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Sales Prospecting: How Many Times Is Too Many?

Posted on: June 18th, 2015 by Monika 1 Comment

Very often I get the question from clients and sales people as to how many times one should reach out to a prospect before being viewed as a nuisance. The answer often surprises them.

Until They Respond!

 In a consultative sales environment, a prospect is a prospect as long as they don’t tell you to never contact them again, which rarely happens when you adhere to certain rules.

I still do high level prospecting for a select group of clients and have been very successful engaging C-Level and mid management decision makers in meaningful conversations.

Add Value

The key to successful prospecting is to add value and not to sell. Nobody wants to be sold to and once people think that the purpose of an outreach is to get them to buy something, the conversation is already off to a bad start.

Prospects don’t get upset when you target them frequently. They get upset when you are irrelevant, when you don’t know their business and when you pitch them.

Research

Being a business owner I get sales calls all the time and 9 out of 10 are not up to snuff. You can tell when someone is dialing for dollars: e.g. the sales person didn’t look up my company, doesn’t know what I do, and then pitches a service that is not a good fit for my business. And in addition, sometimes they are rude or inconsiderate.

But once in a blue moon there is this sales person who actually took the time to identify what my needs might be. That in combination with courtesy leads to a good first conversation and even if I am not in a position to buy immediately, I don’t mind them staying in touch with me as long as they add value.

Be Relevant & Timely

Every sensible business person knows that they will be called on by other companies that provide services. Nobody in business will hold that against you. What they will hold against you is offering a service that doesn’t meet their needs and then trying to push a sale where there is no fit.

You’re busy, I’m busy – so, keep in mind that people are busy. Just because they don’t respond right away doesn’t mean that they are not interested. They might be traveling, they might have pressing issues to deal with that are more important than responding to your outreach.

My Motto: Don’t give up, be relevant and stay on message.

Persistence Pays Off

Many, many times I have gotten replies from prospects acknowledging and thanking me for my persistence. People generally appreciate a professional outreach and sales people who are determined. It is expected that a good sales person will stay on course and try to engage. What is NOT expected and dreaded are messages that are about your product or service, rather than the value it could bring to their business.

For example, if somebody calls me telling me that they can provide leads for my business (which happens almost on a daily basis) I will probably not respond because the message seems very broad. If they however look at my client list and tell me that they are experts in the logistics or technology field (an industry that I target), they might get my attention.

Let Your Prospects Opt Out

Include an “opt out” message in your voice or email. Tell your prospect that you understand if they don’t have time, or of there is no interest and that they should call you back if that’s the case. This way you give them a graceful way out and very often (you will be surprised), the prospect will get back to you, one way or another. Many times I get a response from a prospect, almost apologizing for the lack of response.

In closing, if you are professional and you do your research, your response rate will increase. As long as you stay on message and you are courteous, your outreach will be appreciated. I share this with you based on years of experience. In my world, the average sales cycle is at least 6 months up to a couple of years. If I were to give up easily, my business wouldn’t survive.

Maybe your Sales People are Afraid?

Posted on: April 13th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

I know, it sounds a bit silly. Afraid of what?

Well, here is the thing. In my experience, many sales people are actually afraid of rejection. Why?

Because there is no business practice where you have to bring yourself in as much as when selling. Whether it’s selling a product or a service, sales is emotional and personal. We professionals in sales live by how well we perform. That means our livelihood is in the balance every day, every call, every client interaction. Though not as common in a traditional sales environment, fear can also be felt in a consultative sales environment.

So where does this fear originate?

It starts with the cold calling/prospecting efforts that most sales people are terrified of. Hint to CEOs and sales managers – sales people who don’t like cold calling will most likely try to avoid it at any cost.

It could be a mindset issue that is keeping you from breaking through to others. Although counter-intuitive, being afraid of success is something fairly common in the business world (or on a personal level). In a sales environment it’s a lot more transparent and easier to detect. The effects are also a lot more drastic, because so many sales people depend on earning commission.

Fear-less Cold-calling/Prospecting? Is there such a thing?

There is various ways to deal with the fear of cold-calling issue.

You can hire an inside sales person or a lead generation team to take the cold calling off your sales people.

