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When leads come in, how do you know where to put your sales efforts? More importantly, how do you ensure your sales techniques are working to close a deal?
Which tactics are working well? Which strategies are not delivering results?
By updating your sales techniques and evaluating them based on how well they result in actual sales, you can help ensure your company doesn’t lose business to competitors. From cold calling to attempting the shotgun sales approach to emailing warm leads, consider auditing your entire process and trying some new ideas!
You cannot use the same sales techniques you did 10 years ago.
The sales field is constantly evolving so your sales techniques should evolve as well. In this guide, we’ll walk you through best practices in modern day sales techniques and help explain mistakes you may be making in your approach.
If you’re ready to get a “yes” after one sales call or just looking for new tricks to add to your repertoire, keep on reading or use the outline below to jump ahead to the section that interests you most:
How To Get A "Yes" After Just One Sales Meeting
Are you ready to learn how to close a deal in one call? I mean it — literally one conversation with a stranger that ends with a signed contract. There may be industries in which this technique doesn’t apply, but, for the most part, if you think this is impossible in your field, you’re wrong.
You’re likely unknowingly extending a sales cycle for the sake of extending it. You can either waste time for both you and your prospect, or you can take a shot.
It’s said that only 2 percent of sales are made on a first meeting. But in my experience, that statistic is true only because salespeople believe they cannot close deals in one call. The members of my sales team close 50 percent of their sales meetings in one call. Here’s how you can do the same:
This is not easy. You need to actually feel indifferent about whether the prospect buys what you’re selling. Describe what you have to offer, shut up, let them voice their concerns, and be OK no matter the outcome.
To practice this skill, get in the mindset of describing two dinner options to your significant other. You’re not selling one or the other: You don’t care which one the other side chooses — you just want to make the call. Reach this state of mind.
Implement short, simple contracts.
Get a good lawyer and say you need a simple agreement that is one to three pages, if possible. Listen silently as your lawyer explains why this is impossible, then repeat what you need until he or she makes it happen.
It’s also a must to invest a few dollars in an app to electronically sign these agreements. There are plenty to choose from, and using one removes a lot of friction from the process.
Always offer a pilot.
Make the first commitment extremely approachable but not free. People love pilots. People don’t love taking big risks with unknown companies. Salesforce might be able to get people to sign up long-term, but you probably can’t.
I know, I know. Churn, KPIs, your boss’s and board’s expectations — I get it. But sell more stuff and deliver on what you promise. Your boss and board will be fine.
Paint a picture of simple execution, then deliver on it.
Explain what you do in simple terms. I know everyone says this, but trust me: You’re still probably not doing it well. Even highly intelligent, data-driven folks like simple.
If your spiel uses lingo the general population won’t understand, any decision maker you meet with will assume a partnership will be complicated.
Find a couple of people who aren’t involved in your business and explain the business in one sentence (I used my mother-in-law). If they do not understand, don’t think, “They don’t get it.” Assume you’re not explaining it well. You can call my mother-in-law if you’d like.
Be quiet, and whatever you do, do not ask for the business.
At the end of your call, let the decision maker think and decide without prodding. You’ve said your piece; now say nothing.
And, for God’s sake, do not ask potential buyers for their business. It’s a sales call; they know you want their business. It feels desperate, and you can’t afford to give off the scent of desperation.
Don’t attempt to fool unwitting buyers into purchasing subpar solutions. If you’ve created a great product or service, engage in human conversation with other humans. Then determine whether you can truly help them, and get out of your own way.
*This section is adapted from our article originally published in CEOWorld.biz.
MSP Lead Generation: Stop Losing Business to the Shop Down the Street
So I have good news and bad news.
If you are reading this, you probably are being outsold by a competitor. That's the bad news.
The good news is that this does not have to be a permanent (or even semi-permanent) condition. In fact, by making a few changes to your sales methodology and incorporating some MSP lead generation tactics, you can start eating away at their advantage right now.
Below are 4 things to STOP doing to catch and surpass your competition.
1) Stop believing that happy prospects buy more frequently than skeptical prospects.
According to a study published by Gong.io (a startup that helps you convert more of your pipeline into revenue by shining the light on your sales conversations) "Tire Kickers Use More Positive Language Than Buyers".
