Sellers have all heard that they should expect to hear many more ‘no’s’ than ‘yes’s’ and to not let that get them down or deter them. Some sellers even work with the mantra: ‘A no gets you one step closer to a yes.’ Although both sayings are over used, they’re meant to help sellers keep perspective and remain positive. Problem is that doesn’t always work.
Why not? Sellers are human, with egos, emotions and needs. In truth, no seller will ever close a sale with every prospect they meet. Every seller knows that, yet still they hope to! It’s that undying hope that gets squashed when the response is ‘no’.
Here are some pointers and beliefs I’ve shared with direct reports to help them keep a level head and not waiver in their mindset about their capabilities, products, company, etc.
While I know that I can help every business owner with whom I speak, I tell myself that roughly 95% of them aren’t ready to work with me for various reasons. This belief allows me to remain confident and have great conversations with everyone because my expectations are that I’ll have to speak with many owners to find the few that will become clients. I’m okay with that.
The goal in sales is to have every meeting come to a close with a decision being made. A prospect that tells you ‘no’ is making a decision! It’s so much better to get a ‘no’ than ‘call me in two weeks’, or any other stall tactic. When sellers accept the latter response, they’re just kidding themselves. The client has taken control and will likely become hard to reach the second after you leave their office. Adopt the best practice of understanding that ‘no’ is a likely outcome and craft questions that help you discover if that’s going to be the case sooner rather than later.
Know how valuable your and your team’s time is. It’s far better for sellers to spend their time pursuing qualified prospects than to waste it playing cat and mouse with those that aren’t. Internalize this and appreciate your worth. What’s the lowest sale amount you’ll get out of bed for each morning? Stick to that number and you’ll find that you’ll start asking for and earning larger shares of business and you’ll stop spending time with less-than-ideal prospects.
Understand exactly who your ideal customer is. This keeps you grounded and allows you to ascertain whether a prospect is worth the time, energy and resources it will take to service them. While we all like to make a sale, sometimes the sale is too small. Let’s not get so caught up in closing a deal that we lose sight of when it makes sense not to work with certain prospects.
Have two or three rebuttal questions ready when you do hear ‘no’. This will help you discover where you may have missed something important. Tone and authenticity are critical. Two that have worked well for me are: a) ‘I’m sorry that we won’t be working together, please help me understand what I missed.’ b) ‘What’s missing in my proposal that your answer can’t be ‘yes’ today?’ With both I take responsibility, which makes them feel more at ease and they typically share more information that may lead to new discoveries and allows me to accomplish the following point.
Always keep the door open for future conversations, even if it’s only open a tiny crack. Ask for permission to stay in touch with them periodically and ask how often would be okay with them. If you have a newsletter, ask for their permission to include them on your distribution list. Connect with them on LinkedIn and let them see others in your network. At the very least, check back in with them once per quarter. Something changes in their business every 60-90 days and you want to be nearby when they need help. They’ll reach out to those they know first, make sure you’re on that short list.
When you believe in yourself, the value of what you offer and the problems your product will solve, you’ll begin to realize the beauty of the word ‘no’ and how freeing it can be to get that decisive conclusion.
Anyone who’s in the process of developing business knows how difficult it’s become to get people to return phone calls. Frankly, that’s because most voice mail messages aren’t compelling. A business owner might receive 20+ voice mail messages in one day, 15 of those are likely from solicitors. If your message doesn’t make them believe there’s value in speaking with you, don’t expect a return call.
Here are five tips to set yourself apart from the competition, quickly cut to the chase and increase the likelihood of your call being returned. String the examples below together to create your conversational message, then practice, practice, practice so you sound approachable, yet sophisticated.
Be personable, immediately. State his first name, your full name and say your phone number twice. Example: “Joe, I’m sorry to have missed you! This is Sharon Day, 293-6633, 293-6633”. So far I sound like a neighbor. Leaving your phone number upfront is important because he may not have the time to listen to the entire message. Allow him to quickly get your name and number and move on if that’s his wish. NOTE: if you’ve been referred to Joe, change the message to: “Joe, Sherry Jones suggested that I call you, I’m so sorry to have missed you! This is…..”
Do not state the name of your company unless your company name is sure to impress him. (Sorry, most times it doesn’t.) You may disagree, but rather than say for whom you work, explain types of problems you typically solve. Make a list of several and choose which you’ll use. Note which examples you left on the message in case neither resonates and you want to use others in a future message. Example: “We’ve helped other sales teams increase revenues between 3 hundred thousand and 2 million dollars in one year.”
Appeal to him both emotionally and intellectually. This is critically important! Emotions drive purchase decisions. The first step to his making a future purchase from you is to get him to respond. Make your reason for calling pique his interest. Example: “The reason for my call is to discuss whether you’re 100% satisfied with your team’s performance and how they’re setting up 2013 for you.”
Set up your expectation and next step.Do not ask him to return your call. Thank him for his time. Say what?!?!? I thought the purpose of leaving a message was to get them to return the call! And, that’s correct. If the message is compelling, they’ll call you without being asked to. Be clear and concise about what you feel is the likely outcome and what you’ll do next. Example: “You’ll probably tell me that you’re not struggling at all, but I’ll try to reach you again Thursday morning between 9 and 11am. Thanks for your time.”
Watch your tone and body language. Wait a second, you might say, he can’t see me!
True, but your anxiety, frustration and emotions all come through loud and clear in the tone of your voice, your choice of words and inflection. Choose a physical position that allows you to feel energetic yet relaxed; mine is standing and walking about, moving my hands while I talk, so I use a wireless device and headset.