You can help your sales people overcome the reluctance of cold calling. Structuring the prospecting process with the right kind of research and providing training are two of a number of ways to reduce the fear of cold-calling.

But the fear usually doesn’t stop after that. Sales people need to bring themselves in at every step of the sales process. Sales people are mostly measured by numbers. And if we don’t put numbers on the books it puts enormous pressure on us.

Not every sales person is good at everything

There is always the option to outsource the lead generation process, or to develop an inside sales team. Many companies who have taken that path have seen sales soar as a result. The “front-end” of the sales process (filling the pipeline) is the one area that can be outsourced successfully with great results. Developing qualified opportunities is the toughest part of the sales process (I know, because I do it for my clients on a daily basis) and it makes sense to hire specialists.

Afraid to Ask for a Sale?

Not everybody is equipped to ask for money and that’s essentially what we need to do in a sales environment. We are asking people to trust us to part with their or their company’s funds. If our prospects end up buying from us and the product/service doesn’t meet their needs, we will be held accountable for that decision. All of those areas are deeply emotional and directly connected to mindset. A good salesperson can be trained on how and when to ask for a sale that is not fear-inducing!

Is Fear Rational Behavior?

In the world of sales, fear is often irrational. Just as we are not afraid of flying because we don’t like to be up in the air, we are afraid because we could die and we have no “control”. Doesn’t sound very rational when we put it in those terms, does it? Take the fear of public speaking – it is so intense that some people freeze up although there is no imminent danger lurking.

Help Can Be Right There In Your Team!

The most effective way to help sales people be more comfortable in a sales environment is to help them feel more confident. Confidence often stems from having been successful, so when companies establish an environment where sales people are nurtured and trained rather than pushed and reprimanded, success flows more freely.

Also, understand what your sales people are good at and where the weaknesses (or as we prefer to say: the opportunities) lie. That is essential when helping them. If you have a strong cold caller on your team, tap into that talent (trust me, it’s rare) and share commission when revenue is closed.

When you have a strong “closer” on your team, bring him/her into final meetings to lend support. Very often we ask too much of sales people and the feeling over being overwhelmed results in panic, desperation and in the worst case scenario unprofessional behavior.

What Are We Best At?

So, in the end, always try to analyze why your sales people are not producing. Develop their strengths, and nurture their areas of opportunities through training and support. The investment you make can pay off manifold if you choose training that actually effects real behavioral change! And finally, just maybe, some sales people might not really be equipped to be in sales. You might detect that in the way they position your company offering, or in their attitude and/or work habits. You will definitely find out if revenue is lacking. You can also simply test their sales acumen. My company offers a Skills & Knowledge Assessment that is not an exam or test, but rather a quick and thorough method to measure sales skills and knowledge. It serves as a vehicle for manager’s to understand the performance gaps of their team members. This Sales IQ will help you gain insight on the strengths of your team members as compared to over 4,000 top sales performers, certified SuperSellersTM, from a cross-section of different industries.

Whatever changes you decide to make to increase your sales revenues, make sure you know your sales staff well. They are your first and foremost representation. We should all shine as sales people, and we should be supported to do just that. And that will result in a lot more “fearless” salespeople!

6 Human Sales Traits that Technology cannot replace

Posted on: November 25th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

Everything in today’s business environment seems to be about technology, the latest developments, content marketing, microblogs, engagement, SEOs, etc.

Some companies have become over-systematized, as I call it. Everything and I mean everything is left to automation. Once the database is set-up and your name is entered you get emails on a regular basis whether they are relevant to your current need or not.

In a consultative sales environment technology should only be utilized to support the sales process, but never to replace it. People want to feel special and they don’t want to be viewed as a mass target.

Here are some examples of what technology lacks.

Common Sense

Common sense is the least common of the senses. I love that saying and it is so true. The more technology focused we become, the less we use our common sense. Why is that? Because we rely on it too often and feel that everything we need can be found on the internet. There are statistics that show that we are getting dumber and dumber. I would argue that we are also getting lazier. An argument over dinner that used to take hours to resolve (sometimes it wasn’t even resolved that night) can now usually be settled in a couple of minutes by somebody pulling out their smart-phone.

The Human Touch                                                                  

And by that I mean exactly that. The human touch. When you call on a prospect you can apply nuances to your voice, you can be compassionate and you can adjust your language.

