January 2013 | Click links (>>) below to read articles
  • Want Better Tele-Sales Results Tomorrow? Do These 7 Things Tonight by Jim Domanski >>
  • Passion As A Sales Tool by Mark Hunter 'The Sales Hunter' >>
  • Problem Killer Questions by Rick Farrell >>
  • The Power Of Military Discipline by Bill Lee >>
  • How to Handle the Immediate Cold Call Brush Off by Art Sobczak >>


Want Better Tele-Sales Results Tomorrow? Do These 7 Things Tonight
by Jim Domanski

If you want to improve your tele-sales results tomorrow start by preparing today. Here are seven actions you can take tonight that will help make you more productive and effective tomorrow.

1. Create a Master List

Before you leave your office tonight prepare a 'master list' of the top 20-30 clients or prospects that you plan to call tomorrow. Put the names and numbers on a spread sheet or a legal pad so that when you arrive in the morning they are there, in front of you, ready to go.

This simple act gets you going; gets you dialing; get's you DOING. The trouble with tele-sales or tele-prospecting is that it gets easy to avoid picking up the phone. We find ways to avoid it (as you'll see below) and consequently, many reps pick up the phone 30 or 40 or more minutes after they arrive. Similarly, turning on the computer and beginning the day by 'searching' the database for prospects or clients can take considerable time. Don't squander that time. Have those names ready to go for the morning.

2. Write Your Goals

After you have completed your master list, write your goals for the next day. This is a classic 'time management' technique and no less important now than it was twenty five years ago. Take the time to write down key goals such as dials, connects, leads generated, presentations made, sales made, revenue objectives, profit goals ...whatever.

When you arrive in the morning knowing precisely what you want to accomplish, you increase your odds of making it happen. Written goals bring clarity and focus. Waltzing in with a vague idea of what you want to achieve typically yields vague results. Be precise. Be laser like.

3. Clear Your Desk

How tempting is it to start your day by organizing your desk, clearing papers, and 'getting ready' for calling? It's a task that can easily take 20 'delicious' minutes away from having to pick up the phone. From another perspective, a chaotic desk in the morning often contributes to a chaotic approach to calling. You search for a pen, paper, marketing material, notes ... whatever. You can't focus on a call because there is always something to pull you away.

A clean desk is refreshing. Because it's not cluttered, your mind is less cluttered. That means more focus and attention to the calls you are about to make. Clear off your desk the night before. The only thing on your desk should be your Master List and Goals for the Day Sheet.

Seriously, a simple thing like clearing your desk can have a SIGNIFICANT impact on your bottom line results.

4. Clear Up Your E-Mails

E-mails are an absolutely wonderful way to procrastinate, aren't they? You waltz in, crank up the computer and check your messages. Invariably there are messages from the day before that 'absolutely need' a response (or so you think). So you review your messages, compose replies, edit them and send them out. And of course, there's always a message or two from a friend, and a newsletter you should read, a web site link that you can't resist, and before you know it, 40 minutes have past.

Don't let the lure of e-mails distract you from your prime objective: to make calls, reach clients and sell or prospect. Answer your e-mails the day before so they are not lingering the next day. When you do get in, resist the urge to check them until after you've called your Master List.

5. Clear Up Your Voice Mails

Voice mails are the audible equivalent to e-mails. Clear them up the night before. Make your return calls before you leave for the day. Leave messages for those who you don't reach. Call them back later the next morning but ONLY AFTER you've done an hour of calling.

6. Arrive 15 Minutes Earlier

Want better results almost instantly? Go to bed 15 minutes earlier tonight, get up 15 minutes earlier tomorrow, leave for work sooner and get in 15 minutes early. That's it. Get in and start working 15 minutes earlier. Do the math. In a week that amounts to an additional 1.25 hours of dialing. In a month, that's five additional hours. In a year that equates to 60 more hours or 7.5 days of additional calling! It cannot help but increase your results!