And, conversely, according to the study, "positive sentiment levels gradually decline as a deal progresses through each opportunity stage, drawing closer to the finish line".
So, if you are in a situation where a buyer seems a little too positive, might be time to ask some tougher questions. Gong.io recommends, “What obstacles and reservations need to be resolved before we move on to the next step?”
2a) Stop believing that salespeople should be making cold calls.
They should not. There's a reason so many successful companies have differentiated the activities of closing deals and prospecting. Sales people should spend time closing deals. That's what they're great at and it's where you get the best return on their time. Appointment setting is a completely different animal.
2b) Drop the misconception that outsourced lead gen / appointment setting is a bad idea.
Our MSP clients receive at least 5 quality opportunities per month. Many of them close deals and achieve positive ROI exceptionally quickly. There are many others like us in the space. Are there some bad eggs? Sure, but when you find the right partner, it can change your business.
The point being: outsourcing appointment setting can be done, it can be done well, and it can materially (and quickly) impact your bottom line.
3) Stop trying to build rapport at the MIDDLE OR END of sales calls.
According to a similar Gong.io study, "the best salespeople build rapport early on in their sales calls compared to their peers." This is critical as it implies that worse performing salespeople are making small talk during the middle and at the end of calls potentially derailing important, continuous business conversation.
The MSP space is competitive, and, as is the case with any competitive industry, sales effectiveness plays a key role in determining winners and losers. By separating yourself from some of the above beliefs, you can move yourself further into the winners column.
5 Things You Can Do Now to Boost Sales Beyond Cold Calls
Every company wants more sales. After all, it’s how brands stay relevant, necessary, and in the black. Businesses are constantly challenged to attract attention, build loyalty, and move the needle on conversions. Figuring out how to balance this internal need with the external marketplace can be challenging.
Some brands, in fact, feel like the marketplace is constantly dealing them blows that hamper their attempts at boosting sales.
Businesses from department stores to healthcare companies feel that Amazon is a looming threat to their long-term revenue. Baby product brands are seeing sales drop as the birth rate in the U.S. falls. And as ride-sharing services become more popular and public transportation is in vogue for its environmentally friendly benefits, U.K. car dealers are seeing sales shrink.
But focusing on the external factors that limit sales distracts companies from what they can do to boost them. They have a lot more control — and more options — than they think.
Going Beyond Cold Calls
When pressure to increase sales hits, most companies default to cold calling as the solution. That’s not necessarily the way to go, particularly if that’s the only tactic a business is capitalizing on. “Phone calls produce more in-the-moment pressure to do something, which can yield the lowest-quality meetings,” says Jeff Winters, the CEO of Sapper Consulting.
He says people are constantly looking for a “how to cold call” guide, but that misses the point: “It doesn’t take into account that people will respond, or not respond, to different mechanisms. There’s a whole population that will never take a cold call, as well as a whole population that won’t respond to email or won’t read LinkedIn messages.”
Here’s what brands wanting higher sales should do instead:
1. Build an integrated plan.
Winters recommends that brands build lead-generating plans that include cold calls in addition to emails, social touches, thought leadership, and other tactics. By assessing which personas respond best to different kinds of outreach, brands can tailor their methods to the specific audiences they’re targeting. The goal is to determine which method works best for a particular type of customer so the quality of the ultimate conversation is improved.
2. Make the most of digital tools.
Some companies still heavily rely on in-person meetings to close deals, but digital platforms can offer more efficient ways of connecting. Better yet, they can gather data that informs the entire team’s efforts. McKinsey & Company found that fast-growing companies invested in digital tools that delivered actionable insights to their salespeople; they then shared the collected information with partners, ensuring consistency across efforts. “Mobile-first” isn’t just convenient for prospects and customers — it’s useful for sales teams.
3. Ask for referrals.
Many people feel they can only ask for referrals from customers who are incredibly happy with their current service — and they do make for great referrers. But people who have said “no” in the past are also strong sources. While they themselves may not have had the budget for the brand’s services or may not have felt the urgent need, they may know other companies that do. By offering incentives for referrals — which can range from discounts to cold hard cash — a company can boost its lead sources, even among businesses it couldn’t help.