Mass messages, even if they are targeted to specific audiences will always be static. Yes, you can add images and videos and animations, but the will never be personal. I get mass emails and messages all day and some of them are more relevant to my business than others, but they are never exactly what I am looking for, because I am one of many to receive them. There is also the trend to over-systematize and sales people rely on technology to help them make a sale rather than picking up the phone and talking to people.

Human Persuasion

In sales it is very important to overcome objections and to add value to your customer/client so they buy from you and choose your product or service. Content marketing is important for people to find out about your product/service and to make it easy for customers to find you. It is important to get your message out and to build brand awareness, but it cannot replace human interaction.

Most people today will research a product/service before they make a buying decision, but I would argue that people still like to buy from people and they will most likely buy from people they trust. Building trust takes time and it is a process that cannot be rushed or replaced by technology.

Quality Content

With all the hype about content marketing, we sometimes seem to forget that it’s actually content that drives content marketing. Guess who provides content? People! As I am sitting here writing this article I am wondering if there will ever be a technology that will produce quality content. I sure hope not. Not for self serving reasons but for the nuances which human beings can provide. I can’t help but think that computer or technology generated content would lack the subtlety of human writing. Who would be able to develop headlines that crown the New York Post (a newspaper that I hardly read beyond the headline) such as “Here We Ho Again” in response to Eliot Spitzer running for office again. Could a computer really come up with such a clever (although offensive) phrase? And what about sarcasm? I can tell you that I have yet to find a computer program that translates effectively, especially when it comes to humorous phrases or idioms.

Rationale

And by that I mean applying logic and knowledge. Let’s talk about database management, because to me it’s key to effectively engaging with prospects and customers. CRM systems are only as good as the data that is fed into them (which is the truth for all technology enabled solutions). GI-GO – Garbage in – garbage out, which brings me to over-systematizing without applying rational thinking and feedback. When managing a database you need to know who your target audience is, whether they are a client, a prospect  or a partner. If you don’t tag your contacts properly, your messaging will be off and it really doesn’t matter what technology you use.

Decision Making

Although, we all think that technology has made it so easy for us to do almost everything by itself, it’s really important to remember that making a decision is still something that humans need to do. While technology can help us build an opinion or stay informed, it’s still humans who make the decision to buy and people who are signing checks.

In closing, I want to add that I love technology. I really do. Like most of us, I would be lost without my computer, Smartphone and all the technology solutions that come with it. What we shouldn’t forget though is that technology doesn’t replace humans. Not yet, anyway and hopefully not any time soon.

Get Prepared Before You Pick Up The Phone

Posted on: November 15th, 2012 by Monika No Comments

Let me start with a question: Have you ever received a phone call from a sales person who stutters around, doesn’t really know who you are, what your company does and starts rambling about some product/service offering that is not at all relevant to your needs?

I’m sure you have, and that can certainly be annoying! That sales person didn’t do her/his “homework”!

In a consultative sales environment, doing your research and getting prepared for a call is as essential as actually picking up the phone and dialing. The first step in a consultative sales approach is the “Pre-Call”, in other words, doing your “homework”. Well planned and executed preparation will help you once the person you are calling on picks up the phone.

Being informed means adding value to a conversation. Whether it’s your first conversation with a prospect, or a follow-up call with a long-time client. It also puts you, the sales person, in a position where you don’t sound like you’re dialing for dollars.

Whether you’re calling on a new prospect or trying to expand your business with existing clients, research and preparation are key.

 Prospecting For New Business

At the core of successful consultative selling is developing a customer-centric sales process and being diligent. Not pushy, not aggressive, but consistent and strategic. You will need to identify exactly what you are selling and what value it brings to your prospects.

Successful consultative sales professionals take time to understand what truly differentiates their service from their competitors’ similar products or services. They do their research. They also make sure they know their own strengths and opportunities for improvement and growth.

Once you have established what you are selling, and how the features and benefits can be of value, then you can begin to do your research to find out who your “ideal prospects” are.

Don’t try to boil the ocean! Be targeted in your approach and choose your prospects accordingly!”

