Keenan, CEO, President and Chief Antagonist of A Sales Guy, Inc. has been selling something to someone for his entire life. With over 20 years of sales experience, he has been influencing, learning from and shaping the world of sales for a long time. He swung by Make It Happen Mondays to talk about his new book Gap Selling and how we can apply the technique to our process today.
What is Gap Selling
The gap exists between the current and future state. No matter what we’re buying, from a pack of gum to a trip to Africa, or an enterprise software solution, every buying journey starts from where you are now. If we’re buying a pack of gum, that gap exists between now and how your life will look in the future with or without that gum. Have you got a big meeting and you’re self-conscious about your breath? Your future looks a lot better with gum, doesn’t it?
That same gap – where you or your company is today and where it could be or won’t be without your solution – is what Gap Selling is all about.
Applying Gap Selling to an Outbound Framework
What’s one of the best examples of gap selling? Infomercials. They show where you are now and common problems you’re having, and they show you where you could be with their new solution.
Problem: Your Tupperware is falling out of the cupboards and the plastic is melting in the microwave and dishwasher.
Solution: 200 new containers that stack into the size of a dime and can go in the dishwasher and microwave.
In B2B, this could be highlighting a common way of doing something, like manually entering data into Salesforce, a way to automate it, and then what you can do with the time you saved.
What are the Problems You’re Solving?
For Gap Selling to be effective, you need to know three things to present a solution:
The exact problems you’re solving.
The impact those problems cause.
The root cause of those problems.
Take JBarrows Sales Training as an example. A company could have a problem where their sales reps are not hitting their number, and while a recruiter could help solve that problem too, that’s not a solution I offer so bringing it up doesn’t make sense. What I can do instead is to identify the root cause and provide them with a solution that I can offer.
Problem: A company has been having trouble hitting their sales targets.
Impact: The company is looking to begin fundraising in six months for their next round. If they don’t hit their number, their valuation will be down and they’ll have a much harder time securing fund-raising.
Root Cause: I highlight that this problem stems from the lack of training during onboarding and how my services, particularly my online portal, can address this by training new hires on x, y and z.
Sounds doable right? Catch the full episode below, and learn more about the gap selling methodology in the interview below. If you want to learn more about Gap Selling, pick up Keenan’s book, Gap Selling
Keenan Gap Selling - Make It Happen Mondays - YouTube
I always refer to myself as a sales rep who happens to train rather than a trainer who happens to sell. While the days of making 400 cold calls a week (and they were truly cold calls) are over, I still prospect every single day to keep a big fat pipeline. Recently I was following up with a dead opp and struck gold after taking just a few extra steps.
Starting in Salesforce
I organize every task in Salesforce, no matter how small. Even lost opportunities that I know will have an opportunity down the road. In this case I lost the deal seven months ago, but I’ve been staying on top of it with meaningful follow up.
Do your research
My follow up to this particular account was pretty strong in my opinion, but I didn’t hear back which was unlike my contact. I looked her up on LinkedIn before hitting reply to that first email to avoid touching base or checking in. In about a minute on their blog I noticed a new product launch and an acquisition. Both of these are great reasons for me to reach out. It’s also a good general practice to check your prospect on LinkedIn to see if they’ve changed roles or companies before contacting them.
Following back up
When following up, I always like to reply to the previous thread. I do this for two reasons. It shows that I’ve been in contact before, and the RE: in the subject line helps open and response rates. I received a response, but it was that the message was undeliverable. This is why it’s always a good idea to take a quick look at your contact’s LinkedIn profile if you haven’t spoken to them in a while.
Where they are now
After looking up my contact on LinkedIn, I saw she was at another company. A company we have an active sales cycle with. I sent her a note congratulating her on the new role and saying I was looking forward to working with her. The response was incredibly positive and supportive. From this I learned she had an impact on the deal at the new company which I didn’t even know about.
What about the old company?
Going into LinkedIn Sales Navigator and looking at new roles in the past 90 days, I found the new head of Global Sales Engagement. Reaching out, I referenced I had been working with a contact at the account previously, but I also used the same triggers of the acquisition and product follow up. The last thing I want to do is touch base and check in.
From doing a little bit of homework, and meaningful follow up, I was able to reengage a lost deal, and influence a current deal in a positive way. I hope you found this valuable, good luck and Make It Happen!
