Posted tagged ‘Competition’

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.

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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.

Tonight May Be A Turning Point in Television History

March 7, 2010

ABC-Disney followed through with its threat tonight by pulling the New York-area WABC-TV from Cablevision after it failed to reach a re-transmission agreement with the cable giant.  Some 3 million Cablevision customers in Long Island, Westchester, Brooklyn, and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey were affected.

The two corporate giants are playing a giant game of chicken on Oscar night. If no one blinks, several million people will not be able to see the Oscars tonight.

Regardless of who wins this battle, both companies may lose more than they ever considered. Let’s talk about the unintended consequences.

If people decide they really, really, really want to watch this very popular television event, they may turn to the web and seek the tens, perhaps hundreds of sites, who will be streaming the Oscars over the web. Several million people may learn tonight that they can watch their favorite shows just as easily over the Internet — without paying for it.

If that occurs, Cablevision and ABC-Disney may have educated millions that their companies are not required to deliver home entertainment. And if that happens, the two companies may learn about unintended consequences in a way that they have never intended.

I know I’ll be tuning in to see who is the real winner on Oscar night.

Trends that You Should Worry About…

January 1, 2010

Lately, I have been “heads down” more than ever working with companies on redefining their strategies. In these conversations, I am often asked what surprises me the most. Here are a few observations.

The biggest surprise to me has been the pace at which whole industries have begun to disappear. As fast as one charts the list, another one needs to be added. The postal service, newspaper and magazine publishing, television, and retail stores are just a few.

Last week, I went into a high end department store to buy a present for a newly engaged couple. I went to the registry and met with the manager. She told me that 80% of the gifts for a couple is now purchased on line. This is good news for the retailer because it can pay less commission, as there is no sales rep involved in the purchasing transaction.

What was shocking to me was that manager told me that when an item is returned to the store, it gets applied as a negative sale to her commission. She is running harder just to stay in place. And the store is comfortable making her role obsolete.

Another recent trend that I find fascinating is the increasing need to create engines as opposed to creating businesses. Zappos is a great illustration of this process done well.

Zappos had become an Internet business legend, so to speak, for its ability to sell footwear. Its use of social media to promote and service its business is very well known.

In July, Amazon announced its intention to purchase Zappos. The deal closed in November.

Today, less than two months later, Zappos has transformed itself into a clothing site. The engine that it has designed and the practices that it has implemented are being used to allow it to enter a whole other segment of the clothing industry.

What does all this mean to you?

For starters, if you have been doing business in a traditional way, start rethinking your business model because your next competitor can come from anywhere.

Scarcity: For Marketers, Less is More

July 6, 2009

When Joni Mitchell wrote “Big Yellow Taxi” and the expressive lyric, “Don’t it always seem as though you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone?” she may have been onto something.

The last of Prof. Cialdini’s weapons of influence centers on scarcity or, as he explains it, the increase in the appeal of an opportunity when it appears that it will soon become unavailable. This lure is evident in the actions of those who put a telephone conversation on hold when another phone line rings simply because of the fear that the chance to hear information might be lost or the possibility to speak to that person if that call is not taken.

In fact, the thought of “losing” something over winning something is typically more appealing and interesting. More people insulate homes because of the “money that they could lose” rather than the money that they could save.

Consider the language of marketers who tell us that “only a limited number” are available or that you should hurry because “a sale ends Sunday.” Scarcity has a tendency to make items more valuable in our eyes. This is because we understand that those items that are difficult to possess are typically better than those that are easy to possess. This concept is more often than not a true one. The second factor that weighs in that we hate to lose “freedoms” – that is whenever free choice is limited, the need to retain our freedoms makes us desire them more.

Cialdini engages the reader in a very interesting discussion of the behaviorists’ view of Romeo and Juliet. Was this a case of young and pure love or rather was the intensity of the love heightened because of the extraordinary obstacles that the Montague and Capulet families placed in the path of these young lovers and therefore infringed on their freedoms? Or to use a biblical example, did Adam and Eve desire the apple more because it offered enlightenment and knowledge or because it was “one of a kind” and prohibited?