4. Ensure your brand is hard to miss.
While not every company can afford a line of billboards or Super Bowl ads, every business can do something to heighten its visibility. A company blog is a good starting point: Having your content address customers’ pain points provides sales collateral for your salespeople. (Bonus points if they write it.) External content can also be a game changer: Whether a brand is pitching a well-known industry publication or a local business magazine, it’s putting itself in front of its ideal audience. But don’t forget what may be the most natural platform for salespeople: public speaking. By booking them opportunities to speak — whether it’s at a conference or in front of a local Chamber of Commerce group — sales experts can bask in their strengths while providing value to (and attracting interest from) others.
5. Actively look for upsell opportunities.
Companies that provide services or product-based customer service often separate their sales and customer service duties. While this makes sense, this also places a divide between these perspectives. Schedule blocked-off times to have salespeople sit with account managers or customer service representatives and talk through client accounts or recent calls. By hearing about customers’ concerns, salespeople can improve their ability to overcome obstacles when closing sales — and they can also help reps and account managers find overlooked ways to increase the value of existing accounts.
Cold calling may have been viewed as companies’ savior in the past, but it can’t be viewed as the be-all, end-all in an era when there are nearly as many ways to communicate as there are audiences. By tying lead generation to a variety of tactics, businesses are more likely to find just the right way to talk to the right people.
*This section is adapted from our article originally published in KillerStartups.
5 Steps to Winning Your Sales Meeting in the First 13 Minutes
Research indicates that just 0.78 percent of B2B leads convert into new customers. If you don’t understand the gravity of this situation, chances are you’re googling “B2B” to see what it means. But if you’re struggling to surmount the conversion obstacle, I can help.
The chief culprit is the quality of the first 13 minutes of the very first sales meeting. Those 13 minutes are where the deal is won or lost. Here are five steps to ensure you’re winning the client in that crucial timeframe:
1. Ask questions that you genuinely want answered.
Most salespeople ask questions to uncover pain points or unearth a need the customer has that their product or service can magically fill. This is the wrong approach. It’s manipulative and transparent. And, above all, you cannot ask questions to create a need or pain and successfully have a genuine conversation at the same time. The two are mutually exclusive. It’s not possible to respond well if you’re mulling over a planned spiel in your head. The prospect smells it every time. Engage.
Get curious about the prospect's general industry, and research his specific business. And if you can do this without offending, try to ask at least one question that challenges your prospect’s thinking.
Don't cross any lines and ask anything that’s potentially insulting, but show that you've done enough research to bring new ideas to the table.
Your prospect needs to know that you get it. And by “it,” I mean his industry and business. It’s impossible to do so unless you really prepare and listen. Even making one or two truly thoughtful points (unless they’re completely lacking nuance) will show that you did your homework. So practice, practice, practice.
2. Try to be less unlikable.
You may have heard that “people buy from people they like.” Wrong. It happens all the time, but your prospect doesn't have to actively like you. He just won’t buy from someone he actively dislikes. So rather than become super likable, get the prospect to not actively dislike you.
Don’t try to build rapport with a stranger during the first two minutes of a call. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t just look fake — it is fake. Assume the prospect dislikes you because you’re a salesperson. Most prospects do. The mission must be to get him to dislike you less without being obvious by conjuring up something you have in common.
Be self-deprecating (if that’s your thing). Use phrases like “I know you know this” and “I’m sure I’m telling you something you already know” to assure your prospect that he won’t be getting a lecture filled with basic information.
Most importantly, have a real conversation. Make him think you’re not trying to sell him something because you’re not. You’re chatting, learning about the business, presenting your wares, and seeing where it goes.
3. Don't change your personality.
When people get this wrong, it leads to spectacular implosions. Unless you're looking to provide comedy for someone else, do your best to avoid it.
Salespeople (and you’ve seen this) for some reason turn into somebody else when they’re trying to sell something. Whether they’re asking the questions they think they should ask or presenting the story they think they should present, it’s a recipe for disaster.
You need to be agile in conversations, but that's impossible when you're stuck trying to be somebody else. You were hired for your personality, so don't hide it. Just be you.
