Entries from March 2008 ↓
March 28th, 2008 — Examples, Initial Communication
I’ve gotten several requests to provide a sample cold calling script that I use. We’ve given some sales tips in “Getting the initial sales appointment” that should alleviate much of your need to conduct cold calls – but it’s still an important part of your overall sales arsenal.
Some folks call this a script – I tend to call it a cheat sheet. The idea isn’t to memorize the text, but only to force yourself to think through a few scenarios and be able to talk confidently to get that first meeting.
For this example I’m going to stick with our now familiar package tracking technology example. The sales script is numbered to help put some structure to this. Here you go…
- Hello, this is [NAME] from [COMPANY], I’m hoping to talk to the head of the logistics department. (response) Great! Oh, before you transfer me, could you please give me the name and extension in case we get disconnected. Thank you so much for your help.1a. (If you get resistance here) Let me tell you just a bit about our technology and perhaps you could recommend what department I should be talking to. We have a product tracking technology so much more efficient than the RFID technology that you use now, it would save each of your stores over $1.25 million. I was assuming that this would be the logistics department, but perhaps you could steer me elsewhere?
- (Now transferred to the correct person) Hi Mr. Prospect my name is [NAME] from [COMPANY], I was hoping to set up a time to talk with you about our new product tracking technology that can be used to dry and wet goods from underwear to crinkled up bags of frozen chicken nuggets. Initial tests show it as 28% more efficient and by our calculations, it should save each of your stores about $1.25 million per year. (pause as long as needed here until Mr. Prospect talks)2a. (If you get resistance here) Look, I understand that you are extremely busy. I also understand the awesome responsibility that you have in tracking each and every product in each and every store on the globe and on every truck and in every warehouse. If you give me a ten-minute meeting and we can’t convince each other that there’s a possible match here, I’ll do the honor of throwing myself out the door. (again, long pause here)
Fantastic, I’m going to be somewhat in your area in two weeks, would you have 10-minutes the morning of the 22nd?
When he finally agrees to meet – anyone and everyone has 10-minutes to spare – it’s going to be tempting to keep him on the horn and ask more questions. Don’t. Just go prepare for your actual meeting. Love to hear your thoughts on this.
March 25th, 2008 — Examples, Propose Solution
In “Determining what a product or service is worth“, we eluded to an Excel tool that would automatically calculate what you should charge for your product or service. Of course we also gave the caveat to not blindly use the numbers provided – they are for reference only and the tool’s main goal is to make you think through each layer in your prospect’s company to figure out where you stand.
Well, here’s an example analysis – please leave a comment if you want the actual Excel file behind this post, I’ll shoot it right over your way.
Let’s suppose that you’ve spent several months selling an engineer on your gizmo, and you put together a $25,000 proposal and send it off in the mail to her. Then you sit back and cross your fingers. Your spirits are high because through hard work you know that the engineer values your product at $25,000 and that’s exactly what you charged – so it’s a no-brainer.
But what’s actually happening on the other end with your proposal?
The following table shows how your gizmo is valued by the various stakeholders and their respective pulling weight.
Plugging these values into the Perceived Value Equation yields a PV of $17,950. You’re $25,000 proposal suddenly looks 39% overpriced! Chances are that your proposed solution may solve the engineer’s problem, but the rest of the team has a smaller need and your gizmo is overkill. Your sale is in major trouble.
The following screenshot shows what this analysis might look like in the accompanying Excel file (again, leave a comment asking for the file if you want it).
March 21st, 2008 — Fact Finding
In “Ask the right sales questions“, we talked about the plethora of advice on the Internet for asking sales questions. Below are the top few Google results for “sales questions”. What a bunch of garbage – I’ll follow each Google result (in quotes) with a note on why I have such a problem with these prevalent sales questions.
- “Ask open ended questions”
- No kidding. What kind of sales advice is this? How could you use this in an actual sales call? You couldn’t.
