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Archive for April, 2011

Voicemail Tips When Cold Calling for Sales

Friday, April 29th, 2011

It is often asked whether or not to leave a voicemail for sales prospects when we are cold calling for sales. And while voicemail is not one of the best sales tools, there are some tactics and logic that can be used as a guide when making cold calls.

Expectations When Leaving Messages
It is important to make sure your expectations are in line when leaving voicemails. Are you leaving a voicemail for a prospect and expecting them to return your call? If so, regardless of how good your message and strategy is, your expectations may be a bit high.

It is safe to say that prospects are very busy. In today’s economy, employees are being asked to do more than ever and in many cases asked to do more than one person’s job. It is also very likely that the prospects we cold call are getting called and left messages from a number of other sales people. We must keep all of that in mind when we think about how we expect people to react to our voicemail messages when cold calling for sales.

With the prospects being busy and getting a barrage of voicemails, it is reasonable to have the mindset and expectation that, even if our message is perfect, the prospect probably won’t call us back. Even if the prospect listens the message and it gets their attention, they might be more likely to continue to try to work through their full work load and wait for us to call them back again.

Commercial Approach
If assume that it is most likely that the prospect is not going to return the message, we can adjust our approach and our ultimate goal in the voicemail. We can shift the goal from a returned call to one of building awareness and providing information when cold calling for sales.

By changing our focus to providing information, we can then turn our voicemail message into a 20 to 30 second commercial where we take as step toward educating the prospect on who we are, why we are calling, and why they will want to talk with us when we call them back. If we take this approach, we then position ourselves so that they might have some knowledge of who we are and why we are calling the next time that we call them back.

Structure of a Voicemail Message
Below are some key components to build a voicemail message around when cold calling for sales:

  • Introduction: The introduction should be as short as possible. It can be sufficient to just mention your name and company and leave it at that level.
  • Value statement: Just like a cold call script, you want to share a value statement as to how your clients benefit from doing business with you. This should be one to two sentences and any quantifiable figures will help to get a prospect’s attention.
  • Call back: When cold calling for sales, let the prospect know that you are going to call them back and when. You can still leave your number should they want to give you a call back in the meantime.

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Objection Handling Options When Cold Calling for Sales

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

While making cold calls, it is likely that you will encounter some sort of objection from the prospect. Objections are like stop signs that the prospect holds up to try to bring the call to a close. An objection could be anything from the prospect being too busy, to them not being interested, to them not having money available for a purchase. We have three main options for how to handle an objection that we receive when cold calling for sales.

1. Comply with the Objection
When receiving an objection, we have the option to comply with it. This would be to go along with the objection and will likely lead toward the call slowing down and coming to an end.

At some point, you will may have to comply with some objections, but when trying to drive sales effectiveness, it can help to not avoid turning to compliance as the first option. A reasonable approach can be to try to deal with the objection in another way two to three times before you resign to complying.

2. Overcome the Objection
Another option when receiving objections when cold calling for sales is to try to overcome the objection. To overcome the objection would be to face the objection head on and try to defuse it by trying to change the prospect’s mind.

Trying to overcome an objection can be a less advantageous direction for a couple of reasons. The first challenge is that there is very little time to work with when you are cold calling for sales. You have between two to five minutes to work with on a cold call so there is not a great amount of time to discuss and address the objection. In addition, when you address the objection, you shine light on it and this can give it life and energy, which can make it stronger and more grounded in the prospect’s mind.

3. Redirect the Objection
The third option for handling objections received when cold calling for sales is to redirect. To redirect an objection refers to trying to move the conversation in a new direction to keep the call going without addressing the objection head on.

An example of this would be to respond to a prospect that says they are not interested by asking what they are using today, how long they have been using it, and how it is working. This response does not comply to give in to their lack of interest and it does not try to change them to a state of interested. What it does do is redirect the call to keep the conversation going when the prospect was likely trying to end it. In addition, it also leads the call in a direction where the sales person can collect and share valuable information that can be used to qualify the prospect and build interest.

When evaluating the three main options for handling objections when cold calling, to redirect the objection may be the most effective and productive approach.