The more experienced I get in business the more I realize how important timing is with almost everything. I can’t tell you how many ideas I’ve heard about (or come up with myself) that were great ideas at the time, but failed because the market wasn’t ready for them.
Good Ideas, Bad Timing
My former company, Basho, developed an app that plugged into Salesforce and gave you insights/triggers on customers and contacts that you could directly input into pre-made, customizable templates and then track the effectiveness of them to give you insights on which triggers and messaging had the highest conversion ratios. It was basically Salesloft + InsideView + Nova.ai baked directly into Salesforce. I still believe it would rival some of the best sales tools out there today if it was still available. Unfortunately, they developed it in 2006 when the market wasn’t ready, so it died.
Uber wasn’t the first Uber. TaxiMagic & Halio pretty much changed how cabs were booked. They had to do the incredible task of installing custom hardware in cab fleets and get a bunch of the fragmented cab company market on board. This was a huge inhibitor to growth. It wasn’t until the market opened up and more efficient ways were developed to create a seamless experience between disparate vehicles, passengers and financial systems that Uber took off.
Timing in Sales
Timing isn’t just critical with business ideas, it’s also extremely critical in sales. Sales used to be a pure numbers game. Cold calling was basically about making as many calls as you could, saying the same thing over and over again to hopefully catch someone who needed what you had and didn’t know there was a solution like yours available. I remember making 400 dials a week with a generic elevator pitch selling outsourced IT services. It almost didn’t matter what my pitch was if I called and said “computer support” and you had problems with your computers I usually got a meeting.
It’s still somewhat of a numbers game, but it’s not just about how many dials you make anymore. It’s about doing the right amount of activities focused around a specific target audience with the goal of educating and getting them to think so when they finally make the connection and have a need for your solution, you’re the first person they think of. It’s also about using data to look for indicators about whether or not a prospect is in the market for our services so we can time our outreach to them.
I used to focus the majority of my training on a very specific e-mail approach called the “Why You Why You Now ” e-mail approach developed by MJ Hoffman. It was about doing research on an account and finding a trigger (open new office, launch new product, M&A) and making the connection to how your service can help the company in that situation. It’s called “Why You Why You NOW” for a reason. The idea is to capitalize on the timing of the trigger and get someone to think about your solution as an option they might not have been considering. 4-5 years ago this approach worked like a charm, but now it’s been genericized and everyone is doing it so it’s not as effective.
Timing vs Execution
Now it’s not necessarily about any one specific e-mail or approach anymore. It’s about social selling, cadences, nurturing and something I’m starting to focus a lot of my attention on which is “intent data.” Intent data is all about measuring someone’s actual intent to buy based on their search activities. It goes beyond just scoring leads based on if they downloaded a white paper or visited your website. It’s about people who are specifically searching for solutions to problems.
Companies like TechTarget have thousands of landing pages that are indexed so when you search for a tech solution and land on one of their pages they can see exactly what you are searching for and then provide that data to people who have solutions that fit so they can reach out to them. G2 is all about intent data. It can’t tell you the exact name of the person who is searching for a specific type of service, but it can tell you the company name which gives you insight on who you should be calling and when. For instance, it can tell me every company that has searched for “sales training” reviews on G2 that fit my ideal customer profile. Then I can use that to research the account and send a timely e-mail or call that significantly increases my chances of getting a response based on the timing.
At the end of the day there is no silver bullet to make someone want or need your solution. However, by mixing up your contact strategy, staying active on social, adding value, and paying attention to intent data and buying triggers you give yourself the best chance to be there when they’re ready. Make it Happen.
This week on the podcast I chatted with Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference and founder and CEO of Black Swan Group about all things negotiation. Below are just some of the takeaways from our conversation plus the video of the full interview. If you haven’t read his book, it’s a must-read for anyone in sales. Go grab yourself a copy!
You Probably Aren’t Listening
Chris is really big into what he calls, Tactical Empathy. That begins by listening to what the other side is saying. Many sales reps have been trained to get to “yes,” no matter what your prospect says. If you have a rebuttal for everything that your prospect says that will lead them into yes and that they need your solution, you aren’t really listening to them.
It might seem ridiculously obvious, but people get upset when they aren’t heard. If you go into a negotiation so determined to be heard, how can you listen to your prospects?
