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Posts Tagged ‘consultative sales’

6 Ways to Shorten your Sales Cycle

Posted on: July 1st, 2017 by Monika No Comments

When you ask a sales person, their sales manager, or the CEO of an organization how long their sales cycle is, you usually get mixed responses. In some cases, you get blank stares, in other scenarios there is disagreement on the length of the actual cycle.

CEOs in general would like to see sales moving along at a healthy clip, while sales people and managers often underestimate the time it really takes to close a sale.

You can only change what you know

Everybody wants to shorten their sales cycle, but in order to do that you need to first understand the length and the drivers. What do I mean by that?

There are reasons why some sales cycles are longer than others. Some of the areas are out of your control, others can be influenced.

For example, if you target larger organizations with various decision-makers and influencers, your sales cycle will automatically be longer. Sales cycles may be shorter when targeting smaller organizations, but you need to be aware of the payoffs and the trade-offs.

In other words, do those small organizations have budgets available? Are they even a good fit for your offering?

How can you control the sales cycle?

One way to control the length of your sales cycle is to be sure that sales team members have all received targeted training. First, sales professionals should know what to look for in their ideal client profile, what industries to target, what messaging works or doesn’t, etc. Then, they need to be trained to ask the right questions to not only uncover needs and goals of their prospects, but just as importantly, what to ask to move the sale along.

Following are some questions to ask yourself to focus on drivers which can influence your sales cycle.

1) How well known is your company/brand?

If your company is well known and you are only introducing a new service or product, it will be easier to get results. However, if your company is not established in the market place, it will take longer to get traction.

2) Do you know who the decision maker for the offering will be?

If you don’t know who your decision-maker(s) will be, it will take longer to navigate through your prospect organization. Identifying the “influencers” within an organization is key to being successful. Too many sales people have lengthy conversations with people who are not in a position to buy or even influence the final decision-maker(s). So, asking the right questions upfront, making sure that you are talking to the right people, and establishing rapport with the real influencers will help you shorten the cycle.

3) Do you have a Unique Positioning for your service?

If you don’t know how to differentiate your service from others in the marketplace, it will also add time to your sales cycle. It is therefore of high importance to have a Unique Selling Proposition and to craft messaging that will get people’s attention.

4) Are you adding Value?

Too many sales people focus on the features and benefits of their offering, rather than leading with value. It is important for a prospect to understand how your service/product offering will be of value to them (and remember, it’s different depending on the role of the person).

5) What is the buying cycle of your prospects?

One area that is out of your control is the buying cycle and budget cycle of your prospects. Identify and understand their budget cycle and then manage your outreach accordingly.

6) Are your sales people equipped to sell in a consultative environment?

If they are not, they will not ask the right questions, get stuck with the wrong decision maker and that will have a strong impact on your sales cycle. We have a Sales IQ assessment that helps management determine whether sales people are up to par, or not.

Here are some ideas for Sales Professionals & Sales Managers

All of these areas need to be carefully reviewed and discussed, but not only by sales professionals themselves. If your CEO is involved in these discussions, you will not only have buy-in from the top, but also a profound understanding as to why things might take longer. No sensible CEO will breathe down your neck if you can make a case as to why this process is not yielding immediate results. Keep your CEO engaged and informed and she/he will support your efforts.

If, however, you keep your CEO in the dark and un-informed on how you’ve established the process, she/he will rightfully be impatient.

When you are in a sales management position, invite your CEO to the last part or day of a sales meeting and present a clear and concise plan of action.

When you are a sales person, encourage your manager to provide metrics and results to your CEO.

Recommendations for CEOs

If you are a CEO, ask to be invited to the sales meetings, add your insights and then let your team work their “magic”. Resist the temptation to get involved on a daily basis

You’ll be happier and your team will be more successful for it!

Holiday Cheer – Stay Clear of Fear

Posted on: December 16th, 2015 by Monika No Comments
Reflecting on 2015 I would like to share some best practices and observations we have been so fortunate to experience, hoping that we will continue our journey together into a successful 2016.

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Sales people are measured by numbers and if we don’t put numbers on the books it puts enormous pressure on us. Fear is not always an obstacle; it can also be a driver as long as we don’t become frantic in our attempts to make things happen. There is nothing more annoying or aggravating than an over-eager sales person. Once we become desperate, sound strategy usually goes out the window.

