Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Developing Rapport Quickly with Sales Prospects

Tags: Sales Strategies, close more sales, rapport with sales prospects, asking sales questions, initial sales meeting

sales-rapport.gifA guest post by Jack Kasel, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group

Rapport can be the fertilizer to help develop relationships quicker and with deeper roots.  However, most salespeople confuse rapport with having things in common.  Hello, everyone, this is Jack Kasel bringing you the latest Anthony Cole Training Sales Brew—Developing Rapport.

Most salespeople, upon entering a prospect’s office for the first time, become Robo-Salesperson – scanning the room for something to make a witty and insightful comment about.  When they hone in on a picture on the desk, they ask, “Is that your family?”   The prospect may answer differently, but is thinking “No, that’s the family of the person who had this office before me.  I liked his family better, so I kept the picture.” (Pause) “Of course, it’s my family, Captain Obvious.”

Don’t get me wrong; making those observations are helpful, but needing to be mentioned at the right time and mentioning it “right off the bat” isn’t the right time.  Why?  Because 10 out of the 12 previous salespeople who called on your prospect did the same thing.  You don’t want to be like all the other sales people; be different, be memorable.

Our definition of building rapport is this:  Prove you belong at the table.   You prove you belong at the table by the way you conduct yourself, the questions you ask and how you manage the interaction with the prospect.  That includes how you open the call.

We suggest two things when opening the call:

  • Don’t thank them for the meeting
  • Ask a great opening question

The opening statement could sound something like this: “I’m glad we could coordinate our schedules; I’m looking forward to our conversation.”   If we give the impression we are just a lowly salesperson, it doesn’t create “Equal Business Stature.”  They are professionals, we are professionals; we are going to have a professional business discussion.  IF we give the impression we are so grateful they could fit us in to their busy schedule, that doesn’t get the conversation started correctly.  Remember: our time is just as valuable as theirs, so act like it.

Asking a great opening question may sound like this, “Mr./Ms. Prospect, What do we need to discuss over the next 40-45 minutes that would make you say, ‘I’m glad we scheduled this meeting’  OR  ‘This was a good use of my time today’?   That forces them to talk about things important to them and gets the meeting started correctly.

As I mentioned earlier, discussing things on a personal level (sports, interests, hobbies, etc.) is best saved for when you are closing up the meeting.   That can bring a personal touch to the conversation; just make sure it’s done at the proper time – which is the end of the meeting, not the beginning.

Additional Resources:

4 Steps for Creating a Dazzling Client Experience by Walt Gerano

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5 Sales Activities that Lead to Success: Are Your Salespeople Assertive Enough?

Tags: sales competencies, sales management, sales prospecting, Sales Strategies, asking sales questions

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Assertive (not aggressive) salespeople win more business than others.  They care so much about doing the right thing for their clients that they are willing to risk the relationship and the deal in order to make sure the prospect or client makes the right decisions.  Does that describe your people?  Are they assertive?

When we say assertive, what do we mean?  What sales habits do assertive and successful people do day in and day out?  In 2010, I wrote a blog entitled 5 Direct Sales Activities That Lead to Sales Success that has been one of my highest readership blogs.  I went back and reviewed and here are the five steps:

  1. Activities that lead to getting names - networking, speaking engagements, sponsored seminars, meeting with centers of influence and/or asking for introductions
  2. Calling a suspect on the phone for an appointment
  3. Conversations and meetings to qualify a suspect
  4. Gathering additional information that leads to a presentation meeting
  5. Presentations/pitch meetings that lead to decisions

Steps 1 and 2 have changed dramatically in the last 6 years.  Social selling and the evolution of the buyer’s process utilizing all of the multiple channels of information has completely changed the process of prospecting for business.  Step 2 - getting a suspect on the phone - is virtually impossible with voicemails and phone trees.

