Category Archives: Success in Sales

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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6 Important Factors to Consider When Negotiating Your Next Sales Job

handshakeFinding that ‘perfect’ sales job is no easy task.  Most jobs have a straight forward description, offer a clearly defined salary and occasionally benefits.  Sales jobs on the other hand are complicated to negotiate. Even if you have an approximate dollar figure in mind that you need or want in terms of an overall dollar figure, it isn’t always so easy to calculate and get to that figure. This because in addition to base salary, there are multiple other areas of compensation and factors to consider including but not limited to:

  1. Sales Territory

LocationMapAside from monetary factors, the territory is probably the most important factor to consider and should be broken down as follows:

  • Geographic Location

You must be OK with the location of your territory.  For instance, I was fine with covering all of Canada but because my clients were not concentrated in major cities.  My job had involved a significant amount of travel by air and on country back roads and I loved that. If I had to just focus on accounts in Toronto, there is no way I’d be even remotely interested.  You have to decide where you are willing to travel to and how often and if that fits with the position you are considering.

  • Number of Accounts

This can be highly variable.  Some companies require that you manage only 30-50 accounts. I had 600 in my previous territory.  Depending on your time management skills, you may not be able to handle one or the other end of those extremes.

  • Previous Rep History***

This is SO important!! I cannot emphasize this enough.   Be sure to ask your future employer WHY the previous rep left this position and after how long.  Were they liked? Did they do a good job?  Believe it or not, the LAST thing you want to hear was how awesome that rep was and they were in the territory for over a decade! Why? Because you will have an uphill battle the entire time.  Good luck filling those shoes. Not only will your employer have much higher expectations of you, the clients will likely hate you at first because you’re not the old rep that they knew and loved forever.

On the other hand, if the previous rep did a lousy job then you have enormous potential to repair all of those relationships and grow your sales immensely.

If you have a chance, try to get in contact with the previous rep and ask them for their version of why they left.  They might give you some sort of insight into your potential future employer that may be a deal breaker!  Do your homework.

2. Commission Rate and Frequency Paid (i.e. monthly, quarterly, annually)

percent-signTypically commission rates are higher for junior sales positions and/or at start-ups and are usually offered in conjunction with a lower base salary.  The idea being that the rep is more focused on acquiring new accounts.  The more senior sales roles will offer a more hefty base salary and lower commission rate because those territories have been better established and require more nurturing of existing accounts compared to hunting down new accounts.  If you were used to receiving your commission on a monthly basis and the new company only pays it out at year end, you will have to re-do your monthly budget and determine if you will be able to live off of your base salary alone for an entire year. If not, then you can try to negotiate the frequency at which your commission is paid or try to negotiate a higher base salary with a compensatory decrease in commission.

3. Bonus

piggybankNot all companies offer bonuses for commissioned employees however some will offer a year-end bonus for teams who over achieve.  If this is an option, don’t include it in your budget because there is no guarantee that you will receive this.  Consider it icing on the cake.

4. Car Allowance or Company Vehicle

CompanyCarsEven if all of the numbers sound great in your offer, if you just bought a new vehicle and the new company only permits the use of a company vehicle you will have no choice but to sell your car or keep it and suck up the cost.  If you own your own vehicle and the company offers a car allowance, some companies have a policy which requires you to own a vehicle that is less than 2 years old. So even if you get a car allowance, you still may need to purchase a new car.  Car allowance rates are also highly variable.  I have never had one that fully covered my car payments and insurance.  This must also be factored into your monthly budget.

5. Expenses- What is Covered and How will it be Reimbursed?

credit cardsYet another highly available point.  It must be clearly defined what you will be able to expense.  Will it cover just meals? Or all travel costs including fuel?  Some companies insist their reps use a company credit card to cover all business expenses which is great because that means no expense reports! On the other hand, some companies will allow their reps to use their own personal credit cards and require the submission of monthly expense reports.  I always preferred the latter so that I could collect travel rewards and use them towards a personal vacation.  Once again, this is not usually negotiable.

6. Manager Style

badmanagerYou might say, “TSW How am I supposed to know this before I start?” The answer is quite simple and one you should remember every time you go through the job interview process:

The way your future boss treats you in the interview process is how they will treat you as an employee.

Never forget that.

So if you’re completely aggravated by the interview process, you will be just as aggravated if not more as an employee.   

If you are out there interviewing for that next sales position, don’t sell yourself short. It’s better to wait for that perfect position than to just jump into the first job offer that you get.

Happy Sales!

Cheers,

TSW

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Do Extroverts Make Better Sales Representatives?

introvertvsextrovert

If you were to make a list of the best sales representatives you’ve ever met and on that list include some of their primary traits, what would those traits be?