While it is important to own your story, to understand the product/service that you offer and being able to communicate the value, it is also just as important to make sure that your offering fits with your prospect’s objectives. And that you will need to find out. When it comes to prospecting, we usually have to come from a place of assumption because we normally don’t really know the inner workings of a prospect’s organization. In today’s business environment, it’s a lot easier to prepare than it used to be. In the past we had to rely on hearsay or recommendations. Today, we can research companies and people using all the tools available in the on-line world.

This makes it easier for us to prepare but we also want to be careful so as not to assume too much. What might appear to be true could turn out to have changed because on-line data is not always up to date. It still gives us a general reference and guidelines to work off, a starting point for conversation and exploration, and asking questions.

The more research we do before picking up the phone, or writing an e-mail, the easier it will be to start a dialogue. Why? Because people want to feel special, no matter what their title or position is.

In a consultative sales environment, we don’t need to reach out to every single company in the universe. Usually, our universe is a lot smaller than we think once we start researching our ideal prospects.

How can we identify whether a prospect is suitable or not?

Do Your Research, Research, Research, and Some More Research

  1. Make sure you know and fully understand what your offering entails, and in what ways it might be beneficial to your prospective clients.
  2. Identify why your service or product is unique, or superior.
  3. Research and locate companies that would potentially benefit from your offering and where you see a possible fit.

 

For example, if you own a small law firm in Pennsylvania specializing in contract and trademark law, and you are not licensed outside of the state, it will be easier to determine who your prospects could be.

If, however, you are a service provider and your offering could be sold without geographic limitations, you will need to find other qualifiers to sharpen your efforts. Here are some qualifiers that can be used:

  • Industry
  • Geography (you may not want your sales people flying all over the country)
  • Revenue/Size
  • # of employees
  • Public vs. Private sector
  • Website presence (websites are the store fronts of any organization and a lot can be learned from the way a company presents itself on-line)

 

One common mistake in sales is to play the numbers game. Many sales people think (encouraged by their leaders) that more sales calls equals more revenue. It really doesn’t. The more focused you are as a sales person, the more you will find out about your prospects and the higher the likelihood is that you will have meaningful conversations to get you closer to your goal. And your goal is always either closing a sale or, if it’s not a fit, leaving a good impression.

Get Ready to Pick Up the Phone

Once you identified 15-20 companies (as a starting point) that could be a good fit for your product/service offering based on your research, it’s time to prepare what you’re going to say and even more importantly, what questions you’re going to ask. What kind of questions do you ask? Use open-ended questions to give the person you are speaking with the opportunity to explain their situation, their potential needs in their own words. Practice what you could say, how your prospects might react. Prepare a “Prospect Analysis Form” or open a CRM file so you can enter all the information you will be receiving. Then it’s time to pick up the phone. Be personal and engaging in your conversations with the presumed decision makers and they will provide you with insights on whether your initial assumption was correct. As a result you could find out that the marketing team is not the department that will buy your service, but perhaps a newly developed consumer insights team. If you are knowledgeable, courteous and respectful, people will guide and help you to find the correct path. It will also help you collect valuable market research and sharpen your message going forward.

Get in Another Person’s Shoes

In the end, make sure you visualize that you have a person on the other end of the line. Someone possibly a lot like you. You’ll do yourself a great service and be able to offer something of value by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Get the Consultative Sales Model
Here’s where the Consultative Sales model begins: PRE-CALL, where you set your objectives, do your “intelligence” work, and develop your
repertoire of questions for your prospects..

Are Sales People Afraid?

Posted on: September 20th, 2012 by Monika 1 Comment

I know, it sounds a bit silly. Afraid of what?  In my experience, many sales people are afraid of rejection. Actually, most people are afraid of rejection just that in sales it’s a daily issue.

Why is fear so present in sales?

Because in my opinion there is no other business practice where you have to bring yourself in as much as in sales. Whether it’s selling a product or a service, sales is emotional and personal. We professionals in sales are measured by how well we perform. That means our livelihood is in the balance every day, during every call and client interaction.

So where does this fear originate?

