Why Questions Matter When Qualifying Your Sales Leads

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In the early ’80s, there was a saleswoman who was awesome at selling mainframes. But really, she just walked into businesses and asked questions. Then she took their responses back to the engineers, they told her what the client needed, she told the customer, and they’d buy.

Obviously, the company loved her, so they sent her to school to learn more about the interworking of the mainframes. After six months of intense training, she knew everything there was to know about them. And her sales were thoroughly average after that. Why? She stopped asking questions. She thought she knew what the customers needed and stopped listening to them.

Being a rock star doesn’t mean knowing the most about a subject — it’s knowing what questions to ask so you can find the right solution.

Questions Start the Story

Qualifying sales leads is all about asking questions. Then, as you come to understand the environment of the company, you can tell your story and make a sale.

As you ask questions and talk with them about their business, you’re not only learning the information, but you’re often validating what they’re doing. Plus, they’re thinking through why they do what they do. Either way, you’re now on a deeper level of conversation.

Now you have the chance to reassure them they’re in a good spot or show them how your product meets their needs. If it’s not a good fit right now, it’s okay to admit it. Every relationship has a beginning, middle, and end. And when the timing is right for them, maybe you’ll be able to work together.

But if you ask the right questions, you’ll know if they have needs you can meet. Then you share your story as a part of that conversation. Maybe you say, “This is why we’re here. Our clients are the same way you are. That’s why I asked you the question. We can solve your problem. You just need to decide how important this need is to your business.”

Related: Sell the Value of Your Product, Not the Price

If You Don’t Qualify Leads

So what happens if you don’t qualify a lead? Well, a number of things can go wrong. Here’s a few:

  • Lose sale opportunities
  • Waste time
  • Send wrong marketing material
  • Nurture prospects in the incorrect way
  • Propose the wrong solution
  • Never figure out what’s really going on

Some of those problems can be avoided if you plug prospects into a marketing analysis to see user variables. But qualifying a lead through conversation takes the business relationship to the next level. Sales happen when you have conversations that lead to the right solutions.

Signs of a Qualified Prospect

So how do you know if a prospect is a good fit? Well, during the conversation, you’ll know if your product lines up with their needs. But in order for them to pull the trigger, they’ll need trust, timing, and money.

Trust begins as you start the relationship and develops over time. As you’re building trust, be consistent. Stay in contact and follow through with what you say. The timing also has to be right. If you have the right process, you’ll know if it’s the right time for them. Money is the easiest factor to check. Look at their business size compared to your cost and see if they can afford it.

Deal With the Decision Maker

You’ll never sell if you’re not talking to the right person. Knowing how to qualify leads is irrelevant if you aren’t dealing with the decision maker. Ask yourself, “Does this person have the authority to make purchasing decisions?”

In a business, there are asset owners (the owner of the business) and asset custodians (the directors). And the priorities of owners and custodians are completely different. If you’re selling a commodity that’s all about lowering the price per product, talk to the asset custodian. The focus is on offering products for less money.

However, if you’re selling value of service, talk to the asset owner. A service is all about the relationship. So you need to explain the benefits of the service to the person who has the most liability. Once they’re on board, they might pass you off to the asset custodian to work out the details, but it takes owner buy-in first.

Qualifying prospects doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s all about a conversation. Ask questions that help your prospect talk about their needs. Then you’ll know if you have the solution to make the relationship worthwhile.

 

Anatomy of the Perfect Sales Follow-Up Call

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Benjamin Franklin once said, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Well, he may have exaggerated a little, but it sure does seem to apply to sales.

Sales relies on persistence. And often, that persistence relies on following up.

When you’re dealing with clients, you should always have a next step. No matter what. Follow-up calls can be the perfect way to close the loop and provide your next interaction with a prospect.

Contact Them… Then Contact Them Again

Sales is based on a series of touches. Sometimes you call prospects, and sometimes you need to make contact in another way. Before they buy, people need trust, timing, and money.

The faster and the more frequently you can interact with them, the faster you can identify those needs and build trust. Some interactions directly affect the sale. Others focus on building a relationship with the client.

Here’s how we get to know your future clients and move them through the buying process.

Ask, “When should I follow up next?”

Always pin down the next action step at the end of a sales meeting. Just ask them, “When should I follow up next?” so you know where the prospect is in the buying cycle. This closes the loop for the meeting and helps you plan your next steps accordingly.

Mail a Handwritten “Thank You” Note

Always drop a “thank you” note in the mail after your meeting. And, if you can, make sure it’s sent from their town. I write a note as soon as I leave a meeting and mail it right away.

Send Your Quote ASAP

If the call to action is to send a quote or proposal, send it soon. It’s helpful to tell your prospect exactly what to expect. I might say, “I’ll send you an email right now to make sure you have my contact information. I’ll get a quote together for you later today or early tomorrow.” Now, they have your information and know when to expect the proposal.