The best remedy is to develop a long-term and short term SMART objectives and to stick with them (and adjust to them if necessary). It will help with anxiety and it will also make for better business decisions.

Avoid Panic

While we are talking about fear, we should also talk about panic, which is usually a result of fear. Panic often sets in when sales don’t happen.  Then situations happen, for example when CEOs take over sales training, or attend sales calls and start micro-managing everything and anything that has to do with sales.

They fear for their company’s survival and that’s understandable. Fear is contagious and once the CEO panics, it often affects sales management and it can have a snowball effect on the sales team. Then sales people might fear that they could lose their job or that they won’t be making any money.

Then sales managers do both. They panic and fear, both for their team, for their compensation and for their reputation.

The best recipe is to stay calm and on-track. Again, if there is a plan in place, success will follow. Sometimes, it’s good to review the plan and maybe adjust it a bit, but to throw out the plan altogether once things don’t happen immediately is a poor choice and it can lead to disastrous results.  In a consultative sales environment, planning is an absolute essential.

Embrace Rejection

The best sales people are those who know that “no” is the second best answer. Rejection is part of our daily life and embracing it helps us understand our target audience better. In our many years of searching and observing sales professionals, we have seen far too many sales people chase good conversations rather than closing a sale.

We like to refer to those sales people as “professional visitors”, because they thrive on making connections and not on getting to the next step. The goal of every interaction in sales is to get one step closer to a sale, not to have better chats.

The best sales people are the ones who invite a “no thanks” to gauge a potential fit. There is no point in chasing after a prospect who is not a good fit. Finding out sooner rather than later that you can’t provide prospect real value gives you the freedom and time to move on to a better opportunity.

People Buy from People

That’s really the bottom line. More and more articles, posts and blogs are about the fact that it’s still people who are involved in the decision making process.

Remember the old adage? Know – Like – Trust. Never forget that it is people you are targeting. Make your messages stand out. Personalize your emails, don’t mass market. Do research on the people you target so you can have meaningful conversations with them. Remember, that everybody has a personal life and sometimes things can go wrong, so be mindful of others.

A Lesson from my Dog

My dog Rhondo (whom we rescued 6 years ago) teaches me lessons every day. While he is super focused on getting food and attention, he is also mindful, compassionate and very often more considerate than some sales people I encounter.

Rhondo_MD

Unlike many sales people who call on me, Rhondo hardly ever interrupts my work day because he intuitively feels when I have time to play or when I am focused on something else. It’s the way I move and the way I sound that provides hints to my dog. (Intuitive behavioral adjusting)

My dog is in my office with me every single day. He never barks, never even makes a sound. He lies on the office couch (yes, he is spoiled!) and it is not until I put my headphones back into the holder, making a gentle click, signaling to him that I might be ready for a break. That’s when he starts moving. But it’s not until I get up and tell him that we are leaving the office that he actually leaves the couch to follow me.

Following gentle hints from our prospects, understanding when to talk and when to listen, identifying behavioral and communication styles and just simply paying attention can be a good recipe to making your contacts feel comfortable and to building trust. And you we all know, trust is essential when it comes to building solid, long-standing business relationships.

In this spirit, let’s stick with our plan (and if you don’t have one, this is the best time to develop a strategy) and focus on the positive. There is always something to be grateful for.

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy Holiday season and a Successful 2016!

 

The Fear of Cold Calling

Posted on: October 30th, 2015 by Monika No Comments
It’s real. Cold Calling is scary to most sales people. BUT, contrary to popular belief and many articles written on that topic, Cold Calling is NOT dead. Just because social media can provide some (and the keyword here is some) valuable information and leads, doesn’t mean that we don’t need to pick up the phone any more.In a consultative sales environment, phone conversations are still a very effective way to develop new business. The good news is that Cold Calling has many benefits that you might not have thought of:

– It keeps us sharp!

– It requires that you are at your best.

– When cold calling, you can’t rely on the rapport that you have developed with your existing customers.

So your sales and service skills have to be on high alert.

The skills we use in Cold Calling help us with all of our sales and service interactions as well. It’s somewhat similar to an athlete’s world. The weight-lifting and drills they go through can be excruciating at times, but in the end their overall performance improves!

So, to be good at Cold-Calling, you need to Plan Ahead (= Pre-Call Planning) and Practice!

Have a Plan (or Plans) in Place!