4. Don't waste your time persuading the prospect.
If you notice you're losing the sale, you lost it 10 minutes ago. Let's say you're pitching and the prospect isn't interested. Maybe you push a little harder by asking a question that turns out to be dumb, making everyone uncomfortable. He gets annoyed. The wheels fall off. We've all been there.
Instead, when things aren't working, say something like "Hey, it doesn't seem like you're interested. Am I misreading that?" Give him an out. He’ll tell you. Here's the reality: You can't persuade a prospect who isn't interested in your services. Ask him about his business, tell him what you do, and if it's not a fit, move on.
5. Make the process simple.
I get it. You sell a complicated solution that requires weeks (if not months) of data collection and the input of doctors, nurses, CFOs, clergy, and astrologists. Your product is fascinating, and you want to thoroughly explain how it’s going to revolutionize the way people chew gum.
But when you go too deep, your message gets muddied and people lose interest. Focus on what makes your offering unique and compelling. The greatest human motivators are simple concepts: love, fear, golf, etc.
So don’t over complicate your sales calls. Use these five strategies to win the first 13 minutes of the call and get that close rate past 0.8 percent.
*This section is adapted from our article originally published in EyesOnSales.com.
5 Ways to Ditch the Shotgun Sales Approach
Despite a measly 50 percent of sales leads being qualified, chief executive sales officers (CE/SO) jump on every coffee networking lead as if it’s a sure thing. While it might be more fun for CE/SOs, this approach is fundamentally flawed — and easily fixed.
A CE/SO is a chief executive officer who is also the chief sales officer. This doesn’t mean he or she is the only salesperson at the company, but it does mean that this individual is looked to as the sales leader. And as a leader, this person should ensure that his or her sales approach is maximizing deal flow and minimizing employee unhappiness.
Most CE/SOs prioritize leads and sales meetings backward. They relentlessly schedule meaningless coffee meetings and refuse to have the “unqualified demo.” But this strategy leads to wasted time and lowered team morale.
Whether you like it or not, how you spend your time sets the example for how your team should spend its team. Your company’s mantra shouldn’t be “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Set a Standard for Your Team
As the CE/SO, you need to set an example of time efficiency. One huge flaw I’ve seen among CE/SOs is that they’re often out of the office or out of town working on highly improbable sales opportunities when their team is expected to be working in the office 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. This negatively impacts company culture. It leaves your team wondering when you’ll be in and what you’re doing. Do not let these thoughts creep into the minds of your team. You always need your people to feel that you are the hardest working person at the company.
It’s ironic, but often these CE/SOs will take frivolous coffees but refuse what they consider “unqualified” sales calls. This makes absolutely no sense and should be completely reversed. Take more sales meetings than you think you should and fewer networking and coffee meetings than you think you should. If someone is interested — even if they may not seem like a great prospect on paper — you should take the call. Or at least five to seven minutes of the call.
Instead of making judgments ahead of time, like refusing to meet with someone because of his or her title, just spend seven minutes on the phone and decide for yourself whether the call will be a productive one. Start by getting curious about the company — really understand what they do — and assess whether it’s going to be a good fit.
I frequently go into calls thinking they won’t be productive and am surprised by the positive outcome. Conversely, I’ll often prep and go into a call with high hopes and ditch the call after four minutes. The fact of the matter is you just don’t know until you’re on the call.
Spot Bad Leads
Once you’ve scheduled the sales meeting, though, how can you tell within those first few minutes whether a lead is going somewhere or whether you should get out now?
It’s relatively simple. You probably have (and if you don’t, should have) disqualifiers: three or four attributes a prospect must have to even consider him or her as a customer.
For my company, you must have: an average customer lifetime value above $10,000; a total number of potential U.S. customers greater than 1,000; and a strong desire to grow the business.
You might be thinking, “But if you can uncover these attributes prior to the call, why take the meeting?” Good question. First of all, you might be wrong. Secondly, perhaps there’s a new product or service that is not public and you don’t know about. And last, in today’s business climate, individuals are often involved in many businesses. Perhaps the business they’d like to discuss is not one you are thinking about.