Follow Up Immediately After Sending the Quote

After you send your proposal, call your client ASAP. That way, you can make sure they received the quote before they can form an opinion on it. This conversation isn’t about finding out what they think about your quote, but rather confirming they have the information. I might say, “Hey, I just sent you the quote and wanted to make sure you received it…. Great! When should I follow up with you next?” They’ll tell you.

Call Back

Now, when you call for the next step, they’ve given you permission to contact them. Check and see where they are in the process since they’ve had some time to think about the quote.

As you take these steps, you build in touches along the way. From your first sales meeting, you’ve worked in three more interactions before discussing the quote. Some people say it takes 6 to 7 touches to close a deal. Obviously, that varies with different products and services, but consistent contact builds trust and moves prospects toward a sale.

If You Don’t Follow Up

Consistency takes discipline. As a salesperson, you need to follow a plan — not just for the sake of checking items off your to-do list, but because follow-through builds confidence and increases your likelihood of success.

People want excellent customer care. If you don’t follow up when you’re in the sale phase, you probably won’t respond to them in time once they’re a client. The sales process is like an interview. Prospects want vendors who stay organized, respond immediately, know what they’re doing, and know the next steps. And with good sales follow-up, you get to show them what it’ll be like to do business together. If you don’t follow up, they won’t want to work with you.

How to Make a Great Follow-Up Call

Before you reach for the phone, do your homework. Check your notes so you know what to say in a follow-up call. You’ll need to remind yourself when you last spoke and how you left the conversation. Here’s the basic outline for a great call.

1. Immediately say your name and your company.

2. Remind them when you spoke last and what you spoke about.

3. Quickly recap any of their concerns and provide solutions. This will remind them why they’re on the call.

4. Be persistent and polite, not obnoxious or pushy.

When to Follow Up

Generally speaking, you want sales follow-ups to be tight. Leads are like fish — the older they get, the more they stink. So keep leads fresh with a quick follow-up. If you’re selling to a really busy person, make their next steps easy so you can keep them in the sales process without taking up too much of their time.

Active and Latent Buyers

Also, consider what kind of buyer you have: are they active or latent? Active buyers are an active opportunity in the pipeline. You’re following up with them in 60 days or less, and they’re ready to buy a product.

But, if a prospect asks you to wait more than 60 days for your next follow-up, consider them a latent buyer. That means you’re nurturing them to become an active buyer in the future.

How a CRM Helps You Follow Up

A good CRM makes sure you don’t miss anything as you work to close the loop and set your next follow-up actions. Successful people in sales do two things:

1. They schedule a follow-up action every time they speak with someone.

2. They make notes about every interaction. Sometimes they even add notes that say, “Nothing to note.”

That’s why you need a CRM that plays well with the tools you use to keep track of your life. It needs to integrate with your calendars and to-do lists so no one falls through the cracks. You’ll also want a solution that files notes with each action step. That way, it’ll be even easier to access the information you need to make a great follow-up call. And, if the CRM is easy to use on the go, you can make your updates and action steps immediately — which is even better.

Sell the Value of Your Product, Not the Price

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Don’t compete on price.

But if you do, you’d better be the cheapest… and stay the cheapest.

See, when you sell the value based on price, both you and the customer treat the product like a commodity. There’s no relationship, and there’s no loyalty.

Instead, take the consultative approach. When you position yourself as an expert and a true partner with your customers, you sell the value in the advice you offer. And if you do that, your relationship will outlast your price point.

Current Customers = Best Prospects

Your current customers are your best prospects — if you have a relationship. When you know your clients, conversations about other products or services you offer happen naturally. Plus, they’re open to giving referrals because they trust you. But if you’re competing on price, you won’t have a good enough relationship with your customer to expand your wallet share with that business. Plus, they lack the incentive to give you referrals.

Start With the Right Pitch

To avoid selling based on price alone, you need to craft your sales pitch in a way that builds a relationship from the beginning. But how do you do that if the typical customer only cares about three things?

1. What is the product?

2. Why do I need it?

3. How much will it cost?

There’s one other element of a sales pitch that matters: the story. If you want to hold their attention and get them to think the way you want, tell the story and make the sale. Tell them why you’re in business. Then they become involved.

This isn’t a slideshow. This isn’t an informational company history. It’s a way to connect. Think of it like a good movie.

Take our story, for example. Several years ago, I was looking for a CRM solution. Like anyone, I wanted something that would store all my information in one place, keep me from missing a client, and allow me to see data in various ways. So I went out and looked at several solutions. I even liked some. But when I tried them, set them up, and rolled them out to the sales team, they’d just do the same things they’d always done. They would stick to their systems and write down their notes. But now they needed 4-5 hours a week to enter it into the system. We got a lot of garbage in the CRM. The top performers arguably didn’t have time to deal with it, and other people weren’t entering data that’d make them look bad. So I needed to find something different.

I realized CRMs were just built to sell. They were made for IT and marketing people from large companies — because that’s who had the budget for the software. But the people who actually use the CRM daily weren’t considered. When I made a list of what my salespeople needed and what I needed as a manager, I realized nothing did that. So I built CallProof.