- “You need to ask questions to qualify your prospects”
- Tempting to again say no kidding. But much of my teaching is to ask questions to disqualify your prospects, not qualify them. They need to be as worthy for your business as you need to be for theirs.
- “Don’t ask questions unless you know the answer”
- We’re salespeople not lawyers. And why would we bother asking questions if we already know the answers? Are those even questions then?
- “A good question from your salespeople helps focus and shape the direction in which your customer’s mind works”
- This one disgusts me so much that I don’t know where to start. If you have a mentor, trainer, boss, or co-worker that subscribes to this sales theory of manipulating customers into buying your product, get far away fast. This one really goes directly against everything I believe in – having high intent and always having your customer’s best interest at heart.
It is my sincere hope that through the posts and pages in this blog that the above sales myths are debunked and you begin to learn to hold your head high and be proud that you are a salesperson. In return you’ll always have a full and healthy sales funnel.
March 18th, 2008 — Initial Communication
In “Getting the initial sales appointment” we made mention of the fact that we need to disqualify our sales prospects as rapidly as possible. I think this strategy is worth a few more paragraphs to fully flush out the meaning of this counter-intuitive statement.
There is a slightly gray line that needs to be walked between disqualification and stupidity. I’ve seen some folks go way overboard here and lose business that they shouldn’t have.
One guy sat there and told a client “You wouldn’t want to buy that from us, we won’t be cost competitive.” He was trying to basically get them to beg him to sell to them. And this can work – but in this case he wasn’t the only player and he lost the business due to his arrogance. By the time I explained what he did wrong it was too late and the relationship was permanently strained.
Here is an example of what you might say to a prospect during the initial sales call to allow them to tell you that they might not be a qualified lead – and it gives you the lead-in to begin your disqualification questions. I’m sticking with the product tagging product that we often use here.
“Mr. Prospect, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to talk with you about your product tagging needs. I want to make sure not to waste any of your time, so at any point in this conversation please feel free to jump in and say that this doesn’t seem like a good fit – and we’ll stop right there. Also, instead of me jumping in and telling you all about our company and products, I’d like to start off with a few questions to make sure that I’m convinced that we can help you out.”
Once you’ve put them at ease and made them comfortable with the idea of telling you to hit the road, they will be more likely to open up and have a mutual discovery process to find out if they can actually use your product or service.
March 14th, 2008 — New Opportunity
In the post “Where do sales leads come from?“, contacting authors of relevant magazine and journal articles was pointed out as a path to new sales leads. We use this prospecting strategy quite heavily for the following four reasons.
- The author is obviously an expert in his field and is anxious to share his technical knowledge with the public – and you’re the public, so call and learn something from them.
- Authors are typically well known in their field – meaning that they have lots of contacts. If they don’t need your product or service, maybe one of their contacts do.
- The lead author is typically a senior technical person, so you’re hopefully starting the company prospecting at a high enough level.
- The lead author’s contact information is usually right there in the article – how easy is that?
When I come across a relevant article, I read it thoroughly and contact the author. They are almost always eager and proud to discuss their work. I explain what I do, give them my insights into their work and ask if I could have a few minutes of their time. The pitch goes something like this (assuming I’m selling titanium sheet).
Hi Dr. Schmo, I just read your “Properties of titanium sheet” article in Journal XYZ and was hoping that you’d have a few minutes to discuss it with me. [Sure, I’d be happy to.] Great, my name is Sam Salesman and I was intrigued by your correlations between sheet thickness and the structural modulus. I sell titanium sheet for a living and I never realized this correlation existed and would like to talk to my customers about this – so I’m hoping to get a better grip on your theories.
After talking with the technical team here, it looks like we have a product that would serve the customers that you alluded to. I thought it might be a nice project here to generate some data on our different offerings to supplement your research. [That would be fantastic, the more data the better.] If we provide some sheet samples, would you be able and willing to generate the data – you would have free and unlimited use of this data of course.
