Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Fishing for Prospects

Tags: Prospecting, Qualifying leads, coaching salespeople, create & convert leads

I’m sure majority of people have heard the Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This, of course, means it’s more worthwhile to teach someone to do something (for themselves) than to do it for them (on an ongoing basis).

Well, I’ve created a new proverb. A sales proverb, if you will:

“Give a salesperson a prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for a day. Teach a salesperson to prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for their career.”

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Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A lot of the companies we partner with supply their new, or tenured, salespeople with leads consistently. In theory, this sounds great but it can cause problems long term. If you are feeding leads to your salespeople on a regular basis we encourage you to continue to do so. However, your salespeople can’t and shouldn’t rely on them as their main resource for potential business. They should be capable of replicating the process and generating their own opportunities. If they produce solely off of inbound marketing leads, the salesperson will just survive and not thrive within your organization. If they don’t know how to effectively create, cultivate and generate leads they will only do what is required of them to sell and close the leads they’re given, won’t try and uncover other opportunities and in the end, you, the sales manager, and the salesperson, will be disappointed with their performance.

And it’s not just a matter of teaching them how to prospect but how to prospect effectively. Anyone can go out and get a list of names but how they contact those names, what they say, what questions they ask- all play a role in effectively “fishing” for leads.

So how can you help your salespeople?

Start by setting a new lead expectation. Making it mandatory to produce fresh opportunities on a weekly basis will force your salespeople to go out and make the dials. Next, identify your “Zebra” or ideal prospect persona. For a better understanding of the concept and best practices on identifying “Zebras” watch this short Sales Guy Unplugged video. Don’t let your salespeople call on anyone other than those that fit the personas identifies. After, research the best ways to reach your ideal prospect. Is it via email or phone call? Is LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter their preferred social media platform? Knowing how and where to reach your target persona will positively impact your salespeople’s’ ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business.

A salespersons job, though difficult to do, is not difficult to understand. There are 3 major components: go out in the marketplace and uncover opportunities, qualify those opportunities and close for the business. Don’t let your salespeople get by on just your internal leads- fishing for prospects is 33% of their job.

Need more help? Download our free E-Book “Why is Qualifying a Prospect so #%&@ Hard”. This book is packed with practical information that you can put into practice today to immediately increase your sales. Also, listen to the recorded live broadcast of Anthony Cole Training Group’s President and Chief Sales Officer, Mark Trinkle, covering “How to Create, Cultivate and Convert Sales Leads".

Listen to the Recording Here!

Sales and Super Mario

Tags: Prospecting, Qualifying leads, coaching salespeople, create & convert leads

Last week, my fiancé and I were gifted a new Super Nintendo Classic with all the originals preloaded- Donkey Kong Country, Street Fighter, Zelda and of course, Super Mario World. Now I realize only a certain group reading this will know the exact system I am referring to but my theory still applies to Atari lovers, Gameboy enthusiasts and even those of you who know nothing about gaming and gaming consoles.

The first night we picked up the retro remotes we discovered something—these games are hard! Particularly Super Mario World. Being someone who grew up with this technology, I thought getting back into it would be simple. I was wrong. I was so excited to be playing again I found myself running the course, taking risky jumps, trying to collect all the coins I could and would end up falling to my virtual death or getting hit in the head by a turtle shell. I realized that I had an opportunity to make it through to the next level but I wasn’t doing what was necessary to convert that opportunity into a win. I rushed through. I took risks that weren’t worth it but I made them anyway because it was the only play I had. And then I had an epiphany- the same thing happens in sales.mario2.jpg

One of the problems we hear our clients talk most about is their ability to grow sales and its direct correlation to their salespeople’s ability to create and convert opportunities. Lead generation and conversion requires two things: effort and effective execution. Majority of the time, we find that the effort is there but the execution could use work. If you were to ask your salespeople to show you their pipeline for the next 30 or 60 days, what would it look like? There are probably enough opportunities but are they properly vetted? Does the lead or prospect qualify to do business with your organization? Does your company qualify to do business with them? Or are they just in there to make it look like your sales person has a full dance card for the next month? Weak, unqualified pipelines make cowards of us all- we don’t want to throw the unqualified ones out because if we did, what would we have left?