We started using it successfully. Then our clients started asking what we were using. They wanted it too. Here we are, 9 years later, with a mature solution that provides thousands of users with a bug-free, simple way to keep track of their sales.

That’s our story. A good customer will relate to that. If I’m selling to an IT or marketing person from a large company, I’m going to tell them a slightly different story to show them how our product meets their needs.

Showing Your Product’s Value

Once a prospect invests in your story, figure out their motivation. If you can understand their goals, you can show them how working with you helps them get there. Do they have a problem you can solve? Can you show them how your solution helps them reach their end goal? If they’re starting to connect with you and you connect to their goals, your product just became much more valuable.

Avoid Prospects Who Only Buy for Price

There are two types of decision-makers: asset owners and asset custodians. Asset owners care about the well-being of the business. As you deal with owners, you’re dealing with the people who have a stake in the success of the company. So you sell to them based on what your product or service means to the company and the bottom line.

Asset custodians are just trying to avoid problems. They’re trying to get their job done and avoid extra work. They’re much more likely to “kick the tires”, so you need to be ready to change the conversation to deal with their main priorities and keep them from focusing solely on price.

Your product is valuable. Don’t cheapen its value by reducing your sales pitch to the bottom line. Instead, sell the total benefit you and your product offer your customers.

The Salesperson’s Guide to Using Texting for Sales Prospecting

salespersons guide to texting prospects

Did you know it took the US about seven years longer than Europe to catch onto texting? It gained momentum in Europe in 2001, and quickly became a popular alternative to calls.

But in the US, text messaging didn’t take off until 2008. With the growing popularity of the smartphone, namely the iPhone, texting skyrocketed.

Today, texting is the #1 used app on the smartphone worldwide. In fact, no one even thinks of it as an “app”. It’s not a bonus — it’s an essential.

But are salespeople taking full advantage of texting? Not even close.

In most sales scenarios, salespeople deal with the buyer’s discomfort. In any good sales process, the salesperson builds rapport, the buyer begins to like them, and they become friends. But maybe the price is too high, or the products don’t seem to fit their needs. Now the buyer feels uneasy because they don’t want to give their “friend” (the salesperson) bad news. For most people, telling someone you like that you don’t want to buy from them creates an uncomfortable conversation. So the prospect often avoids the conflict by avoiding the salesperson altogether.

In this scenario, salespeople end up in a cycle:

1. Build rapport with the customer.

2. Ask pre-qualifying questions.

3. Propose a solution via email or hand-delivered proposal.

4. Silence.

In the end, they’re left without a sale and without a reason why.

How Salespeople Can Use Text Messaging

The text message gives people a more comfortable way to communicate. Building a relationship with your clients via text opens a channel of communication where they can more quickly respond and more easily deliver objections.

The secret? Text from the beginning. Here’s how to build this communication channel from the start.

Begin the text conversation with an appointment reminder. Confirm the appointment and include the address so there’s no question where you’ll be at what time.

After your first meeting, text a follow-up message. Summarize the meeting and reaffirm any promises you made during your conversation.

Start the text relationship before you get into the groove of emailing. If you wait to text until you need a response to a proposal, that’s uncomfortable. They’re not used to you texting — it’s a “stranger” text. But if the relationship exists prior, texting can be your secret weapon.

Related: 3 Ways to Integrate Text Messaging Into Your Customer Service

The purpose of the texting relationship is to better move sales through the sales funnel. You’ve built the rapport, asked the sales questions, developed and proposed a solution, but you haven’t closed the sale. In many scenarios, this is where the sale falls flat. What comes between the proposal and the close? Negotiation.

If the customer isn’t talking to you, it’s likely an issue of product, price, or prior relationship. Texting makes it easier for them to communicate these objections. So ask for feedback via text. Be direct and be brief.

Your message may say, Mr. Jones, it was great meeting with you last week. I sent you the proposal on Friday, and I would love to get some feedback. How can we move forward?

Now you’ve opened the door for him to communicate his objections and to start negotiation if he’s still interested.

Short and sweet texts can be your golden goose for moving sales through the funnel. But they won’t work if you don’t play by the rules.

The Golden Rules of Texting

1. Save Emojis for Friends

Anyone talking to the opposite sex faces a challenge in texting. Save emojis (and selfies) for your friends. Texts can appear more friendly than you mean, so play it safe and steer clear of the pics.

2. Keep It Strictly Business

Don’t veer off topic or add flirtatious comments. If you receive a message that’s inappropriate, it’s best not to respond.

3. Keep It Short and Sweet

As you message your busy prospects, focus on the facts. Don’t use text messages as an opportunity to build rapport. You’re searching for facts, so get to the point. Texts don’t need the introductions you’d include in an email.

4. Be Aware of WHEN You Text

Consider the person you’re texting and their normal business hours. It’s best to message them after they’re up, but before they get into their work day. So for people with typical hours, text between 7 and 9 a.m. For someone with night hours (like a restaurant manager), texting around 3 p.m. may be better.