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The Do’s and Don’ts for a Cold Call Script

Monday, April 25th, 2011

When writing a cold call script, there are a few do’s and don’ts that we can keep in mind to improve our effectiveness.

Introduction

• Do keep your introduction as brief as you can. When cold calling, you are calling someone unexpectedly and your call is technically uninvited so you need to be completely respectful of the prospect’s time. With being the case, keep the introduction as short as possible so that you get right to the point.
• Don’t ask how the prospect is doing. It may feel natural or needed to ask a prospect how they are doing at the beginning of a cold call, but If the person you are calling is busy, then exchanging the details on how they are doing to someone they do not know could be seen as you starting to waste their time.
• Do introduce yourself in terms of your name and the company you are with.
• Don’t give a full explanation your role in your organization. A prospect might not care that you are the regional application sales manager for XYZ Corp.
• Do name drop in your introduction when you can or when needed. Either mention people in the organization that you have already spoken with or mention the names of individuals that you are planning on meeting with.

Confirming Availability

• Do confirm that the prospect is available at the beginning of your cold call.
• Don’t continue with the cold call script if the prospect is unavailable. You cannot create interest and rapport if the prospect is not completely available.

Value Statement

• Do provide a value statement on how your clients benefit from doing business with you in terms of business value.
• Don’t provide company or product overview. Early in the call, the prospect will likely not have interest in your company and what it does. They only care about how they can make and save money and talking about your company or products does not tell that right away.
• Do make your value statement as quantifiable as possible. “We help companies to decrease inventory cost by 10%.”
• Do name drop other companies that you have helped when possible in your value statement.

Qualifying Questions

• Do tell the prospect in the cold call script that you do not know if you can help the prospect. This decreases their guard and builds rapport.
• Do ask a couple of qualifying questions to the prospect to identify if they are a qualified prospect.
• Don’t ask too many questions so that you turn the cold call script into an interview.

Building Interest

• Do share a couple of points to build interest once you qualify the prospect. This can be a couple of statements that connect the value statement with pain gathered from the qualifying questions.
• Don’t go into a detailed solution overview. The goal of the cold call script is to build enough interest to schedule a first conversation.

First Conversation

• Do operate with the goal of getting agreement to discuss the subject in more detail. This next step can be viewed as a first conversation.
• Don’t walk away from an opportunity to begin the first conversation during the cold call.

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Components of an Effective Cold Call Script

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Writing a cold call script can sometimes be challenging due to the fact that there is a lot of information that we would like share with the prospect, yet we only have a very brief amount of time to work with.  One thing to help with this is to have a framework that provides the main components of a script and then we can easily plug in the content as it applies to situation.

Below are some components that could be used in a framework for a cold calling script:

Introduction

Any time you pick the phone and call someone, you will need to begin with some sort of introduction.  The key here is to be as brief as possible by simply stating who you are and what company you are with.

You also want your introduction to reduce the level of defensiveness with the prospect.  One way to achieve that is to is to name drop other individuals or organizations that you have worked with.

Confirm Availability

Early in the cold call script, it is important to confirm that the prospect is available.  You do not need to confirm that they are available for a meeting, but more so confirm that they are available for your cold call.

Confirming the prospect’s availability is key because not only does it buy you two to five minutes right off of the bat, but it also does a lot toward building rapport with the prospect as you are showing them that you respect them and their time.

Value Statement

The key ingredient in a cold call script is the value statement.  This is a brief statement summarizing the value that your clients receive from doing business with you.  The real goal of the value statement is to get the prospect’s attention enough so that they are open to spending two to five minutes talking with you.

Qualify Questions

Once you have communicated the value you offer, it is powerful to tell them that you don’t know if what you have can help them and to ask a couple of questions to qualify the opportunity.  This step is powerful for the three reasons below:

1.    By you trying to qualify the prospect, their guard will be decreased as they will not feel like someone is pushing a sale on them.
2.    By asking some qualifying questions, you will gather key information that you can use later in the cold call or sales cycle.
3.    You might identify that it is not a qualified opportunity and end the call saving yourself and the prospect valuable time.

Building Interest

After you have qualified the prospect, it is time to build interest.  You do not have time to go into a tremendous amount of detail but there should be a couple of statements made that connect the value statement with any pain identified while asking qualifying questions.