Salespeople tend to rush through the sales process after hearing the littlest pain indicator or buying signal. They feel the quicker they move, the more likely the prospect is to say “yes” at time of close. However, that’s rarely how it works out. Usually when we rush, we are left with “think it over”, stalls and objections or the prospect decides not to answer calls or emails at all. So, what can your salespeople do TODAY to help fix the problem?

  1. Slow down! Don’t rush the sales process. When we rush, we get inconsistent results and are likely to face more problems on the back end.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions. The #1 reasons salespeople struggle with creating and converting leads is because they think they need to be liked in order to get the business. This will keep them from asking great, robust questions that allow them to properly qualify for the opportunity. It will also help your salespeople stand apart from their competitors.
  3. Use our free tool “Qualify Your Prospects” to help your salespeople better qualify and then have them remove prospects from their pipeline as soon as they realize there isn’t anywhere to go. They don’t need to continue wasting their time with another “discovery call” or follow-up email. Put them in your tickler system and move on to the next lead.

There are many other techniques to help your salespeople keep from getting hit in the head with “think it over” turtle shells. Sign up for our free live broadcast, “Learn How to Create, Cultivate and Convert Qualified Leads for Great Sales Growth” for more tips and tools! Your salespeople will learn proven methods to find and connect with real buyers in this new world of selling.

Sign up for How to  Create, Cultivate & Convert Sales Leads  Live Broadcast!

What Does It Take to Create & Convert Leads (and also Hire Those Who Will)?

Tags: Prospecting, sales leads, generating leads, how to prospect, create & convert leads

What does it take generate and convert leads and hire sales people who can consistently perform this ultimately necessary job?  

Lead Generation Equation:  Effort +Effectiveness = Leads

Hiring the right sales people who can perform this job requires:

  1. Knowing what skills and behaviors to look for in a new candidate
  2. Having a system and process to find these special people
  3. Assessing and interviewing for the critical ‘hunting’ skills

But it’s not that simple.  Every president and sales manager I’ve talked to over the last year, tell me that the biggest challenge their sales people face is creating enough leads, converting those leads to opportunities and then converting the opportunities to revenue.

DOWNLOAD our FREE eBOOK -   Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?

If you’ve read my posts in the past you may have stumbled across one that talks about growing up on a blueberry farm in Hammonton, NJ.  Little did I know at the time that my early life would help me better understand the world of selling.  Growing up on a farm is about surviving.  Our family survived season after season, year after year.  We were never rich, never had extra money, were never able to save for a rainy day much less put money away in a retirement account.  Surviving then (and probably now for most of those who work in farming) required three important skills and behaviors and discipline to be successful.

I assure you that none of the following three “lead generation and selling” activities were easy.  These activities required a commitment to succeed, a not-an-option mindset, specific skill sets and a vow to do everything possible to succeed.

  • Hunting – my dad hunted, had to hunt, to put food on the table for six of us.
  • Farming – we grew blueberries, peaches and strawberries. Mom and dad sent hours canning peaches and freezing strawberries and blueberries so mom could make pies in the winter.  They also bartered for tomatoes from neighbors and other local farmers and canned jars and jars of tomato puree.
  • Trapping – Years after I left the farm my dad started trapping muskrat and fox to make money from the pelts and had a garden that supplied their winter supply of canned vegetables. He also had a friend in one of the local rangers who would casually mention when there was fresh deer meat nearby.

 Growing sales requires lead generation.  Today’s lead generation activities are different than those of a few years ago, different because today’s prospects are different.  They are different because technology, the amount of information and the mobile ability to access information, has been a game-changer that favors the buyer

Today’s sales person can no longer rely solely on traditional prospecting skills and behaviors to generate leads.  Today’s successful sales person must have the hunting DNA but must also diversify efforts AND become more effective.

When we assess sales talent within an organization or screen sales candidates, we help our clients minimize the high costs of hiring ‘ghosts' with findings in several important areas that help determine if the sales person or sales candidate has the aptitude and skill to develop new business.

