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Posts Tagged ‘prospecting’

Who is Your Audience?

Posted on: November 14th, 2016 by Monika No Comments

Understanding who your audience is will shorten your sales cycle and make you more effective. It will also help you maximize your time and be more relevant to the people you engage.

The other day I got a connection request from LinkedIn. The person’s profile was very scarce, because the young lady had just started out in sales and the reason I accepted her request was simple.

“I am on a mission to elevate the reputation of sales and its practitioners”

so what better opportunity than being connected with a person who is starting this difficult career.

A couple of days after I connected with her she sent me a request through LinkedIn offering her service (what else is new?). The email contained the following phrase:

My guess is before you retire you’ll probably change jobs…which means you’ll go a “recruiting process” about 100 times. It’s like professional frog kissing… and there’s always one slimy one.

Who is your Audience?

Aside from the fact that the email missed a word (through), the proposition was fairly attractive. Very politely I wrote back (because I believe in business courtesy) that I was not interested, because of my background (which she should have researched before sending the email).” I am not a sales person looking for a job, but a business owner, so the offer is not relevant to me” was my response.

At that point, the only appropriate answer to me should have been a nice “Thank you for clarifying“.

BUT, there was another email that landed in my inbox just the next day, stating the following:

I understand! Thanks so much for your response, in fact “”thank you but I’m not interested”” is our most common response. When you have 90 seconds, check this video.

It’s not that I am not interested, I am not your target audience!

At that point I decided to write this blog, because there is a pattern here and readers of my articles know that I usually pick topics that showcase common mistakes or misunderstandings.

Being not interested is quite different from not being qualified.

So, what are the differences?

Sometimes, service offerings are very compelling, really suited for my business needs but I might not be interested because of budget restraints, not having enough time to look at the offering, or any other valid reason that keeps me from pursuing the offer.

It ain’t me babe!

Not being qualified for a service offering means that the person who approaches you didn’t do their research. They don’t know enough about you and/or your company, or you are not the decision maker for the product/service offering.

If you don’t do your research as a sales person, you might end up targeting people who are not qualified to begin with. This young lady was obviously trained to search out contacts on LinkedIn, using the keyword “sales” and not qualifying them any further.  Qualifying potential buyers is key when prospecting for new business.

Too many sales people spend way too much time chasing prospects that are not a good match for their service offering. That’s why some sales pipelines are dry, because too much time is spent to engaging with the wrong audiences.

Don’t be a time waster to yourself or others

When prospecting, develop a prospect avatar so you understand who is qualified for your service offering and determine who is not. This will not only help you prospect more effectively, it will also keep you from being a time waster to the people you target.

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 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.

In Sales: There’s Nothing to Fear, but Fear Itself!

Posted on: October 31st, 2013 by Monika No Comments

I sit in on many sales meetings with and for my clients and the focus is usually on numbers, prospects to pursue, accomplishments, etc. And while this is important, my belief is that it would be of additional help to management and sales teams if there were discussions about the “softer” areas of the sales process.

People buy from people and sometimes we don’t make numbers because there are deep underlying issues simmering. It’s hard to admit it, but we all have been afraid at times. Afraid to buy or afraid to sell. There is no shame in it. The sooner we understand the psychology of a process, the faster we will be able to face those feelings and to adjust our behavior. To borrow one of FDR’s most quoted statements that will forever hold true, ”There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

If you don’t overcome buyer fears, you won’t succeed.

We need to understand and acknowledge a buyer’s fears in order to help our clients and prospects overcome that feeling and move forward. The most common fears are:

Fear of Paying Too Much – It’s vital to understand how important a buyer’s perception is and how it can affect your success.  Clients and prospects alike want to know that they have been able to get close to your bottom line.

Fear of Change – The fear of change is a very real fear for many buyers.  When someone is comfortable with the product or service they have been using for years, making a change to a new product or service is threatening to most people.

Fear of What Others Will Say or Making a Mistake – I dare to say that almost all of us wish to avoid ridicule.  Most clients and prospects are going to make sure that if they move to a new product or service, there won’t be a negative focus on their decision by their peers or their boss.

What can you do to help your prospects and customers overcome Buyer Fears?

