In Part II, my focus turned to the need for salespeople to dig deep into buying motives to establish credibility and provide new ideas and insights to buyers. Now, it’s time to turn to some sales tips and techniques for selling in today’s environment.
I don’t want to say that cold calling is dead, but it certainly has changed dramatically. Salespeople used to be able to call a prospect who had never before expressed an interest and get a few minutes of their time. Sometimes, they could just show up at their office and gain entrance. That rarely happens today.
Since the advent of Caller ID, it’s never been easier to ignore incoming phone calls. Salespeople are then left with the question: Do I leave a message or just hang up? Even leaving a voicemail is little guarantee of a callback, so many don’t even bother. I used to get 50 voicemails a day; now I don’t even get 50 a month.
The secret to getting in the door is to find a hook that resonates with the prospect. Here are some more sales tips and techniques that may help.
Cultivate your network. Salespeople need to have an ecosystem in place to build and leverage their connections. I have made great use of the business partner network within my ecosystem to gain access to people. Resellers in the IT space would always be in their customers’ data centers and had strong relationships because they sold so much equipment to them over the years. I knew those resellers and could say something like, “I have a cloud application or some managed services that would work well in this industry and type of environment. Is there a chance that you could get me an introduction to the CIO at XYZ Company? Could you at least send an e-mail to tell him/her that I will be calling and that I would appreciate it if he/she would take the call?
Get to the right person. In addition to business partner relationships, LinkedIn provides a pathway to the people that you want to meet. I would check my first- and second-level connections to see who knows whom and how I might get introduced. I would also look for news of the company that I was targeting, on LinkedIn and more broadly on the Web, to see who might be mentioned in articles. Then, I would contact that person and ask for help in determining the right person to call.
Scale your effort to prospect size. If prospects are SMBs — small and medium businesses — it can be easier to find and get in touch with the economic buyer: the primary and ultimate decision maker. Some entrepreneurs can be reached by picking up the phone. With others, salespeople can sometimes walk over to the office, knock on the door, and get a few minutes of their time. These tactics can work in the SMB world, but with billion-dollar organizations, multiple levels of people often stand in the way. One option is starting with people in the middle and working your way up; the other is starting at the top and getting, in essence, a free pass to talk with the people below. Getting access to the top takes great preparation and research, along with a reputation as a thought leader or industry expert. Even if you do get a first meeting, statistics from Forrester Research show only 17% of salespeople get a second meeting with an executive, often because they didn’t prove their value in the first meeting. So, again, I emphasize the importance of preparation.
Be prepared to overcome objections. Buyer’s sales objections are to be anticipated, addressed, and overcome. It helps to know ahead of time if the buyer is resistant to change, whether there are available funds to purchase the product or service and whether that purchase would be in the current or following fiscal year. If you haven’t thought this through beforehand, the buyer could easily stop your conversations short with objections.
Fulfill your objectives. In first meetings with prospects, I typically have these objectives: 1) establish rapport, 2) secure a second meeting with someone who can describe how the company does business and how their customers do business, and 3) determine if there’s a budget for improving the business that could include my product or service set. Too many salespeople waste time selling to people who can’t make buying decisions or, if they can, don’t have the budget.
As I said in the first two parts of this series, salespeople need to spend the time to learn about their prospects and the industry they operate in. They have to understand the buying process and show that they can contribute and add value. This is more important than ever before because the reality is more buyers are buying than are being sold.