Make Yourself a Better Salesperson by Focusing on the Sales Activities That Matter

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Salespeople will do what they like to do, not what they need to do. If it’s uncomfortable to make cold calls, they’ll find a way to justify doing something else — like sending an email or writing up a proposal. But when you’re focusing on sales activities, you need to dedicate time to the activities that matter — even if you don’t like them.

Real, Severe Commitment

There’s a difference in scheduling time and severely committing to something. I’m working with my assistant on an issue right now. I told him, “I want you to spend one hour a day on this. You can pick the hour. But during that hour, do not stop. Short of a life safety issue, commit for the whole hour. If a customer shows up and is banging on the door, ignore them. If our biggest client calls and threatens to cancel their service, so what? I’ll deal with the fall-out — you do this task for one hour.”

The next day, I asked if he did it. Nope. “Life safety issue?” I asked. “Imminent death of everyone on earth?!” No. He just bailed. See, scheduling is easy, but we avoid actually doing the tasks we hate — even if they’re important tasks. It happens all the time. And the more uncomfortable it is, the more adamantly you need to commit to the activity.

“Productive” Distractions

So what do we do instead of the activities we hate? Anything else. And if it seems productive, we gravitate towards it. Here are just a few ways we occupy our time with deceitfully unproductive tasks.

Research

Research is one of the main activities that snowballs into unproductiveness. Of course, it’s good to an extent — you need to know the basics of a company before you call, but we tend to keep searching. We get interested in a topic and over-inform ourselves. Plus, we take rabbit trails and end up learning all sorts of info we don’t need.

Let’s say you’re about to make a cold call, so you start researching the company. For three hours, you read and figure out everything there is to know about them. You know their story, who founded it, where they’re located, and anything else you’d want to know. Then you call them and they say, “My brother-in-law handles this for us. We’ll never switch.” You just spent three hours researching to get a “no” in two minutes. You wasted 180 minutes on one dead-end client.

Instead, focus your research so you know what to look for before you start. Then set time limits to keep you on track. If you set a seven-minute time limit on your research for each prospect, then call them in two minutes, you contact 20 prospects in those 180 minutes instead of just one.

The more qualified the prospect, the more time you can spend on research. Maybe you spend 14 minutes researching someone who called you or a person you’re meeting for an appointment. Still, research doesn’t consume your day. Time spent researching dead-end prospects is wasted.

Here are some other ways we waste time:

  • Calling only your current customers
  • Not being organized
  • Not finishing to-do lists
  • Not putting to-dos on your calendar

We have to direct our time we can’t let our disorganization and procrastination derail us. The more intentional we become in our work day, the more sales we make.

Maximizing Your Time

Don’t let fruitless work fill your day. Instead, surround yourself with high-payoff people and do high-payoff activities. Meetings, calls, customer contacts, and prospect interactions all lead to sales. So spend your time doing those things — not the little stuff. It also pays off to figure out your process.

Related: How to Close More Deals by Mapping Your Sales Process

These activities fit into two categories — strategic and tactical. Give time to each. There can be high-payoff tactical activities and high-payoff strategic activities. There can also be low-payoff strategic and tactical activities. The goal is to be both strategic and tactical in your choice of high-payoff activities.

I do this with my phone calls — for every two customers I call, I call one prospect. Then I hold myself accountable to reaching out to new people and maintaining current relationships — both with high payoffs.

Be strategic about who is refilling your funnel and tactical about how you approach your current prospects. You’re only as good as your last sale so focus on the activities that help you to close.

Cold Calling Anxiety? These 6 Tips Will Help You Overcome Your Fear

 

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Nobody likes to be told no. We didn’t like it when we were three years old, and we don’t like it now.

But what happens on cold calls? We get told no. So we avoid cold calls and drop-ins to save ourselves from the rejection. But at what cost?

1. Understand That Rejection Is Better Than Avoidance

In reality, what’s the worst thing that can happen on a cold call? They say no. So don’t sweat it. It’s not that bad. You probably will never see or talk to that person again. They won’t call you and say, “You’re that sales rep I didn’t want to buy from!” The worst result is them turning down the product and leaving you in the same situation you’re in now.

It’s like the two vacuum salespeople who go into town to sell door-to-door. At every house, they get the same response — no. They get to the last door, with just a few minutes before the end of the day, and one salesman says to the other, “Hey, let’s skip this one. We know they’re going to say no.”