In your next meeting, before you go into your value-prop or your pitch and why they should do business with you, take some time to really understand what your prospects are looking for. Use pauses appropriately, summarize what you heard from them and ask follow up clarifying questions.
Happy Ears and Selective Listening
It’s very easy to get happy ears in a deal. When we get everything in a deal and everything feels great or we think there is a chance, it can be dangerous. This is the problem with always looking for a “yes” as stated above. We need to be comfortable challenging the prospect from the beginning. You need to be comfortable disqualifying them from the moment you start talking.
Win-Win Leaves You Vulnerable and Yes Can Take You Hostage
We’re often trained to look for “yes” answers that we can go back to later and reference. Or, we have been told to get a bunch of “yes” answers to questions throughout the sales process to condition them for the final “yes” at the end when we ask for the contract. Chris Voss respects the author of “Getting to Yes,” but thinks he has it all wrong.
The negotiators that use the phrase win-win early on are the ones you have to look out for the most. Whenever someone asks Chris about win-win the conversation he quickly comes back to saying something like “I say win-win, but I always anchor high.”
Think back to the last time someone mentioned win-win early on. Did they ask you for a steep discount in exchange for a testimonial or something similar?
Having a great working relationship where both sides are happy comes down to the difference in outcomes how the process felt. Chris says the goal of any negotiation is for the other side to feel good, you don’t want them to feel like they lost, and to be better off than they were before.
When it comes to yes, you don’t want to be taken hostage to the vision of a rosier future, or afraid to say no down the road. Saying yes can also make prospects and customers uncomfortable because it means they’re committing to something. By getting them to say “no” early on it makes them feel more in control and open them up.
The Most Dangerous Negotiation
What is the most dangerous negotiation? The one you don’t know you’re in. For sales, the negotiating starts the moment we pick up the phone. Chris calls this the “law of negotiation gravity.” You may not like that you’ll fall off the cliff, but that doesn’t change gravity. If you think you haven’t been in a negotiation from the moment you started talking, you’re in trouble.
The way you’ve managed the sales process from the start can make or break a deal before the price is even discussed. If you’ve been a pain to work with for your prospect, they may think that the whole company will be like that and never talk to you again. On the other hand, if you’ve been a pushover from the beginning then they will inherently take advantage of you and the more you give the less respect you get. Sometimes we give so much that the client stops seeing our solution as valuable and decided to go with someone else.
Remember, you’re in a negotiation from the moment you pick up the phone.
Simple Questions Aren’t So Simple
A go-to question like “Is now a good time to chat?” isn’t so simple. It’s actually about four individual questions.
Do I want to talk to you?
Do I want to talk about what you want to talk about?
How long are we going to be on the phone?
How do I get off the phone?
The danger of this is that you can’t answer “Is now a good time to talk?” without those four questions running through your head and being distracted. We also talked about how some questions like “Can you tell me more about that?” is actually a command rather than a question.
Enjoy the full video of our interview below, and listen on the go on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcatcher. Want more tips from Chris? Text FBIEMPATHY to 22828 to sign up for his newsletter, The Edge.
We give and give and give in the hopes that at the end of the sales process, we get what we want – which is the signed contract and commission. The problem is we tend to give a bunch of stuff away without really getting much in return. When this happens, we’re actually conditioning the prospect to treat us like a doormat.
We’re conditioning them to think they can get whatever they want without having to do anything for it. This is why at the end of the sales process they sometimes don’t even give us the courtesy of a callback!
This conditioning and resulting actions by the prospects are, to a certain degree, based on respect and what one of my mentors (Jeff Hoffman) calls your Social Value. Think about the relationships you have in your personal lives. The ones that are more equal are the ones you’re closer to and you have more respect for, which usually dictates how to interact with them. It’s the same way with clients. If there is a significant inequality to the relationship, they don’t respect us and they will treat us accordingly.
There is a human condition that helps us understand and address this and is described by some as the “Rule of Reciprocity.”
This rule effectively states that as humans we are all bound, even driven, to repay debts. Most of us don’t like owing anyone anything, regardless of how small. However, the longer we wait to repay that debt the less likely it is to happen. On the other hand, the longer we wait to ask for something in return for what we’re giving away, the harder it is to get.
There is a direct relationship to the length of time it takes to get something in return for what you’re giving away and the likelihood of us getting it. This is why when we give a bunch of stuff away throughout the sales process and wait until the end to get something in return, the client doesn’t remember all the stuff we did or what they “owe” us.