Regardless, avoid early-morning or late-night texts. Most people don’t turn off their notifications, so respect their time.

5. Avoid Abbreviations

You may know all the trending abbreviations, but your prospect may not. So don’t use them. People shouldn’t have to decipher your message, so avoid abbreviations altogether. Steer clear of even the most common acronyms (such as LOL or TTYL) to keep your message as clear as possible.

6. Add Product Pictures

Depending on your product, a picture may communicate better than words. If you’re selling cars or a hot, new product, send a picture. A glimpse of your product will be much more enticing than any description you’ll write.

7. Respond in a Timely Manner

95% of people read their texts within five minutes of receiving them. The average response time is just 90 seconds. So when you get a text, don’t over-think it. Respond quickly.

Ways to Use Texting With Text Templates

1. Follow-Ups

Whether you’re following up with a new potential client or a prospect that’s been in the funnel a while, text messaging can be a great way to stay on their radar. Use one of these templates to touch base:

First Follow-Up

“Hi John! This is Prat with Absolute Wireless. We talked about looking into Sprint for the best possible deals for your cell phone service. Please let us know your availability, and we will reach out to schedule an appointment to get you saving sooner!”

“Hi John! This is Prat with Absolute Wireless for Sprint. I’d like to work with you like we discussed earlier for the best possible cell phone plan to fit your needs. Please let us know your availability, and we will reach out to schedule an appointment to get you saving, sooner!”

Second Follow-Up

“Hello again! This is Prat with Absolute Wireless for Sprint. I am touching base regarding an appointment to help you switch over to save more. I’d be happy to send you home with a phone accessory without any obligation just for stopping by our store to explore your options. Thanks!”

“Hello again! I am touching base regarding your appointment with Absolute Wireless for Sprint to save you more on your service bill for your cell phone. Could I give you a quick call this week to follow up on your options?”

2. Automate Monthly Follow-Ups

To make following up even easier, use an app (or your phone’s built-in feature) to automate texts. So, if you’re thinking about work late at night or prepping when it’s not appropriate to text, write a batch of texts to send later. You can even schedule your messages months in advance.

Related: Follow-Up Emails: When Should You Stop Pursuing a Prospective Client?

3. Ask for Referrals

Texts offer a great way to ask for an introduction while your phone number is easy to access. LinkedIn messages often go unnoticed. So use the network to find connections, then send a text. When you see a connection between a client and prospect on LinkedIn, ask for the referral via text message. Then they’ll see your number and hopefully forward it to their contact.

“Hi John! I saw that you work with Sarah from Sprint on LinkedIn. Would you be willing to introduce me? I’d love to offer her the same great service we provide for you. Thanks!”

4. Send Happy Birthday Wishes

Use your social networks to find clients’ and prospects’ birthdays. Then send a message on their big day. So you don’t forget, set these up to send automatically. You can even offer an incentive as a birthday gift:

“Happy birthday from Team Absolute Wireless and Sprint! Best wishes on your special day. Respond to this text within 7 days to learn more about birthday incentives for our customers.”

5. Confirming Appointments

Like we mentioned earlier, text messages eliminate the questions of where and when before an appointment. Sending the address and the time assures the customer you’re ready to meet them.

“Hi John! This is Prat with Absolute Wireless and Sprint. It was great speaking with you recently. I am confirming our appointment on Tuesday at 2 p.m. Thanks!”

6. Recapping Meetings

Let the client know you were paying attention during your meeting. This shouldn’t be a long text, but it should summarize your discussion. If you made a promise, affirm it.

“Hi John. I am recapping our meeting from earlier today. Let me know when you have a moment to briefly chat.”

“Hi John! It was great meeting you this afternoon. I’ll talk to my design team this week to see the cost to add this to the proposal. Look forward to working with you.”

7. After Meeting People

Texting can be a great way to connect with someone new. If I meet someone I could do business with (but don’t have a card with me), I can ask for their number and text them right away with my contact info.

But even if we do exchange cards, it’s still a great idea to text after we meet. Business cards are easy to misplace, while messages are easy to find. I may not need a particular service when we meet, but then something happens weeks later. Now I’m in the market for your service. Rather than searching for the business card, I’ll just look through my messages to find your information.

Consider texting as your virtual handshake. You meet someone, shake their hand, exchange contact info, and send them a message like this:

“Hi John! It was great to meet you. Earlier this week, we talked about saving you money on your cell phone service with Absolute Wireless for Sprint. As a service rep, I’m able to work out the best deal for your plan. What time would you like to schedule a quick phone call to follow up and start saving?”

“It was great to meet you recently, John! We talked about looking into cell phone service with Sprint for savings on your monthly bill. As a service rep, I’m able to work out the best deal for you. What time this week can we briefly chat to explore your options?”