First Conversation

The last step in a cold call script should be an attempt to schedule the first conversation.  This first conversation may actually occur during the cold call, but the cold call can be an invitation to talk in more detail at another scheduled time.

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Using Social Media to Find New Clients

Monday, April 18th, 2011

As we try to find new clients, we should have a social media component in our sales strategy and communications model.  This is because social media is a very efficient and effective way to connect and communicate with targeted prospects.

What is Social Media
Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to connect and communicate with individuals and businesses.  Examples of social media are facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, Blogger, WordPress, YouTube, etc.  These are essentially technology-based portals where individuals, groups, and businesses connect to share information.

Why Social Media is Important
Social media is important for two key reasons:

Communications platform: As a user of social media, a business will have a forum to use to broadcast messages.  Once a company is connect to an audience of users, they can easily post and push out content and updates.

Search Engine Optimization / SEO:  Social media is an effective way to improve a business’ level of search engine optimization / SEO.  This is because three things that search engines look for are 1) consistent activity, 2) lots of content, and 3) back links.  Social media is away to accomplish progress with all three of those.

How to Use Social Media

1.    Setup business and personal profiles on a set of social media sites and try to include as much content and back links as possible on these pages.

2.    Establish permanent connections with as many individuals as possible.  Regardless of whether you know the individual or if they have the profile of an ideal prospect, reach out to connect.  The same philosophy here should be used as when doing business networking in person, which is to be open to networking with anybody, even if they that don’t appear to be a target prospect as you never know when someone knows someone and can help you to find new clients.

3.    Become a provider of information by using the social media outlets to publish and post information that your ideal prospects will find valuable.

4.    Be active and provide regular status updates where applicable.  These can be postings about industry news, your own blog posts or articles, or reposts of another company’s content.  Think of these updates as little reminders to your prospects and to the search engines that you are still there and you are a key provider of valuable information to improve search engine optimization.

5.    It can be helpful to automate where possible.  It can be very helpful, when using multiple social media platforms to find new clients, to incorporate as much automation and integration as possible.  Many of the more well known systems, like facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn, play nicely with each other and are setup to allow you to post in one place and have the content replicate on the other sites.  There are also a number of third-party tools that help you to manage multiple social media systems.

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The Key Ingredient in a Cold Call Script

Friday, April 15th, 2011

When writing a cold call script, it can be challenging to figure out what to include and what to leave out.  What makes this more difficult is that you likely have a lot information to share and collect ask and you have a very brief amount of time to do it.  With that being the case, one of the most important thing to include in a cold calling script is a value statement.

What is a Value Statement

A value statement is one to two sentences that summarize the value that you deliver to your clients.  This is essentially a brief explanation of why your current clients are doing business with you why a prospect might want to consider doing business with you.  The goal of this statement is to say something that quickly gets the prospect’s attention and makes them feel that it is worth their time to spend the next two to five minutes talking with you.

What is not a Value Statement

Most cold callers usually try add in some sort of value statement to their cold calling script.  Although, one of the most common challenges with the value statements that are used is that they are more of a product or company introduction statement.

For example, “We provide the most advanced compressors on the market” is not a value statement.  This is a statement around what the company sells and states how the sales person perceives their products match up with the competition.  This does nothing in the area of telling the prospect the benefit they stand to gain by doing business with the cold caller.

What makes a Good Value Statement
In a cold call script, a good value statement should be as brief and powerful as possible.  It could be as short as one sentence but should be no more than three sentences.  If you cannot communicate your complete message in that short of time, you need to try to find some sort of way to abbreviate the message and save the explanation for later in the cold call or first conversation.

To make a cold call script powerful, the value statement should emphasize the key benefit that the prospect could anticipate by becoming a client.  These benefits will likely be related to either increasing revenue, decreasing costs, or a mix of both.  Sharing past results that mention other clients and are quantifiable in terms of percentages or actual figures will make a value statement very strong.

When to use the Value Statement

The value statement should be as the very beginning of the cold call script.  The flow should be to open with a brief introduction with the cold callers name and company, then confirm they are available, and then hit them with the value statement.