Our Own Prospecting Case Study

Earlier this year, we decided to test the waters for our hiring business solution, www.hirebettersalespeople.com.  We had some initial success right off the bat with our launch in January of 2016, but then activity seemed to cool down.  We purchased a local lead list based on company size and title and I began calling.  Here are the calling results:

  • 66% of the dials took me directly into a recorded phone tree
  • 25% of the calls took me to a receptionist who was very helpful and informative but transferred me to voicemail
  • Of the remaining 9%, I had in depth conversations with 3 people, met with one and generated one sale from that contact

3 people fit our profile; I met with 1 and sold that one… but not to help them hire better salespeople, but rather to help them test, train and track some of the salespeople that were not “hitting their weight”.  The second was not interested at the time and the 3rd introduced me to someone in the home office. That contact has put us in the middle of negotiations for a 5-figure initial engagement.

I tell you that story to make the following points about step #2:

  • Calling prospects on the phone doesn’t work like it used to.  
  • It requires more attempts and effort than ever before - you have to have a different tactic and message to differentiate yourself.
  • Once you make contact, you have to be extremely good at what you do and have a compelling reason for people to listen and stay on the phone. THAT is where being more assertive makes a difference.

Steps 3, 4, 5:  How to be More Assertive at Qualifying, Presenting and Getting Decisions

In our primary markets of financial institutions, investment services and insurance brokerage, we ARE the resource for sales growth solutions.  We coach our clients on the fact that the reason for either their sales growth or loss is due to their peoples’  1) effort or 2) execution.  But what does assertiveness have to do with Effort and Execution of steps 3,4 and 5?  In a word, EVERYTHING.

Steps 3,4, and 5:

  1. Conversations and meetings to qualify a suspect
  2. Gathering additional information that leads to a presentation meeting
  3. Presentations/pitch meetings that lead to decisions

In each one of these steps, the skill of asking the right questions, the right way, at the right time is critical.  In our selling system, we explain that -  in order for a prospect to qualify - they must:

  1. Have compelling reasons to buy, make a change, do something different
  2. Have the capability and willingness to invest the right time, money and effort required for the purchase/change
  3. Be in a position of decision making and be able to make the decision to find a solution to the compelling (have to fix) issue,  can make the money decision, can leave a current or add to a current relationship, and say yes or no.

There are lots of questions that need to be asked in order to find out if the prospect qualifies in these three areas.  Some of these questions require a sales person to be assertive.  Questions such as:

  • How will you go about telling your current broker/banker/relationship that you are no longer going to do business with them?
  • If you don’t have the money, how will you solve the problem?
  • The budget you have won’t be enough to get you the outcome you want. What part of the solution do you want to eliminate?
  • What will you tell your partner when they say they don’t want to make the change?

Additionally, sometimes statements are required that would be considered counter-intuitive to selling, gutsy and risky.

  • Based on our experience and deep domain knowledge about your business, your best action to take would be this: ________.  If that doesn’t seem to work for you, then there’s a possibility that we won’t be a good match.
  • If I treated my clients the way you’ve been treated, then I would expect to be fired.
  • When we finish our presentation, solve all of the problems you’ve asked us to address within your budget and answered all your questions, I’ll need for you to be in a position to make a decision on whether we’ll do business together or not.
  • Maybe the most important thing for you to consider is “fit”.  If there isn’t a fit between our two companies, then our products and pricing really don’t matter.

Imagine for a second that you had salespeople that were gutsy enough to have these types of conversations. What would happen?  You might fear that you would lose more business. But… suppose that wasn’t the case.  Suppose by being more assertive and gutsy, your salespeople eliminated tire kickers earlier.  Suppose this lead to the elimination of “think it overs” and actually got people to decide.  Imagine for a second that your salespeople stopped making presentations to people who could only say “no” and never had the authority or intention of saying “yes”.  What would happen?

Your people would sell more, more quickly, at higher margins.  They would stop wasting time, stop getting delays, stop being shopped by a prospect that was just trying to keep a current provider honest.  