8. When They Haven’t Responded to Your Proposal

The most irreplaceable benefit of text messaging in sales is the ease of communication objections. So, when you haven’t heard back about a proposal after you’ve cultivated the relationship and messaged for the seven reasons above, reach out via text. Say something like:

“Hello again. I am checking on the status of the proposal I sent you earlier this week. Please let me know what you think. Thank you!”

Texting shouldn’t only be the most used app with friends, it should also be the most used app in sales. Take full advantage of this essential tool to communicate with your clients as effectively as possible.

Learn These Subtle Sales Signals to Increase Your Close Rate

 

sales signals to look for

Everyone has to start somewhere. Building your client list from scratch is tough, so where do you begin? Most salespeople hit the pavement and dial numbers, talking to one prospect after another, grasping at any potential lead. But the best place to start is getting to know your audience.

Think about who needs your product. Then look for the following signs that the prospect is ready to consider an offer. That way, you’ll work smarter (not harder) and generate a client list to be proud of.

Leadership Changes

Take advantage of changes in leadership with an “out with the old, in with the new” mentality. With new leaders comes new potential for relationships. When buyers leave their companies, so do the connections they built. If they had a strong relationship with a vendor, their exit opens the opportunity for a new relationship with a different vendor.  

LinkedIn gives you a snapshot of these changes. That’s why you should always connect with prospects on LinkedIn, especially when they’ve told you no. Why? The person, not the company, told you no. When they leave that organization, you have another chance at the deal. Plus, you may have connections to the new buyer that give you an edge.

Related: Salespeople: Fix Your Elevator Pitch to Get a Meeting With Anyone

Unfortunately, leadership changes are also the reason you’ll lose your best clients. If your key contact leaves and the CEO doesn’t know you, the door is open for other people to come in and sell. Too many salespeople fall into this trap. Realize that changes mean opportunities. If your buyer leaves, it’s time to build a relationship with the new buyer before someone else does.

New Jobs

When buyers transition into new positions, don’t let them go that easily. Reach out to them. They may pave the way for you to work with their new organization or help you do better with their past employer.

Take them to lunch and pick their brain. Ask, “How would you do business with your past employer if you were me?” They may give you special insight or even help you navigate the sale. Now that they’re gone, they have nothing to lose.

Weather- or News-Related Opportunities

There’s also a lot to gain from being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, sales signals just fall in our laps.

Bad weather creates numerous needs in home repair and preventative services. If you’re serving an area that’s just experienced storm damage, capitalize on the needs that surround you.

Related: The #1 Question You Should Ask During Your First Sales Appointment

Also, stay aware of marketplace news. If there’s a story about your company, your competitors, or your product, seize the opportunity of raised awareness. Prospects are primed for you to reach out and build relationships with them.

Obvious Needs 

Keep your eyes open to the obvious needs that surround you. If you sell signs, look for businesses that have bad signage. If you sell uniforms, look for prospects that have worn-looking uniforms. Sometimes you’ll make a sale simply from noticing the blatant needs right in front of you.

Government or Legal Compliance Changes

Be aware of laws that affect your target markets. In Tennessee, we recently passed some of the strictest laws in the country on data breaches. If someone steals data, even if it’s encrypted, we now legally have to notify all affected people. If I were in the business of data security, I’d present to potential clients about what that means for their companies to capitalize on the ramifications for not having the service we provide.

Recent Funding and Hiring Posts

If a new series of funding hits or you see posts for hiring, those are indications that the company is doing well. Their success suggests they may now be ready to buy your product.

New Locations

When companies relocate or expand, they’ll need services for their new site. Pay attention to location changes and take the chance to meet their upcoming needs.

Looking for the right cues makes all the difference in the success of a salesperson. When you tune in to these signals, you’ll discover one sales opportunity after another.

FreeEbook

9 (Stupid) Phrases That Can Sabotage a Sale

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We’re told in simple terms and lengthy quotes that words carry the authority to influence others, often much more than intended. But what about sales? Does the way you say something make a difference? Of course it does.

The problem is we fall into the ruts of using the same sales phrases pitch after pitch. And often, the phrases we use the most are the ones that sabotage our sales.

If your numbers aren’t as high as you think they should be, maybe you’re guilty of using one of these, dare we say “stupid,” phrases that create challenges which just shouldn’t be there.

The good news is, once you pinpoint the habit, you can turn it around with some easy alternatives.

1. When can you sign the contract?

Who really wants to sign a contract? Nobody. If you bring up this phrase, you’re creating a challenge that doesn’t have to exist. The word “contract” creates anxiety because it is a power word. Don’t put a spotlight on it.

Instead say something like, “When you get a chance, do you mind signing this so we can get the ball rolling?”

It’s not about sugar coating the contract, but rather not making it more significant than it has to be. When people make too many decisions, they can get “decision fatigue” and just stop deciding anything after a certain point.

Related: A Day in the Life of a Successful Salesperson

So try not to make the contract a big decision point. When it’s in the natural flow of your conversations, it becomes less of a crisis and you’re more likely to get the commitment.

