Beating the Prospecting Blues, Steps One and Two

We’ve all been there. Your boss—or maybe your boss is you, and to eat you’ve got to start—says, “Time to start ‘Dialing for Dollars’. Here’s the script, here’s a list of five hundred people who have never heard of us: get started.” Eww. You mean, I have to cold call complete strangers, rattle off this script word for word, and hope they’ll stay on the line long enough to tell me whether they are interested or not??

First of all, let’s throw out that old saw, “Dialing for Dollars”. That’s a bad intention and not what you’re going to do. Maybe you’ve been doing that, but I want you to stop immediately. The intention of your calls is now to make genuine connections with other people, and find out if you can help them in some way. If you can’t, that’s fine: this is feedback, not rejection.

You must have a consistent sales process. You can’t wing it, not have a plan, not know what the next step is. Applied with the intention of genuinely helping others, this will be your most powerful tool in kicking the Prospecting Blues. Also the first key to sales force transformation.

Second, scripts are good, but you have to develop a way to say those words in your own voice. I can say “I pity the fool…” all I want, but those are Mr. T’s words and will never be mine. You will do much better if you take the script and move it into your own intention and voice.

There will probably be resistance to this… particularly if you’re in a call center. In that situation it’s tough, because some supervisor was told everyone has to use that script, letter for letter. If you’re going to succeed at cold calling, however, you’re going to have to put the words into your own voice.

Let’s look at an example. Say the script reads, “67% of all data entry productivity is derived from the software the data is entered into.” Do you talk like this? If you do, then go ahead and say it that way. Assuming you don’t talk like a technical manual, how else could you accurately express the same idea and yet not have that little voice in your head announce “You sound like a robotic moron” as you say it?

You could say, “You know, when it comes to data entry, two-thirds of the productivity your people experience is a direct result of what software you’re using.”

Or maybe, “It’s a surprising thing, but typing skills don’t matter nearly as much as what software you’re using to record data: the specific software is responsible for sixty-seven percent of your data entry productivity.”

Figure out how you can say the idea naturally. I encourage having a script, and also taking the extra step of personalizing it to your voice. This will considerably help you feel better about prospecting.

Now let me clear something up: a script is merely a framework for discussion. To be a successful cold caller, you must have a consistent sales process, and that will lead you through the call’s stages. The script gives you the confidence of knowing what your message is, what you’re going to say. If it becomes necessary to deviate from the script, or not mention some of the things in it at all, so be it. Following a process and being genuine are far more powerful tools to help with cold calling and for kicking the Prospecting Blues.

Stay tuned for Steps Three to Six…

Jason Kanigan, EzineArticles.com Basic Author


Sales Force Transformation in Information Technology: Part Two

I believe salespeople in the IT field have started to figure it out. Early on, an IT person would sell to an IT person. They’d speak the same language, talk the same terms. Care about the same things, the gigahertz and the MTUs and the whatsits. All smiles. Then came the shift where IT salespeople had to start talking to business leaders: CEOs, accountants, administrators. Not database administrators, either. People who didn’t care about the technical side…but cared very much about steps removed in processes, better access to information, resources freed up. Oh dear. The IT salesperson had to learn a different language. In my opinion, very few got good at it. There’s some talk about ROI (but in some regions I’ve worked, it already wasn’t about ROI any longer…), and “achieving business goals”, but it’s weak. As a business listener, those terms ring hollow when an IT person says them. Sorry, I’m skeptical.

Now IT salespeople at Value-Added Resellers (VARs) work to sell and service accounting/CRM/ERP packages. They’ve got some features-and-benefits-oriented programming sheets from the OEMs. Sure, there’s a sprinkling of ROI and other buzzwords on there. Listening from the buyer perspective, however, I’m just not…uh, buying it.

So here’s where I am certain IT salespeople have started to figure it out: they’re making their calls, and encountering reactions. Resistance. It’s not working out that well. Especially if they’ve been living off prospecting done by the OEMs—which has now been cut out—and have now been forced to jump into the prospecting ‘hot seat’. For many, it’s been a meat grinder. They’ve discovered they need to do their job a very different way from what was working just a couple of years ago, if they want to survive and succeed. Yet they don’t know what that would look like.