Arriving 15 minutes early reduces distraction because there are fewer people around you. When your co-workers arrive they'll see you on phone. They'll be less likely to talk about what they did the night before. In the meantime, you'll have a sale or a lead or an appointment before they ever switch on their computer!

7. Schedule Your First Call

Schedule your first call for the VERY first thing in the morning. In fact, block out an hour or more for calling. Treat it as an appointment with yourself and your success. To make this happen, create an appointment or alarm in Outlook (or whatever you use) so that it pops up on your screen the moment your turn your computer on. You'll have an instant reminder.


Assuming you arrive 15 minutes early to a clean desk with a Master List in plain sight, sit down, turn on your computer, and dial the first name on your list.

Et voila.

You've started the day off right. You'll get more sales, leads or appointments if only because you have purpose, direction, and focus with no niggling little distractions.

Repeat this process before you leave today. And do this every day. Watch your results pour in.

About The Author:

Teleconcepts Consulting works with companies and individuals who struggle to use the telephone more effectively to sell and market their products and services. For more information on consulting services and training programs, articles, and other resources visit www.teleconceptsconsulting.com or call 613-591-1998.

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Passion As A Sales Tool
by Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter”

We all know that sales is really all about “closing the sale.” There is not a salesperson alive who does not use a variety of techniques to help them be successful with customers. However, I believe passion is the most underrated and underutilized sales tool in our arsenal, because it is too hard to measure and no one has found an effective way to teach it.

Why don’t more people use passion to their advantage? It’s simple. Passion exists in those who are humble, focused and unlikely to advertise their expertise.

Passion is an effective sales tool because it isn’t artificial and can’t be faked for a long period of time. It is displayed in people who genuinely care and are willing to take the time to serve their customers in whatever manner is necessary. If your mindset is not to compassionately serve people, you can stop reading because the rest of this article is not for you. If you do have a willingness to serve and demonstrate concern, then continue reading.

Passion in sales is evident when the salesperson takes the time to listen to their customer and attempts to really understand what it is they are looking for. It is displayed not only in the questions that are asked, but also in the tone of voice and body language the salesperson uses and the follow-up demonstrated after the sales call.

Salespeople who have passion are able to create long-term profitable relationships with their customers. They also routinely benefit from referrals by their existing clients and, on many occasions, these prospects come to them ready to buy.

It’s ironic to note that the individual characteristics that reveal passion are also the same characteristics that are demonstrated by many top-performing salespeople. However, without passion resulting in a steady supply of new prospects, their status at the top is short-lived.

Before you rush out to practice your body language and tone of voice in an attempt to find passion, let me add the secret ingredient: heart. Passion comes from a genuine belief of wanting to help the customer in both good times and bad. It is at its truest form when things are not going well for either the salesperson or the customer and the salesperson is still willing to serve first and sell second.

Don’t get me wrong: having passion does not mean you’re giving up profit indefinitely. It might mean you are sacrificing a little short-term gain, but when you are committed to having passion for your customers, you will achieve a higher level of long-term profit, not only from the customer you’re serving, but also from the referrals they bring you.

Passion can actually be measured in a couple of ways. Begin by asking yourself this simple question: “When the day is over and my customers are reflecting back on the people with whom they’ve interacted and the activities they’ve done, do they think of me in a positive light that contributed to them having a good day?”

It is important to consider whether your customers truly believe you are helping improve their day or simply contributing to the chaos of it. Another assessment tool is found in analyzing the number of referrals you get. Referrals are an accurate measurement of how your customers view you, even more than repeat business with a current customer. If they honestly believe in you, they recommend you to others. (Keep in mind, however, that if they don’t like you, they’ll still talk about you, just in a negative light).

Passion in sales is underrated. Therefore, your ability to genuinely care about your customers, to show an interest in them, and to serve them will determine your long-term sales success.

Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter, is author of “High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price.” He is a consultative selling expert committed to helping individuals and companies identify better prospects and close more profitable sales. To get a free weekly sales tip, visit www.TheSalesHunter.com. Read the first chapter of his instant-classic “High-Profit Selling” here.