2. When can you meet?

Don’t ask. Again, it’s another decision that becomes too big. It’s too open-ended and too vague.

Instead have a few time options in your back pocket. Suggest, “How about Thursday at 3?”

Now, they just have to say yes.

3. This isn’t a sales call.

People automatically assume you’re lying when you plug in this phrase. A different approach puts you and your prospect on much better terms.

Instead discuss their pain point directly. You can say, “Hey, I just want to get some time with you to cover how our clients have founds savings in (pain point).”

Or you can be even more direct and say, “You guys have been listed as one of our perfect candidates. We know you’re spending way too much money on (pain point).”

Once you uncover the pain, you know how to sell. Just go ahead and talk about how you’re going to fix the problem.

4. Is this a good time?

When you ask this question, you give the prospect an easy way out. They’re more likely to reply with, “No, I’m busy right now,” because they don’t want to deal with something else.

People also tend to mismatch, or say the opposite of what is presented to them. So when you open with, “Is now a good time?” the likely response is, “It’s a bad time.” However, if you ask, “Hey, did I get you at a bad time?” they may mismatch it and say it’s a good time.

Instead skip this question altogether. If it’s a bad time, let them bring it up.

5. I don’t know.

Sure, you may not know the answer to everything, but this phrase signals you don’t know your product (which is not something you want to indicate to a potential client).

Related: 3 Characteristics of Successful Salespeople

Instead reply to any unknowns with, “That’s a question I haven’t heard before, but I can get the answer to it.” Yes, that’s just another way to say, “I don’t know,” but it lets you follow up without making them doubt your product knowledge.

6. I’m going to be honest with you.

They will probably wonder, “Have you not been honest with me until now?” When you use this phrase, you make them question everything else you’ve told them. Plus, you give that false facade of friendship before you’ve built the trust. Don’t try to be buddy/buddy too soon.

Instead always be honest and build the relationship over time. Then they’ll believe that you’re being honest with them.

7. We take care of our customers! Our service is unmatched!

These cliches fall on deaf ears. They’re so overused, the customer places no value in them. It doesn’t make you any different than the competition.

Instead, if you want to highlight your customer care, tell them, “If you ever question whether we treat our customers well, we’ll provide testimonials you can call to verify our performance.” That’s a different, more provable way of showing your great customer service.

8. Just checking in…

Your intentions may be good, but you’re asking for a response without providing anything valuable in return.

Instead give them useful information. Maybe say, “Hey, I came across this new information the other day I thought you’d find helpful…”. Then you can talk about the reason you needed to touch base.

9. Are you the decision maker?

You insult the person you’re speaking with when you ask them this question directly. However, as a salesperson, you still need to find out who makes the decisions so you can pitch accordingly.

Instead ask, “Before we get started with our meeting, is there anybody else in the organization who needs to see this information to make a final decision?” That way you open the door for them to tell you about any other decision makers.

Whether you’re calling, emailing, or talking to someone in person, eliminating these phrases makes a big difference in your sales numbers. With CallProof, you can track and identify these (and other) trends on your recorded calls.  

Are you familiar with other phrases that kill sales? Share them in the comments below!

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The Biggest Challenges for Salespeople in 2016

online groups for salespeople

Richardson Group, an internationally recognized sales training and performance improvement company, just released their 2016 Selling Challenges Study. In polling 400 salespeople, 85% in B2B sales, they revealed the biggest sales challenges in prospecting, discovering client needs, and negotiation.

Here’s what they found… but I don’t completely agree.

What Salespeople Struggle With in Prospecting

prospecting

When asked what sales associates expected their biggest challenge in prospecting efforts to be, 16% said, “identifying sales triggers/sales signals that indicate issues that you can resolve.”

Essentially, these reps and managers have difficulty finding out what they can fix. Buyers investigate solutions on the web just like the rest of us. When they go in to make a purchase, they usually know what they want. They leave the salesperson out of the decision-making process. So the salesperson never knows the client’s deciding factors, which means they also don’t know what they need to overcome to make the sale.

Related: 5 Ways to Quickly Qualify Prospects

Closely tied to the inability to discern buyer signals, 14.4% of sales professionals also struggle to identify whom to target. Basically, when we don’t connect with the buyer in a personal way, we don’t know their true buying power. 

Qualifying prospects, a growing problem in the industry, is the primary struggle for 10% of salespeople. Why? Most likely because so few prospects respond to a seller’s attempts to reach out. 

Uncovering and Exploring Client Needs

client needs

When asked about the biggest challenge in uncovering and exploring client needs, most find it difficult to gain insight via conversations and understand the decision-making process.

That makes sense: you have to talk to the right people to get a true read of the potential. More often, sellers begin working with an individual only to find that a group of decision-makers with no clear roles will be making the final call.

If you can’t talk to the person with the power to make the decision, the sale comes to the bottom line rather than the package deal.

Challenges in Closing a Deal

closing a deal

If they had done this survey in 1976, it probably would have had the same results. Why? Because there is always someone selling it cheaper.

