Tag 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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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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How to Qualify Leads and Not Get Led Astray

Qualifying leads is probably the most difficult skill a salesperson must learn in their career.   It is particularly difficult to do if you are new in sales or new in your industry.  In order to properly qualify your leads, you must:

  1. ASK the right questions
  2. LISTEN to your customer
  3. BE CREATIVEwinternowhere

When I first started in sales, I made the mistake of blindly trusting anyone who suggested a lead to me.  I can’t fault myself for my naivety.  I mean, I was just an eager brand new sales rep.  So whether I got a lead from upper management or by word of mouth through a referral, I quickly learned that you just never really know until you ask your potential customer some crucial questions and qualify them yourself.

I will share with you an example of a time when I failed to do so, and ended up in a less than ideal situation.  My very first week on the road as a sales rep, I got led astray big time both literally and figuratively all because I didn’t know how to properly qualify my lead.

I was having a good meeting with a customer and she asked me “Are you planning on seeing Dr. X?”.

The name wasn’t familiar to me, so I thought that I must have missed that doctor in my database.  I replied, “No, is Dr. X in this city? I don’t recall seeing their name in my database.”

She informed me that “Oh, you must stop by and see Dr. X.  She would use all of the products you are selling and she is only a 10 minute drive away.”

To me that sounded like a win-win.  I had some time to kill before I had to go to the airport, so why not try and get some new business and get working on that hot lead?  After all, it was only 10 minutes away and it was a referral.

She proceeded to give me explicit directions and I was on my way.  I must note that these directions were to drive along this highway for 20Km, make a right at a landmark and the clinic was just around the corner.

As I was driving on this prairie highway in the dead of winter, I was watching the odometer and 20km came and went.  On this particular stretch of highway, there were no businesses, no side roads and certainly no exits.  On top of that, the driving conditions quickly deteriorated into a complete whiteout.  I was driving a sedan with no snow tires.  Rental cars never have snow tires.  The landmark that I was looking out for was a white horse.  Try finding that on a flat prairie highway in the middle of a whiteout!  I was starting to panic, especially since I had a flight to catch later that afternoon.  My panic worsened when I saw a sign for the next town: It was over 300km away! “How on earth do I turn around and get out of here?!?” .

Finally after driving almost 60km and almost having a full blown panic attack, I finally saw the white horse landmark she mentioned.  I was going to give her the benefit of the doubt thinking that  she accidentally told me the distance in miles instead of kilometers (1 mile = 2.2km) but I don’t think the average person could drive 20 miles in less than 10 minutes! .  So that was lie #1.  When I saw this landmark, I was most relieved to finally see a road that I could take to TURN AROUND and go back.  But instead of turning around, I figured that I had already gone this far and I’ve already passed the point of no return, so I drove on in pursuit of this “lead”.

After I make the turn, it’s another 5 minute drive until I find this clinic. Certainly not just around the corner! Lie #2.

Upon my arrival at the clinic, I greet the staff and get in to see the doctor. Lucky for a cold call! I mention Dr. Y recommended that I see her because she thought that she could use my products.

Well as it turned out, this doctor didn’t use any similar products and in discussing her practice in greater depth, I realized that there wasn’t even potential for her to use my products. Lie #3.

I was furious! Dr. Y. sent me all that way in a blizzard on a route that was 3x longer than what she told me and this doctor she referred me to didn’t even use anything remotely close to what I was selling.  She totally sent me on a wild goose chase.  I’m sure she was very amused.  I was so angry that if I didn’t have to make that flight, I would have gone back to her clinic to blow a gasket on her. Not very professional I know, but I got quite scared on that drive and I just couldn’t believe that a professional would lead me astray like that just for fun.    People lie to sales reps for a multitude of reasons but as you may have guessed, this particular individual just happened to be a tad more “off kilter” than the average person.

I later found out from other representatives who had called on this doctor, that she had been known to deliberately go out of her way to get reps into trouble.  For instance, a few reps who used to call on her informed me that she would actually lock the door in front of them when they showed up for an appointment and then she would call their sales manager and tell them that they never showed for the appointment.

Although this lady was an exceptionally bad seed and it is extremely rare that professionals would act in this type of manner, this story is a great example of why you should not just blindly accept and follow any lead you receive without properly qualifying it first.

What did I do wrong?

You guessed it, I didn’t qualify this lead.

What should I have done?

A simple phone call to the clinic in advance would have saved me a lot of time and grief.  Calling in advance of dropping in is not only a sign of respect for your potential future customer but also a great opportunity to qualify them as a potential buyer and decide if they are worthy of your time.

Some questions to help qualify your lead may be:

I hear your business does “X”, can you tell me a bit more about your business so I can see if there is a potential fit between what your company does and what our company has to offer?

