Category Archives: Cold Calling

Is Technology Making us More or Less Efficient?

A day on the road without technology gave me the answer.

For the past 24 hours, I did not have text, email or internet access on my phone. My BlackBerry (yes, I know, it’s ancient!) did a recent software update which eliminated all of the “smart” out of my smartphone and left me with the sole capability of making and receiving phone calls. I couldn’t even see my call log, so if I missed a call and they didn’t leave a voicemail, I would have no clue anyone called me.

Normally while I’m on the road, I text and email clients and use the mobile hotspot on my account to access and input data from my CRM.  Today however was a very different story.  Even 13 years ago when I first started out in sales, I recall driving around “trolling for wifi” as I called it in order to check my emails and had offline access to my CRM which apparently doesn’t exist these days.  I would text my clients and coworkers throughout the day. Typically, I never could gain enough email access to accomplish my work tasks during the day and would have to attend to all of my emails before and after I hit the road and would average 15 hour days.

Today, I went back 20 years in time.  Initially, I thought that I would go and get a new phone ASAP before embarking on my calls, but instead I decided to take on the day as a sort of “experiment” and see how I could manage.

I committed to doing all of my calls and had an amazing experience!

This is what happened:

  1. I realized that I reach to check my phone almost every 2-5 minutes.

This sounds ridiculous but I’m certain I am not alone.  How bad is that? How neurotic is that making me? How is this impacting my overall stress level? Is this really making me a better salesperson?

 

 

2. I conducted a personal record number of cold calls (in person).

Without any means to access background info (aside from what I printed out the night before in advance to prep for the day), or input data into my CRM, or dick around on the internet, I was completely unhinged.  My only task at hand was to call on as many clinics as possible in my target area to invite them to a corporate event and/or book an official meeting with them and I achieved it.  I called on 31 clinics in 8 hours.  Mind you I really didn’t take any breaks at all and I meticulously planned out my route in advance with the help of old fashioned maps.

3. I was living in real life and interacting 100% with real human beings

I spent more time interacting with human beings face-to-face than I have in a really long time (aside from tradeshows that is).

 

 

 

4. My clients were concerned about me.

I received calls from my clients who were concerned that I didn’t answer their emails and text messages and decided to call me to see if I was OK.  I thought that was really sweet but I also look at that and note that I must be so neurotic and obsessive about responding to emails and texts that if I don’t within a matter of minutes or hours, that is a concern. I have always been focused on providing the best possible customer service that I can, but this set me back a little and made me think that perhaps I am being a little too overzealous in my approach.  Do I need to chill out a little or do I need to keep up my game in order to remain competitive?

So what were my stats?

At the end of the day, I got valuable face-to-face time with 31 clients with a maximum of 1 hour “homework” to log those calls. Surely I didn’t get to spend all the time in the world with each of those clients, but look at these stats:

3/31- Turned into a timely lead.  The clients were looking for a solution that I provided right at the time I walked in.

5/31- Reserved a space to a dinner meeting I invited them to (one of the purposes of my visit).

20/31- Booked a follow-up face-to-face meeting to discuss my products in more depth.

4/31-Got to see the decision maker and do a regular sales call.

If I would have spread out all of these meetings to log my calls in a “timely” manner (immediately after) versus logging them later, I’m certain I would have run out of time given that regular business hours are between 8-6pm. On the other hand, if I would have done these calls by phone, I most certainly wouldn’t have had the same level of penetration that I did in person. Meeting and talking to people face-to-face is far more impressionable than a strange voice over the phone.

So, back to my initial question: Technology has always been key to being functional as a sales rep on the road, much like it is to pretty much any other profession, but is it making us more or less effective?

Not necessarily. In the old days when we would have to do our homework pre and post calls, it lengthened our days. Now we can do emails, texts and calls while en route.   It all depends on the individual and how prone one is to distraction.  If you commit do only doing work during business hours and restricting social contact to outside of business hours, then yes, you will be more effective.  If not, then you will be working (and socializing and killing time on the internet) from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep and in that case, you are not more effective.

If you are in outside sales,  would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Please share.

 

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Cold Calling: How to Bypass the Gatekeeper

gatekeeperAn Approach that Will Guarantee You More Meetings with the Decision Makers!