The fear stems from being afraid of rejection. Nobody wants to be rejected, but in sales it’s part of our daily reality. It starts with the cold calling/prospecting efforts that most sales people are terrified of. It could be a mindset issue that is keeping you from breaking through to others. Being afraid of success is something fairly common in the business world (or on a personal level). But in a sales environment it’s a lot more transparent and easier to detect. The effects are also a lot more drastic, because so many sales people depend on earning commission.

Fear-less Cold-calling/Prospecting? Is there such a thing?

There is various ways to deal with the fear of cold-calling.

You can hire an inside sales person or a lead generation team to take the cold calling off your sales people.

Or, you can help your sales people overcome the reluctance of cold calling by supporting the prospecting process with the right kind of research and/or providing meaningful training.

But the fear usually doesn’t stop after that. Sales people need to bring themselves in at every step of the sales process.  And if we don’t put numbers on the books it puts enormous pressure on us.

Afraid to Ask for a Sale?

Not everybody is equipped to ask for money and that’s essentially what we need to do in a sales environment. We are asking people to trust us to part with their or their company’s funds. If our prospects end up buying from us and the product/service doesn’t meet their needs, we will be held accountable for that decision. All of those areas are deeply emotional and directly connected to mindset. A good salesperson can be trained on how and when to ask for a sale that is not fear-inducing! Overcoming objections and handling stalls is also an area that can be trained. Actually, objections and stalls very often present an opportunity when handled properly.

Is Fear Rational Behavior?

To the most part, no. Take the fear of public speaking – it is so intense that some people freeze up although there is no imminent danger lurking. In the world of sales, fear is often irrational. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. While not always rational, fear can certainly keep us from being successful. especially in sales.

Help Can Be Right There In Your Team!

The most effective way to help sales people be more comfortable in a sales environment is to help them feel more confident. Confidence often stems from having been successful, so when companies establish an environment where sales people are nurtured and supported rather than pushed and reprimanded, success flows more freely.

Also, understand what your sales people are good at and where the weaknesses (or as we prefer to say: the opportunities to improve) lie. If you have a strong cold caller on your team, tap into that talent (trust me, it’s rare) and share commission when revenue is closed.

When you have a strong “closer” on your team, bring him/her into final meetings to lend support. Very often we ask too much of sales people and the feeling over being overwhelmed results in panic, desperation and in the worst case scenario unprofessional behavior.

Identify your team’s strengths

So, in the end, always try to analyze why your sales people are not producing. Develop their strengths, and nurture their areas of opportunities through training and support. The investment you make can pay off manifold if you choose training that actually effects real behavioral change!

And finally, just maybe, some sales people might not really be equipped to be in sales. You might detect that in the way they position your company offering, or in their attitude and/or work habits. You will definitely find out if revenue is lacking. Whatever changes you decide to make to increase your sales revenues, make sure you know your sales staff well.

They are your first and foremost representation. We should all shine as sales people, and we should be supported to do just that. And that will result in a lot more “fearless” salespeople!

Help! My prospect went silent on me!

Posted on: July 26th, 2012 by Monika No Comments

It happens quite a bit, especially in a consultative sales environment. You’ve established good rapport, it’s a good fit, you’ve had good meetings and then nothing – just silence.

Your phone calls don’t get returned, your e-mails go unanswered and then, you feel that you must have done something wrong!

Well, don’t despair! It often has nothing to do with you or your service offering or you as a sales person. Prospects need time to review and digest.

They need time to get approval and buy-in from internal departments. And sometimes they discover that the solution or product that they wanted to purchase is not as essential as they originally thought.

What’s a sales person to do? In my experience, you CAN add value whenever possible, but there is not a lot else you can do other than wait it out.

Examples of Stalled Sales

Here are some scenarios that I’ve experienced that led to a stalled sales process:

1) My contact was hospitalized with acute pneumonia (I was informed by this person’s assistant two weeks after the incident). So I decided to send a Get Well card. Two months after my contact came out of the hospital I closed the business. Compassion and patience paid off.

2) The decision maker was let go. In that case you need to basically start from scratch and see if you can develop rapport and convince the new person to work with you.

3) The boss’ decision maker was let go. Another scenario where you just need to be patient and hope that your contact will lobby for you and your offering.

4) The company was bought. As a result everybody was afraid that they might lose their job. Be compassionate and supportive and if your contact still has a job after things settle down, it will pay off.