Another way to make sure you’re spending time wisely is to ask the prospect. Don’t be shy about coming out and asking about a lead’s intentions. You don’t have to be rude about it — don’t be a Neanderthal and demand straight out, “Look, are you going to bite or not?” Be subtle. If someone doesn’t sound like she wants your product or services, say, “You don’t sound terribly interested, am I right?” Either she’ll admit she’s not going to become a customer or she’ll warm up.
But that all pales in comparison to the most surefire way of determining if a lead is good: Does the lead ask you to send more information? If so, you know with almost 100 percent certainty that this lead is going nowhere. When people generically ask me for information at the end of a call, I refer them to my company’s website and mark them as lost.
How to Focus on Good Leads
Once you’ve weeded out your bad leads, make sure you’re using your increased time and energy to capitalize on the good ones. Here are five practices you should be using for every call with your qualified leads:
1. Forget about BANT leads (unless they call you).
BANT, an acronym for “Budget,” “Authority,” “Need,” and “Timeline,” is the old standard rubric that sales managers use to judge whether a lead is “qualified.” It’s dead. Bury it.
In today’s world, if a potential customer is BANT qualified, that means she has a pressing (sometimes desperate) need for a product or service in your category. Using outbound marketing to secure BANT-qualified leads is unreasonable. If someone is in desperate need of a service, he’s already gone out for himself and found a vendor or a few vendors. If you are that vendor, mazel tov. If not, give up on holding yourself or your salespeople to this standard and asking them questions in 1-on-1s to determine if they have BANT-qualified leads in their funnel.
2. Prioritize preparation over follow-up.
Stats like “It takes 27 touches on average to close a deal” make salespeople and CE/SOs waste endless amounts of time poring over the right note to send post-meeting or the perfect number of days in between sending a contract and robo-calling your prospect. The truth is: It doesn’t matter. The deal is won or lost in the meeting. Just like you can’t save a bad date with a great text, you can’t revive a deal with a great follow-up note.
If you can’t save a bad meeting with follow-up, it stands to reason that you should do everything in your power to ensure your meeting doesn’t need saving. Take 80 percent of the time you spend on “following up” and move it into preparing for the meeting. And I don’t mean figure out where they went for spring break with their niece in 2010 so you can drop in a line about how you also love Antigua. I mean role play, anticipate questions, think about how you’re going to build credibility, etc.
3. Pull deals quickly.
The idea of “qualifying” prospects to determine whether they are actually going to become customers presumes two things that are largely untrue: When you are asking qualifying questions (what’s your timeline to make this decision, are you the final decision maker, etc.) you are getting the real answers and when those answers won’t shift over time. Both are bad assumptions.
The only way to determine whether a deal is going to happen or not is through action. And you cannot force action by increasing the quantity or frequency of your follow-ups. Creating false deadlines is transparent to customers and smacks of desperation. So pull deals. It’s real, it forces action, and it will save lots and lots of time.
4. Stop pretending.
Anybody can trick themselves into thinking that Steve who asked for more information (and sounded so interested) was different from the 100 leads who asked for more information and went dark. Maybe he was nicer or seemed more inspired by your pitch. He liked it, right? Right?
Wrong. Steve didn’t like your pitch. If he did, he wouldn’t have asked for more information. That’s not how interested people act.
I know, I know. One time Joanne from the big company you sold a deal to once in the ‘80s did ask for more information and Joanne became a customer. That’s an exception, not the rule.
Assume the worst. If your gut says it’s going to close, it’s not. If your gut says it might not close, it’s not. And if your gut says it’s probably not going to close, it’s definitely not.
5. Schedule the right type of intro meeting — a phone call.
Set yourself up for success before the first meeting even starts. Start with a 20-minute to 45-minute introductory call. Life won’t end if 20 to 30 minutes get wasted. Stop scheduling face-to-face intro meetings in Topeka if you live in Los Angeles, saying you’ll build some other bad meetings around this intro and make the trip worthwhile. (Doubt it.)
Not all leads are equal. Do your homework, take the call, but if it’s not a good fit within the first few minutes, set them loose.
To help set your sales team up for success, implement some of these sales techniques and test them against your current methods. If you need help with lead generation so your team can focus on selling, Sapper Consulting can help you create a steady flow of new leads to turn into new clients.