Most certainly these top performers could be best described as highly outgoing, sociable, “people” people which are all traits of extroverts.

What we don’t see is that behind closed doors, the majority of top performing sales reps are in fact, not like this all of the time.

I recall when I started out in a new sales position and on my way home from my first business trip, my sales manager called me to follow-up and discuss how my calls went.  I filled him in and after I was done reporting, I told him “That’s all I got.”, which confused him, so I explained “I’ve been ‘on’ all day and have been talking all day and now I’m done. I have nothing further to report.  It’s time for ‘me time’ to decompress while I drive home and we can touch base next week.”.

There was a long period of silence and then he said to me, “You’re in sales, you’re supposed to like talking ALL the time!”

Not me.

Why?

Because I’m a 50/50 Introvert/Extrovert.

Sure my response may have sounded a bit cold to anyone who is a complete extrovert and couldn’t fully understand, but I can’t help it. It is what I am.

In my opinion, I firmly believe that in order to be successful in any job that requires you to spend a significant amount of time interacting with others that you need to decompress and take a rest in order to recharge your batteries.  If you are ‘on’ all the time, you’ll burn out or exhaust everyone around you.  Perhaps I am biased because I am a split introvert-extrovert but let me put it this way, for anything in life, moderation is key. Too much or too little of anything can be a bad thing.  There must be some sort of balance.  If you are too far on one side of the introversion-extroversion scale, sales likely isn’t going to be for you and here is why:

Highly Extroverted People

man-dancing-on-red-carpet-750xx4316-2438-0-375

1. Highly Communicative and Like to Talk. This is fine in sales as long as you know when to shut up and listen to your client. In sales it is so important to listen to your client and engage them in a conversation, not simply talk at them or talk for the sake of talking. If you do that you certainly won’t get the sale and won’t be welcome back either.

2. Enjoy Being the Center of Attention. Some of the most charming sales reps I have ever met share this quality. They love to hear their own voice and make everyone laugh but then they run into the problem of not listening or properly engaging with the client.  In sales, it’s one thing to put on a good song and dance but if you’re client just sees you as a form of entertainment, it may not translate into sales.

3. Tend to Act First Without Thinking. This is never a good thing. Highly extroverted sales reps may inadvertently say anything to get the sale simply because they acted without thinking.  If you lie or over promise and under-deliver, it will hurt you not only in your professional life but in your personal life as well.

4. Assertive and Gregarious. These traits are a must for any sales rep.  After all, if you can’t ask for that sale, you’ll never get that sale.

5. Feel Isolated by Too Much Time Spent Alone. This is probably the primary reason I see highly extroverted reps leave sales.  If you’re on the road full time, you spend a LOT of time alone in your car, at home, in hotels…much more so than face-to-face with clients.  If you’re the type of person who needs constant interaction with others, all of that alone time will take its toll on you.

Highly Introverted People

introverthidingunderdesk

1. Quiet and Reserved in Large Groups or Unfamiliar People. In sales you have to meet unfamiliar people all the time and often have to participate in trade shows or even speak at events. If you score too highly in this regard, you won’t last long in sales.

2. Good Listeners who Enjoy Understanding Details. These traits are integral to success in sales.  Even if you have all the best questions to ask your client, if you don’t listen to their answers  you will never qualify them properly and/or get the sale.  Understanding detail is immensely important when it comes to your grasp of not only your products and/or services but your industry as a whole and your clients’ needs.

3. Interested in Self-Knowledge and Understanding. Individuals with these traits not only understand themselves better but doing so allows them to be more thoughtful of others and more empathetic. The better you understand your client, the better relationship you will have with them and the more likely that you will be able to close deals time and time again.

4. Thoughtful. Whether you are mindful of your clients’ needs or sensitive to their situation (business or personal), this can only help you develop a long-term relationship with your client as a sales rep.

5. Need time Alone to Contemplate and “Recharge” After Social Situations. Introverts do their best thinking alone.  They will spend a significant amount of time analyzing the days goings on and in that time they may devise methods to better understand themselves and their clients and come up with ways to improve their lives and better service their clients.  With regards to recharging, as I mentioned previously, I firmly believe balance and moderation is the key to success in life. Just like our electronic devices that we use all day long, we need to recharge our batteries too.

So where do YOU stand on the introversion-extroversion scale?

Complete this Extroversion-Introversion Test to find out.

I scored 52/100. Well it’s not 50 exactly but it’s pretty darn close.

If you’re in sales or a similar position that requires a significant amount of face-time, I would love to hear your results and your thoughts.

Please share.

In the meantime, happy sales my friends!

TSW

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