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Problem Killer Questions
by Rick Farrell

The problem with presenting and selling solutions is that salespeople do it prematurely without firmly establishing whether a real problem exists enough to provide a prospect a compelling reason to change. The idea of selling problems instead of solutions also would be rendered unnecessary if prospects were always forthcoming, truthful, unguarded and not fearful of salespeople’s hidden agendas.

The strategy of selling problems and their consequences is typically employed most effectively early on in the sales engagement. It works particularly well on the phone to try to secure appointments with hardened and skeptical prospects. It is also effective with initial face-to-face meetings where the prospect easily granted you an appointment without articulating any noted problems. We’ve all been faced with prospects who for no apparent reason take time out of their busy day, grant you an appointment and then they are silent and unwilling to have any kind of meaningful dialogue.

These scenarios are familiar and typically come to a standstill when prospects give salespeople flimsy, wishy-washy noncommittal responses that have no weight to them, such as: “we are always open to new ideas, tell me what you have for me, what’s new, we are very happy but we like to keep our options open, and, if we saw something really exciting we definitely wouldn’t rule it out.” These prospects are the toughest to sell because they at face value have no compelling reason to change.

The strategic flaw most salespeople have at this stage is that instead of probing for potential gaps and problems, they believe they’ve been granted a temporary license to kill. They get out their feature and benefit machine gun, lock and load, and pray and spray, leaving carnage of worthless and wasted information. In other words, they prematurely sell their solution without having the faintest idea what problem they are trying to solve or fix.

Salespeople frequently sell like this because they are under the grand illusion and spell that their value propositions and their information will carry the day and ultimately result in a sale. They need to be aware that unless a prospect has a problem with meaningful consequences, the likelihood of change is slim to nothing. That is why your mandate is not to provide solutions but rather to isolate and identify problems.

The old adage, that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, is relevant to the strategy of using problem prompters. However, making prospects drink is not your priority. What you need to do is to make them thirsty, but at the same time create reasonable doubt, problems and insecurity. Turning a prospect’s complacency into an actionable desire represents the true art of selling. Anything short of this, you are working too hard for your own good.

In order to get problems you must give problems. This means that if your goal is to get prospects to open up and share their problems or doubts, you are going to have to proactively initiate dialogue by posing questions that are designed to elicit emotional responses. The way you achieve this is to craft questions that zero in on not what you sell, but the problems you solve and the corresponding negative consequences they create. By framing questions in hypothetical language, using emotional metaphors, you are hoping to engage your prospect with questions that get to the core of why people change, which is always emotionally and intuitively, instead of logically and intellectually.

The reason you use hypothetical language is because it is less threatening and less direct and the prospect usually feels less compelled to be defensive. Metaphors or phrases are effective to use because they tend to emotionally involve a prospect with language that is more charged with feelings than normal staid intellectual language. Example: “Do you ever have prospects who string your salespeople along, create false hope and constantly lead your people down dead end detours that have them jumping through hoops and wasting their time?” You can probably guess the aforementioned is more effective than saying, “Do you experience prospects who don’t make decisions promptly therefore lengthening your sales cycles?” Careful selection of the right words and proper phrases can be worth a 1,000 pictures.

I look at problem prompter questions as a litmus test. You create a menu or a problem chain of questions and statements that, through a process of elimination, leads your prospect through a series of worst case scenarios that they might be experiencing, have experienced or are worried about experiencing. If they are in denial or actually aren’t having any problems what do we now know? They more than likely aren’t a good prospect for the immediate present and you more than likely will need to de-prioritize them or re-categorize them.

In my training sessions, getting my customers to start formulating these questions can become very difficult, because when I ask them to list out in order all the biggest challenges, problems, irritants and insecurities that their prospects experience or have shared with them, I usually get a roomful of blank stares. Guess why? They are so product-centric that they aren’t accustomed to looking at their prospects’ business from their perspective. Salespeople need to now be category or industry experts on the prevailing problems and frustrations their prospects experience. You can also do this by job functions and title.