5) The wife of my contact had a premature baby and the last thing he wanted to do was negotiate a contract. Again, sit it out and be patient.

All of these types of developments are out of your control and really have nothing to do with you or your service offering. Don’t – and I really mean DON’T- try to be aggressive and start calling or e-mailing them over and over. You could drive them to NOT wanting to buy from you, even if they had viewed your offering as the favorite.

Give them the time to do what needs to be done and sit back. If you find an interesting article that might help them understand the value of your service or product offering, send it to them. Start with a line that says “Just thinking of you, thought you might be interested in the attached” and then wait a bit more.

 

To Pursue or Not To Pursue

Our instincts often tell us to pursue and hunt, and that’s usually what we as sales people are expected to do. But the reality is that it has to be a good fit and good timing. Your offering has to be something that the prospect really wants and needs at the time. There is no point in convincing your prospect if they are not ready, for whatever reason. You pursuing them will not accelerate the process, it will put you in a position where you might lose the sale.

If you are sure that you did everything possible to provide your prospect with the necessary information to make a decision, that’s really all you can do. Everything else is up to them. Either, it’s going to happen or it won’t. I have yet to see somebody being convinced to buy because the sales person was on them all the time.

To me it’s almost like a marriage proposal. If you propose to somebody and they are not really ready, or don’t think this is the right fit for them, they’ll say “No”, or if they say “Yes” due to convincing circumstances, the marriage will suffer. It’s bound to happen. There will be resentment, unnecessary criticism and a sense that you had to do something that you didn’t want.

Remember the song “You can’t hurry love”. Well, you can’t hurry sales, either.

Sales Prospecting: How Many Times Is Too Many?

Posted on: June 27th, 2012 by Monika No Comments

Very often I get the question from clients and sales people as to how many times one should reach out to a prospect before being viewed as a nuisance. The answer is often very surprising.

Until they respond!

I never, ever give up on a prospect unless they tell me to never contact them again, which happens very rarely. As you know, my word is consultative sales, and selling in a consultative environment requires not only to establish a process, but also being professional and consistent. I work with companies to help them grow their business so prospecting is a big part of what I do. In all the years that I have been doing this (thousands and thousands of e-mails and phone calls) as well as teaching my clients how to develop business, there was one single case of a person who got upset. To this day I am convinced that the person had a chip on their shoulder, or a really bad day. In any event, his response was not professional and for that very reason should be dismissed.

Prospects don’t get upset when you target them frequently. They might get irritated when your communication is irrelevant. As a sales person in a consultative sales environment, you need to research the people you are targeting and then craft your message so it resonates with them.

Every sensible business person knows that they will be called on by other companies that provide services. Nobody in business will hold that against you. What they will hold against you is offering a service that doesn’t meet their need and then trying to push a sale where there is no fit.

Here is my rule of thumb. When I start prospecting a new person, I usually contact them every two or three business days. My outreach is a mix of e-mails, follow-up phone calls and follow-up emails. And that’s the way it works in a consultative sales environment.

You might think that’s overkill? It’s really not. Consultative Selling is a process, it only works when we stick to it.

Very often we assume that prospects remember our messages and phone calls. They usually don’t. Most of our prospects get inundated with information. Unless it is something that they are really looking for at that very moment, it will take some time to get their attention. But it doesn’t matter. Stick to the three “B’s” – Be courteous, Be professional and Be relevant. You will eventually get a response.

What’s also important. Give your prospects a path “out”. Invite them to tell you that they are not interested, so you get to a quick “no”, or “not now” and you can move on to the next prospect. That doesn’t mean that they will never be interested (unless there really isn’t a fit) but it means that right now there is no burning need to have a meeting or in-depth conversation.

Another area that is overlooked is the art of repetition without sounding like a broken record. Again, prospects don’t remember the first time (or even the fourth) you reach out to them. Developing a unique message that represents your service offering and delivering the same message multiple times in new and unique ways can give you a competitive edge. Play with your words and be personal in the way you communicate.

Again, your prospects will appreciate your persistence as long as you are professional and on target. Happy selling!

