Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rules 22 - 24 From The List

22. Leave your full name and contact information twice on all voicemails.

The logic of this rule should be fairly self-evident.  Give the prospect two shots at deciding whether or not your information is worth recording, and two shots at getting the details right amongst background noise, poor pronunciation and other audio distortions.  There’s no sense making it easy to blow you off by providing just a single, possibly inaudible, version of how to reach you.

Do yourself a favor by spacing out the information too.  The easiest way to do this is to state your name and number once before your purpose for calling and once after.  As for the reason for calling, let’s move on to rule 23.

23. Follow up with a purpose. Never just ‘touch base’ or ‘check in’.

There is a pervasive tendency, especially among B2B sales professionals, to chicken out from asking what you really want to know by instead ‘touching base’ or ‘checking in’.  A small minority of sales professionals are in the baseball or hotel business, so I don’t know why we say these things.  State your purpose directly instead of dancing around the point in hopes of stumbling into the information you desire.

Don’t come up with safe substitutes either.  The most common example of this would be calling to confirm the receipt of a proposal when you really want to know how seriously it is being considered.  Or asking to know if they have any questions when you really want to be the one doing the asking. 

If you want to know how far along the prospect is in making their decision, just ask casually and directly.  The answer will tell you where you stand and how best to position yourself for future success. 

24. There is no substitute for persistence.

There just isn’t. Each attempt at gaining the attention of someone whose good graces you covet will incrementally increase the likelihood that you will be given the chance to prove yourself of value. Working people appreciate hard work, and everyone enjoys the process of being wooed.

It is better to be noticed and shooed away than to never be acknowledged at all.  Now quit messing around online and get back out there!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Rules 19 - 21 From The List

19. Dismiss the competition as inferior or jealous. Never take the bait to bash.

When the conversation steers towards the competition, taking the high road by focusing on your product’s comparative strengths rather than the competition’s alleged weaknesses makes you seem honest and knowledgeable - good. Taking the low road by trashing their product and reputation makes you seem desperate and bitter - bad.

Good: "Our product uses less energy that theirs, which saves you money."

Bad: "Their product uses way too much energy, which is a clear indicator of poor design."

Good: "A big difference between the two products is that ours is made here in the United States, so you know it has been held to the most rigid standards of quality and regulatory compliance."

Bad: "Those guys have their product built in some other country, so it’s obviously a cheap piece of crap."

If the competition is bashing you, that’s great. Now you can ask, “Why do you think they’re bashing us? Because their product is better, or because badmouthing is the only way they can compete?” You come out looking like the hero.

Stay out of the gutter by speaking about comparative advantages. Slinging mud just makes you dirty.

20. Close on every contact by asking for the decision.

The old adage holds true, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” And the competition is busily doing their job keeping both eyes on the prize, so you have a responsibility as sales professionals to actively pursue the deal on every opportunity. Failure to do so would be negligent and costly.

Please note that this rule does not implicate that you should necessarily ask for the deal on every contact. It says ‘decision’ for a reason. The decision you seek on this particular interaction may be a far lesser consideration than a financial commitment. In fact, in the early stages of relationship building, you probably shouldn’t be asking for the money. For example, you might be asking for the next appointment, permission to access information that leads to a proposal or a firm timeline for making the final purchasing decision.

A more formal foray into closing techniques will have its day in subsequent posts. Developing a style and pattern of success is crucial over time, but first you must be dedicated to asking for the incremental decisions that ultimately lead to a close.

21. Always give a specific time to reconnect instead of a vague timeframe. Set an appointment.

I came to a turning point in my while life listening to a Tony Robbins CD on a road trip in college when Tony said, “If you schedule it, you make it real.” Every goal I have accomplished (starting a sales blog, for example) has happened because I set a timeline and stuck to it. Saying ‘you’ll get to it when you get it’ does not get the job done, and this applies to sales as well as any other part of life.

If you tell the prospect that you will call them “sometime next week”, you are leaving the next step in the sales process up to chance. If you tell the prospect that you will call them Tuesday at 4 and send a calendar or email reminder, it is far more likely that they will prepare for and answer your call. After all, they have made a commitment to this time as much as you have by agreeing to the appointment. And if you have to leave a message, you have the heavy hand of guilt on your side because “I thought we had an appointment, and now I can’t find you” is better than “I was hoping to catch you” when you are trying to elicit a return call.

The same holds true for making physical meeting appointments. Do not leave your last meeting without nailing down the next. Even if the prospect is secretly trying to blow you off, they probably will not do it to your face. So ask for the appointment, and let them cancel if they must. At least you can clear the opportunity out of your pipeline instead of wasting time trying to schedule an appointment that will never get made.

Vague timeframes leave deals lingering or lost. Appointments keep the opportunity progressing until it is real. Closed and real.