This is where the conversation ends for now. Note that I didn’t ask him to mail me his rolodex so that I could bombard his contacts with calls and brochures. I’m trying to build a solid relationship with him first. If it turns out that I’m correct and our material performs well, he will do two things: (1) write about it and mention that I provided the material to him, and (2) give me a list of people that would be interested in hearing from me.
Providing me with a contact list is now aligned with his best interest. He will help his contacts and he knows that what he will recommend to them will actually perform as promised. Asking for referrals before he has trust and confidence in me and my product is a much tougher sell – of course sometimes you have no choice.
March 11th, 2008 — Initial Communication
In Getting the initial sales appointment, we begin to stress the point that you need to start as high in your prospect’s company as possible for the initial contact. When you start high, one of two outcomes are likely. Either (a) the contact will give you immediate buy-in, or (b) they will point you to the correct subordinate to talk to – this is the most likely scenario.
Let’s imagine that you contact Susan, VP of Logistics at Wal-Mart to sell your new tracking hardware. She tells you to “Talk to Larry, he’s in charge of innovative logistical technologies.” Now when you talk to Larry, you can say “Susan thought that our new tracking technology was interesting enough for further consideration and suggested that I contact you to see how we should move forward.”
Well if Larry’s boss said to look into it, you better believe Larry will look into it.
There is a key word in the above quotation. Note the use of “how we should move forward” instead of “if we should move forward.” Subtle indeed, but a very powerful difference.
Consider the alternative of starting with Larry. He’s a busy workhorse that already has a solution that no one is complaining about, why would he want to spend time evaluating a relatively unknown technology. You’re now dead. A company’s top brass consider themselves as ambassadors to the public and most often won’t immediately shoot you down.
A quick story to illustrate this point. I invented a garden product a few years ago that allowed those of us with challenged green thumbs to create our own little garden patch in five minutes. Users didn’t even have to remove the grass or sod from the ground. Anyway, I wanted to try to team up with Pennington Seeds to provide seeds and help distribute the product. Now Pennington has sales of well over $1 billion and I was at that time probably selling about $5,000 worth of product. Doesn’t seem like I had much of a chance of even talking to the right person.
I did my research and read their annual reports and got the CEO’s name, but the only number I had was their corporate headquarter number. How could I possibly get through to such a busy man who had to have five gatekeepers guarding his phone all day? Simple, call when the gatekeepers aren’t there, but not in the middle of the night when it’s painfully obvious that that’s what I’m doing. I called very early in the morning and got the automated phone system that let me put in the CEO’s name to get his extension, but it didn’t tell me his number, it just dumped me in his voice mail – no matter this is my big shot.
“Hi, I’m in the process of launching a new gardening product that allows green thumb challenged consumers to take seeds and create a garden plot right over their existing lawn. I’m not calling to make a sales pitch, and I know that you are extremely busy – I’m just hoping that you can spare a few minutes of your time to talk with me and tell me if you think my idea is crazy or not. I have initial sales that seem to point to an exciting future, but would truly value your experienced opinion before I invest too much more money into the project. My name is Eric Bono and here’s my number – I would be so appreciative if you would give me a return call at any time that may be convenient for you.”
I got a call that night at about 11:00 as he was driving home from the airport. He didn’t talk long but gave me the right person in the company to talk to. Bingo.
This is getting slightly lengthy, but I can’t pass up this opportunity of relaying a story told to me by a good friend. He worked in the marketing department and was getting a lot of calls from designers, printers, mailers, etc. pushing their services on him. He teamed up with the IT guy and set up a voice mailbox for a fake person called Tom for the receptionist to send these hopeful vendors to. The messages that were left were hysterical. One of the most common was along the lines of “Hi, Tom, not sure if you remember or not, but we met last year at a networking event. Anyway, I’m calling ….” That is absolute gold. I tried to talk him into putting the recording on-line for the world to enjoy, but he was afraid of legal ramifications. My point here is to be sincere and honest with folks – don’t forget that they’re people too.
March 7th, 2008 — Initial Communication
In Getting the initial sales appointment, we talked about the importance of gathering background information before you dive into a sales call.
