Archive for July 2010

Cold Calling Step 6: Transforming the Sales Script into a Voice Mail that Gets Returned Calls

July 30, 2010

A script works great if you have the opportunity to speak directly to the targeted prospect. More often than not, you will end up in a voice mail.

Many people view this as the worst possible scenario. However, this can be a real opportunity because you have approximately an uninterrupted minute to present the reason why your prospect should return your call.

And once again, this is why crafting your business benefits is so important. I choose to organize my benefits so that I can leave three or four rated but modestly different voice mails.

The initial voice mail message should focus on your core benefits message. Go with what you believe to be the strongest benefit and briefly explain how you deliver that value. If you have a source of outside validation – as in a recognition or award from a third party or even the names of some leading industry companies who are using your solution – mention that as well. It will add to your solution’s credibility.

Remember, everyone wants to lead, but few want to be first.

And always, in every message, leave your name, company name and telephone number spoken slowly, clearly and repeated at least twice.

Your subsequent messages should provide your core benefits plus an additional one that might be of interest. This keeps the message fresh. Remember, also to leave information about how your solution works so that the solution can resonate with the prospect.

If you do not get return calls, you may want to then leave a web site where the prospect can learn more about your solution.

Recognize also that even though you think you have the appropriate target, you might not. If after all of this calling, you still have not received a return call, suggest that the prospect might want to forward you to someone more appropriate. This allows the prospect to get you to stop calling and it provides you with a warm lead. You now can call the next person and state that you were referred by the initial prospect. In many cases, this referral statement generates a return call.

So how many calls are required in order to get a return call?

I have found the threshold number to be around seven calls over a three-week period. This tells the prospect that you are enthusiastic about reaching them because you have something you believe to be valuable – you can even say that in one of your calls – and that you are very committed to reaching them.

These calls must follow one another closely, which is why I suggest that a three-week period is appropriate. You also do not want to develop into a stalker.

If, after all of this, you do not receive a call back, you can and should stretch the time frame out to two and three weeks between calls.

In all cases and no matter how many times you get voice mail, your message should be friendly upbeat and positive. The prospect has to feel that it is safe to call you back. Any message that makes it appear “unsafe” will negate all of your previous efforts.

Cold Calling Step 5: Identifying the Right Person for Your Sales Presentation

July 23, 2010

All too often, we limit the equation of success to having a product with specific benefits and a compelling presentation. But if your presentation is conveyed to the wrong audience, it will be met with boredom and disinterest.

Some “sales gurus” will advocate that you should present to the highest level you can reach within an organization. But what do you do if, frankly, your product or service is too granular in scope to engender interest from the highest levels of the organization?

That is why you need to identify the person who has a vested interest in the product or service that you are advocating.

Finding such a person is not that difficult. For this particular campaign, I acquired a directory of health care organizations within my specific target market. These directories listed the senior leadership. There were two potential roles that would likely be interested in this product. Where the product would have value was dependent on the organizational design and structure.

I decided to call both. I recognized that the person that I called might not be the appropriate person so I decided to employ two tactics. The first was to explain in detail in voice mail the compelling benefits and why this would be interest. Where I could not get into voice mail – where a gatekeeper blocked me or where I could only leave a message – I employed a second tactic.

In these circumstances, I leveraged the lessons from Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. (Please note: I have reviewed this book on this site. Search Cialdini if you wish to understand his work in a few short posts)

Knowing that people naturally liked helping others, I courteously and passionately asked if I could be directed to the right person and explained what my product provided. An overwhelming number provided me with the name and the number of the person I should be contacting. Additionally, I now had a referral to bring to the discussion as indeed I was being advised to call a particular person. My cold call was transformed into a warm lead.

A brief digression…

Personally, I am very comfortable employing this approach. When I represent an exciting new product that can make a difference, I view what I am providing as a unique opportunity for my prospect. If my product allows them to deliver better value to their clients…well, what could be better than that?

Additionally, with cold calling, there is a unique challenge. Your prospect likely doesn’t know that your product exists so he or she can’t seek you out. In fact, by providing a compelling benefit and solution, you, the salesperson, are opening new horizons and possibilities for your prospect. By making their company more competitive, efficient or valuable, you are contributing to the well being of their clients, employees, families and the overall marketplace and economy.

This is why sales, if done appropriately, is a very noble profession.

Back to the topic at hand…

I have found that it takes, on average, at least seven calls to the same prospect over a three-week time frame to get a call back. This is because the prospect needs to know that you are so enthusiastic about the offering that you are presenting and you will not go away without a response.

As to what that intriguing voice mail sounds like…that is the subject of our next post.

Cold Calling Step 4: Getting Your Voice

July 18, 2010

Having prepared your script does not mean that your presentation is in any way refined nor that you are ready to begin the cold calling campaign.

There is a reasonable (some would say, likely) chance that the script that you have prepared is somewhat off target. To get closer to the mark, you will need to expose the script to the target market and get  valuable feedback so you may refine your presentation.