What is called for is a sales process that transforms the VAR salesperson from a features-and-benefits product pusher using ROI as one of many sales tools into a trusted advisor welcomed into the prospect’s organization with the relief of “Finally, here is someone who can actually help us.”

If your organization is experiencing these concerns, we should speak.

Jason Kanigan, EzineArticles.com Basic Author


Sales Force Transformation in Information Technology: Part One

I’ve been advised that Microsoft has stopped prospecting on behalf of their partners. Sage, I’m told, has ceased prospecting for their partners, too. The easy leads of the past decades are gone: resellers must now find and qualify prospects on their own. Add to this the economic turbulence of the past few years, the fact that what worked just a short time ago no longer functions, and the result is Panic! The IT Value-Added Reseller (VAR) world is turning upside-down.

Before, a reseller might turn up the dial on cold calling. They might tell their sales staff to lean on happy clients to generate referrals. Yet now all that results is the tippy-toe syndrome: everyone’s standing on their tippy-toes now, and they’re all ready to fall over.

The truth is that most VAR salespeople were pretty content with things just prior to this changing of the rules. No prospecting, if they could get away with it, and pulling in the odd referral. Mostly, though, farming existing clients. Now the game has changed.

What is suddenly necessary in the VAR world to survive and succeed is not simply sales training. Sales force transformation is what is desperately needed over the next year or so: a pep talk and orders to crank up the dials is not going to be enough. Everyone is going to be doing that, so the result is simply going to be increased bombardment of suspects by features-and-benefits-oriented sales callers. Uh oh! How do you think the poor suspects and prospects are going to react to this?

When we talk of “transformation”, we speak of a deep change in the underlying beliefs, concepts, methodology and reason for or pertaining to the sales process. It’s not just a fancy buzz phrase. I am a prospect for a new accounting/CRM/ERP system, and I am not interested in the specific bells and whistles of whatever package you offer, Madam Salesperson. You had better sound different. You had better be truly trying to help me. Or I won’t have time for you at all.

The Information Technology field needs a complete Sales Force Transformation. The alternative is bombardment of prospects with a thousand cries of product features and benefits—which they will quickly become startlingly deaf to. The VAR way of prospecting has to become different. Changed. Transformed. Starting to get the idea?

Jason Kanigan, EzineArticles.com Basic Author


Enthusiastic or Genuine?

Okay, so maybe you agree with me that coating yourself in the oil slick of enthusiasm isn’t the best thing for sales success. What are else are you supposed to do, then?

Let’s say you have a problem. You go to a place where you are pretty sure they can take care of it, and when you go in, you’re invited to sit down and wait to be served. After waiting awhile in an office, the door opens and a small, quiet man comes in. He’s smiling, but not too much, and he starts asking you simple but direct questions to find out what’s bothering you. He examines where you say you have the problem. There’s no pushing of a product or service; he just listens, nods, asks relevant and probing questions. You feel quite comfortable.

After a brief time, the small man has what he needs. He writes a note on a pad, tears it off and gives it to you. Then he informs you what he believes what the cause is of the symptoms you’ve indicated. He explains what he thinks is going on. You feel better almost immediately. Smiling and shaking his hand, you take the note and leave. Who is this man? That’s right, he’s your doctor.

It’s funny: you don’t mind too much about having to wait to see your doctor, do you? And you like that he doesn’t burst into the room with all sorts of noisy and preconceived notions about the solution to your particular problem. He quietly asks simple, probing questions to find out more about what’s going on. Only when he’s sure a specific solution matches the cause of your symptoms does he let you know what he thinks. What is his attitude? Genuinely caring about you and your well-being. Friendly, but not gym sales director-enthusiastic.

What would happen if you approached the sales process like your doctor? What if you were genuinely concerned with your prospect’s well-being, rather than enthusiastic about a specific solution? How different would that be?