The other one says, “So, if they say no, where will we be?”

“Exactly right here.”

Rejection doesn’t mean you lost — you just haven’t progressed yet. But you’ll never progress and never make a sale if you don’t ask. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. So if you ask and they say no, at least you can move on.

2. Move Past Mean People

Yes, some people are mean and nasty. But do you really want them as customers? Probably not. So if they’re rude, shake it off and move on. A rude “no” doesn’t leave you in any worse condition than a polite rejection. So let go of the emotional attachment to these brief prospects. They rejected the product, not you. Don’t take it personally.

If you’re going to make a sale, you’ve got to make calls. It’s worth the risk of dealing with a rude person if you have a chance of making a sale.

3. Use Objections to Improve

So when you hear “no” (you will, so just accept it), use each prospect’s objections to help with your sales approach. Why aren’t they interested? If you can find out why one customer says no, you can use the information to overcome that objection in your next pitch. Then you can tell your next prospect how you’re different than what they expect and why that objection isn’t such a big deal after all.

Related: How to Build Trust Over the Phone With Cold Prospects

4. Be Confident in Your Product

Cold-calling anxiety is real — especially if you’re new to sales. So will you ever get over it? Absolutely, yes!

If you’re wondering how to overcome sales anxiety, the solution is confidence — in your product, pitch, and solution. To move past the nervousness, you have to be truly confident in the solution you’re offering. You need to believe it’s good value that will help your clients. And if you really believe that to your core, you’ll carry confidence in your voice, attitude, posture, stance, and persistence.

5. Trust Your System

Then rely on your system. If you have a plan for dealing with each potential cold call outcome, you’ll know exactly what to say, no matter how the prospect responds. No matter what a prospect says, there are only three potential response categories: active, latent, and not interested. There’s no fourth option. So, based on your conversation, identify which group they’re in, then follow your process for that response.

Related: A Sales Lead Management Process You Can Count On

6. Work in Your Strengths

Being good at sales doesn’t mean you never have anxiety. But some people’s mindsets and personality types work better with either prospecting or closing deals. So, ideally, separate the roles so that people work in their strengths.

Early on, I made mistakes by hiring people to make cold calls because I thought they would be great in sales. It turns out some people just aren’t wired that way. They can do it for a short period of time, but eventually, they’re done. However, many of them were still great at closing deals.

When it’s possible, separate your sales team into different roles: hunters, farmers, and account managers. If you have someone awesome at keeping clients happy, make that their main job. When someone is great at closing deals, designate their time for appointments with qualified prospects and let others make cold calls.

Want to know how to separate your team into their best roles? Read 3 Ways to Increase Sales Without Hiring a New Salesperson

I used to own call centers. I’ve dealt with cold-calling for over 20 years in sales. I know how it feels to pick up the phone, but when it’s all said and done, don’t sweat it. Just do it. Not calling is even worse than being rejected.

Jim Rohn says, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” So don’t carry around that extra weight of regretting the times you didn’t try! Pick up the phone — you’ve got this.

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.

Free Sales Call Report Template Download

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Sales success is simple: know where you are and how you’re doing so you know where you need to go next.  The best way to gain that information is through sales call reports. And if you’re not setting aside time during the day to measure your sales activity in a call report, you’re wasting your time trying to reinvent the wheel.

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Why Do I Need Sales Call Reports?

Activity leads to sales, and one of the best activities your team can do is a sales call. To us, a sales call is a face-to-face visit. The more effective you can make the sales call, the more sales you make. Since these calls are such a vital piece of the sales puzzle, it’s crucial for salespeople and sales managers to track them. Enter sales call reports. As a sales manager, there are two specific benefits you get from these reports.

1. Calculate Needed Activity Levels

First, you use the reports to make sure activity levels represent the result you want.

Work backwards: If I want my sales to be x, how many average clients will it take? To close that many clients, how many people do I need to quote? In order to get that number of quotes, how many prospects do I need to see?

Once you do the math, you’ll know just how many prospects each salesperson needs to see daily.

2. Train New Salespeople on Activity From the Start

New salespeople can learn the value of activity from the beginning. Rather than wasting time teaching the product and the brand in the classroom, train your sales reps in the field. Then they learn how to produce the right activity levels right away.