It is typically in the salespersons best interest to befriend the gatekeeper and other staff in order to get to the decision maker.  But what if, as a salesperson, you need to get to the decision maker and their staff cannot know any details about your business venture? How do you access the decision maker without getting you butt kicked out the door by trying to go over the gatekeeper’s head?

The majority of sales gurus these days will tell you that cold calling is dead, especially face-to-face cold calling. If that describes your situation, be sure to read my previous article on The Do’s and Don’ts of Cold Calling.  So, although this may be the case for a variety of industries, there are some that do in fact require employing this brut methodology in order to access the decision maker.

In my current role, I have been faced with this dilemma.  I have always been accustomed to being friendly and open with all staff and best utilize those relationships in order to ultimately reach the decision maker however, now my business is of an utmost confidential matter and it is crucial that I do not share the nature of my business with anyone but the decision maker.

After getting the door slammed on my ass on the way out of a business a handful of times, I decided that I needed to revamp my approach.

Empty ClinicOne prime example that stood out in my mind was when I went into a clinic that was clearly empty.  There were no cars out front, no patients in the waiting room and clearly no patients in the treatment area.  When I asked the receptionist if I could speak with the doctor for a minute, she hemmed and hawed and asked me if I had an appointment. When I told her no, she told me that he was VERY busy but she will check. She went out back and returned to inform me that he was so busy and doesn’t have any time this week.

This experience was akin to walking to an empty restaurant and the hostess asks you if you have a reservation.  In sales, having thick skin is a MUST!

So what did I decide to do?

The Strategy:

1. Write a handwritten note card in a sealed envelope addressed to the DM

Before my next round of cold calls, I picked up some blank note-cards and envelopes.  In each card I wrote a personal note:
“Dear ______

Sorry to have missed you today.  I was hoping to catch you to talk to you about a business opportunity. I will be in town (UNTIL DATE OR WILL BE BACK AT DATE) so you can call or email me anytime.  Talk soon. Sincerely,

TSW”

On the top flap of the card, I attached my business card with an adhesive  (double-sided sticky) so that the card can be easily removed.

The card is inserted into an envelope and the DM’s name is written on the front of the envelope.

2. Conduct cold call with envelope in hand and business card in back pocket

I show up at the clinic and approach the receptionist in a friendly manner and say “Hey I’m (NAME HERE). I have something for (DM NAME HERE).  Is he/she available for a quick minute? I have something for them”

If they check and the answer is YES (wohoo!):

I put the envelope away and ask to speak to the DM privately for a minute and then give them my business card that’s in my back pocket and try to arrange a private meeting.

If they check (or don’t ) and say NO:

Give them the sealed envelope and ask that they kindly pass it on to the DM addressed on your card and mention that you will be calling the DM soon to follow-up.

Since it is addressed to the DM personally and hand written, even if the receptionist does not know you. the way you presented yourself is as though the DM does.  For this reason, the receptionist or gatekeeper is highly unlikely to open the envelope or toss it out.  Furthermore, mentioning that you will be touching base with the DM  regarding what you have enclosed in this envelope will make it even more unlikely that it will be tampered with.

So far this approach has gotten me call-backs and appointments 75% of the time. 

Surely much more effective than a phone call or random email!

If you are in this type of sales, I would love for you to try this and let me know how it works out.

Also if you have any other tips, please share!

Happy sales my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

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To Email, to Call or to Text: That is the Question

Shakespeare_ComputerAre you sending emails to schedule simple phone calls? If so, you are wasting your time!

Do you often email your customers or prospects in order to set up a time to have a phone conversation? Have you sat down and calculated the efficiency of this approach?

I find myself increasingly frustrated with the number of people who instead of picking up the phone, will send an email to schedule a time for something that would be a very quick conversation. This commonly results in several back and forth email messages with alternate times and then ultimately one party may cease to respond.  Days if not entire weeks may pass and to no avail. All of this could have been avoided by simply picking up the phone and having a 1-2 minute phone conversation or the message could be relayed in the form of a text message.