However, don’t be naive in thinking that all your prospects are going to be enthusiastically engaged. Be as nurturing, neutral, doubting and disassociated as possible when you deliver these powerful questions. This strategy helps to neutralize resistance and soften the blow of your direct questions. Avoid at all costs coming off as an interrogator or a hard-nosed lawyer who is badgering the witness. Problem prompter questions empower your prospect by engaging them and focusing all our attention on them. If you find yourself in a bind, where you can’t remember your problem prompter questions, just fall back or default to your old features and benefits by just changing one thing. After you have enumerated your features and benefits simply ask them if any of those issues are important to them. And, if they say yes, ask them why. Although not even remotely as effective, it still gives you a chance to get the ball rolling especially if you are new to this concept of selling.

The following are examples of questions and statements that locate and identify problems. They are divided into questions specifically to isolate prospects who may have problems with an existing supplier, prospects who aren’t doing business with anyone yet (competition is the status quo), and questions to uncover problems with an existing supplier but formulated in the positive instead of the negative.

Problem Prompter Questions and Statements with Existing Supplier

The first examples are a series of questions which seek to uncover gaps and problems with an existing supplier. These questions are universal, generic and will fit just about any product or service, in just about any business relating to almost any general problem. Obviously these are concept questions and can be tailored to fit your unique situation.

  • “They are real efficient with conventional orders, but they lack the depth of offerings to be an efficient one-stop shop and therefore they are adding to your costs of acquisition.”
  • “They work real well with big customers but they don’t give enough personal care to smaller accounts that are strategically less important to them. Hence, the smaller accounts get lost in the shuffle sometimes.”
  • “They over-manage the account, they are a pest and unprofessional and are always badgering their customers inappropriately to order more.”
  • “They are competitive on large orders but on smaller or unusual orders that are very expensive and cumbersome to deal with.”
  • “Their quality is generally good, but it hasn’t evolved and kept up with the new cutting edge technology in the industry and therefore it is slower and more inefficient.”
  • “They are constantly going through changes of management, salespeople, ownership or technology platforms, making it very difficult to get things done through them efficiently and easily.”
  • “Do you ever have lingering questions in the back of your mind as to whether their high prices are justified?”
  • “Do you ever find after a successful implementation of their solution, you are left with a bad taste in your mouth because there is sloppy and inconsistent billing that causes logjams and extra layers of bureaucracies?”
  • “They do a real good job of fixing issues and problems and generally are very responsive. However, it is irritating because the problems continue to recycle and repeat themselves.”
  • “Do you run into the scenario where your vendor doesn’t own up to the responsibility to have solid contingency plans in place so they can nip problems in the bud before they happen or get out of control?”
  • “Do you have any concerns that without a strong backup supplier that you aren’t always able to keep your existing supplier honest and keep them hustling for you?”
  • “Sometimes I hear companies are very faithful and loyal to the years of good service that their vendor has provided, however, recent developments have them question their longer term viability and their ability to meet your own business requirements and needs. And you aren’t sure you have the luxury to ride out the storm with them because you have too much at stake.”
  • “They don’t take the time to really learn about your business and they aren’t technically proficient and knowledgeable about your business and you end up using a lot of your valuable time and resources making up for this shortfall.”
  • “They are really good at fulfilling local orders but don’t have the size, national reach and buying power to help you nationally and globally.”
  • “They are efficient with long lead times but when you need expedited orders right away, they drag their feet and are slow to get back to you with updates and they too often leave you in a lurch.”
  • “They have very attractive front end pricing, but the back end costs of late deliveries, shoddy service and inconsistent and unreliable quality really wipe out any cost savings.”
  • “They do a very good job consistently in the easy transactions. But anything that is not cookie cutter they over promise and under deliver.”
  • “Do you ever find that your salesperson is likeable and well intentioned but is just a glorified order taker who can’t solve real problems or resolve customer service issues because they don’t have any clout in their company to get things done?”
  • “Do you experience frustration with your salesperson who is Johnny on the Spot when taking orders from you but when you need them to get you quick answers they are too busy, they can’t be bothered or they are always making excuses?”
  • “They aren’t bringing you innovative ideas and programs to make you more competitive. They push the same old time-honored, tried and true ideas and they don’t think outside the box.”