Related: How To Eliminate Price From Your Negotiation Process

Sure, the internet has made those options more prevalent (hence the overwhelming 48% who claim this as their biggest challenge), but it’s not unique to 2016. There will always be someone trying to sell for less. How do you overcome it? By finding what you can provide that the low-cost provider can’t.

The Bigger Picture? Distraction

Regardless of the survey results, these aren’t the biggest challenges. Rather, they’re symptoms of a bigger problem.

Most salespeople struggle because they are distracted. With what? Their smartphone. What makes it worse is that few admit the barrier phones create to connecting with clients.

All these issues stem from a failure to know your clients. You have to do the work to get to know whom you’re contacting. It’s much easier to mass-email potential prospects and to try the latest marketing gimmicks, but connection overcomes a world of challenges. When you give your full attention to your prospects, you’ll be able to qualify prospects and find the decision-makers.

If you’re getting distracted, admit it. Then take steps to zero in on your sales strategy. CallProof helps us stay focused. It records our calls and gives us the chance to learn from them. As salespeople, we need to take ownership of our day. If it takes activity to win sales, then we need to put in the undivided work of making connections.

Challenges in sales are inevitable. How will you handle them? My advice: look your challenge in the face. If distraction is your problem, do what’s necessary to focus. Build the connections with your prospects and clients to make your service worth their investment.

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3 Strategies for Unlocking Deals Stuck in the Pipeline

sales strategies for closing a deal

You just made a killer pitch. You demonstrated how your product solves their problems, then left them with action steps – and expected an answer within days.

But that was over a month ago, and you still haven’t heard anything back. So what’s the trouble? You thought you were on track to seal the deal, but it hasn’t happened. The deal is officially stuck in the pipeline.

It’s easy for a sale to hit a snag that puts it in limbo. These strategies offer the key to unlocking those deals so you can move them to the next level.

1. Teach Your Prospect How to Sell to Their Manager

The biggest reason a sale goes on hold is because you’re not talking to the real decision maker. Maybe you’ve been dealing with the purchaser and they have to get approval from the supervisor. In those circumstances, teach your prospect how to sell your service to the boss.

Start by equipping them with the ammunition to close the sale. Explain the ROI your product carries. How will it make or save the organization money? When they go to their higher-up for a $5,000 check, they need to explain how this investment helps the organization financially. Put the return on investment in a quote, and then coach the person on the talking points.

Continue with conversations about the benefits of the service. In fact, work through product material together. Teach the prospect how this changes their organization. Essentially, you become their sales manager for the deal.

Related: 3 Common Sales Objections and How To Overcome Them

For example, if you’re pitching a website overhaul, your conversation may go something like this:

“It will cost $5,000 for a website redesign. At its core, this new improved website will increase your daily sales conversion rate. For those $5,000, you should be able to get a net return of $15,000.”

Those are numbers your contact can take to their boss.

Quotes give them something tangible. You don’t want their pitch to be, “We want a new website because it’s cool.” Instead, you want them to say something along the lines of, “We want to convert more customers through our website.” The proposal isn’t about features but about the benefits of the service.

When you’re not able to get a sales meeting with the right person, you have to help your contact make the sale.

2. Text Prospects With Direct Questions

If you shake a tree, something is going to fall out. By sending direct questions via text message, you shake the figurative tree of prospects. You’ll either move on to the next client, or they’ll move on to the next phase. Either way, you get results.

If you sent a proposal months ago and the prospect never responded, it’s time for a text. You may send a message that says, “Hey, my boss is hounding me and wants to know where you are in their proposal? How soon can we get started?” If the response is, “Sorry, you’re out of our league in price,” you just moved to the negotiation phase. Price is the obstacle. Now you can start figuring out the dollar amount for that customer to say yes.

Related: 4 Negotiation Skills You Need to Close More Deals

You won’t get that type of response with an email. Email is impersonal and easily ignored. But we all read our text messages and usually respond within five minutes, making it a great tool to move clients down the line.

3. Insert an Expiration Date

Create a deadline on your offer to promote action. Products and services cure pain points. But if you’re scratching an itch that isn’t that bothersome, you need another motivator. The motivation may be a lower price, special training, or extra features. Put those perks on a timeline to keep the deal moving.

Then, find a reason to justify the deadline. Maybe you say, “The proposal is good until the last day of March. March is a slow month for us, but we get really busy in April.” By setting an end date, you’ve manufactured a reason for them to make a decision. Then, you can rule them out or close the deal.

No one wants a deal that sits in limbo indefinitely.

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Use These Sales Follow-Up Strategies to Replace “Just Checking In”

sales follow up strategies just checking in

You’ve just met with a prospective client. The meeting went well and you gave the guy a business card, but let’s be honest. That card probably went in his pocket and will eventually wind up in the sock drawer.

Now, you need a killer follow-up strategy. Thanks to the onslaught of social media, emails, and texts we’re faced with each day, your follow-up won’t naturally stand out. But a follow-up email is your virtual business card, and if done well, it can rise to the top of an inbox rather than fall to the bottom of a sock drawer.