How do we fix this and create more of an equal relationship with our prospects throughout the sales process?
Just make sure you never give something away without getting something in return for it, no matter how small it might seem. Get a scheduled meeting, direct dial or cell phone number for giving away information. Get an NDA for giving a demo. Get a testimonial in return for a discount.
There are tons of things we can and should be asking for throughout the sales process. List them out and ask for them early and often to build up your Social Value.
Make it happen!
Want to learn more about how you can use the Rule of Reciprocity during the sales cycle? Check out my Driving to Close program and use code CLOSEMORE20 to save 20% in May 2019.
You may have heard about the benefits of LinkedIn voice messages. Many sales reps, including Morgan, are using them with great success. Of the 125 Morgan has sent, he’s seen 50 responses and booked 25 meetings. That’s a 40% response rate, and 20% success rate in getting next steps.
Here’s how you can get started with LinkedIn voice messages.
Who you can send them to
Currently, you can only send a LinkedIn voice message to anyone that is a first-degree connection. That means you can’t send them through an Inmail or through Sales Navigator. We don’t know if (or when) that will change, but currently, you have to be connected.
Tip: Connect with your prospects after a meeting while you’re still fresh in their mind. This will make it much easier to send them a voice message down the road. Also, try to include personalized Linkedin invitations as part of your cadence to cold prospects.
How to send them
From the LinkedIn app, go to your messages, and find the person you’d like to send the voice message to. From there, click the microphone; this brings you to the voice screen. Hold down the microphone button while you want to record. If you want to take a breath and pause, slide your finger away. If you let go, it will cancel the message. To send the message, keep your thumb or finger on the button and release it. You’ll be prompted before the message is actually sent.
Make them efficient
LinkedIn voice messages are limited to 60 seconds, which means you have to use your time wisely. 60 seconds can go by fast as you’re recording, and feel like an eternity when you’re listening to them. We actually recommend keeping your voicemails to about 30 seconds, if possible.
Before sending any voice messages, try them on your coworkers and people you know well first. This will help you find out what sounds good, and build your confidence to use them as part of the sales process.
The Structure of Your Call
Make sure you have a solid structure for your call that includes a powerful intro, the reason for your call and the call to action.
Your intro should get right to the point and focus on getting their attention. We like to start with some personalized information we found out about them on their Linkedin profile to make it relevant. For instance, if we see someone was hiring SDRs, the intro might sound something like “Hi Sara, I see you’ve posted recently about hiring SDRs to help XYZ company achieve their aggressive growth goals.”
Then have a strong reason or value prop that is associated with what you saw on their profile and say something like: “the reason I wanted to connect is because we’re working with other sales leaders who are hiring SDRs to help them ramp new hires by giving them the structure, tools and techniques they need to drive high quality meetings with your target prospects.”
Finally the Call to Action. What do you want? Be specific.
Have you experimented with LinkedIn’s voice messages? Let me know in the comments if you’ve found them to be successful.
There are a bunch of key indicators that happen throughout the buying/selling process that help us understand the true ‘health’ of any opportunity we’re working on and whether we’re in a good or bad position to win the deal. However, there is one that I’ve found to be the #1 key indicator of losing a deal which is “more time to make a decision.” When I hear this from the client, the hairs on the back of my neck sit up and my Spidey sense starts to tingle. Even worse, if I haven’t met with true “power” yet I can pretty much guarantee the deal is DOA and I should probably move on, especially if it happens more than once.
This key indicator (more time to make a decision) is was what told me I was going to lose a $200k deal before I actually lost it. I had met with a key influencer (not the final decision maker) who I had a great relationship with and had sold to before. We mapped out the entire plan for an international rollout of one of my training modules. I confirmed with her (in writing) their priorities, timeline, decision process, competition, and everything else. Based on their priorities and what I knew about the account, our training seemed to line up perfectly with what they needed. Add this to the positive relationship I already had with them and the proven results we got from previous training, and I felt pretty good about my chances of winning their business for this round of training. Ironically, this round of training was focused on negotiating skills.
We were going through the process together with solid give/get equality. There was a clear compelling event and urgency due to their timeline and roll-out plans. It was going to be a stretch to make all this happen in the timeline they were looking for but it was doable and I felt good about my chances….until….I got the dreaded silent treatment when I reached out to her on the day she said they wanted to have the decision made by.