  • Fear of Paying Too Much
    • Obviously, no one wants to pay too much for a product or service. It’s vital to understand how important a buyer’s perception is and how it can affect your success. But what does it really mean to pay too much? Clients and prospects alike want to know that they have been able to get close to your bottom line.
    • So, how do you deal with this?  How you talk about price (or their overall investment) and how you negotiate is very important. When speaking about their investment, stress the overall value that they will receive instead of the benefits or features.
    • In negotiating, make sure that the buyer will give something in return for each concession that you make. You definitely want to maintain your price integrity. This also supports your goal of the buyer realizing you don’t have a lot of leeway to radically reduce pricing.
    • Learn with our Consultative Sales Certified Training Program how to truly stand out as a top negotiator with our e-Learning Module: Negotiating For Impact
  • Fear of Change
    • The fear of change is a very real fear for many buyers.  When someone is comfortable with the product or service they have been using for years, making a change to a new product or service is threatening to most people. Change is harder for some than others.
    • So, how would you be able to deal with this? Use persuasion strategies aimed at calming fears of change. Make use of strategies to gain commitments and close the sale that match your customer’s or prospect’s buying psychology.
    • Some buyers see value in retaining a major portion of what works well and only changing minor areas that call for improvement.
    • Others prefer to see major change and improvement but wish to keep some things that do work well
  • Fear of What Others Will Say or Making a Mistake
    • I dare to say that almost all of us wish to avoid ridicule.  Most clients and prospects are going to make sure that if they move to a new product or service, there won’t be a negative focus on their decision by their peers or their boss.
    • So, how can you deal with this? Stress how your product or service has helped other similar companies enhance and/or improve their products or services. Suggest a final meeting with your contact’s associates or supervisors to reassure that everyone is on board with the change.

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..

Sales & Metrics – What Are We Really Measuring?

Posted on: August 23rd, 2012 by Monika No Comments

As a consultative business development specialist my clients often ask me to provide metrics on my sales efforts. Fair enough, but what do they really mean?

In too many cases metrics are used to measure quantity of activity rather than progress.
For me it’s always important why we measure and to work toward an objective.
What’s more important for you? – Keeping nice, neat spreadsheets with lots of entries that might please the CEO or results that reflect a meaningful process and real progress toward closing sales?

Does Quantity Matter?

There is this widely-held misconception that quantity in sales is the key to success.
It’s important, but only when it is tied to a process. It’s certainly not THE key to success.
If it were, all those high volume sales callers would be way ahead of the pack.
First of all, we need to understand who our ideal prospect is, what industry they live in and why they would want to buy from us. Secondly, we need to find the decision maker/buyer within the target company and then we can start counting. It is meaningless, in my opinion, even wasteful to pick up the phone or shoot off an e-mail to just any company in your CRM without understanding who they are and why they would be a good fit. You might get lucky and make some progress, but it will take a long time to actually gain traction.

So, how many calls should I make?
Sales metrics, as my experience has shown me, should be tied to results and to results only.
It really doesn’t matter how many phone calls, e-mails or marketing touches you make.
All that matters is that every action you set will take you a step closer to closing the sale.
Activity is important but only if it’s streamlined, targeted and measured against a clear objective.
A sales person who makes 500 client touches a week and never gets to go on a qualified sales presentation or meeting will most likely never make a sale. On the other hand, sales people who work smart will research a great deal, find out about their prospects and then make fewer calls, followed by well written customized emails. And these sales people will open up doors faster.
These are sales professionals who employ consultative selling strategies.

The SMART Funnel

There is a reason why we compare the sales process to a funnel. So, in a cutting-edge version of the funnel, we start with a large (or wide) number of potential prospects, and then we tighten the funnel with research. Every interaction with the targeted prospects will lead to tightening the funnel more. And if planned and executed well, will take us a step closer to a sale. Yes, quantity is important when keeping your sales funnel full, but all the activity in the world will not help you close if you don’t work toward and measure actual results.

Reports or Real Results?
Whenever my clients ask me to provide results reports, I always ask them what they plan to do with them. I ask questions like: Do you hold your sales people accountable for setting up a follow-up meeting after the first meeting? What is planned to happen after the first meeting? Are there next steps arranged? Do we know more about the prospect than we did prior to the meeting? Do we know the decision-making and purchasing process? What is the budget cycle? Who is the decision maker? Who do they currently work with? And so on.
These are questions that not only help qualify a prospect further, but are also essential to compiling data for future prospecting. Don’t ask your sales people to just put numbers on a spreadsheet.
Make sure the numbers show progress in developing business, deepening business relationships. The numbers should show a path to increased revenue and not just increased activity.

Pro-Choice! 3 Steps to A Better Sales Process!

Posted on: July 11th, 2012 by Monika No Comments

In politics a very hot topic, but here it’s about giving your prospects a choice! A choice to say “Yes” or “No” quickly and safely.

Sales is a process, especially in a consultative sales environment and it starts with choosing the right prospect.

1) First, we need to research and target a prospective client company (Is it a good fit? Is it a good use of our time?)

2) Then we need to find the decision maker within that organization. Once we have that information, we can safely assume (looking from the outside in) that the person we are targeting could be a good prospect for our service offering.

3) The next step is to craft a message that will resonate. It should be succinct, to the point and relevant to our audience.

Recently, I was planning a trip to a southwest state capital. We are implementing a sales training program for a client in that area. My thinking was, why not tag on a number of sales meetings? This way I can make more use of my plane ticket and the 5-hour travel time.