Problem Prompter Questions and Statements with a Positive Spin with Existing Supplier

The next series of questions and statements are a mirror image of the first series but with a positive spin on the problem. You will sometimes find that prospects won’t admit to problems, but are open to admitting to imperfections. This is a more advanced way of questioning that requires a bit more sophistication and practice. The advantage with this line of questioning is you aren’t probing for problems so much as you are making statements to confirm they don’t have problems and their situation is satisfactory, ideal and representing the best case scenario. Because some of these scenarios aren’t totally realistic, you will have to be very nonchalant, neutral and objective when you present them. Prospects who tell you emphatically they are happy, things are great and they would not consider changing typify these examples. Because of the strong nature of prospects convictions and beliefs, these questions and statements will often prove to be unsuccessful in forwarding your agenda and cause, but will be effective in saving you time and resources on not pursuing lost causes.

These positive problem questions or problem prompters hope to sanitize and whitewash their problems so thoroughly that no reasonable prospect can agree to this picture- perfect world you are describing.

The following are examples you can use that really put the rubber to the road and have you placing stark realities right in front of them to chew over and consider.

  • Your rep is very proactive and anticipates problems before they get out of hand.”
  • “Your rep is very informed and knowledgeable with your business and can help you define your needs and provide viable solutions quickly and with great understanding.”
  • “They are flexible and willing to go beyond the call of duty when needed.”
  • “If they run into problems they take responsibility for their mistakes and quickly provide options.”
  • “They keep in touch with you regularly and in a professional manner without being a pest.”
  • “You are getting things on a timely basis without having to chase down and micromanage your orders.”
  • “Their quality is consistent and reliable.”
  • “Your rep has the clout to get things done and expedite when you find yourself in a time crunch or bind.”
  • “They have technical expertise and knowledge to understand your problems so you are confident they’ll get it right the first time without you having to reeducate and re-explain everything to them.”
  • “They are easy to do business with because they have multiple offices nationally and global capabilities.”
  • “They can handle local small orders as well as complex global orders.”

Problem Prompter Statements for Prospects who are Non-users and not actively in the Marketplace

The final series of problem prompters are for situations where your prospect is not a current user of what you sell and therefore obviously they are not using any supplier. You can’t ask the aforementioned problem prompters because they are 100% geared towards up-seating an existing supplier. Hence, the scenario of problem prompters with non-users requires more creativity and conceptual selling because you have a prospect who is more than likely not in the market, isn’t actively looking for solutions in this area, may not be aware that any problems exist and may not be aware that there is even existing technology out there to help them. However, the beauty of new application opportunities is when approached properly, there is no competition, little comparison and accessibility to price checks is limited. The highest margins are available in selling to prospects who aren’t actively in the market. The bad news is, these prospects take more time to locate and must be sold at a higher level.

The following are questions to uncover problems with the status quo. Keep in mind, like the two earlier examples: there is never any mention of what you can do for your prospect, why you may have a superior offering or what they have to gain by considering changing. The focus now is all on your prospect and their potential problems. What you can do for them at this stage is irrelevant and unimportant. The only thing that is consequential at this stage is having your prospect admitting to a problem and deciding if it is worth addressing. This is where salespeople have to transition from product and solution providers to business strategists and change agents. Once again your mandate is to isolate and define problems, not solve them. Once you’ve done a thorough job of defining the problem, the solution becomes a nonevent.

  • “They are running into time constraints and time is being swallowed up because they are being pulled in so many directions with fewer resources and manpower to draw upon.”
  • “They find they have plenty of time and expertise to do it internally but at the cost of misallocating valuable and expensive personnel who could be doing other projects with a greater return on investment.”
  • “Their people are so busy doing other important and pressing things that they don’t have the time, interest or inclination to stay current with all the changes happening in their industry. Consequently they aren’t learning and staying current with the new technology to efficiently perform in the area.”
  • “They are finding that the upfront costs appear to be inexpensive to do it internally but when you add up all the incidental costs on the back end, they are being penny wise and pound foolish.”
  • “They’ve hit a wall or a point of diminishing returns with their own resources. They keep doing the same thing or worse yet trying new things and getting the same results and they can’t grow or move on to the next level.”