The first time a customer misses their timeline I get very nervous and try to do everything I can to get them on the phone and pin them down for a good reason and then schedule a call for the revised decision date. The second time they push, I take the deal off my forecast and come up with a new, usually somewhat forceful and direct strategy. The third time I kill the deal dead and move on.
This is exactly what happened with this deal. She didn’t respond to me on the day they were supposed to make the decision, so I called and e-mailed her until I got her on the phone. She gave me the typical reason for needing more time in how they were waiting on a few more things from the other vendors before they made their final decision. She revised the date and we put a meeting on the calendar to give me a yes/no decision. She then pushed that meeting out another week.
At this point, I took the deal off the forecast and developed a new strategy to gain access to others in the decision process without pissing off my contact and making it look like I was going over her head. I gained additional insight and information but then she pushed the meeting one last time and I knew I was dead in the water.
When she pushed the third time, I didn’t send an e-mail or call her to tell her I was moving on from the deal, I just let it go and focused my time on other opportunities that I knew had a higher likelihood of closing. It just so happened I had another deal I was working on at the time that was about $100k and could potentially lead to a much bigger longer-term opportunity. I decided to shift my efforts to that one and walk away from the $200k deal that I knew I was going to lose. With that focus, I was able to close the $100k deal and put myself in a much better long-term position.
As one of my mentors M. Jeffrey Moffman once told me – the worst sin in sales is not to lose a deal, it’s to take a long time to lose a deal. The sooner we can sniff out that we’re in a bad deal and either walk away from it or just divert our attention to healthier deals, the better. When you hear the client needs “more time to make a decision” start sniffing.
If you’re looking for help in objectively understanding the “health” of any opportunity in your forecast and what you need to do to move it through or out of your pipeline, we’re offering a 20% discount on the “Driving to Close” online training program. This program will help you develop a customized scorecard you can use to apply to your deals and help you know exactly where you are and what you need to do to improve your close ratios.
Make it Happen!
Save 20% on Driving to Close
Looking to close out the year strong? Make an investment in your career by using code EASTER20 to save 20% on my online training program Driving to Close and learn actionable tips for you and your team.
For many of us, April marks the start of a new quarter, fresh targets and quota and new opportunities to focus on. Sometimes you hit your quarterly number with weeks to spare, other times you’re pushing in any deal you can to Make It Happen by the end of that third month.
I received this email last week (looks like the end of someone’s Q1), which is a great example of sales done wrong, in my opinion. Let’s take a look and break it down, and identify what they could have done instead. I’ve changed the name of the company to XYZ to protect the guilty.
With XYZ’s end of Q1 rapidly approaching (where has 2019 gone!?) right now is a great time to rethink your (key feature of what the product does) goals for the remaining year. If you have been considering expanding your XYZ solution, now is the time! We do have some special offers to make sure we are ending our Q1 on a high note.
Please reach out to me if you wish to learn more.
*If you are not the point of contact I am sorry for reaching out. If you would not mind pointing me in the right direction that would be awesome*
Guilty Sales Rep
I get it. Maybe we’re not a high Tier1 account and this spray approach works for accounts that have 0.5% chance of converting, but even then there are better ways to approach this.
It starts off about them
The first sentence of the email is talking about how it’s their end of quarter. Good for you. That has nothing to do with my need for more licenses of this tool. There was no mention about my end of quarter, or what my team is focused on. This reminds me of Old Gil from The Simpsons who was always desperate to make a deal.
Gil makes a sale - YouTube
Discounts right away
It’s easy for me to say never discount, but I understand the reality of discounting and how sometimes it’s necessary to get the deal over the finish line. In those situations, I prefer to be flexible or get creative, but only when the prospect brings it up. Why would you bring up a discount before it’s even mentioned by the prospect?
Devaluing the product and company
Maybe I’m not going to be buying today, but I might in the future. When it comes time for me to upgrade or renew my license, do you think i’m going to pay list price at this point? Not a chance in hell! Just because I’m not a good candidate for a deal now, doesn’t mean I won’t be in the future.
Find the right person
This sentence just feels awkward. If you’re doing sales the right way, there should never be a need to apologize, especially for reaching out to an existing account. Just because it’s my name on the contract, take a look at JBarrows Sales Training on LinkedIn, or check out your own CRM records. You’d see that there is also a good likelihood you’ll need to talk to Meghan, our COO. This whole sentence feels wrong to me.