While I was crafting my e-mail copy I remembered a best practice that I used a couple of years ago, but had forgotten since then. In one of my mastermind mentor groups we had recently discussed the importance of this practice for both the prospect as well as the service provider.

It is the art of having a prospect choose you based on selected criteria that you apply. It’s an easy way to get to a quick “no” if they don’t fit the criteria, but also a sure way for prospects who are a good fit for your service offering to select you.

Here is how it works.

In my email I pointed out that I would be traveling to the area where they are located at the end of the month. (First criteria: they need to be located in the area and available at that time)

Then I continued to describe what my clients generally have in common. Here’s a partial list:

1) Their revenue is at least $10Mio.

2) They are sales oriented and have at least one (ideally more) sales locations.

3) They embrace or would like to embrace a consultative sales approach.

May I share with you what happened?

I reached out to 50 companies. I had two responses and they both resulted in meetings. Qualified, good meetings.

One of the prospects immediately e-mailed me back saying,

“I got your e-mail, I visited your website and it looks like there could be a fit. Let’s meet”.

The reason why many of my existing clients are reluctant to do the “self-select” messaging, I believe, is a very simple and human one.

They are afraid to miss out.

And now that I think about it, that was probably the reason why I had “forgotten” my own best practice.

Deep down we all feel that quantity is one of the keys to success. The more, the better.

It’s what we have been taught. It’s all around us in the media, advertising, marketing.

Almost brainwashed! But not completely!

And it really couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to utilizing a consultative sales model.

The more targeted your approach, the better. The more you invite rejection or silence (no responses), the higher the likelihood that the meetings you book will be of high quality.

Why? Because your prospects will be very clear of who you are looking for in a future client.

I would gladly add another day or two to meet with prospects on my training trip to the southwest.

It means potential new business!

If the meetings are not qualified however, it could end up being a waste of my precious, already strained time.  But most importantly, it could be a waste of my prospect’s time and leave a bad impression.

We’re here to serve – not to force ourselves on others. If we decide to be selective and targeted, our prospects will appreciate it and we will end up with better meetings.

BUT, there will be a lot of silence and the response rate will be a lot lower. On the other hand, you will be running a lot fewer empty miles.

For some sales people it’s hard to live in silence. Can you handle it?

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!

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.

Sometimes a “no thanks” is an opportunity to build trust

Posted on: March 21st, 2012 by Monika 1 Comment

In a consultative sales environment it is important to manage expectations and to understand that the sale will happen on your prospect’s terms and not when you want it to happen. This is true in pretty much any sales situation but it is essential in a long-term sales prospecting scenario.

No is the second best answer when you prospect new business

Why?

Because it can help you build the trust and it will assist you in opening a dialogue with the prospect where you can be of assistance and add value.

Let’s paint a scenario. You are selling a software that enables clients to streamline production. Your prospect responds to your outreach saying that they are not interested in a conversation right now because they already work with a trusted company. This is your opportunity to congratulate your prospect on the fact that they already work with a company that helps them in that area and it is an opportunity to ask for permission to reach out again. Should they agree (and in 90% of the cases they do), make it your goal for the three to  six months to arm your prospect with information about your company and your service offering. Don’t just call back  checking the pulse and trying to get another meeting. This is your chance to build a relationship and trust.

How?

You can send your prospect relevant information on your company, such as case studies. Or, whenever you come across information that might be relevant to your prospect, such as media coverage on your company or news on developments relating to the prospect, make a phone call or send an email.

Add value in your communication and be personal. Weave in personal messages as long as they are relevant. If you know that your prospect is a football fan, you can reach out when their favorite team plays the Superbowl. If you happen to know that your prospect is a movie buff, mention a movie that you find intriguing asking for her/his opinion. The most important thing is to be authentic and not “salesy”.  As long as you come from a place of integrity and authenticity you will be successful in building a trusting relationship.

This doesn’t mean that you will win the contract when it is up for renewal, but it will certainly increase your chances to be considered. People like to work with people that they know and trust. But trust is something that needs to be built, it doesn’t happen overnight. Many sales people make the mistake of only communicating with their prospects when they feel that a sale could be made. From a prospect perspective it doesn’t feel genuine . When you show interest in your prospect during times where no sale can be made, that’s your chance to turn a No into a Maybe and eventually into a Yes (if your offering is suited for your prospect’s needs). During the times where you build your relationship you can also gain valuable insights on your prospect’s needs, such as their role within the organization, who they report to, what their budget is and so much more.

When does a No really mean No?

When you are not targeting the right person within the organization.  It is key for you to find out if the solution/product that you are offering is something the decision maker you are targeting is interested in and/or authorized to buy.

The lesson to be learned is that a No doesn’t necessarily mean that your prospect will never buy from you. All it means that the timing wasn’t right or the circumstances didn’t align. The key is to target the right person within the organization and to understand their needs and objectives. Time will work in your favor as long as you are professional, mindful and consultative.