From the CCS® Sales Blog

August 2014

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Sales Prospecting: Is Cold Calling Dead?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-rip-phoneAccording to a study by the Harvard Business Review, 90% of decision makers won’t respond to cold calls. So is cold calling dead?

Many prospects that have answered cold calls probably hope the rumor is true and are actively trying to spread it. Getting executives interested in discussing offerings is one of the hardest tasks sellers are told to do. That mindset crystalizes the crux of the problem and sets most sellers up for failure. Executives able to spend unbudgeted funds have little interest in learning about offerings.

In the first minute or less, the challenge is getting executive buyers interested in improving business results through the use of a seller’s offerings. Few sellers are capable of getting buyers to share their business goals in a brief phone conversation. Without identified business goals there is no reason to engage with sellers. If a goal or problem is shared, the seller must understand the buyer’s needs before offerings are discussed.

After analyzing 15,000,000 dials and 770,000 conversations last year, a Miller Heiman Research Institute study concluded 8.5% of the sales professionals surveyed could be considered “world class.” The study also found average salespeople convert 4.76% of conversations into meetings and 5.91% of conversations into referrals. The figures for 

world class reps are 12.73% and 24.76%, respectively.

Cold CallingIf traditional cold calling is dead or in critical condition, few can be sad about a fate it richly deserves. Averages sellers making sporadic attempts to contact executive buyers by leading with offerings will net a horribly low percentage of new opportunities. If you look at the numbers above for average sellers it is difficult to justify having average sellers do business development activities left to their own devices.

Making the challenge even more daunting is the AMA study that found it takes an average of 7.2 attempts to reach executives while at the same time discovering that few sellers made more than 3 attempts to contact prospects. 

What to do?
Here are a few suggestions to improve the fruits of business development (bus dev) by using best practices:

  • Provide sellers the titles they should be targeting for given offerings or verticals.
  • For each title create menus of business problems that your offering addresses.
  • Provide a series of scripts (phone and voicemail) and relevant collateral.
  • Combine phone, voicemail and email to create a series of touches that will be done over a finite period of time. Have each touch focus on a different business issue.
  • Define a lead as a title that admits one or more problems from their menu.

Inbound leads are often with companies that don’t fit your profile and buyers that are low entry points. Best practice outbound Bus Dev efforts allow vendors to target companies and titles that meet their criteria and should yield much higher close rates.

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Sales Tips: Don’t Rush to Issue Proposals

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Scott Chan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

sales tips for handling proposalsIn my experience, most proposals are issued prematurely. Sellers view issuing proposals as a step toward the ultimate goal of obtaining orders. Proposals should provide buyers the information needed to make buying decisions. If the seller hasn’t had access to the decision maker, proposals can be a poor way to get those levels onboard.

Prior to buying, decision makers want to know:

  • Business outcomes that can be improved
  • Why those outcomes can’t be achieved without the offering being considered
  • What specific capabilities the offering provides to allow achievement of desired results
  • The cost vs. benefit (value)
  • Implementation efforts and support (if applicable)
  • Pricing and terms

Issuing proposals before these areas have been addressed often causes opportunities to stall. Many ultimately result in buyers making “no decision.”

Buyers don’t like premature closes because they feel pressured. Here are two suggestions before you issue proposals:

  1. Ask if the buyer is ready to buy. Proposals amount to asking for the business. Unless you’ve addressed all the issues listed above, you’ve got more work to do. This also provides a “sanity check” to validate that the buyer is ready to receive a proposal.
  2. See if buyers will agree to review a draft proposal to provide an opportunity to ensure the proposal reflects what they buyer wants/needs to see and make any necessary changes or additions.

Unlike fine wine, proposals don’t improve over time. After a month or so has passed, the chances of getting orders begin a slow fade. Months later sellers remove them from their forecasts. Having the patience to issue proposals when buyers are ready to buy can minimize the number of stagnant proposals in a seller’s pipeline.

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Sales Tips: Why Being Respected Is More Important Than Being Liked ?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

sales tipsHave you ever tried to get someone to like you? My wife and mother have tried for decades. It hasn’t been especially productive. When meeting executives for the first time, many sellers are anxious to make positive first impressions. Buyers are working from positions of power as they have granted you permission to meet and can terminate the call prematurely if it isn’t going well.

Consciously or subconsciously, some sellers decide their objective is to have buyers like them. By looking at a new relationship from this perspective, it makes sellers view themselves as subordinates. Consider for a moment how unlikely it is that the buyer is trying to get you to like them. 

Instead, it may get you to a better place if your first objective is to have buyers respect you. Especially when making Key Player calls, the source of your power lies in being a subject matter expert. Ideally your knowledge extends beyond the offering and you have the ability to uncover business outcomes that can be achieved through usage of your products and services.

Being liked and respected aren’t mutually exclusive. Given a choice of which decision I’d like to have buyers make first, it would be respect.

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