Why Email is Ineffective?

study conducted by the Radicati Group in 2015, illustrated that the average business user sends and receives an average of 122 emails per day, a number that is expected to increase to 126 messages by the end of 2019.  As no surprise, the average email only has a 20% open rate and a shockingly low response rate of only 6%.  This means that for every 100 emails you send, only 20% (20 emails) are being opened and of those 20 emails, only 6% (1 email) are being replied to.  That works out to 1 email reply for every 100 emails sent, so essentially a response rate of 1.2%.

Alternatives: Phone Call or Text Message?

According to a study by eWeek, 80% of people are currently using texting for business however, studies have shown that only 2531%  of people prefer text messages to phone calls.

The most preferred business activities conducted by text messaging according to the Harris Poll are:

  1. Checking order status (38%)
  2. Scheduling or changing appointments (32%)
  3. Make or confirm reservations (31%)

It must be noted that all of the above imply that there is an existing or soon to be existing business relationship.

In the sales process, texting can lead to conversion gains in excess of 100% however texting a prospect prior to establishing contact with them can not only adversely effect contact and conversion rates, it may also be illegal depending on the state or province you reside in.

That being said, how do you know when the most effective means of communication is to call, text or send an email?

When to Send a Text Message:

  • You have an existing relationship with your client
  • Your client has directly provided you with their cell phone number
  • Your message is brief, uncomplicated and only requires 1 or 2 basic single-sentence responses (i.e. setting up, changing or confirming a meeting time, following up on an order, etc)

When to Make a Phone Call:

  • You do not have an existing relationship with a prospect
  • The prospect or client did not give you their cell phone number directly. If you received their cell phone number from a 3rd party, they likely have no idea who you are so call them and speak with them first.  If you simply do not have their cell phone number, call their office number.
  • The subject matter you would like to discuss is more involved than and exchange of 1 or 2 sentences

When to Send an Email:

  • You have had a conversation on the phone or via text message and the recipient has requested additional information and/or details in the form of an email. Although the response rate for email is still low, if the prospect or client has requested it and knows to look out for your email, your response rate will increase. Sending unsolicited email is illegal in Canada and can result in fines of up to $1M for individuals and up to $10M for corporations.

In this day and age, it is all too easy to hide behind a computer screen.  As a result we, are all constantly bombarding each other with online messages and emails and in my opinion, they have simply lost their effectiveness as a communication tool.

So let the take home message be, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and make a call.  Since most people don’t do that anymore period, that act alone will make you stand out among your competition.  We are all human beings and require some sort of true human interaction and relationships whether they are personal or business in nature, require that interaction in order to grow and flourish.

Happy sales my friends and the next time you’re tempted to hide behind your computer screen and send an email, remember that there is only a 1% chance it will even be replied to, so suck it up Princess and pick up that phone!

Cheers,

TSW

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6 Common Barriers to Sales Success

manfacingbrickwallIs there a brick wall impeding your path to sales success?

Most sales people experience some sort of struggle achieving targets at some point in their careers.  In many cases, this can be due to the company’s lack of proper management, support, or setting their reps up for failure by creating unrealistic targets however that is not always the case.  All too often, underachieving sales representatives may point the finger at their superiors as the reason for their failure and simply because it is easier to blame someone else than it is to accept one’s own weaknesses and take the steps necessary to improve.

Last month, I wrote about “5 Sure-fire Ways to Lose Your Best Sales Reps” which focused on common mistakes that companies make when managing their sales reps which typically cost them their best employees.  Today, I will be focusing on the other end of the spectrum and outlining some of the most common problems that salespeople face which can impede their performance.

Some common barriers to sales performance include:

1. Fear of rejection and Lack of Confidence (inability to execute):

RejectionThis is THE #1 obstacle that all sales people must overcome. In sales, you are confronted with the possibility of rejection more than almost any other profession and it takes many shapes and forms. For instance, one may fear that in spite of their efforts, clients may simply ignore their calls and emails, say “no” when asked for the order or just tell them to buzz off entirely. It’s easy to get bogged down by such negative results, but in sales, you have to pick up your head and move along to the next prospective client. So, as I always told myself,Suck it up princess” Move on and pick up that phone or get back to pounding the pavement and keep in mind that as the common saying goes, “The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.”.

The best thing you can do, is take the correct course of action.  The next best thing you can do, is to take the incorrect course of action. The worst thing you can do is nothing at all.