Jason Kanigan, EzineArticles.com Basic Author


Enthusiasm Is Your Enemy

Enthusiasm. Bleah. As salespeople, we’re supposed to ooze the stuff: it’s usually a listed requirement for sales positions, and if it’s missing many so-called sales experts get miffed. I remember some feedback from a phone interview not so long ago in which the business owner, who had professed to be familiar with consultative selling methodology, decried my lack of enthusiasm. I chuckled when I read the email. Clearly this individual did not understand consultative sales. Regardless, enthusiasm is gross. It’s the cheap cologne of the unprofessional salesperson. Can you imagine going into an electronics store, and having five sales clerks run towards you: “Can I help you?!” “Can I help you?!”

What’s your natural reaction to that? Right, you cringe. You put up the wall, announce that you’re “just looking”, and back away.

Consultative selling professionals have been known to frown. They sigh a lot ( “I think we have a problem.”) They confront issues honestly and head-on, instead of trying to avoid and gloss over them with false-faced “enthusiasm.”

Enthusiasm sure can get you into trouble. Remember that pumped-up sales guy you worked with who enthusiastically promised potential customers that your product or service could do anything? That someone would make it do that? Without checking, that the production department would be able to hit that super-quick turnaround? How’d that turn out?

Recall that I’m often talking about being scarce, about making your product or service or expertise scarce, because that’s where value and higher prices come from. Enthusiasm (or, “Sure, we can do that, anytime, anywhere, anyhow! Can we give it to you right now? For free?!”) runs you right onto the railroad tracks of the buyer’s method. Get several sources of supply. Make them equal. Tell them they’re all equal. Watch ‘em jump.

No, thanks. Keep your enthusiasm. I’ll keep my scarcity, my desire to uncover the real problem, and my freedom from the price objection.

Jason Kanigan, EzineArticles.com Basic Author


How Giving Away Information Results in Sales Torture

You’re receiving a sales torture treatment. Waiting nervously, hoping the deal won’t die, cutting your price at the whim of prospective buyers. You got into this situation by giving away free information, in the form of samples, designs, layouts, etc. Why did you do that?!

Our Competition Does That

So? Your competition is going through the same nerve-wracking process you are, too…do you think this is really a good idea?

Our Customers Won’t Deal With Us Unless We Do That

Are you certain? I challenge you: I think this is a fear and not a truth. What’s actually going on is that your sales process has let you down, and has lead you into this situation. With a different process you’ll get a different result.

Our Value Comes From Doing That

No! No! No! Your value comes from your solution, it’s true; but, if you give it away, what value does it have?

What’s truly been going on here is that the customer has long since figured out how the traditional sales process operates, and is using it to play one solution provider off against the other in order to get the most benefits for the lowest price. And here you are, giving them a free education in the bargain!

Want to lose the torture treatment? Want to get a different result? Try a different process.

Jason Kanigan, EzineArticles.com Basic Author


The Agony of Price-Based Competition

If you’re engaged in a price fight and a race to the bottom with your competition, you’re in trouble. Unless, of course, you want to be the bargain basement, discount leader in your field. As our mustachioed comrade Joseph Stalin once quipped, “Quantity has a quality all of its own.”

Assuming you don’t want that dubious distinction, let’s talk about what you could do to change what’s happening. I’ll bet you’re sitting down with prospective clients, finding out their needs, and then putting together a sample or a design or a layout or a draft. Then you are giving them that free information.

Then waiting. Waiting. Following up. Any questions? No. We’re reviewing. Oh. Okay.

More waiting. More following up. Suddenly, a call: we like it, but XYZ and ABC Companies are offering similar solutions for $X less…can you do better? Cut, cut, cut into your margins why don’t you. After all, you want the deal to survive.

Then, finally, sometimes a yes comes back. Most of the time, no; or worse, silence. Don’t call us; we’ll call you. Ugh. Familiar?

Talk about a torture treatment. And you’re asking for it!

Wait, you say you’re not asking for it?

Oh, but you are. We’ll get into how you did that in the next entry.

Jason Kanigan, EzineArticles.com Basic Author