What you’re looking for in the information gathering session is an “in” into your prospect’s heart. Let’s say that you developed a novel technology that will make RFID tracking a thing of the past and you want to roll it out with the world’s largest retailer Wal-Mart.
So in preparing for your initial call to the logistics department, do you need to memorize that Wal-Mart is projected to add 170 super centers in two years? (note that super centers carry groceries unlike their standard discount stores) No, but you do need to understand that Wal-Mart is moving toward all super centers and away from standard discount stores. And it just so happens that your technology works fine on crinkled up bags of frozen chicken nuggets while the competition was designed for standard square boxes above freezing temperatures.
There’s your in.
What I’m getting at here is the fact that you need to find out how you can add value to your prospect’s organization before you call. Otherwise you’re stuck with a complete cold call and that typically isn’t a fun thing to do. So we’re going to assume here that you at least know that your product can be used by your prospect and you’re never in a position where you have to ask, “Would something like this interest you?”
This procedure of finding an in and leveraging it to get your prospect to beg you for more information is the same whether you’re selling high-tech gizmos or bath soap. So go out there and get your in.
March 4th, 2008 — Account Maintenance
Ah, the bottom of the barrel, err I mean the funnel.
Have you ever heard of the expensive Italian alcoholic beverage grappa? Grappa is a potent brandy that was first described to me as “the sludge left behind after the wine is poured out of the barrel.” This may be a stretch from an analogy point of view to the bottom of our sales funnel, but the point remains valid.
After you pour out your sales, don’t leave anything behind.
Like many of our white papers, the problem here is actually an opportunity. And in this case, it’s a golden opportunity ripe for the picking. We left off in our last article discussing how to accept purchase orders and walk them through your fulfillment process. As illustrated in the following figure, once that order is processed and delivered, you can churn your customer back through the funnel and into another sale. In fact, this layer is absolutely essential to the success of your sales career and your subsequent compensation level.
Recycling Sales Advantages
As our world has become vastly more environmentally conservative and focused on green initiatives and developed technologies to recycle just about anything, why not recycle your customers? Why not indeed. This recycling program is beneficial to both you and your customers.
Sales Recycling Advantages For Your Customer
In the beginning of your relationship with your customer, they spent a lot of time, energy, and money thoroughly reviewing what you were offering and comparing it to your competition. Think of all the time they spent with you and in reviewing your offerings. Now multiply that by at least three to account for competition analysis.
After a few successful sales cycles, however, your customer begins to become loyal to you and short circuits the sales funnel by trimming out the top two layers and actually coming to you with new opportunities. Think how easy it would be to call on a customer that you’ve saved a million dollars for and say something like, “Tom, we have just finished a complementary product to our Widget line that should offer you similar savings potential, would you be available next week for a visit?” You’ll win that appointment every time.
I’m fond of saying that as long as your boss is ethical and responsible; your job description can be summed up in five words, “make your boss look good.” In sales, your customer is your boss. If you make them look good, they get rewarded and will be grateful to you – in fact they might become dependent on you.
Sales Recycling Advantages For You
A look at the short circuited sales funnel makes it quite clear what your advantages are in this layer. You don’t have to ever qualify this customer again. Sure you might have to qualify their opportunities to make sure they fit within your abilities, but that’s the fun part of sales.
You are able to leverage your past success into larger and more profitable endeavors because of the level of trust they now place in you. Trust is an awesome responsibility and you probably already know what I’m going to say next. Make sure that you don’t lose sight of keeping your client’s best interest at heart. While it may take years to build up this trust, one misstep and it can be lost in an instant.
Building trust is a funny thing. Let’s say that you deliver a brilliant solution for the first sales cycle and you’ve been rewarded for that by receiving a follow-on order. Now, you find out that delivery of raw materials is delayed by three weeks and you are going to fumble delivery on this second order. By placing the customer call early and explaining what happened (and taking responsibility for it), you will actually continue to build that trust and not shatter it. Will they be happy about the schedule slip, probably not, but they will trust that you are honest and that your quality is worth the extra wait.