The Iranian election and the management of its outcome by its supreme leader may be an additional event worth studying through the prism of scarcity. Did the current leadership fan the flames of revolt by making opposition information scarce (and more believable because exclusive information is more persuasive) and by reducing freedoms while creating obstacles? And conversely, can groups pretend that information is restricted so as to align others with their perspectives? If this interpretation of Cialdini’s thinking is correct – and he does acknowledge that this concept applies to information and censorship as well – there are tremendous implications for the way governments manage conflict and companies manage information flow.

There are a number of corollaries to our scarcity weapon of influence. The first is that scarcity has greater impact when people have a taste of abundance and then have that abundance replaced with scarcity. Cialdini cites the glasnost era led by Gorbachev followed by a crackdown. The Soviet people chafed at the loss of freedoms and fought more strenuously to keep the freedoms that were already experienced during the Gorbachev regime.

The second corollary is that scarcity is made more impactful when there is competition for a good or service. Imagine for a moment, those department store sales where certain goods are only available between certain hours and the panic that ensues within the store. These sales are designed to foment both scarcity and competition and force a buying decision.

So how does one control the strong emotional pull of scarcity? First, we need to recognize the heightened sense of arousal that comes with scarcity. Then, knowing that we are now engaged at this level, we must separate the use we have for the item from the desire to acquire it. By its very nature, scarcity is about possession and not utility. Distinguishing the two will allow us to behave more rationally.

It is important to recognize that all of the weapons highlighted in “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” will become more pervasive simple because of the overwhelming information available to and thrust upon us. We are truly information overloaded and it is imperative that we recognize when gut reactions cause our behaviors. Where Cialdini has done us a great service is by “pulling the curtain back” so that we may more effectively recognize manipulation, and combat it.

Managing Authority so as Not to Lose Your Sense of Responsiblity

June 28, 2009

George Carlin once said, “I have just as much authority as the Pope; I just don’t have as many people who believe it.”

One of the most pervasive weapons of influence is the use of authority. Being told to, and indeed, “following orders” is such a powerful concept that it has been used in times of war and even the Holocaust of the 1940’s as a justification for committing horrific atrocities. Yet, when used for positive and appropriate purposes, it allows for order and the development of social and political structures that enables each of us the opportunity to live safely and productively in society and avoid a frightening state of lawless and dangerous anarchy. Talk about a double-edged sword!

Cialdini asserts that this is why we are literally trained from birth “that obedience to proper authority is right.” We learn this concept at home, in school and in our houses of worship. The Bible early on teaches us that the consequences of disobedience are pretty severe (Eating a forbidden fruit gets Adam and Eve – us? – tossed out of paradise or Abraham being tested and asked to sacrifice his beloved son because a Higher Authority tells him to do so).

The interesting thing is that once we have learned the importance of obedience, we pretty much follow it without giving it too much thought. We do this because we understand quickly that others know more than us or have greater access to information and there are true benefits to listening and following instructions from those who are “in the know.”

The challenge though is to know when to stop and think for oneself and avoid blind obedience. Cialdini cites a great example of this and one that most of us have experience with — healthcare. HCFA (The Healthcare Financing Administration) did a study and found that there was a 12% daily error rate in patient medication dispensing. A decade later, in the 1990’s, a Harvard University stated that 10% of all cardiac arrests were attributable to medication errors and while these errors can occur for a variety of reasons, at least one book attributes this situation to the “mindless deference” to the person in charge of the patient’s case – the attending physician.

The two professors who wrote this book, Medication Errors: Causes and Prevention, humorously tell the story of a patient who was prescribed ear drops with this note “place in R ear” and how the duty nurse place the drops in the patient’s butt instead of in the patient’s right ear. While tragically funny, more than likely, many of us have personal experiences that have taught us to ask questions when dealing with the medical establishment.