Does your business currently use Product or Service X (a product or service that is similar to what you are selling)?

How often do you buy/use said product/service?

Who is normally involved in making the decisions to purchase this product/service?

When do you intend to purchase? It is essential to find out where they are in the buying process and is it a wish, a want or a need? This is very important.

If they don’t currently use a product or service similar to what you are selling, make sure to ask them more questions about the nature of their business to see if there is some way that they could find your product or service useful.   Be creative! Think outside of the box.  But sometimes, just like in my example, there may just not be a fit.

If you can manage to ask a few of these questions in an introductory phone call in order to ascertain if the lead is worthwhile pursuing, it will definitely pay off.  If they are worthwhile pursuing, great, go for it! If not, you just saved a lot of time and effort which you could otherwise be spending focusing on clients who will actually buy from you.

In summary, qualifying isn’t easy.  Sure you can learn some good probing questions in your sales/product training but until you really have a solid grasp of your industry, it isn’t always so intuitive.

Practice makes perfect and the more questions you ask, the more you learn.   

Happy Sales!

 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Cold Calling

dos-and-dontsWhether you are just starting out in sales or you are a seasoned sales representative in your field, if you want to increase your customer base and your sales, cold calling is an absolute necessity.  Cold calling is an art which must be mastered in order for you to be successful in sales.

Most sales people dread the thought of cold calling.  I however am elated at the opportunity.  Why wouldn’t I be? It’s an opportunity to take on the challenge of gaining a new account, getting new sales, establishing more relationships and making more revenue! If you’re in sales and you don’t love getting a sale, you’re probably in the wrong field of work. 

Some “experts” say that “cold calling is dead” because we can all connect through social media first before proceeding to make a “warm call”.  Sure, in some cases this is true.  However if you discover a new potential customer who’s ad you saw online or who’s business you drove by and noticed for the first time, are you really going to go home and stalk them on the internet and waste an hour or more of your time Googling their company, looking them up on LinkedIn and seeing if you have any common connections before you send them an email? And what do you do if you don’t have any common connections?

In my opinion, I think that anyone who preaches and practices this is simply  just too chicken &*%$ to pick up the phone and actually do a cold call.  

In Canada, it is also illegal to email any business or individual without their explicit consent.  Our anti-spam legislation here is so strict that if let’s say you look up a potential customer’s email address on their website, send them an introductory email about you and your company, you could personally face a fine of $1 Million and your company could face a fine of up to $10 Million.

So what should you do? That’s right, pick up the phone and make that cold call!  I know you hate to, but when I first started out in sales and was dreading it, I always told myself “Suck it Up Princess!” and that seemed to do the trick.  After all, you have nothing to lose.

If you make the call, you might get a sale (and possibly repeat sales).

If you don’t make the call, you certainly won’t get the sale.

Okay, so you’re ready to make that cold call. Now what do you say?  This is what you should and should not do on a cold call:

DO:

  • Warmly introduce yourself and the company you are calling from
  • Ask the person answering the phone nicely how they are doing and make note of their name.  Keep record of their name.  They may be a decision maker or you can reference their name later when you make that follow-up call or visit.
  • Tell them very briefly (single sentence ) what your company does and how you found about them
  • Ask them if they are currently using any similar product/services your company provides.  At this point, if the person answering the phone is capable of answering your questions regardless of the answer, ask to make an appointment with them AND /or the other person in charge of making decisions in this area.  If they do not know, THEN ask who might be the person in charge of making decisions and if you can speak with them.  If you offer to include the person to whom you have made your initial contact in your meeting request, it is a sign of respect and even if they are not involved in the decision making process, they will more than likely gladly point you in the right direction.
  • Be nice to everyone.  You are not familiar with the company hierarchy and if you want to get to the decision maker and want to establish a long working relationship with a new potential customer, you should be kind and thoughtful to everyone you interact with.

DON’TS

NEVER, I repeat NEVER just call and immediately ask to speak to the “Manager” or “Person in Charge”!!  I cannot emphasize this enough.  You NEVER know who is answering the phone.  The person answering the phone may be the owner of the company, it may be their spouse or their star employee. If you assume the person answering the phone is just a means-to-and-end-answering-service, they will very likely HANG UP ON YOU and deservedly so. That kind of attitude immediately spells to the person answering the phone that they are inadequate and not worth your time. So why should they help you? That’s right, they shouldn’t.  I certainly wouldn’t.

So the next time you’re tempted to run and hide behind your computer screen instead of making that dreaded cold call, suck it up Princess, pick up that phone and be your lovely self.  The sales will come.

Happy Sales!

TSW

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