How to do it right
Now that I’ve broken down a few things this sales rep did wrong, let’s look at how they could have done it right. Especially considering we’re an existing account.
Build some rapport ahead of time
I have no idea who this rep is. I checked my inbox, and they hadn’t reached out to me before. Just because we’re an existing customer doesn’t mean I recognize you. Give some value in your first email, at the very minimum, an introduction and maybe some ways to get more use out of your tool.
Look at the insights
One major advantage you have when reaching out to an existing account is – you know how much they use, or don’t use the tool. One look at our account and you’d see that we’re pretty active. Indicating there may be some need for a bigger license. Same goes for any integrations which your customers are using.
If you are going to discount
If you are going to discount, make your customers feel special, and make sure you’re getting something in return. Offer it as a loyalty discount, make it advantageous to lock in or extend a contract. You could even get really creative and offer a discount for a guest appearance on our podcast, or for me to join you on an upcoming webinar (please don’t do either of these, they’re just an example of creativity).
As you kick off this quarter, good luck, and remember, a big fat pipeline solves most problems, especially related to discounting!
At Salesloft’s Rainmaker conference this year I delivered a workshop, a keynote, and I participated in a panel. In each of these presentations, my focus was on providing as much value as possible to the audience. The feedback was all positive, but something about the feedback this time stood out which has me concerned. The feedback mostly centered around my authenticity and “realness.”
I strive to provide value in what I present and hope that the content I share makes a difference. The feedback I expect is based on the quality of the content, not how authentic I am in delivering it. With so much focus on the latter it got me thinking – why is authenticity such a big deal these days?
I know we need to be much more careful today with what we say to ensure we don’t offend anyone. Is it possible this fear has driven away authenticity? It seems that no one gives or gets direct feedback anymore. We’re afraid to say what we really want to because of the potential reaction.
Couple this with the world we live in where people are always in view of others (most by their own choice) and seem to put on a front to make it seem that their business or their life is picture perfect. People are forgetting what it’s like to be real, because flaws are picked up instantly and that makes people not want to be vulnerable.
In Sales, we’re always looking for the perfect template, pitch, or presentation, when all the client is looking for is someone to understand their needs and provide a solution to a challenge they’re trying to address. In training, we try to create the perfect role play or scenario that drives the exact outcome we’re looking for when we all know it rarely works out that way.
I’ve always found that transparency, being open about your strengths and weaknesses and setting clear expectations is the key to being truly successful. You can lie and cheat your way to “success” but that type of success is rarely fulfilling. It also tends to come back to bite you later on. I’m a big believer based on multiple experiences that karma is a bitch and what goes around truly does come around.
There’s a much broader discussion I think we need to have about authenticity at another time, but to make this tactical here are some things you can do to keep things real in the sales process:
Before your next meeting read the job description of the person you’re meeting with to see what they are held accountable for and/or google “(title) + (industry) priorities 2019” and read a few articles. Come up with genuine questions about their role to see how you can help them achieve their personal KPIs.
Use the upfront contract with clients to let them know what your goal for the call is and see if they agree.
Have a good “reason” for every question you ask
Focus on qualifying clients out more than you try to qualify them in
Give references of clients you screwed up with but stayed with you
Talk about what you/your solution is great at and where there’s room for improvement
Talk about what your competition is great at and where there’s room for improvement
Look to make a measurable difference, not a marginal one
The good news is authenticity isn’t that hard for people who care and as sad as this sounds, it can be leveraged as a competitive differentiator in today’s sales environment. Be real and make it happen!
The next Keep Dialing Workshop is April 12th in Indianapolis. Join us at The Gem at Union 525. Thank you to our event partners SalesLoft, LeadIQ, and Costello.
“Cold calling” is getting harder and harder to justify these days. Less people are picking up the phone, some executives don’t even have office lines anymore, the layers of gatekeepers are getting thicker and harder to navigate. It’s brutal out there. With all this, I still think cold calling has its place and can be effective IF done right.
First, let me be clear on my definition of what successful “cold calling” does and does not look like. I DO NOT think calling through a list of names with a generic elevator pitch can be effective. On the contrary, I think it can actually do more harm than good these days. I also don’t think making 50 dials sprinkled throughout the day to random people with varying messages can be effective either. However, being targeted with your message, staying focused with your calling and combining it with e-mail can be very effective.