For purposes of our discussion, this example dramatizes how easily we submit to authority. More than that, we also submit to the symbols of authority. Seeing someone in a certain uniform (makes you realize the importance of understanding clothing as costumes), with a certain title, with a certain type of office or car, or with a certain level of authoritative expertise creates an automatic response to be influenced. One could make a case that Bernard Madoff leverage his positions on boards and trappings to such a great extent that he was able to create the greatest scam of all time.

Caildini notes how people become more deferential in conversation when they learn someone has a title. In fact, in one of the studies that he cites, he noted a correlation between perceived height and title. The greater the title, the greater the perceived physical stature.

So how does someone control this powerful form of influence? Cialdini believes that being aware of the powers of authority and its trappings is the first step to managing the inappropriate influence of authority. There are two questions that he feels needs to be asked – (1) Is the authority truly an expert? and (2) How truthful can we believe the expert to be to us?

Answering the first question enables us to decide if the authority is worth following and if that particular expertise is relevant to the situation. The second question is a little more complex in that if the authority has a vested interest in the outcome, the way that the information is presented in worth questioning.  Sometimes a practitioner of authoritative influence will use a tactic to show us that he or she is really on our side. They tell us something negative about the product so that when something positive is presented, we find their claim more believable. (L’Oreal – a bit more expensive but worth it) Still, this prescription for deciding whether to follow authority seems very practical.

Our next post will focus on Cialdini’s last weapon of influence – scarcity.

People Buy From Those They…Like?

June 19, 2009

The fourth weapon of influence is one Cialdini attributes as “liking.” The classic example of this weapon in action is the Tupperware party. The Tupperware party actually employs several weapons at once (attendees win prizes – putting reciprocity in play), and each participant has to speak to the value that they receive from using Tupperware (public commitment and consistency) and, of course, social proof as each purchase reinforces the belief that other similar people want to buy the product.

Make no mistake, though, the foundation for success is predicated on the belief that you will be going to a friend’s house and she will be “asking” you to buy Tupperware products. While the Tupperware person may do the “ask,” the hostess sitting off to the side is the reason that you are even there.

The key success factor in many of these types of sales presentations is the referral from a friend.  Turning the salesperson away in these circumstances is like turning a friend away and that is exceptionally difficult for most people to do.

Cialdini, however, uses a very broad definition of the term “liking.” For example, physical attractiveness encourages people to like a person. In fact, we frequently attribute talent, honesty, kindness and intelligence to those people who look good. (Can someone say Billy Crystal’s impression of Fernando Lamas saying “It is more important to look good than to feel good.”) This is such an important element that for beer or car ads, “beautiful people” are frequently the spokespeople. And Cialdini cites studies that physical attractiveness impacts court settlements and sentences.

Sometimes those same car and beer manufacturers employ a different flavor of “liking,” one that Cialdini calls “similarity.” We like people who are similar to us. People, who dress, think, look and talk like us are ones that we relate to. Some sales people use this to great advantage by citing similar backgrounds (“You’re kidding — I grew up near Montana, too!”) so that we may relate to them more closely. Studies have also shown that people respond extraordinarily well to compliments…even if they are not entirely true.

The final component in his liking section is one devoted to contact and cooperation. This section is perhaps the most important element he discusses, because of its implications for tolerance among races and countries. Cialdini points out that where there is more contact between groups, familiarity breeds friendship – with one notable distinction.

When people are placed in competitive environments where rewards are perceived as zero sum games (only one or limited winners), enmity actually increases. This is an astounding perception because it crystallizes why school desegregation doesn’t usually create greater understanding among races and why longstanding political conflicts continue. Cialdini cites studies that suggest that if people share a critical (important because it encourages cooperation) goals and work together toward achieving it, friendship and respect are created.

As he does with all his sections, Cialdini concludes his discussion with how best to mange this weapon of influence. He recommends that we cognitively separate the message / offer from the messenger so that we may weigh the offer on its own merits.


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