Hunting

As you can see from the exhibit below, very specific skills are needed to be a successful hunter. A hunter must be able to get past “gatekeepers” to reach decision makers, attend networking events and consistently prospect. 

But look at all the ‘stuff’ that you may not have known are critical to generating enough leads.  Generating leads today includes additional skills and aptitudes, as well as traditional people skills and aptitudes. Examples include: Uses sales 2.0 tools, gets referrals from customers/network, has no need for approval, WILL Prospect! 

Compare Your Salespeople on 21 Core Competencies

Hitting Your Sales Goals – 3 Challenges to Overcome

Tags: Prospecting, sales goals, sales prospects, qualified leads, sales leads, generating leads

In the last 30 days, I’ve talked to more than a dozen company executives, sales people and sales managers.  I’ve asked them “What is the #1 constrictor to hitting your sales goals?”  The answer every time was: getting more qualified leads.  I know this is not a large sampling and I would be concerned about the validity of this finding if only 25% of them said that getting more qualified leads was the main problem. But that isn’t the case.  The consistency of answer in this survey indicates a trend to focus on.

There is further validation of the current finding:

During training discussions over the course of more than 20 years, I’ve asked sales executives, presidents and sales teams to complete the following statement:  I (we) would sell more, be more productive, more effective if only I (we) …  The #1 most common answer consistently over the years has been “If I had more / better prospects to call on.”

In order to address the problem of gettin more qualified leads, sales leaders and salespeople need to first understand these three challenges:

  1. Will to Sell
  2. Sales DNA
  3. Sales Skills

Let me use an example to explain.  We are currently working with a financial institution that is hiring a new private banker in an expanded market.  Using the pre-hire assessment from our partner Objective Management Group, we created a ‘tailored fit model’ based on the performance of the top and bottom current private bankers and then assessed the 5 candidates they were still considering.

Take a look at these findings:

Figure 1 – How well did the candidates match the clients’ work history criteria for success?  The client created a profile that indicated that the non-negotiable sale success criteria where: 1) must be competition resistant (successfully sold in a competitive environment), 2) Successfully sold value rather than price, 3) Sold to executives, 4) Has successfully hunted and sold new business (this addresses challenge #3 sales skills – specifically skills for hunting/ prospecting), 5) Is an entrepreneurial seller.  As you can see all the candidates being considered marginally met the client criteria for success with 3 of the 5 having an 80% match.

But when we look at the other findings, we find the 3 challenges most common to organizations that are trying to consistently hit / exceed their sales goals.

Figure #2 -When we look at Challenge #1 – ‘Will to Sell’ we find the following:

Only 1 candidate meets all the criteria for Will To Sell. The question becomes:  How important is the will to sell when attempting to overcome the challenges of finding qualified prospects to talk to? If 1/3 of your current team lacks the will to sell what is the likelihood  - despite all the ‘prospecting’ training you provide them – that they will actually execute?  Also note that one of the candidates with strong desire, commitment and outlook will still be prone to making excuses for not prospecting, asking for introductions and networking. (Desire for Sales Success)

Figure #3 – Sales DNA (Sales DNA Audio) findings for the 5 candidates looked like this:

This post won’t go into the definitions of all the criteria you see here but understand that green is good and red is not so good.  If you look to the right of the graph and look at the Total Sales DNA the scores in green and red told our client what they needed to know.  If everything else is equal in the equation then your people with strong sales DNA are more likely to do the activity of prospecting and will be more successful.

*Candidate #2 meets the criteria of the client, has a very strong will to sell and has the highest sales DNA score.  How many of the people on your sales team measure up to this ‘elite’ candidate?

The world of selling is certainly different today than it was just 5 years ago.  Your prospects in the market place have more ways to find more information about you, your products and services. They have more ways to compare you against your competition and all of this happens without you or your sales people even making contact.  (See ZMOT – Google Research – Zero Moment of Truth).

To meet the challenges of today, you need a sales team with the right stuff.

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