Posted tagged ‘training’

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.

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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…

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.”

Documenting Processes Create Opportunities

March 11, 2010

Documenting processes is typically a very good idea. Here are a couple of reasons.

(1) It clarifies what needs to be done in each process and allows you to eliminate unnecessary steps thereby increasing productivity and saving staff time and associated costs

(2) It is useful for training new staff; In fact the process flows can be part of an orientation program

(3) It allows the company to identify time consuming steps that would benefit from automation

(4) When selecting new software, it allows you to test the software in the context of what you actually do rather than the features of the software. In fact, the candidate software company can prove their mettle by showing where they add value by eliminating steps and improving workflow in addition to their features.

(5) If you are in a business that is heavily regulated, this documentation is typically prized and can be used as a sales tool to demonstrate the discipline in the business

As to how often they should be done and reviewed – and for the reasons noted above – I’d recommend that this be treated as living documentation and used regularly when making changes to the way work is performed, software created etc. This effort is only valuable if it becomes part of the company fabric and has a purpose.

I just completed a project where I managed the process flow analysis of a 300 person company and designed a software assessment process for them. I’d be happy to talk with anyone who wishes to discuss this further (david_blumenthal@msn.com)


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