The outcome of leaving the above message: They know my name and phone number, have heard my voice, have an idea of what I do and how I’ve helped others, appreciate that I understand they likely have no need for my services, and really appreciate that I value their time and haven’t added another item to their ‘to do’ list. And, that’s all from one voice mail message!
Final note: When you phone back and get the gatekeeper, you can say, “yes, he’s expecting my call”, because he is! You stated specifically when you’d be calling in your first message. Ahhh, this is a warm call!
What is it about sellers and the fear of not being able to 'get past the gatekeeper'? Granted, there are some really good ones out there who perform their task of screening every call quite well. Even so, whether you get past them or not depends on you and your approach. Most sellers need to adjust their attitude about making calls and the role of the person whom they first encounter on the other end of the line.
Remember, the gatekeeper is not your primary caregiver, so you owe them nothing and can lighten up! Here are three tactics that have worked for me.
When they ask 'May I tell him who's calling?' here are two responses:
1) 'Sure!', then pause. (This always results in a bit of stunned silence.) Then, they'll ask, 'May I have your name?' and you can laugh and say, 'Oh! I haven't given that to you, have I? It's Bob Smith, is Joe in this morning?', OR,
2) 'Sure!, but it won't mean anything to them yet'. This usually gets a chuckle and then you can ask 'Are they in today?'
Never use your contact's last name.
The biggest tip off to a gatekeeper/receptionist that you're an outsider is when you use someone's last name. Even when their first name is common don't use their last! Here's why this is so critical - friends and family members ask for them by their first name or nickname. One thing a receptionist never wants to do is upset a friend or family member by not connecting their call. So use first names only. Try this and keep track of how many times it works for you.
Solicit their help when you're going in cold, or your contact name is invalid. They usually appreciate your asking; you can hear it in their voice. Here's how I do this: 'Mind if I take 30 seconds, tell you why I'm calling and then you can direct me to the right person?' I've never had anyone say no. Then, when I get connected to whomever they feel is the right person, I say 'Hello, I was just speaking with Mary about our services and she felt it best that I speak with you. Is this a bad time?"
Even if you get an automated system, always press 0 to connect with a live person, worst case you'll get practice; best case, you'll create an ally that will get you through to the very person you've been trying to reach.
In the past several weeks I’ve met with prospects that shared a myriad of issues they’re facing regarding their concerns around new business development. In reviewing those conversations, a common thread emerged – each company, in part, questioned whether they had the right people.
I suggest that we expand on that question and ask: Do we have the right people performing the right job functions based on their inherent talents and passions? Are we giving them the opportunity to do those things each and every day? Have we set clear expectations for them so they know, without a doubt, when they’ve succeeded and/or what they need to work on? Do they understand how they are being measured and how often?
As we strive to create workplaces filled with talented, happy, engaged employees, we must address these questions. I’ve witnessed and come to believe that when talented individuals are given the opportunity to regularly perform tasks that align with their innate abilities, productivity increases. Simply stated, doing tasks they enjoy on a regular basis seldom feels like ‘work’ to them and, as a result, they are happier, remain upbeat and have a positive attitude. These factors lead to engagement in their roles, which, in turn, leads to increased productivity and results and decreased negativity and turnover.
Those who are happy and positive tend to be more open-minded, willing to explore options and aware of opportunities and possibilities that exist even in problems presented by clients. Conversely, those who aren’t happy become bored and boredom leads to bad attitudes that lead to closed-mindedness and inaction.
Here are some tactics that managers can and should employ to make sure their teams become and remain engaged in their work.
Attract and Assess. When creating job postings, write your copy to attract the behaviors you need. For example, for positions requiring new business development, ask “if you love generating new business and have a track record of success that can be proved, we want to talk to you!” People want to be able to do the things they care about and do best on a regular basis. Work hard to put the right talent in the right role. Assess your final candidates before hiring; preferably use a tool that is statistically proven to predict success in a given role. This will increase your odds of finding the right fit.
Set clear Expectations and Accountability Metrics. This is critical if you want to attract and retain talent. The best performers want and need to know what’s expected of them so that they can measure their performance. At the end of the day they want to know that they’ve made a contribution. Put your expectations in writing; be specific answering what, how much, by when? Include what will be celebrated and what consequences will result. Review these with your employees and have them sign the document indicating their understanding. Regularly check on their progress to hold them accountable. Be consistent.
Recognize and Praise desired Behaviors. When you catch someone doing something well, thank them. You can do this publicly or privately, verbally or in writing based on their preference – please ask them which they prefer. Ask them who else you should tell and send that person a note or leave them a message. This is powerful. Make this a regular practice; it will fuel the desire in others to perform at the levels that garner your approval.
Reward Desired Performance. When someone delivers or over-delivers reward them based on what’s important to them. Some of the most effective rewards I’ve used have been: time off; letting them skip one-on-one meetings; letting them come in at 9am instead of 8:30am for one month (this is great for parents who deal with a lot of commotion in the morning); bring in a brief case full of $1 bills and offer a stack of $50 to each seller who was over budget that month. Something magical happens when you personalize how you reward employees based on their individual contributions - you make them feel valued as a person.
Provide the materials, equipment and support they need to perform well. Top performers do not like to be sidelined, distracted or stopped by broken down copiers, ineffective support staff, etc. Put the resources in place to support your team’s high performance goals. Routinely ask for feedback on what could be done better, more consistently, etc. to support them? Respond quickly to their requests and recommendations. Even if you can’t provide what they seek, they’ll appreciate your consideration on their behalf.
Engaged employees are those who are properly placed in roles, given the chance to do what they enjoy each day, understand what’s expected of them and how they’ll be measured, given praise, recognition and/or coaching for improvement and have the tools and support they need to succeed. If your employees are engaged, you’ll never have to worry about customer service again because your staff will make sure your customers are well taken care of.