2. Difficulty prospecting and qualifying leads: 

CustomerSearchingSo many sales people say, “Get me in front of the client and I will close!” but how does one get this opportunity of they do not prospect properly or effectively and fill their pipeline with qualified leads? That’s right, it doesn’t happen.  In order to find new prospects, the easiest and most effective means is to obtain referrals from your existing client base. In the event that you have already exploited your existing network for new business referral, you will have to stick your neck out there and find new business and start cold calling. Yup, that’s right, I said cold calling, the biggest source of fear for sales reps fearing rejection.  I suppose that is why so many self-proclaimed sales experts who hide behind a computer all day are claiming that cold calling is dead. In my opinion, those people are just too chicken s%^& to pick up the phone and cold call! For tips on how to cold call with tact, read my post on “The Do’s and Don’ts of Cold Calling”. Once you have filled your pipeline full of new prospects, you must learn how to qualify those leads in order to ensure you are most effectively utilizing your time and resources.  For some tips on how to qualify leads, be sure to read “How to Qualify Leads and Not Get Lead Astray”.

3. Ineffective Communication:

confusedcustomerIn sales, it is absolutely essential to listen to your client more so than it is to pitch them your product or idea. You must understand your client’s business, their needs, wants and their language.  If you spend your entire sales call talking AT your client, you will never get the sale.  A two-way dialogue is essential to close a deal.  In addition, if you bombard your client with corporate jargon or industry buzzwords that only your company knows, you will never be able to communicate value to your client. You might as well be speaking another language.

4. Disorganization & Inefficient Work Process:

messypaperworkTime is money and money is time. Mismanage that and it will be detrimental to your success. Each day, sales people are bombarded with multiple emails, phone calls, meetings, follow-up requests, reports and if these tasks are not organized and prioritized in some fashion, most of those tasks will never be completed correctly or at all. I obviously can’t summarize this massive topic in one paragraph but in summary, in spite of how amazing your memory may be, be sure to always make a “to-do list” and block off areas in your calendar to complete all of your tasks even if that means seeing one less client each day or having a dedicated office day.

5. Too Much or too Little Information:

businessman-with-head-in-the-sandSome companies provide their sales representatives with far too much information and literature without any focus provided by management. I once worked for a company that had hundreds if not thousands of products. My entire trunk was full of literature.  There was a general focus, but even that limited it to a few hundred products. Sure there was always something to sell, but it was overwhelming. I eventually just picked a handful of products that I focused on exclusively. On the other hand, some companies provide close to zero information to their reps. This can be dangerous for the company because who knows what the rep will end up saying to their prospective clients?

6. Unhealthy lifestyle:

womaneatingwhiledrivingSurprised to see this make the list? You shouldn’t be. Most sales reps are on the road for the majority of the day which makes it very difficult to find time to eat healthy and exercise. Over time, these poor health choices will affect one’s physical and mental well being which will ultimately cost you in your personal and professional life.  For tips on how to improve your lifestyle en route, be sure to read my posts on How to Eat Healthy on the Road and How to Keep Fit on the Road.

Hopefully in reading this, if you are in sales, you are not impacted by any of these barriers to any significant extent.  If you are struggling and confronted with potential job loss, it may be time to hire a sales coach. Contact me and learn how I can help you improve your sales game!

Happy sales!

Cheers,

TSW

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Cold Calling in a Foreign Language

language barrier

You Think Cold Calling is Tough? Try Doing it in a Foreign Language!

When I first stared at this job and began to grow the business across Canada, there was a huge gaping hole in my territory.  That gaping hole was the French-only speaking province of Quebec.  Two years into my position I came to the point where I couldn’t avoid it any longer.  I wanted to continue to grow my sales and I knew that market was untapped and full of opportunity.

Why did I avoid it for so long?

Because I don’t speak French! I had only ever taken basic French up until Grade 12 so I knew some of the basics but far from what I needed to know to try and conduct business.  The French knowledge that I did learn in school was pretty much useless because for some reason here in Canada, they teach you Parisian French but in Quebec they speak Quebecois French which is essentially another language.  I have met people who have moved to Quebec from France and they have told me that it took them almost 2 years to pick up the dialect.