Probing questions and statements that prompt problems or admission of non-ideal circumstances are a far superior method of selling than the traditional feature and benefit style of selling. What makes it so difficult for salespeople to make this transition is that the sale is no longer about them, their company, and their superior offering. Because most salespeople are egocentric, self-consumed and product-focused, they have a hard time relinquishing this self-centered strategy of providing information and solutions. Once they take a non-selling posture that is objective and non-biased, they will find that they can more quickly identify if prospects have a compelling reason to change.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com

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The Power Of Military Discipline
by Bill Lee

I enjoy studying the success or failure of military campaigns. Over the years, wars have been fought in many different ways. One example was when opposing forces lined up and fired their weapons at each other at point blank range. Obviously in this type of warfare, the army with the most soldiers had a decided advantage.

By the time World War I and World War II came along, armies did battle much differently. In both of those wars soldiers sought protection from the enemy soldiers by seeking cover in trenches and foxholes as they fired their weapons.

In all wars, reconnaissance has always played an important role. Every army in history has spent a lot of energy trying to somehow sneak behind enemy lines to see what the opposing army was planning.

But perhaps the most critical aspect of successful military campaigns had to do with the effectiveness of the military commanders' battle strategy and the discipline that exists among the troops whose job it was to execute the game plan that came down from the top.

I can't imagine an army of individualists who were running and shooting independently with no battle plan being very successful if they were up against a highly disciplined group of soldiers who were working like a well-oiled machine to execute a well-thought-out strategy.

Now, let's switch gears to waging a battle for your customers' and prospects' business. How organized is your sales effort? Does your company have a game plan? Do you sit down in strategy sessions and try to figure out your competitors' weaknesses how to best exploit them? Do you and the other salespeople deliver a consistent marketing message?

What I see as I work with companies throughout North America is more times than not a group of individual salespeople operating independently with no particular game plan.

While typically the salespeople do have the same objective: to earn the business at a satisfactory profit, each of the individual salespeople are left to their own devices in achieving their goals and objectives.

There's no doubt about it, the companies that achieve the best results field a disciplined sales force that takes a well rehearsed message to their customers and prospects.

The sales teams that seem to forever struggle are those that field an undisciplined poorly managed group of independent operators who resist leadership.

With that said, there are certainly highly experienced professionals out there who need very little guidance or direction. They are consistent performers who have figured out how to achieve both their personal goals and those of their respective companies. I always welcomed these salespeople on the sales teams I have had the privilege of leading.

Those salespeople who consistently fall short of their agreed-to sales and gross margin goals, however, desperately need strong leadership. They have not earned the right to operate independently.

While virtually all salespeople do diligently make sales calls, what they say and do on the sales calls they make differ substantially. This is where I have found discipline to break down the quickest.

Try this: Develop the discipline to practice making your sales presentation in front of a video camera (best) or a tape recorder (second best) and ask your manager to critique your presentation. This discipline will do the same thing for your sales presentation skills that it does for golfers who wish to improve their golf game.

First recording your sales presentation and secondly watching yourself is the ONLY way you can see yourself as your customers and prospects see you.

Your raise becomes effective when you do.

About The Author:

BILL LEE is a business expert. Starting out in 1965 as a field sales representative and then a sales manager with New York City-based GAF Corporation, he soon became a part owner of one of the fastest growing start-up companies in the US — Builder Marts of America, Inc. (BMA)

Bill and his partners grew BMA from a startup to sales of $640 million in just under 20 years. Bill served as a corporate officer at BMA with general management responsibility for the company’s largest division.

Today, Bill is a sought-after seminar leader and business consultant who works extensively throughout the US and Canada.

He is author of Gross Margin: 26 Factors Affecting Your Bottom Line, now in its third printing.