The main motivating idea behind Pre-Call Planning is that customers will not always reveal needs, so we have to strategically ask questions to uncover them. We should always be thinking, “What next?” If you wait until the customer has a specific need, then the opportunity may come too late, or it may end up a bidding war with competition.

Sometimes customer needs are obvious and most often they need to be developed.  When you can uncover customer needs that they have not considered, you position yourself as a valued business partner.

Also, for all the times we arrive in someone’s voicemail box, be sure to have a plan for leaving a voice mail! Don’t ramble on, be natural and as conversational as possible, but convey your message sharply and concisely. You will find that thinking through the process and having a plan, rather than dialing for dollars will help you manage the fear. It will also help you anticipate objections. I am not recommending a script here, I am recommending a plan, and outline, or a cue card, because following an exact script might make you sound (you guessed it!) scripted.

Research, Research, and 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.

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. And respect your prospect’s time.

Lead with Value

Focus on the value your products or solutions might bring to your prospect. You will have time to talk about features and benefits of your offering, if your prospects show interest in details. Understand that not everyone wants to know or needs to know all the great features and benefits you have to offer if they see the value first.

People who have worked through our Consultative Sales Certification program know the difference. You only have a short period of time, perhaps 30 seconds (in New York maybe only 15 seconds!) to get your point across.

What is the value your prospect will gain when working with you? Is it saved time or money, or the ability to increase revenue? In the end, that’s what they care about most.

Be Relevant and Stay 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 time, 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 or referring to another organization = you’ll surely raise your reputation!) and get permission to stay in touch.

Let Your Prospects Do the Talking
Don’t rattle off a pitch, but start with an introduction and then shift into asking questions that relevant to your prospect’s business and industry. The more information you can extract from your prospects (personal and professional), the better equipped you will be to follow up and build a relationship. Use open-ended questions and try to avoid questions that will yield a “yes” or “no” answer.

Let your prospect do the talking.

Pick up the Phone!
Yes, that’s right – just do it! (After you’ve done your Pre-Call Planning!) 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 well-planned and executed phone calls will give you your biggest return on investment. It will pay off!

And finally, get help! There is many coaches out there who are able to help. Prospecting, cold calling, like all the other sales aspects can be learned. We teach sales professionals every day, even the ones who are very afraid.

And remember, practice not only makes perfect – Practice makes Permanent!

 

CRM could stand for – Come on – Retain Me

Posted on: September 25th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

Come on – Retain Me…….

…..should be the new acronym for CRM. Hardly any company that I am involved with as a consumer/customer actually uses their CRM, also known as Customer Relationship Management to have a relationship with me as a customer, unless the approach “don’t know who you really are but want to sell you stuff anyway”, falls into that category.

I see it over and over. Companies that have all my information, and I mean all my information (such as the company who manages my mortgage) – with the exception of my blood type – treat me like a prospect, NOT like a client.

My mortgage was sold (again!) to a company I had never heard of and they took the opportunity to (what else is new) sell me something. In this case it was a lower mortgage rate.

This would be a really intriguing concept if they would have actually reviewed my files, looked at my history and determined whether I was a good fit for such an offer.

Research is Essential – Even (or Especially) When You Call On an Existing Customer

But that would entail research and some upfront work, but instead the company decided to have sales people just dial for dollars and to call everybody who had been “switched” over to see if they were interested in a conversation.

It was very quickly apparent that the person who contacted me was using a list with probably thousands of names, rather than a CRM system that would indicate whether I was a good prospect or not.

Now, when it comes to cold calling on completely new prospects, it’s often very difficult to have high level conversations. The resources that we as sales people can use to determine a good fit are somehow limited. BUT when companies already have an existing client base and they are trying to up-sell, it should be mandatory to use all the information they have in their Customer Relationship Management system, shouldn’t it?

Not only do I find it a huge time-waster to speak with representatives of organizations who have all of my customer history and not use the information, it’s also insulting.

What Does It Say About Their Relationship to Me, The Customer?

It gives me the impression that I am just a number and they don’t really care.

If You Have a CRM System, Use It!

It feels like I have to write about this topic on a weekly basis – I’m thinking about my recent post about Salesforce.com – my experience with them NOT using their own product (!!) was a real shocker to me.

In the case of my mortgage company I don’t really have much choice, because I really don’t want to go through another refinancing scenario, whether it’s with this or another company. But, beware – all the other organizations who have my customer file (Cable, Wireless, Credit Cards, etc) – please do me the courtesy and Come on, Retain Me!