5 tips on how to overcome the fear of cold calling

Posted on: May 15th, 2012 by Monika 1 Comment

It’s real. Cold Calling is scary to most sales people. In a consultative sales environment phone conversations are still a very effective way to develop new business. But, it’s like the fear of flying. While we consciously know that flying is still the safest way to travel, we always remember those planes that crash.

The fear of cold calling, or the reluctance to do it stems from the same fear. We are afraid of rejection, that somebody could hang up on us, or be nasty. It really doesn’t happen very often, but the fear is there.

So what is a sales person to do?

1)Research, research, research
The better you are prepared before picking up the phone, the higher your chances that your prospect will listen. As long as you are targeted in your approach and you know who your ideal prospects are there is really nothing to fear than fear itself.

2) Be personal and professional
There is this common expectation that sales people should be aggressive. In my experience, the more gentle, consultative and professional you are, the higher your success rate will be. Never treat anybody in any way other than the way you would like to be treated.

3) Listen, listen, listen
Don’t rattle off a pitch, but start with a casual introduction and then slowly shift into asking questions. The more information you can extract from your prospects (personal or professional), the better equipped you will be to follow up and build a relationship.

4) Be relevant and honest
It doesn’t make sense to talk prospects into a need. Your product or solution has to be a fit, otherwise you will waste your and your prospect’s time. If you find out that there is no current need, leave a good impression, try to be helpful if possible (by maybe providing an alternative solution) and get permission to stay in touch.

5) Pick up the phone!
Yes you heard me, just do it. There is just no way around it. Well scripted and written e-mails go a long way, but if you are selling in a consultative sales environment you won’t get around a phone call. Trust me, it will pay off!

And finally, get help! There is many coaches out there who are able to help. My company, the Consultative Sales Academy provides a Consultative Sales Certification.

Check it out at www.getsalescertified.com.

Why is your website so important as a prospecting tool?

Posted on: April 2nd, 2012 by Monika No Comments

When you are selling a service, such as technology, advertising, PR or anything that is invisible and you require a consultative sales approach, your website is not necessarily a sales tool. It’s a vibrant, ever-present branding piece. Prospects will not buy your service because your site looks phenomenal, but it is the first impression of your organization, and first impressions count.

For prospecting and lead generation though, your website is essential. More often than not, your prospects will look at your site once they consider talking to you in more detail.

Reflecting Your Unique Positioning

Your marketing materials and your website need to reflect your unique positioning and the story you want to tell.  If you have a website (which is really your storefront these days) and your prospects see or read something that doesn’t reflect your core values or your unique positioning, it can certainly become an issue you won’t want to have to deal with.

Telling the Same Story

The challenge is that many websites were developed a while back and in the meantime your organization, services and products might have changed, perhaps even radically since then. So, in essence your sales people might be telling a different story than your website tells. If you are one of these companies where your website was developed in a rush, or some time ago and in time since then you have become a different company, your prospects will be confused.

Now I don’t recommend changing your website every single time small changes take place.

In essence, when developing your website it’s important that all communication vehicles, such as voice mail scripts, e-mails, website, brochure, etc. speak the same language. If what your sales people are saying doesn’t match your website or brochure language, your prospect will be confused and they might move on to the next site, which could be your competitor.

When perusing the web you can find service offerings, language and examples on a website that really don’t reflect the current situation of the company. Big companies generally have professionals solely responsible for their website management. But here the quality and consistency depends how well they are connected to the departments that make the changes and/or how well the departments inform the webmaster.

In smaller organizations the website is usually owned by one person and once it’s up and running it gets changed a lot, but very often without a distinct purpose. There is a lot of focus on color schemes, logos, graphics but not enough energy being spent on the content and the ease of use.

Avoid Website Vanity! Be Real!

Websites are there for prospects to gather information, to understand the unique selling proposition, to learn about a company at their own pace, in their own time. They are not there to solely impress with pretty pictures and graphics. Way too many times websites represent the wishes of the CEO (yes, I am talking to you guys again!) and they end up becoming vanity pieces (remember the Devil’s Advocate: Vanity, my favorite sin!) rather than a functional resource.

You don’t want the intro to be more impressive than the content of your website. There is a time to show off your creativity and smarts, and your website can be that place but not during the intro. Focus on your the key messages and your unique selling proposition. Be creative with substance and your website will be one of your top resource tools in your prospecting kit.