NoIdeaWhatYoureTalkingAbout

So I did what I normally do when confronted with something I don’t like to do, tell myself, “Suck it up Princess!” and just do it!

So I came up with a plan:

1. Translate all Literature into French. I opted to do this as a sign of respect for their language and I’m glad I did because I later learned that in Quebec the government has a “Language Police” division that will fine companies who correspond with Quebec companies in English before French.

2. Write a Cold Calling Script Using Google Translate. The script I created was a general introduction which included:

  • My name, company name and my role (single sentence)
  • What my company does (single sentence)
  • Ask if I could send them information and for them to provide their contact details

3. Cold Call Using My Script in French and hope and pray that I could understand the contact details they gave me!!! If they said anything else, I was totally lost and couldn’t understand!

4. Mail or Email Literature. This was the easy part!

5. Follow-up Call – SKIPPEDYes I skipped the follow-up call because even if I could figure out how to ask the right questions, there was no way I could understand what they would say to me in response!

6. Schedule a Face-to-Face Meeting using a New Script In this script which I once again wrote with the assistance of my new best friend Google Translate, in which I:

  • Asked if they received the information I sent them. I could understand oui (yes) or non (no)- Yay me!
  • Mentioned that I will be meeting with other practitioners in their area on DAY X or DAY Y and if they would have time to meet with me. I wrote out all of the days of the week in English and French so I could have a quick reference at my side. I did happen to know my numbers in French so that helped with setting appointment times.
  • Confirmed the date and time of the meeting, hung up the phone and hoped for the best!

7. Show up for the Meeting and hope to God that I Understood Correctly!  Was I at the right place at the right time? Did I get a meeting with the decision maker? Hoping that the receptionists (who only spoke French) didn’t ask me any questions or try to initiate a conversation. Sweat, sweat, sweat!!! I tell you, a business card can go a long way when you can’t express yourself properly.  When the front desk staff would try to engage with me, all I could do was smile and say, “Parlez-vous Anglais?”. Usually that just ended with a “non” and we sat there awkwardly as I tried to keep my palms planted firm on my legs as to make sure my hands weren’t too sweaty when I went in for that handshake with my new potential client.

8. In the Meeting Hope that the Client Speaks Some English. Most of my clients in Quebec are also trained in English so as long as you put some effort in to speak French then politely ask to converse in English, they will be more than willing to try.  A lot of these conversations involved us sitting together using the Google Translate app on our cell phones in order to properly communicate! In some cases we would find one of their staff members who had an excellent command of both languages who would act as our translator.

What was The Biggest Obstacle I  had to Overcome? Pricing Objections!

For those of you who read my recent article “The Pricing Objection: What it Really Means and How to Overcome it” you will know that I always try to focus on creating value rather than focusing on price.  In this scenario, the language I would normally use to convey value was too complicated to be “dumbed down” sort to speak into basic English. So where did that leave me? Struggling with pricing objections.  All they wanted was price and when they saw that my prices were higher, we suddenly had nothing else to discuss, or rather could not carry on a conversation about anything else because of the language barrier.  Can you say awkward? 

At this point, I’d lost on price and was unable to convey value as I had always done, focusing on product quality and service.  So now what?

This is when it pays off to listen to your clients, even if you can’t fully understand them because as it turned out, there was something I could do to create value for them.

They were all asking me if we had anyone at the office who spoke French.  At the time, my company didn’t have anyone who spoke French but neither did my competitors.  So I made a call to my boss and asked him if he would be willing to hire someone who is bilingual if I get some business and he agreed.

9. Make a Deal- “If you give me 50% of your business, my company will bring on a French-speaking customer service representative.” And that did the trick. It got me into the province and from there I was able to come back and grow it into a very lucrative territory, with the help of our new bilingual customer service rep of course.

So I am sure most of you are thinking, “I will never be in this situation so it doesn’t apply to me.”, and sure you are right to some extent, however the take home message I have for all of you sales people out there is that if you want to succeed in sales:

  • Grow some balls, “Suck it up Princess” and get out there no matter how intimidated you are.
  • Always listen to your clients (even if you can’t really understand them!).
  • Be creative and think outside of the box, always striving to find solutions to your clients’ needs.

Happy sales my friends…and don’t be shy!

Cheers,

TSW

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