His most recent book, 30 Ways Managers Shoot Themselves in the Foot was released in October 2005.

Thousands of owners, managers and salespeople read Bill’s award winning ezines and magazine articles on sales and gross margin improvement and best management practices.

Bill is president of Lee Resources, Inc., a Greenville, SC-based consulting, training and publishing organization.

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The Brutal Truth About Pre-Call Research and Planning 
by Jim Domanski

Pre-call research and planning prior to picking up the phone and calling the prospect or customer is a good thing, right?

Trainers, consultants and bosses laud the effort. They encourage it. Push it. We're repeatedly told that taking the time to gather information about the client is a smart thing. We're told we should carefully plan the call to ensure it's success.  All in all, this pre-work  helps us position ourselves as 'consultative.' It helps give us a competitive edge.  Makes us more money. So it's a slam dunk activity, right?

Or is it?  

While it may seem counter-intuitive, less research and planning may actually be more effective than more and may actually lead to more sales and revenues! 

The 2 Perils of Pre-Call Research and Planning

There are a couple of perils that can be associated with too much research and planning.  The first is that it gets awfully easy to go overboard with these tasks. What can happen is that more time is spent on pre-call activities than on picking up the phone and making the call. This impacts productivity, not to mention the opportunity cost. When you spend too much time in researching and planning, what are you giving up? Ultimately you may be sacrificing more opportunities to sell or generate leads because you're dialing less. 
Pre-call research and planning can be (and often is) a form a procrastination. Think about it: it's much easier and far less risky to browse the internet or leaf through newspapers, or review old files or study past notes or analyze company reports than it is to telephone the client.  Calling clients can lead to rejection and discouragement so we convince ourselves that if we research longer and harder we'll minimize the chance of the customer or prospect terminating  the call. What makes it even worse is that all this pre-work can give you a false sense of 'doing.' It becomes seductively easy to persuade yourself that you're achieving things.

The other peril is that developing a detailed plan for your call (including composing an e-mail, editing it , changing it,  developing your telephone opener, your questioning sequence, etc. etc. etc.) can not only waste time it can sometimes make you too rigid and structured in your approach. It can impact your ability to be flexible and respond to the curve balls a client might throw at you. 

The Case For Pre- Call Research and Planning 

On the other hand, blindly picking up the phone and winging it is a clear recipe for disaster too.

A certain degree of research can be extremely effective in getting your foot in the door and giving you a competitive edge. It can't and shouldn't be ignored. Similarly, planning the overall strategy and structure of your call gives you clear direction and greater focus. Jotting down your objectives, laying out your opening statement, making a list of key questions and having a list of key selling points is a wise course of action... provided you don't go overboard.  (Go here for more information on how Mr. Spock would plan his call) 

5 Tips to Balancing Pre Call Research and Planning with Productivity

So what's the answer? Of course, it's all a matter of degree. Here's a checklist for you (AND your manager) to use to determine the level and extent of your pre-call work. All of the items should be taken into account and evaluated collectively. No single item stands on it's own.

1. The Value of the Sale

What's the possible payoff? If the value of the potential sale is relatively high, take the time and conduct the necessary research and plan accordingly.  

2. The Nature of the Sale

Is your sale simple or complex? If the sale is simple (i.e., one decision maker, low price, many competitive products in the marketplace, short sales cycle) not a lot of research and planning  is necessary. This is not say you should ignore doing some homework but at the end of the day, a minute or two is probably all that's necessary.

If your sale is complex (i.e., multiple decision makers, higher price, longer sales cycle) more time should be devoted to the effort (with due consideration to the other points listed here).

3. The Prospect

Who are you calling? Are you calling a buyer in a large firm? If so, there's not a lot you can do before picking up the phone. Buyers are usually paid to source the best value which usually means price.