Sales Recycling Steps
It’s difficult to put together a generalized chronological series of steps for recycling customers through the sales funnel because of industry and company specific issues, but we’ll take a crack at outlining the basic components here in no real particular order.
- Wait until the first sale comes to a successful close. This item is really paramount. How can your customer trust you if you haven’t delivered anything yet? Once one sale is successful, however, feel free to run wild in series rather than in parallel with future orders.
- Have a written account maintenance plan for each account. It can be as simple as having a spreadsheet with the following items:
- problems you’ve uncovered or at least have a sense of. This will be easier and easier as you become more familiar with your client and they invite you into their inner sanctum.
- possible solutions that you have related to problems you know about. These solutions should match up with the problems or potential problems that you listed from the above bullet.
- possible solutions that you have to problems you don’t know about. This is the old “answer searching for a question” that everyone will tell you is crazy – ignore them. Let your customers know of new technologies you’ve developed even if you don’t know of an immediate need for it. This is one of the beauties of having a trusting foundation to build upon. You could never just cold call someone and blab on and on about new technologies, but if they have a reason to trust you, they’ll at least listen and see if they might have a fit for it. This is a key item here; you might want to re-read it.
- Get to know as many people as possible in their organization, keep asking questions about what keeps them up at night. Dig, dig, and dig. You now have an enormous advantage over your competition that is trying to cold call their way in the door.
- Ask to spend the day at their plant using your product. You want to be treated like a floor engineer or technician, on the line in production. This will provide you with three key advantages.
- It is a great way for you to uncover new problems or at least make your product more user friendly.
- It gives you a golden opportunity to talk to the technicians on the front line who are actually using your product every day. This is invaluable information that is extremely difficult to gather any other way. How often do you see a technician in a brainstorming session? Sadly, hardly ever.
- It will give your customer a true sense that you are willing and able to make continuous improvement in your products and that your customer service is unparalleled.
- Anticipate when your customer will need to reorder. If their typical order cycle is once every six months, your competition is probably calling on them every six months. You need to call in five months to secure the reorder before the competition has a chance to even bid on it. You can also offer a discount if they agree to be set up on an automatic reordering program.
- Try to stay on the top of their minds. This can be done through numerous media, some of the most commonly used are:
- Monthly newsletters
- RSS feeds on blogs
- Press releases to sources that they read
- Sending them items of interest when you happen to come across them (I’ve been know to track my customer’s industries closer than they do so that I can send them ‘breaking news items’ before they hear about them)
- Sending them unexpected small gifts (for example I have a client that loves Skyline Chili, when I’m out in the Cincinnati area, I pick up a case for him)
- Conference talks
- Trade shows
- Journal papers
- After you’re really engrained (and you might only have one or two clients in your sales funnel that you could do this to), set up a visit to them and their entire technical team. This visit will consist of the following two conversations:
- You pitch new or unused technologies and let them percolate in their minds, just seeking for a problem to be solved. This goes against almost any sales writings that you will read, but I’ve seen it work time and time again – but I’ll repeat that you only should do this with your very best customers. The conversations that will start from your presentation can last for hours.
- You sit there while they talk about their problems that need to be solved. This is a little more difficult to pull out of them because they won’t be sure what you want to hear, and no one likes to openly admit their problems and issues.
- Reward repeat buyers. This isn’t something that I typically recommend doing unless it’s in retail or consumer services (think hotels). Your product or service doesn’t lose value just because someone ordered it a third time. I’d try to steer clear of this one. You’ll be giving up margin and setting up a dangerous precedent for future dealings.
- Provide great service. This should go without saying. I’ll illustrate with a simple example. Say that you provide raw material. When you ship it, you put the MSDS along with the packing slip in a sealed plastic envelop on the outside of your shipping container. Mr. Customer calls and says “you didn’t send me an MSDS” even though you know it’s true, you don’t respond “it should have been with the packing slip”, rather you say “would you like it faxed or emailed to you Mr. Customer?”