them from time-to-time.
When cold calling, there is one thing you can count on and that is that you will face some sort of objections. An objection is like a mini stop sign that the prospect will hold up when they try to bring the call to an end. If objections are likely to happen, then being prepared for the most likely objections can help to create effective cold calling.
Creating an Objections Map Defined
It can help to have a tool or guide that outlines all of the most common or most likely anticipated objections that you are likely to get while cold calling for the product or service that you are selling. This list of objections will also include the best responses that you can have to those objections. This tool that has objections with corresponding responses can be referred to as an objections map.
Below are three steps to building an objections map:
Step One – List Objections
For effective cold calling, brainstorm to create a list of all of the possible objections that are likely to come up. This list can be different for each product and service but there are some that are some common objections regardless of the scenario:
I do not have time.
I am not interested.
I do not have money (budget).
I am already using something today.
I do not need that.
Step Two – Script Out Best Responses
Script out the best responses that you can have for these objections. Depending on your sales philosophy and perspective, you may arrive at different opinions on what the best responses are but the goal for the response should be to keep the cold call going and to get the prospect to put down the stop sign.
One philosophy is to redirect objections to drive effective cold calling. Redirecting objections refers to taking the conversation in a new direction and trying to avoid giving too much attention to the objection. This can be useful on cold calls as you do not have the time to effectively try to overcome the objection so try to redirect to simply keep the conversation going.
Step Three – Continue Adding to List
One good thing about objections is that there is a finite list of objections that can come up. With that being the case, if you get to a point where you have them all outlined and have mapped out the responses that allow you to defuse them, then you will be very well positioned for effective cold calling.
That being said, there is a good chance that you may miss a few through the first attempt at the objections map so stay cognizant when making cold calls and you run up against one that you were not prepared for. When that happens, be sure to add it to the map and work on the response so that you can be prepared the next time it comes up.
In sales, success is very tied to the ability to close deals. But what makes someone better able to close deals vs. someone else? Do they have a better personality? Are they more intense and aggressiveness? In the old school world of sales, the answers to those questions would be yes. In today’s day and age of delivering sales effectiveness through technique and process, there are some very key things you can do to improve your close rate.
Improving the ability to effectively qualify opportunities can have an immediate impact on your close rate. This is an approach to eliminate the deals that are not real to weed out time that could potentially be wasted and then refocus that time on finding other opportunities.
When qualifying opportunities, it can help to get the prospect to answer three questions: 1) why do something, 2) why purchase from you, and 3) why do something now. Based on their answers to those questions, you will be able to determine the whether you should spend time on it and this can improve your close rate.
2. Compelling event
Try to identify a compelling event with their purchase. This could be that the system they are using is being discontinued or unsupported, they have a contract that expiring, there is an organizational change, etc. When you identify this event, associate the purchase of your product with it and that will improve your control over the sales cycle and this can help to improve your close rate.
There will be many occasions where there is not a clear compelling event as it is more of a case that sooner is better than later. In this case, you can manufacture a compelling event by building in a discount that is scheduled to expire on a very specific date.
3. Evaluation plan
Once you have identified a compelling event, you can then build out an evaluation plan which will be a list of all the major steps that will need to be completed. By explaining and building the evaluation plan with the prospect and then sharing the updates throughout the sales cycle, you can improve your sales close rate.
It can be very common that somewhere down the line qualified deals seem to stall out and it seems like there is nothing we can do to close them. When this is the case, it can be a good technique to disqualify the opportunity by questioning the prospect if it makes sense to continue forward.
By doing this, you are likely to create two different events. If it is a real deal, the prospect will begin to sell you on why it makes sense and this could help to get momentum moving. Or, there is a chance that this pushes the prospect away and kills the deal, but if that happens it was likely not a qualified opportunity anyways and you might have just saved both you and the prospect time. Either way, this tactic can help to improve the close rate.
When we are cold calling for sales, it can be easy to get concerned with knowing what is best to ask and when. We can make a whole list of technical and philosophical questions. Yet, one of the best questions to ask is very simple and that is “have I caught you in the middle of anything?” at the very beginning of the cold call.
It may sound like common sense or common knowledge to ask this question but we can often forget to ask. This is actually a good question to ask on any call, whether sales or not, when someone is not expecting your call.
Below are some reasons why this is a powerful question to ask when cold calling.
Confirms Their Availability
Just about everybody you call is going to be busy, especially in today’s day and age of job consolidation. That being the case, if you call someone and they are not able to give you their attention, not only will you not be able to be able to effectively create interest for what you are selling, but you are more likely to irritate them.
When you are cold calling for sales and you ask if they if they are in the middle of anything, you are measuring their level of busyness. By judging their response, you will either identify if they are too busy to be sold to or you will be able to identify that they are busy but able to stop to long enough to talk with you.
Establishes an Informal Agreement of Time
If you ask if they are available, and they respond that they are not too busy and have a moment, you have then bought yourself an agreement of time. This is almost like a mini contract where they have agreed to talk with you for a brief period of time. When you are cold calling for sales and you are able to get this informal agreement, you will be much more comfortable and able to deliver your message.
Helps to Builds Rapport
One thing that can help with sales effectiveness is effectively building rapport with prospects. And one way to take create rapport is by asking them if they are in the middle of anything when cold calling for sales. This is because when you cold call somebody, it is like you are walking into their office. If you do not ask how busy they are, it is like you are barging in while someone is working and then just rolling into what you want to talk about. By asking about their level of busyness, you are showing respect for them, displaying your ability to understand them, and making yourself appear like a more seasoned person and this helps to build rapport.