For example, “Hello this is Maria, I am with XYZ corporation.  Have I caught you in the middle of anything? Purpose for my call is that we recently worked with TrimCom and helped them to decrease inventory costs by 18%.”

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Common Areas for Improvement When Delivering Presentations

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

When delivering presentations to sales prospects, there are often common areas where we can improve execution to drive improvements in our sales effectiveness.

1. Number of Slides
It is very common to include too many slides when building presentations. This is understandable as there is so much that we want to share with the prospect and so much that we think they are interested in. If you factor that in that the audience’s time is valuable and they are usually very busy, it can make sense to trim any slides and tighten the message to make it as concise and powerful as possible.

2. Amount of Words on Each Slide
We also often put too many words on each slide. The problem with this is it is difficult to read and listen at the same time. When you put a large number of words on each slide, you are creating a competitor for yourself when trying to keep the audience’s attention when delivering presentations. If the audience is reading the slide, it is likely that they are not fully listening to you.

3. Focus the Presentation on the Prospect
It is also very common for us to build presentations that are too focused on ourselves You can make a bigger impact on the prospect by shifting the message from being on you to being more on them. The way to accomplish this is to talk more about their challenges and their interests and how you can help with those.

4. Shorten the Introduction
As sales people, we often perform very thorough introductions, detailed agendas, and then sometimes roll into our corporate overview. The challenge with this flow is that there are two points where you have the highest level of attention from the audience and those are the beginning and at the end of the presentation. In the middle of the presentation is naturally a lull or low point in terms of attention and comprehension and it is during this lull where we often deliver our key messages. It can help to trim up the introduction portion so that when you are taking advantage of the high level of attention that you have at that time.

5. Trial Close Regularly
Trial closing is checking in with the prospect to see what their thoughts are and we often do not do this enough while delivering presentations. This can be a powerful sales tactic to use as it will give the sales person very valuable information. When applying to presentations, if you trial close regularly throughout presentations to check in and see what the prospect’s thoughts are, the feedback provided could help you to tailor your message and flow throughout the rest of the presentation to improve your sales effectiveness.

6. Present an Evaluation Plan
We often wrap our presentations by asking for questions and then try to get the next meeting. If we add the step of presenting an evaluation plan when delivering presentations, we can map out all of the needed steps and actions that remain and get the prospect’s agreement or feedback on the direction forward.

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Using Reciprocation to Increase Sales

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

When working in a sales role or running your own business, your number one goal is to increase sales.  As a result, it is critical to find ways to secure new clients and get more revenue out of our existing customer base.
One way to plant seeds for new clients for your business is to focus on helping other contacts to grow their businesses.  This counter intuitive approach revolves around a mind set and approach based on reciprocation.

Reciprocation is defined as mutual exchange or return in kind (source: Merriam-Webster).  But the simply way to look at this is that reciprocation is returning the favor or act that someone else provides.  Essentially, you scratch someone’s back and they then scratch your back to return the favor and to reciprocate.

The basis for this sales technique is that by presenting yourself as being very focused in helping others, and by working to help others, you will create a tremendous amount of good will and that will trickle back to you and help to increase sales.

Below are some examples of how this can be applied to improve your ability to influence others:

Working with Prospects
We typically have our portfolio of products and services at the top of our mind and are usually looking for ways to get those at the forefront of the conversation when we meet with prospects.  When a prospect sees us trying to do this, their guard will increase as they will sense us going into “I am trying to sell you something” mode.

But if we change our frame to one of “I am trying to help you to increase sales”, you will not only begin to speak the prospect’s language, but you will lower their guard and begin to build rapport and good will.

Working with Clients
Similar to how we work with prospects, if we work with existing clients with a position of “my top interest is to help you to increase sales and that may or not involve my products and services”, we will stand to build better relationships and that can more sales from clients and also an increased potential for referrals.


Working with Business Networking Partners

Using reciprocation is probably the most powerful when doing business networking.  When we network, we are basically meeting strangers and wanting to motivate them to learn about us, to help us, and to eventually send business our way.  The best way to drive this action is to try to do each of those things for them, which would be an establish reciprocation.