No More “Just Checking In”

What’s wrong with saying “Just Checking In” in your follow-up email after a sales call? You’re not asking for a response when you “check in.” Instead, ask something crazy that demands attention and a reply.

Related: Which Sales Follow-Up Strategies Work Best for Your Prospects?

Imagine you’re a salesperson pitching payment processors. To make this tough sale, you may say, “In your wildest dreams, what would it take for you to make a decision to save 1% on your payment processing?” Or you could ask, “If a magical fairy came along and sprinkled pixie dust over our solutions, how would the solution change so that you would buy it?”

It doesn’t really matter what you say as long as it’s outlandish enough to grant their response. You want your prospect to think and respond.

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The Best Sales Follow-Up Strategies

You jump in your car after a sales pitch, but before you put your car in reverse, follow-up. You made promises in that meeting to get some prices or put together a quote. Do it right away.

Outline the discussion points of your meeting and make a list of the next steps you need to take. Then, generate a thank you email. Include a recap of your meeting and the next steps in your message. This tells the client that you’re paying attention and helps each of you know what to do next.

Related: The Pocket Follow-Up Formula: A Simple Trick for Improving Sales Lead Follow-Up Success

Sure, you can send the email right away, but it’s better to send it first thing the next morning. As a part of your rapport building, ask the client what time he or she comes to the office each day. (You’ll notice your high-performance leaders get there early.) Then, send your email at that time. You want the client to read it before they enter the chaos and drama of the regular workday. A software like YesWare will allow you to set the send time for your email regardless of when you write it.

It’s Been a While

If you haven’t heard from your client in a while, the wild statement approach could do the trick to get a response. Maybe you say, “I’d love to deliver my invoice to you with some doughnuts. How can we make that happen?” Determine your own quirky approach. Once you find something that fits you, you’ll catch their attention and get a reply.

 

 

How to Build Trust Over the Phone with Cold Prospects

build trust cold calling strategies

We’ve all answered a cold call, but how many times have these interactions won us over? Much of our cold call reluctance comes from how few of these calls actually convince us to buy.

I like to use the calls I receive to improve my own cold calling strategies. What made me stay on the line? Which strategy did they use that worked? In each situation where I became a customer, I’ve found that the salesperson used three tactics to win me over.

1. Name Drop

Do you know someone that your client knows? A name drop will get you a little more time on the phone. You may have a client who will make an introduction to a prospect they know, but a simple LinkedIn search shows shared connections.

Related: Hold Your Breath Cold Call Technique

When you begin your conversation with, “Hey, you know my friend…,”  your prospect will listen a little longer. You’ve gained legitimacy by making that personal connection, and now you’re more than just a voice on the other end of the line.

2. Be a Friend

Your prospect immediately wonders “friend or foe?” as soon as you begin your conversation. Paint yourself as a friend – or at least someone they may know. The longer they take to identify that you’re cold calling, the longer you have to build trust.

To buy yourself time, ask questions and make references that make it seem like you already do business together.  As you talk, speak with authority. Don’t timidly ask if they have time to get together. Instead, ask questions in a way that expects an answer.

Imagine you’re in roof sales. You call an owner of a building and ask, “Is this Bill Smith with ABC Supply on 9th Street? Is that your building, the one with the brown roof with the shingles that are kind of ajar?” He doesn’t know you’re selling roofing yet. He may think that you’re coming to his business to buy something and you just need him to verify the location.

Through these questions, you build trust, gain time, and confirm you’re speaking to the decision maker. After all, it’s the building owner that’s going to spend money on the new roof, right? Once you confirm he’s the guy in charge, you say, “Hey listen, I appreciate you taking my call. I wanted to let you know we’re offering a free quote service for roofs. We’re doing Jim’s across town…” and as you explain your offer, you also name drop to build more trust.

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3. Use a Local Number

Always, always use a local number to make your marketing calls. Too often, people transfer to a new town and use their old number. Consequently, they’ve damaged their trustworthiness before they’ve even started the conversation.

Related: How to Hack Your Sales With the “Overheard Selling” Technique

A friend of mine quickly learned this lesson when he used an out-of-town number to confirm appointments. He found that people either avoided the calls or answered the phone defensively. He actually had to work to regain the trust he had already built with them. It’s much easier to get a new number than to start your battle uphill.

Fortunately, this big mistake has a few simple fixes. CallProof sells custom numbers. Google Voice allows you to change your number as well. And even once you have a local number, it never hurts to prime your call with a text. If you left a voicemail, send an immediate text that says who you are and what you do. This lets your prospect know this was more than just an automated sales call. You’re a real person who wants to do real business with them. As a bonus, now you gave them a searchable term when you put the product name in print. If they’ve been looking for your product or the need later arises, they can easily search for it online.

Building trust makes cold calling work. Whatever your method, when you establish yourself as a friend and support for your future client, the sale becomes much more likely.