Too often, managers start with months of training before putting a new salesperson in the field. But what happens when you find out they’re scared to meet people, avoid the phone, or just don’t follow through? You’ve wasted months of investment in this person without anything to show for it.

Instead, what if you start with activity levels? Train your sales reps to reach the needed level of activity from the beginning. Then they’ll only grow stronger as they learn more about your company and product.

Download Our Free Sales Call Report Template

You can download this free sales call report template to help track your daily progress and make sure you don’t miss out on closing those leads you spent so much time nurturing.

Out of sight really is out of mind and without a report to track sales calls, it’s far too easy to forget about leads and lose money from lost sales. Having a report directly in front of your eyes forces you to consider those next gentle nudges to push each of your leads towards that final closing sales call.

Download this Sales Call Report template to track your activities in face-to-face meetings. You can even customize it to your needs. Then give it to your salespeople so they can keep track of their activities. When you see their reports, you’ll know if their activity levels are setting them up for success.

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Mastering Your Sales Call Report Entry Habits

This sales report template is great for doing reports manually, but with CallProof you can get the same report with the click of a button. Instead of your salespeople filling out paperwork and returning it to you, they can simply use the CallProof App. With CallProof, they click an icon before they go into a meeting, click another when they leave, speak their notes into their phone, press a final icon, and they’re done. With one click, you can get that report any time, in real time.

The little time needed to invest in your call reports will pay huge dividends but you need to make sure you’re entering your data regularly and accurately.

If you’re struggling to find time to keep up with reporting your sales progress, CallProof has a system that automates the process for you and will deliver reports directly to your e-mail inbox every morning. Sign up for a 14-day free trial (no credit card required!)

Sales Pitch Template: How to Create a Cold Calling Script

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Every journey requires a good map, whether you go old-school with the folded guide, or just download an app. Your sales journey is no exception. It starts with a cold call – and you don’t want to make it unguided.

A cold-calling script provides direction for both objections and recurring situations. It’s also a system that gives unity to the organization so your salespeople are on the same page. You don’t need a separate script for every person. Rather, each person starts with the same sales pitch templates and tweaks it to fit the prospect.

Most people get uncomfortable with objections, but a script provides a reference for how to reply. You can also create scripts for situational selling. If your competitor’s customers are dissatisfied, write a specific script that resonates with them. Use language that reminds them of the challenges and shows them how you’ll do better.

Tips for Writing Cold Call Scripts

Remember: the purpose of a cold call is NOT to make a sale. The goal is to schedule a meeting. Make a simple introduction as a means to build a long-term relationship, such as, “I’m new here at X and we work with companies like yours. I know you’re active in the community, and hopefully, we can meet one day.”

Think of cold calls like drip email campaigns. Don’t ask for anything initially. If you do, they may have a negative reaction and cut off communication. Instead, consider this phase one. Have a simple conversation and add value to your prospect aside from making a sale.  

Maybe you say, “Hi. I just wanted to introduce myself. I know you’re the key buyer at X. I’ve been here for a few months and you’re listed as a prospective customer for your organization. I’ll be sending you an email, just to give you some information. If you ever need anything, I would like to support you.”

Too many people are so eager to get the appointment, they skip building the relationship first. A cold call is just the first step. Don’t jump ahead.

What NOT to Say In Your Cold Calling Script

“I know you’re busy but…” is never a good way to start a conversation. If you have something valuable, it’s worth the interruption.

The full sales pitch doesn’t belong in a cold call either. Save your sales pitch template for the meeting. Remember: the purpose is to schedule a time to meet, not make the sale.

“When are you available?” gives your prospect an easy way out. Don’t ask for an appointment but rather tell them when you’d like to stop by. A good salesperson sells by territory and focuses on one location at a time. Don’t book one meeting in one part of town on a Monday and then book another meeting on the other side of town that same day. Instead, make your prospecting calls based on location and bring up a time you plan to stop by.

Creating Your Cold Calling Template

It only takes a few steps to build a cold calling script.

  1.  Introduce yourself.
  2.  Tell them you’ll stop by.
  3.  Base your script on time and location.

When you put it all together, it may sound something like this.

“Hi. I’m Robert. I work at X payroll services. We work with companies like yours so I wanted to introduce myself. If you ever need anything in the future, I’d like to support you. In fact, I’ll be on the east side of town Tuesday afternoon. I’d love to stop by and just hand you my card so you have a face to go with the name. Do you mind if I come by?”