The important thing to note about using reciprocation with business networking is that you can see positive results from simply presenting that you have this mindset.  For example, by simply focusing conversations on the other person and asking questions around how you can help them to improve their business, you will make great strides in the areas of building rapport and good will.  This can lead to them wanting to help you and can have a positive impact on your sales.

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Improving the Ability to Influence Others in Sales

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

We often find ourselves in situations where we want to improve our ability to influence others.  Whether in relationship, business, or dealing with family and friends, there are frequent scenarios where we want to bring people over to our side and motivate some sort of action.  Below are some ways to improve our ability to influence others in these situations.

Reciprocation
Using reciprocation can be one of the most powerful ways to influence the actions of others.  Reciprocation is defined as mutual exchange or return in kind (source: Merriam-Webster).  But one way to look at this is that reciprocation is returning the favor or action that someone else has provided.  Essentially, you scratch someone’s back and they then scratch your back to return the favor and to reciprocate.

As an example of how this can be applied, take someone who is in sales or owns a business and wants gain more referred clients.  This person could use reciprocation to improve their ability to influence others by referring business to others when possible, which will influence referrals to be sent back to them.  Even if they do not have business to refer, if they can show a strong desire and interest to refer leads while business networking, they are likely see positive results.

Scarcity

Establishing a sense of scarcity can help to improve your ability to influence others.  This concept is helpful for two reasons.  First, the more scarce something is, the more valuable it is.  This is a straightforward relationship and can be applied to anything – natural resources, automobiles, time spent with others, etc.  With that being the case, if you associate some level of scarcity to something in particular, the value for that item will increase in the eyes of others.

The second reason that scarcity is helpful is that if something is scarce, it is likely to be available for only a limited time.  This factor is important as it can help to motivate action.  The way this can be applied to influence others is by communicating that the option, direction, or topic in question is scarce.  This can be accomplished by using language like limited, fixed, exclusive, etc.


Authority
We can use a factor of authority to improve our ability to influence others.  When we are an authority on a subject, others will be more likely to agree with and support what we say and do.  The challenge here can be that we might not be an expert or have a level of authority in the area that we are trying to establish influence.  When this is the case, we can always reference other experts, other sources of information, references, etc. to establish credibility.

Consensus
To improve our ability to influence, we can establish a sense of consensus with the area that we are trying to influence.  This is essentially creating an image that a large portion or majority of people are on board and going in the same direction.  This is effective because, as a society, we operate with somewhat of a herd mentality and feel more comfortable and motivated to head in the direction that everybody else is heading.

Source:  Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, Psychology, Arizona State University

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Identify the Target Market When Developing Sales Strategy

Friday, April 8th, 2011

It is critical to clearly define the target market when you are developing sales strategy.  This is important as it is likely that the products and services that you sells fit better with a particular type of customer.  By identifying what the ideal customer looks like, a company can create a laser focus having the sales strategy focus on that area and driving a better return on investment for what they invest in their sales efforts.

Below are some specific characteristics to look at when mapping out or identifying the target market for a set of products and services:

Geography
We cannot be everywhere at all times, and even if we could, by focusing our sales strategy in key geographic areas, we can deliver better results from the same investment of time, energy, and money.  As a result, identify the geographic area where effort should be concentrated when developing sales strategy.

Industry
Identify the industry that fits best with the products and services that are sold.  In some scenarios, this may be very clear.  For example, if a product sold can only be used by a local government entity, then that clearly is the target industry.  But in some cases, a product could be used by many or all industries.  But there may be one or two industries where the value delivered is higher and the message is better delivered and received.  When this is the case, identify what industry or industries match up best when developing sales strategy.

Company Size
It is likely that your business will fit well with companies of a certain size.  Identify what size of companies fit best to receive the message, products, and services when developing sales strategy.

Financial Details
It may make sense to look at a company’s financial details when identifying the target market.  A company’s level of growth, losses, profitability, etc. could impact whether or not they are an ideal prospect.

Current State
When building out the target market and ideal prospect characteristics, it can help to include some details on the ideal current customer state in terms of systems, processes, or current agreements.  For example, if a company sells a particular business service, it could be more productive to target and focus on companies that already procure that particular business service versus targeting companies that have never purchased it before and would need to be educated.

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