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.

5 Steps to overcome the fear of Cold Calling

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

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, there is always 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. We don’t want to be rejected. Actually, in my experience when you prepare properly before picking up the phone, the likelihood of somebody hanging up on you is really slim, 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. Prospecting, like all the other sales aspects can be learned. We work with sales professionals every day, helping them become more confident in what they do, even the ones who are very afraid. In our Consultative Sales Certification Program there is an entire module that is focused on prospecting new business.

http://www.getsalescertified.com/curriculum-expanding-your-business

Taking Sales Training Out of the Classroom

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

For over a decade I have been practicing Yoga and it’s helped me stay balanced, as much as one can expect from a Dominant D-Behavioral Type (or Type A Personality) like myself. It’s been a process to focus on my breathing, taking time out of my busy schedule to stretch myself to the limit, but it’s paid off. I am certainly calmer and more focused than 10 years ago.

Take Yoga off the Mat!

Years ago, one of my Yoga teachers kept saying: “What’s really important is that we take Yoga off the mat”.  At first I didn’t quite understand what she meant. But then, one day, I walked out of the Yoga studio onto the parking lot and one of my fellow Yoga practitioners almost drove into me. He was pulling out of his parking spot like Mario Andretti back in his days taking off from the pole position in a Formula One race.

That’s when it clicked. Taking Yoga off the mat means that you practice Yoga and the principles every single day. That means that you should be more mindful, enjoying the moment, breathing, etc.

Take Sales Training off the Mat (= out of the Classroom)

The same principles hold true when it comes to sales training. We need to take it out of the classroom. That’s why I am so passionate about our training model and process. Our Consultative Sales training program keeps the learners (= sales and service professionals) involved in the learning and real-life application process for 6 to 8 months. And I emphasize the importance of applying what they are learning.

It doesn’t matter how good sales training is, if it doesn’t impact with long lasting effects, it won’t make a discernible difference to a sales or service person’s performance.

But – and here comes the important part – the learner has to be willing to take the sales training out of the classroom. That means deliberately and strategically applying the principles of Consultative Selling every single day.

Persistence in Practicing Both Yoga & Sales

Most of the Yoga practitioners who attended the January session will be gone by April. Only the committed ones, the top performers (not that applies to Yoga) will stay the course. In sales it’s about performance, but we also have to be present, and breathing never hurts. Sustainable change however will only happen if we take sales training off of the “mat” – out of the classroom. It’s important to learn about and improve overcoming objections, handling stalls, cold calling and prospecting techniques, etc. I know many sales people who have read every single book ever written about sales. They follow thought leaders and read the newest articles. Some of them are top performers, but too many are just good “students”. And by that I mean, that they can theoretically talk about these concepts, but they can’t consistently and successfully apply them in real life.

And application is key to success. We see that in our sales training programs all the time. We ask participants to apply what they have learned. Their performance improvement is measured by their ability to transfer their knowledge to real live client interactions. Otherwise, spending time and money on training doesn’t make sense. It won’t have long lasting effects.

Whether it’s practicing Yoga or doing sales training, we will best succeed and achieve our goals when we are able to take our goals when we are able to take our practices out of the learning environment and know how to successfully apply them in the field.

5 Basics for Prospecting Fortune 1000 Companies

Posted on: November 21st, 2014 by Monika No Comments

In a consultative sales environment, companies that target Fortune 1000 prospects all struggle to stand out from the crowd. How will my sales people get the attention from these prospects? That’s really the big question that keeps all sales managers awake at night.

Some companies think that hiring as many sales people as possible, having them hit the phones and “dialing for dollars” will be the answer. At times they end up hiring “telemarketing” people or sales people who only work on a commission basis to play the numbers game.

But honestly, in today’s ever more competitive environment, do you want your sales efforts to be all about quantity? If you’re looking to stand out and embrace a consultative approach, you’ll agree with me that it’s really all about quality. Once you know who to target and what your unique positioning is, then you can ramp up the call/e-mail volume. But first you need to know how you can serve your prospects best and who your target is.

Be Consultative, Mindful and Relevant

A consultative sales approach starts with understanding what you want to say to your prospects.  Did you develop a message that will resonate with your audiences? Remember, in order for people to buy, your solution has to help them make money, save money or time, maximize their potential and achieve their goals or elevate their company’s or their own reputation.