This means making some initial calls to test the script and discover your “voice.”

When a script has been completed, there may be as many as five or six bullets in the vista section. More than likely, the prospect will not listen as you rattle off a checklist of benefits. But testing what you feel to be the best two or three key selling points will allow you to discover if what you are saying resonates with the prospect.

If you are not garnering interest, you’ll hear comments that open up other possibilities. Sometimes, the prospect will share what is truly valuable to them. The key though is to approach these conversations with an eye towards discovery. This is an evolutionary process and the intention at this juncture is to learn.

Since your “voice” is not yet polished, it is always a good idea to start testing your script with the fringes of the target market.

I like to call prospects that have just enough size and interest to make the target list but aren’t within the center of the targeted group. This allows me to educate myself with a prospect that is not a likely purchaser but still has insight from which knowledge may be gained. And if the call is not successful, the probability that I have lost an important prospect is low since the prospect was not a primary candidate.

You will also learn about another key area and that is the common objections section. At this stage, it is appropriate to be rejected. Listen carefully to these objections, as it will allow you to prepare responses for them so that when you hear them again, you are prepared with a way to address them.

And of course, with practice, you will gain familiarity with your script. This will allow you to present naturally and conversationally and thus convey with confidence the value of your product or service.

Cold Calling Step 3: Creating the Presentation Script

July 14, 2010

When it comes to cold calling, there is tremendous value in organizing one’s thoughts in advance.

Doing so in writing has significant advantages including (1) being better prepared as to what you wish to convey, (2) thinking you are better prepared which translates into being able to speak with greater confidence, (3) establishing a baseline so that you can emphasize what resonates and eliminate what doesn’t and (4) being able to actively listen because you are no longer concerned about inadvertently not mentioning something important.

My mentor, Carl Epstein, taught me an exceptional scripting tool, which I would like to share with you in today’s post. There are several elements in the structure of this type of script. These scripts should be written in bulleted form so that it does not sound like you are reading it and because bulleted writing typically eliminates excess or needless words.

Here are the elements:

(1)    Introduction: This is simply an opening statement of courtesy and may be as simple as “We haven’t spoken in a while. I wanted to catch up with you and share with you what we are doing and see if we can help you advance your business.”

(2)    Vista: This section is where we bring in the business benefits. In essence, you are “painting the future” here. Effectively introducing the value that your product or service provides early on is critical in encouraging your prospect to invest more time in hearing the rest of your presentation. They choose to listen because your product or service may be addressing a real need for them.

(3)    Product / Service Information: This is where you speak in detail about the key elements of your service or product. The purpose of this section is to connect the business benefits to your offering. The prospect should be able to realize the direct relationship between your product and the benefits that he or she is hoping to receive.

(4)    Action of Buyer / Reason for Action: However, just in case the prospect can’t, it is critical to reintroduce the benefits and tie them tightly to your offering. Here you review what you offer and connect it to the business value.

(5)    Ask for the Order: It is here that you present the request for the “next step.” It could be the order or a meeting or a demonstration but, regardless, it is imperative that you be clear about what you are requesting and that you make a definitive request.

(6) Common Objections: The last element is to prepare a list of common objections and responses. Before you begin and even more likely, after you have made a few calls, you probably will be able to anticipate why someone may reject your offering (cost and time required to implement are some typical examples). You should anticipate these questions and prepare responses so that you are immediately ready to address these objections. Remember though – after addressing the objections, you must ask for the order again.

If you have prepared this script properly, you should be able to effectively deliver this presentation in two to three minutes.

A couple of additional thoughts:

  • The script that is written at the outset of an engagement always evolves over time. Each call allows you to tighten the language and become more succinct. Edit the script regularly until it is efficient and can be said more simply. (I call this “getting your voice.”)
  • After a while, you should discover that referencing the script is no longer necessary. The act of creating the script and repeating it frequently allows for a more natural presentation.
  • Of all the sections, the Vista section is usually the most important because if the business benefits are not clearly presented, the prospect will choose to end the conversation.

Fortunately, if you have followed Steps 1 and 2, you have a set of likely business benefit candidates upon which you can draw.

Cold Calling Step 2: Understand the Product and Align Its Capabilities to the Business Benefits

July 12, 2010

All salespeople have a natural tendency to become very related to the products that we sell. This occurs because nearly all of our conversations within our company and to our prospects revolve around the product features.

We truly become immersed in what we offer the marketplace – and with all of these conversations circulating, we naturally assume that our prospects will have a native understanding of what we provide and why it makes a difference, simply by our verbalization. There is even a tendency for salespeople to assume that a cursory explanation of the product’s capabilities to a prospect will naturally evoke an understanding by the prospect as to how using the product or service will benefit them.

Experience, though, has shown this to not be the case.