Here’s How Sales Managers Can Get Their Salespeople to be More Assertive

Sales managers must hold their salespeople accountable to the right level of sales activity.  To do this, you must have a success formula and a well-defined sales process so that you can identify where the choke points are for individuals when they fail to close “sure thing” opportunities.  You must also have a pipeline tool that actually helps you predict the possibility of an opportunity closing rather than a tool that just reports that there is activity in the pipeline.  And, finally, you must have a full pipeline – an anemic pipeline makes cowards out of salespeople. These are the tools you will need to help your salespeople be more assertive and close more business, more quickly, at higher margins.

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Let Silence Do the Heavy Lifting in Sales

Tags: Sales Strategies, close more sales, asking sales questions

A guest post by Mark Trinkle, Chief Sales Officer, Anthony Cole Training Group

Hello, darkness, my old friend.

I’ve come to talk with you again.

Because a vision, softly creeping,

Left its seeds while I was sleeping.

And the vision, that was planted in my brain,

Still remains…

Within the sound of silence.

 

So, that is the answer, courtesy of Simon & Garfunkel…And the question is this: “What song, released by a duo over 50 years ago, can help salespeople today?”

Yes, the unmistakable sound of silence. Wait a minute…does silence make a sound?  If you are a professional salesperson, you would say it absolutely does.  Susan Scott, the author of the wonderful book, “Fierce Conversations”, offers up some great advice when she suggests making your conversations more impact-ful by allow the silence to do the heavy lifting.

I think what Susan could have in mind are the hundreds of thousands of salespeople who treat silence like it is the Zika virus…they instantly run away from it.  But, what if silence was good within the context of having a powerful conversation?  What if silence led you a deeper level in a conversation?

Most salespeople are afraid of silence because they perceive it to be a) awkward or b) a sign that the prospect has checked out on them.  But, remember that you can speak much faster than people can listen…so sometimes they just need to be given time to allow their internal processor to catch up.

Here’s one more thing I have observed with salespeople.  They ask a great question….a killer question… the prospect goes radio silent…and then our salesperson ruins the moment by collapsing like a poorly dug prison tunnel.

Let the silence do the heavy lifting. I know it will be a strange feeling at first, but sometimes strange is actually a good thing.  Give your prospect some space to process the questions you ask them.

Thanks for listening. Now, go do some heavy lifting…actually, let the silence do the heavy lifting for you…and sell like a champion today.

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The 5 Why Questions Sales Prospects Ask

Tags: sales prospects, asking sales questions

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A guest blog post by Mark Trinkle, Chief Sales Officer, Anthony Cole Training Group

Why…Why…Why…Why…Why??????

My apologies for sounding like a 3-year old wondering why they need to stop doing something, start doing something, or eat something green and not so tasty off their plate.

So, here’s the deal. Do you know who else on occasion has a serious case of the whys?  You guessed it…your prospect.  For the record, prospects are also really good at simulating the temper tantrums of a three-year old when they don’t get their way.

Specifically, according to The Bridge Group, Inc., there are 5 Why Questions that most prospects ask themselves during the sales process:

  1. Why should they listen? I mean, after all, they were not expecting your call.  They were busy doing something and probably have a million things on their to-do list so why should they take the time to even listen to you as you interrupt their day?
  2. Why should they care? Let’s assume for just a minute they decided to listen.  What is going to resonate with your message to the point that it gets your prospect to care?
  3. Why should they change? Who knows how long the prospect has been on the course they are on today?  Why do something different?  Maybe things are going ok.
  4. Why should they pick you? There are probably lots of competitive options, so what is going to cause them to select you?
  5. Why now? Is there an urgency to act now?  What is going to compel or motivate the prospect to do something now instead of later?  Remember that a lack of urgency has torpedoed its share of sales opportunities.

 

Like it or not, your prospect is asking themselves these five questions….perhaps consciously so they are full aware of it or maybe it is being asked at a deeper subconscious level.

Either way, you better know the answers.

I guarantee you that your prospect does.

Thanks for tuning in…now go sell like a champion today.