Focus on Value, not Features and Benefits

Therefore a message focusing on the greatness of your product or service will most likely not be as effective. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and try to find out why you would buy your service. Your message needs to focus on the value to your decision maker. Most sales people lead with features or benefits and forget that their counterparts do the same. For example, good customer service is essential but hardly unique and certainly not a differentiator. Good customer service is also something that people take for granted. Every company with a service offering will claim to have good customer service, they certainly wouldn’t mention it if it sucked, would they?

A global presence on the other hand can be a differentiator, as long as it is important to your prospects.

In the End – People Buy from People

The next step is to develop a message or script that you as the sales person can own. If sales people don’t believe in the message they are communicating, they will come across as inauthentic. Prospects will feel that they being “sold to” rather than advised. As soon as a sales person sounds scripted, people will most likely lose interest. Even when you prospect Fortune 1000 companies you shouldn’t forget that it is people who are making decisions. People don’t like to be sold to, but they appreciate help. If you can offer something of value to them, it will help you build rapport and trust. Trust is essential in building relationships, on a personal and on a business level. Remember the old adage? Know – Like – Trust. Never forget that it is people you are targeting.

Who Are the Decision-Makers?

And then comes the really, really hard part. Who within the organization should you call on? In using a consultative sales approach, it is essential to be clear about and establish who the final decision-maker is or, more likely, who the decision-makers are.

In prospecting Fortune 1000 companies you will need to approach and build relationships with multiple decision-makers, or perhaps a committee making the decisions together. There will be different levels of decision-makers or buyer influencers. And if you want to stand out from the crowd, you’ll work to understand what is of value and relevance to each of these different influencers. Will they actually be using your solution? Will they be passing on recommendations to use your solution? Or, will they be making the final decision? – In other words, can they say “no”, when all others say yes?

Do Your Research & Be Relevant

A CFO will most likely respond to a message that will help him save money. A COO will be interested in optimizing workflow and a CTO will want to hear about the latest and best technology solutions. A CMO on the other hand will want to hear about the benefits that a technology solution will bring to optimizing marketing efforts and not the benefits of the technology itself.

Knowing who your decision maker is will help you customize your message and it will enable you to speak directly to their needs and the industry challenges. That is why research is essential when it comes to good prospecting.

We have documented time and again when applying a consultative sales approach, how important it is to be relevant (mention industry challenges) mindful (remember, it’s people we are targeting) and to do your research so you come across as a knowledgeable and professional advisor – not as some unqualified sales person trying to sell something.

Don’t Drive Your Customers Nuts! Always Touch Base with A Purpose!

Posted on: July 17th, 2014 by Monika 2 Comments

For convenience reasons I have my business account and my personal account with the same bank. And that’s not due to my deliberate choice. My previous bank was “swallowed up” by this much larger bank during the financial crisis a few years. Not a particularly good start to begin with, although it could have been a great opportunity for my bank on record to make a splash. Well, they didn’t (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog).

Are Sales and Customer Service the Same?
To me, customer service and sales are tightly interconnected. We teach that in our Consultative Sales Certification program. A good number of our clients offer solutions that are often viewed as commodities, such as logistics services, technology solutions, banking. The only differentiator is outstanding customer service, being in touch with your clients and truly understanding and fulfilling their needs. When you don’t serve your customers well, you probably won’t up-sell and in the worst case scenario, you might even lose them. That seems logical, doesn’t it?

The other day I got a call from the business specialist at my bank’s local branch. This is a person that I actually know because I approached him a couple of times with questions about on-line banking. Never, and I mean never has he asked me how happy I was with my experience at the bank or if he could help me with anything else other than tactical advice.

Do You Do Your Research Before You Pick up the Phone?
So, it was to my surprise when my business line rang the other day and that very person, “my” dedicated business advisor, called and wanted to know how I was doing. My first reaction was “That’s nice, they actually care”. That euphoric feeling only lasted a couple of seconds until I realized that he didn’t know who he was talking to. He didn’t connect the dots or didn’t have notes in his CRM system to realize that he had met me on numerous occasions. AND, he had also NOT done his research. A quick look at my LinkedIn page might have triggered his memory – my photo is there. People who have been following my blog know that I write about this all the time. Research, research, research. It’s one of the most important ingredients in successful selling. How are you supposed to add value if you don’t know who you are calling on?