Our task as effective salespeople is to connect the benefits and the capabilities for the prospect. Put it this way… Failure to do so should result in a prospect saying, “I understand what your product does; I just don’t understand the value proposition.” If only prospects were so open when this occurred because then we would clearly understand that we have not created the necessary linkage between benefits and product capabilities.

There are a few ways for us to become “smart” about what these benefits and their related capabilities truly are. Clearly, as we outlined in the first step, understanding the industry, target markets and their needs and relating them to the product or service is a terrific place to begin.

Many salespeople, however, fail to look at the messaging of their direct competitors. Competitors are typically not shy about posting about their value on their web sites. Facebook pages of competitors often enable you to discover, via testimonials and comments, what buyers truly value.

This is important because, as we shall see in future posts, simply because you believe something to be a benefit, your prospects and customers may have a very different take on what constitutes the true value.

Many, many years ago when I was first beginning my business career, my first company, Flash Creative Management, decided to sell a software development tool, MUPET (the acronym stood for Multi-User Project Editing Tool). It was my first foray into selling a product for software developers and it was a priceless education for my company and me.

We had articulated the benefits in advertisements, speaking engagements and a few other communication channels. Surprisingly, to us anyway, the people who bought the tool had very different intentions for its use. We discovered by the technical support questions we were receiving that people had decided to use it in very different ways than we intended.

In some cases, this worked out just fine as the product was capable of addressing these needs but sometimes the product fell woefully short of the value that our clients hoped to receive, because frankly, the product was never designed for this purpose.

So there are two takeaways in this portion of the discussion:

(1) It is your responsibility to connect benefits to product capabilities.

(2) Just because you or your competitor thinks that the true benefits have been identified does not mean that you have successfully done so.

This second point, and our next challenge in preparing a successful cold calling campaign, will be the subject of our next post.

Cold Calling Step 1: Defining the Target Market and What It Values

July 8, 2010

Ted Williams, one of the greatest baseball hitters of all times, once said that the secret to good hitting was getting a good pitch to hit.

He could just have easily been talking about successful cold calling.

The first step in effective cold calling is segmenting the marketplace. Just as you need to know your strike zone in baseball so that you can swing at good pitches, you also need to know which prospects would need the benefits that your product brings. These prospects may be in a particular industry or they may cross over into multiple industries, but regardless, if you have targeted effectively you will connect with your prospect at a much higher frequency.

You’ll notice that I did not state that this conversation is about what your product does. For the most part, your product’s capabilities are irrelevant, except as it relates to the delivery of the benefits that matter to the prospect.

This is a very important distinction and the core component of effective cold calling, and, for that matter, effective sales. All too often, salespeople focus on features. Leading with the benefits allows the prospects to have context about the features and to measure your offering in the context of the value that they will gain.

Put another way, by focusing on value and benefit, you make the discussion about the customer and not about your company or product.

The challenge, of course, is about identifying those benefits. There are many ways that you can gain this wisdom.

The first is to read about the target segment and discover any industry wide problems, opportunities or trends. Does your product address any of these and, if so, how? What other benefits does it bring? Does it support a corporate strategy or goal?

For large sales opportunities or where you are targeting a particular company, reading the target company’s public filing will give you insight into things like turnover, attrition, and risks that are being managed. Press releases and newspaper articles also deliver insight as to triggering events that create a corporate need.

The key element of this first step is simply recognizing that it is only about the prospect and never about you and your product. It is the first key to “batting with a high average.”

A Cold Calling Sales Method

July 6, 2010

Over the past few months, I have taken on the responsibility of sales through a cold calling project. To be candid, I have never been a fan of cold calling. My personal belief is that you grow sales from the inside out, that is, you leverage existing relationships to create warm leads that result in new sales.

Still, when introducing a new product, and with a limited marketing budget, how does one create market penetration and develop new sales through cold calling?

Of course, it helps – a lot – to have a good product to sell. However, having been involved in new business development for almost twenty-five years, I thought this to be a worthwhile project.  In fact, after all of these years developing sales, I thought it interesting to see if a method could indeed be developed for cold calling.

And, as I am indeed writing this blog post, it is safe for you to assume that I do believe there is a method, which I intend to explore during the next few posts.

Specifically, the method has these steps:

(1) Define the target market and what it values

(2) Understand the product, including its capabilities and usefulness to the business

(3) Apply the usefulness capabilities toward creating a proposed script

(4) Redefine the capabilities into bulleted business benefits

(5) Identify the target business’ professional who would appreciate the business benefits

(6) Transform the script into a specific one minute presentation for voice mail emphasizing the benefits and the validation of the benefits

(7) Build the supporting materials (e-mail, demonstration scripts, supporting e-mail documentation)

(8) Begin the cold calling campaign

(9) Track results and determine an appropriate follow up frequency

(10)  Refine the script and supporting follow up materials

Over the next few weeks, it is my intention to post about each of these steps and share with you this method.

Just to intrigue you, though, suffice it to say that of the targeted market, this method has been successful in generating more than a 33% response rate.

Stay tuned…


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