Posted tagged ‘Decision Making’

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.”

Completing the Leadership Assessment

June 29, 2010

As with all interviews, and particularly interviews of this type, the key is to get to know the candidate. Therefore, as the interviewer, you must be engaging and energetic. Yet, you must also be a good listener.

Always take notes during the interview. It will allow you to “mentally record” the candidate’s responses and then review the comments as a collective conversation to give you a broader perspective of the candidate’s philosophies. Look for consistencies as much as you look for inconsistencies. At this level of experience, past performance is truly indicative of future performance.

Taking notes also help to prevent blurring the candidates. Often, candidates share similar philosophies in certain areas. Remember, though, that it is the total package that you are engaging, so the intersection and amalgam of a candidate’s management philosophies are critical to your assessment.

So in the end, what was the value of the leadership profile assessment? After all I was not familiar with the company and its needs other than a cursory understanding.

There were several values.

Because, I was not attached to the outcome of the interviews and would not have to contemplate working with the winning candidate on a daily basis, I was able to retain objectivity more easily.  I found this liberating as it allowed me to assess leadership styles more openly.

Second, the context of my assessment could be a little less traditional. I was able to identify the various leadership styles and my presentation to my client could be couched in a more meaningful and, I believe, more elegant way.

That is, I was able to answer a couple of core questions.

  • Does the candidate understand the leadership role?
  • Does the candidate understand strategy, tactical planning and what is necessary to run an organization?
  • What is the candidate’s leadership style? (My client could then decide if it fit the “heart of the assignment.”)

Somewhat surprisingly – at least to me, the five candidates represented five different management styles. And each of these styles would be appropriate in a particular situation.

This reaffirmed to me the very first lesson of interviewing – you must understand the heart of the assignment before beginning this process.

Establishing the Foundation for the Leadership Interview

June 22, 2010

A leadership interview is a little more delicate. In fact, I would categorize this discussion as more of a conversation than an interview. There are several reasons why this is so.

The candidate being interviewed is typically more mature. Usually, this person has managed departments or divisions, if not other companies. Therefore, this applicant is more comfortable with the proceedings.  For this level candidate, it truly is an opportunity to shine and demonstrate the depth and breadth of the knowledge and experience that has been acquired over an entire professional career.

These factors by themselves make this interview different.

It is as much about making sure that there is a stylistic and cultural match as it is about the skills that the candidate possesses. And the candidate also usually understands on some level that a poor match will not work for him or her.

To make this conversation more effective and easier, I typically explain that I am assisting n this process. My intention and goals is to find a fit so that the candidate can be happy and fulfilled for years to come and so can the company.

This allows for a conversational shift toward getting to know the person. The context and the most fundamental rule to apply is that we are here to “screen out” inappropriate candidates rather than “screening in” people.

The purpose of the questions that we outlined in the previous post is now clear. The se questions have been designed to facilitate the discussion and they are clearly in the best interests of the applicant as well as the company.

Determining the Candidate’s Leadership Profile

June 17, 2010

One of the challenges in the interview process was the need to capture information in a meaningful way.  The plan was to interview five candidates in one day and the risk of blurring responses, characteristics and attributes was fairly high. Effective data capture was therefore important.

The tool that was built had a section for evaluating each of the core attributes highlighted in the prior post. It was to be completed after the interview and it simply asked if the candidate had the particular attribute and allowed for any additional comments or insights.

The rest of the document – and clearly the most important section – was devoted to a series of questions designed to create a conversation that would enable the candidate to share his or her views on leadership.

Here are some examples of these questions:

A. Getting to know you questions:

(1) I’m about to buy a brand named <candidate>. Describe what I just bought.

(2) What was the best job you ever had? Why?

B. Execution:

(1) How do you assure / implement accountability among your staff?

(2) What do you reward and how do you reward it?

(3) How do you convince people to change behaviors?

(4) How do you evaluate staff?

(5) Why should someone be fired?

C. Ability:

(1) What characteristics of your present job do you like?

(2) What are some of the things you don’t like?

(3) How would you change your job if you had the power to do so?

(4) Describe your perfect job?

(5) Describe your perfect boss?

(6) Give me 5 adjectives that generally describe the people who work for you.

D. Leadership:

(1) What are 3 core tenets of your management philosophy that you would never compromise?

(2) Fast forward a year —  how is our company, the one that just hired you, different?

(3) How do you hire people (i.e. what is the hiring process / what do you look for)?

(4) Talk to me about a great hiring success (what were the factors that made it successful)?

(5) Talk to me about a great hiring disaster. Why did it happen? What did you do about it? (this is a great question to learn about blindspots)

(6) How do you make important decisions?

(7) How do you go about learning new things?

(8) Describe the perfect company culture? How would you create this culture?

E. Ability to Grow and Learn:

(1) Most people have at east one tough integrity challenge in their professional lives – what was yours and how did you handle it?

(2) What is the greatest lesson that you learned in the past five years?

(3) What is the greatest professional challenge you’ve ever faced and why?

F. Vision:

(1) Tell me about three competitive trends for which we should be concerned.

(2) What is the single most important idea that you contributed to your present job?

The purpose of these questions is to learn what is important to the candidate and the thinking process that is utilized. What can be learned from these questions is the values of the candidate, how they are reinforced and the type of people with whom these leaders will surround themselves.

Getting these answers will your company know the type of leader it is engaging.

You can be efficient with things but you can only be effective with people

May 2, 2010

I really love my clients…they are all so eclectic and so varied. They have a unique way of thinking and my role as their guide is always interesting, stimulating and challenging.

This past week presented an unusual opportunity and I wanted to share it with you. It reminded me of one of my favorite management aphorisms — “You can be efficient with things but you can only be effective with people.”

This particular CEO is remarkably gifted. He can see both the vision of where he wishes to go and he knows the steps he must take to get there. When someone is this gifted, he or she tends to move faster than those around him. This particular leader is busy – no make that very busy. He’s always onto the next plan and how to lead the team there. Fortunately, he builds his team with equally fast thinkers and implementers so he is very effective in producing results.

But when he does demos of his products, he speeds through them. You can almost sense a palpable catching of the breath on the other side of the web ex or go to meeting demo as his audience tries to keep up. And frankly they can’t…which brings us to today’s aphorism.

Efficiency is about time, effectiveness is about getting the result that you want.

You can speed up equipment, you can accelerate a process but no matter what you try, people will ALWAYS learn at their own pace. Understanding this human element is critical to being effective whether it be in presentation, motivation, education or just plain-old discussion…and it certainly applies to every relationship that is worth building.

“You can be efficient with things but you can only be effective with people.”


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