Don’t Call Without a Purpose!
While a bit annoying, it wasn’t the reason why I am writing about this experience. After a very vague introduction to the effect of “Hi, I am your business advisor at your bank”, there was the general question of how my business was doing and whether he could do something for me. When I asked him what he had to offer, it turned out that he had nothing to offer. How could he? He knew NOTHING about my business!

There wasn’t a special promotion, or an offering that would fit my business needs. There was no purpose to the call. One could argue now that it was just a courtesy call, but the fact that he didn’t know who I was in combination with the fact that he knew nothing about my business just bothered me. Don’t get me wrong, it is very nice to check in with your existing customers and just say hello, but only if you actually know them!

Where Can You Find the Best Business Opportunities? … Your Existing Customers!
I am a customer for crying out loud. Look into your database, check my account history, then check my business and offer me something! If you don’t have anything to offer and you don’t know who I am, you are not only NOT adding value to my day, you are actually interrupting it.
Your existing customers are your best source for new business, but there is an art to it. Just calling and saying hello is certainly not the strategy for success.

Without a Purpose, it’s just a Missed Opportunity
We teach the participants in our training programs to prepare for calls, to do research and to have a plan of action. Even the most senior sales or customer service people shouldn’t wing it. It is so rare these days to get people on the phone, so if they actually do pick up – make it worth their time and make it worth your time otherwise it’s just a wasted business opportunity.

Courtesy in Sales Out the Window?!

Posted on: June 20th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

In sales, should courtesy be tossed out the window?

Recently, I have been following a LinkedIn discussion where the following question was posed?

When calling, should you ask a prospect whether it’s a good time to speak?
Living in a consultative sales world, and teaching the principles of a consultative sales process, to me the answer was simple. Yes. Being mindful is one of the core principles of consultative selling and it should be the core principle when doing business. Where do you stand?

Courtesy Rules
In my opinion, courtesy should never be ignored just to get to results. As a matter of fact, I would argue that the results could be short lived if you just want to get your point across at all costs.
We live in a world where people are looking at different indicators and measures, not only monetary gain and that’s a good thing in my view. Companies are starting to embrace business practices that show that they care. And it has been proven to help the bottom line whether it’s genuine or not.

Is Sales the Exception?
So, why do some people think sales should be the exception? What is the basis of their assumption that in the sales world we can ignore practices that have been proven to work in other business disciplines?
Nobody Wants to be Interrupted (or do you?)

In my many years of calling on C-Level executives, I firmly believe that when you interrupt somebody’s work day, you should always be courteous and professional – first and foremost. Asking your prospect if it’s a good time to speak and giving the person an option will not only leave a good impression, it will lead to a good conversation. If sales people just start off with a generic pitch – and “fast-talking” – they most likely won’t get the attention of the person they are actually trying to connect with. I know for myself that when people call me and start reeling off their pitch, I’m mainly annoyed. For the most part I don’t even listen to what they are saying. My goal is to get them off the phone.

Teach Your People Well, But Not to be Rude
One of the LinkedIn discussion participants even said that he is teaching his people to never ask that question because they then can’t get their point across and it only invites a “No, I don’t have time”. Making that point just leads me to believe this person has no confidence in the people she/he hires to present themselves confidently on the phone.
Of course it depends on the situation and maybe your introduction could start with a simple way of saying, “Hi, I won’t take much of your time. Would you mind listening to my short business introduction if this is a good time for you?” Wording, timing and applying common sense is essential, in life as well as in business. Teaching your salespeople to basically be rude certainly wouldn’t attract me to work for or with a company embracing that sales approach.

Desperation is a Bad Motivator
Salespeople who start off with a pitch in the fear they won’t gain attention can come across as desperate. And that’s one of the reasons why salespeople often have a bad reputation. One person in the LinkedIn discussion said that people should screen their calls and use caller ID to decide if they’ll take the call. Well, many unsolicited calls come in as “Unknown” on my caller ID, so do some calls from Europe. So I am always tempted to answer the phone because I wouldn’t want to miss a call from family or friends in Vienna, Austria, for example. Does that mean I should be punished with rude sales behavior for picking up?

Do Your Research & People will Listen
If you do your research and you know something about the company and the person that you are calling on, you will always be in a better position to open a dialogue. Also, if you introduce yourself via email and then call to follow up, your “cold call” won’t come across as completely out of the blue.

In closing, there are many ways to prospect effectively. I prospect every day on behalf of my clients with huge success. But ignoring courtesy is definitely not part of my recipe.