You can also add, “I know you use an X vendor. I’d like to be your backup plan should that ever change.” I love using this language in a script because you never know when the provider is going to slip up and give you the chance to win over their clients.

If you’re in sales, you know you have to start somewhere. These cold calling tips get you on the road to meeting future clients with a positive, meaningful first conversation.

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Recording Sales Calls: Should You Fear “Big Brother”?

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Mention that you want to record calls at the office and the dirty looks (along with an accusation of “Big Brother”) will quickly follow.

But despite the bad rap that accompanies listening in, there’s nothing to fear and everything to gain. Professional athletes replay game tape over and over to scrutinize their every move and see how to improve. As a salesperson, you should do the same. It’s normal to feel apprehensive, but analyzing your calls isn’t a means of punishment. It’s a means of improvement.

What Happens When You Listen to Your Own Calls?

When you take a moment and listen to your own calls, two things will happen. Number one, you’ll hate it because everyone hates hearing their own voice. Number two, you’ll realize you say things that don’t help during the sales scenario.

Everyone has a set of negative words that derail their sales. What are those negative terms for you? Here are a few common words that could hurt your sales.

1. Contract

Contracts equal commitment. When you ask a customer, “Would you like to sign a contract for…,” it’s too much too soon. Rather, ask if you can provide a free consultation for your service.  

2. Appointment

Appointments are formal commitments. Make the meetup more casual and say, “I’d like to visit with you” or “I’ll just stop by.”

3. Cheap

Cheap doesn’t just imply less money, cheap implies poor quality. Don’t lower the value of your service unintentionally by using this word.

4. Purchase

You put on the pressure when you ask the prospect to make a purchase. Skip that word and save talks of purchasing for a later date.

Hindsight is 20/20 and listening to your calls gives you a clear view of what unfolded. Maybe you misunderstood a question in your call and therefore misinformed the client. Maybe you just talk too fast. It’s natural to talk quickly when you’re nervous or new, but the client will match your pace and speed isn’t your friend. A quick pitch equals a quick no.

Delivering a sales pitch requires finesse. You can fix these issues with relative ease, but you’ll never know about them if you haven’t listened.

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When Should You Record Calls?

When you record calls, you build a resource center for learning what works and what doesn’t. But which calls should you record? Both outbound and inbound calls serve their respective purposes for evaluation and improvement.

Outbound Calls

Imagine you have 50 recent calls that resulted in an appointment. These calls give new salespeople access to live-action footage of overcoming sales obstacles.

They hear how to get past the gatekeeper. They hear a way to navigate past the numerous objections that come up. When the typical “He’s not here right now” or “He wouldn’t be interested” responses happen, your newbie learns multiple tactics for responding.

They’ll also learn how to build rapport with the gatekeeper to get to the actual decision maker. It’s often the nuances of chit-chat that get you through.

A new salesperson may also learn how to rephrase. For example, instead of asking, “Are you available next Tuesday at 2:00 for me to come by and talk about your business needs?” successful salespeople say, “I’m going to be in your area to see a client across the street at 2:00, so I’m going to stop in and see you.” Just a slight change in phrasing can make the difference in securing an appointment or closing a sale.

Inbound Calls

If you’re spending money getting prospects to call you, take the time to listen to those calls. Let’s say you spent $5,000 on an ad that resulted in 50 calls. Is listening to each one worth it? Yes! You paid $100 for each of those calls.

Listen to see how each call was handled and if any missed opportunities can be recovered. Did you ask enough questions? Did you give misinformation that led to non-sale? Did you build rapport? Some prospects can be salvaged if you call them back.

Proven Success

Build your business based on processes and proven successes. Not recording your calls is like starting from scratch every day. Once you start recording calls, use a trainer to listen to calls and find ways to improve them. If you have someone who does this well, you’ll improve your results by 5-30%.

Managers, to see truly positive results, you’ll need the salespeople’s buy-in. Make sure your team knows the goal. You haven’t lost trust in them; you’re growing their resources. When the business improves, everyone benefits.

Recording calls is like capturing opportunities in a giant net. If someone goes through that net at the end of a week, they may find some hidden gems. There may be a lot of junk that to sort through, but there also may be treasure.