Are Curve Balls Putting You in a Sales Slump?

Tags: close more business, sales prospecting, Sales Strategies, effective sales process, asking sales questions

A guest post by Mark Trinkle, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group

baseball-batterl

“Straight balls – bats like very much…curve balls – bats afraid.”

If you are a fan of the movie Major League, I’m sure you recognize that opening line from the outfielder, Pedro Cerrano, who had a lot of trouble hitting curve balls.  So, in honor of baseball’s All-Star Game that was played in my hometown of Cincinnati, today’s post is all about curve balls.

Do you know who else has trouble hitting curve balls?  Salespeople. And I’m not talking about resurrecting memories from their baseball playing days, but rather I am talking about the curve balls that get tossed at them by their prospects during a sales call.

At Anthony Cole Training, we define curve ball questions as questions that could make you nervous…or questions that might make you squirm. Quite simply, they are questions you wish the prospect simply would not ask.  Now, clearly, the remedy for curve ball questions is adequate pre-call planning, but let’s leave that for another day and another Sales Brew.

For now, let’s look at some of the typical curve ball questions. Here are just a few:

  1. Why should I do business with you? Now that question is one prospects are taught when they attend prospect school; it gets covered on day 1.  If you want to diffuse it, your best bet is to simply respond with “I’m not sure that you should.”

  2. How big is your company? That is another question that has been known to make salespeople look foolish.  And, no doubt, part of the problem here is that the salesperson generally does not know why the prospect is asking the question.  So, here is your response… “I’m curious, I get that question a lot…why do you ask?”

  3. What makes you unique…or how are you different from your competition? Answer this question and you immediately begin to look like a salesperson.  Your best bet is to be able to succinctly sum up what your existing clients would say are the reasons why they hired you.

  4. We’re impressed with what you have presented, but we need some time to look over your proposal. Clearly, this happens most of the time because the salesperson delivers a solution without setting up the expectation around the yes/no option (i.e. we don’t deliver solutions without knowing we are going to get an answer.)  But, nonetheless, your best response here is to ask either “What happens to your problem while you do that?”…or “What have we missed or what is unclear that is preventing you from making a decision today one way or the other?”

Here is the thing about curve ball questions.  They are usually pitches in the dirt.  Stop swinging at them.

Thanks for listening…now go sell like a champion today.

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Questions to Ask to Gain Clarity

Tags: closing sales, asking sales questions, solving sales problems

A guest post by Jack Kasel, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group

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In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey has a quote… “Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.”  I think that statement is especially true for sales professionals.

When we coach our clients, we try to get them to understand and remember these three tips when in conversation with their prospects and clients:

  1. The statement they make isn’t the actual statement.
  2. The question they ask isn’t the true question.
  3. The problem they have isn’t the actual problem.

So, as your prospects talk about their main concerns, your job is to determine the following: Is this a symptom or a problem?  Problems get solved, symptoms are tolerated.  I was working with a prospect and he kept saying he needed to fix his cash flow problem.  The more we talked, the more it became clear that cash flow wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was he missed out on an opportunity to purchase one of his competitors.  The symptom was cash flow, the problem was missing opportunities to acquire market share.  We focused on fixing his true problem.

One of the ways, and really the only way, to bring clarity to the conversation is by asking or saying the following when we hear prospects make statements or ask questions:

  • Tell me more about that . . .
  • What happens if that problem isn’t fixed?
  • When you say (insert statement here), I’m not sure I know what you mean.
  • Many people ask me that question for a variety of reasons; I would like to hear yours.

We also need to listen to emotionally charged words such as . . .

  • Need to fix…
  • I’m going to…
  • We simply can’t tolerate…
  • Others include: worried, upset, mad, frustrated

These are emotionally driven words and emotion drives sales.  Facts and figures justify sales, but emotion drives it.  If we don’t fully understand the reason for the statement, the purpose of the question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities.  I hope this audio clip has brought some clarity to your sales process.   

Now...someone needs what you do, go find them!

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