The ideal approach to cold calling is to spend some time on your prospect’s website or Linkedin profile and find something specific to reference about them or their company and make a direct connection to the value your service can provide. However, most of the reps I work with are being asked to hit a certain volume of activity a day (30-60 dials) which doesn’t leave a ton of time for extensive research. I still think we should segment off about 1 hour a day to do the research and make those type of calls to our top tier target accounts but after that, we need to get the volume up there. Here’s a step by step process on how to be effective and relevant when doing volume cold calling:
Step 1: Segmentation
The best way to get the volume of calling up while still being targeted and relevant with your message starts with segmenting your target list. The more categories you can segment your target lists by (industry, title, existing technologies, competition, etc.) the more targeted you can be. I like segmenting by title and industry to start with.
Step 2: Develop your message
If you can get a good enough sized list by title (CEO) and industry (Tech) then you can start to figure out what those people care about and what their priorities are by doing a simple search on google for “CEO Tech Industry Priorities 2015.” After understanding their priorities you can come up with a message about your services that speaks to them. The easiest way to do this is by checking out any case studies you might have for companies in the industry you’re focusing on and see what kind of results you were able to drive for them.
Once you find a good case study with a solid result you can develop an attention-grabbing message that sounds something like this:
“We showed XYZ company in your industry how to drive (results) using our solution” or “we’re working with other (executive title) in your industry to help them address their (x) priority by….”
This message should be no longer than 15 seconds, focused on getting their attention and should solicit the response “how do you do that?”
Step 3: Develop your qualifying questions
In addition to having a specific message, we also need specific qualifying questions to ask. The good thing about staying focused on a specific group of people and knowing their priorities is that you can come up with very specific questions that show you know what you’re talking about when reaching out to these people and you can stay away from the generic BANT questions.
Among other things, you can simply ask questions like this:
“We’re working with other executives in your industry to address these three priorities: 1,2,3. How do these align with your priorities and what other ones are you specifically dealing with?”
Step 4: Prepare your supporting materials
Since we’ve already used the case studies to help develop our messaging to a targeted group we can use them to tell the story if/when we get the “how do you do that?” response after our attention-grabbing statement.
Step 5: Know what you’re asking for
The clearer and more specific you are with your call to action the better results you’ll get. Are you calling high and asking for a referral? If so, who are you asking to be referred to? A specific department? Title? Or, are you asking for time on the calendar of the person you’re calling? If so, how much time do you need? When do you want it? Be clean and specific.
Step 6: Deliver the message
When you deliver the message make sure you pay attention to the structure of your call and actually map it out before you start making your calls. How are you going to introduce yourself? What is the reason for your call? What are you asking for? What happens on a live call vs a voice mail? Write it down and practice a few times before you start.
Step 7: Block time
As I said earlier, I think that making 50 dials sprinkled throughout the day is a waste of time. You can’t gain any momentum or learn anything that way. However, if you block off an hour, prepare with the steps above, make sure you have your list ready and do nothing else but make calls during that hour you can accomplish a lot. The first few calls are going to be rough as you try to smooth out the delivery but then you’ll start to catch a groove and be far more effective as you go. By focusing your time and approach to a specific target you can also be far more efficient with your calling and will be able to make 20-25 dials in an hour with some good conversations mixed in. With prep and call time included this approach allows you to make 50 dials in about 3 hours, leaving the other 5+ hours to do whatever you want.
Step 8: Track and measure your results
Lastly, we need to make sure we track and measure our results. By taking a specific approach with a specific message to a target audience and segmenting an hour to do so we can figure out fairly quickly whether a message/approach is working or not. I usually keep a pad of paper and pen on my desk and count how many calls, referrals and meetings for each approach. I try each approach at least twice with an hour call blitz each time to get at least 50+ data points that I can use to compare to other approaches. If I can get anything around an 8% conversion ratio (meetings+referrals/calls) I put that message/approach on the list to use again. Anything below 8% I will try something else and keep split testing different approaches until I find one that works.
I know this seems like a lot of work but what’s the alternative? Pick up a list of names and start blasting through them with a generic elevator pitch praying to trip over an opportunity and hoping for a 1% conversion rate? Have fun with that.