Are you calling a top executive at a Fortune 500 company? If so, spend the time to scan a few sites and look for something on the individual and/or the company. But here too, it's a matter of degree. Sometimes you can be searching for something that doesn't exist. Consequently you search and search, and all the while, rationalize the waste time and effort.  Do this instead: check out Google Alerts and learn how the internet can work for you. Browse newspapers or journals or newsletters. But here's the IMPORTANT thing: do that in evenings or early morning or over lunch so that it doesn't interfere with your dialing effort. .

4. The Objective of the Call

What is the objective of the particular call you are making? If it's to sell directly, then perhaps more time is necessary bearing in mind your prospect or customer, the nature of the sale and the value potential. On the other hand, if the call is to generate a lead or invite the client to a webinar or seminar, your research and planning might be toned down a bit.

5. Your Objectives and Results

Maybe this is the most important consideration. How well are you doing relative to your sales objectives? If you have high objectives and you're not hitting them, maybe you need to spend more time in doing (making the calls) and less time in 'doing other things.' Sometimes you need to dive in and just make things happen. Sometimes - often- it is  a simple matter of elbow grease. Try discussing your situation with your manager (because, in all honesty, sometimes the problem is that reps flail about making calls without the least bit of thought, research and planning). 


Look, I am all for preparation. It generates 'smart' selling. The amount of time YOU spend on pre-call activities is often a matter of common sense and utter honesty. Some calls require a good deal of research. Most don't. So be brutally honest with yourself. Are you doing all this pre-work in the legitimate quest to find something or simply because you're procrastinating? Then act accordingly.    

About The Author:

Teleconcepts Consulting works with companies and individuals who struggle to use the telephone more effectively to sell and market their products and services. For more information on consulting services and training programs, articles, and other resources visit www.teleconceptsconsulting.com or call 613 591 1998.

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How to Handle the Immediate Cold Call Brush Off
by Art Sobczak


At a company's sales kickoff training seminar I was asked what to do when cold calling a prospect and they immediately brush you off.

He wasn't asking about the prospect who is simply uncooperative. That one stays on the phone, maybe is wishy-washy,but still breathing on the other end of the line-- at least we still have a shot with those people. No, he was referring to those prospects who reply with, "Not interested," or "We're all set," and then hangs up even before you can get your entire opening statement out of your mouth.

My first answer of course was to not cold call, but to SMART Call, and that might help avoid some of the early resistance. (In fact, I don't even like to use the term, cold call, except in a derogatory context, or as an example of what NOT to do.)

I digress... However, in this type of situation, regardless of how well you've prepared and positioned yourself, and how much you learned from their LinkedIn profile, the door still slams in your face.

What should you do?

The rep said that he heard you should you just call back right away and act like you were disconnected.

Oh boy, he read THAT book. Well, you could, but really, is that going to cause them to admire how clever you think are? I doubt it.

First, change your mindset. Let's not make this about you. Instead, consider what MIGHT be going on in the prospect's world:

-Maybe, just maybe, the prospect is right in the middle of something that is not only important, but urgent. She is under a deadline for a report her boss needs within the hour. She is frantically trying to collect the numbers, and is waiting for a call from shipping. Yours comes in, she dives for the handset, and her balloon is burst when she realizes you are not Troy, the shipping guy. Flush, you're outta there.

-Perhaps he's in a meeting in his office with his team, one of the members is making an important point, and then, riiiiiiing, riiiiiing... here comes a call. "Sorry, I thought I forwarded my calls," he sheepishly says. He could ignore it, but instead winks at his audience with a "Watch this" look, and demonstrates how forcefully he can swat away pesky salespeople. You don't know what hit you.

-Consider that it could be one of THOSE days for your prospect that we've all had. The kids were being bratty, traffic--in the Starbucks drive thru-- made her a bit late, two employees she was counting on for input on a project called in with the flu, and she is dreading having to attend a meeting that she has no idea why she is included in. Her email inbox is overflowing, she was just handed the disappointed numbers from the previous day that she will have to explain, and she realizes she left the iron on. Your call comes in. The trap door opens beneath you before you know it. You're still muttering "Whaaaa..." as you realize no one is at the other end.

Or, possibly he is just immersed in one of the ten thousand distractions all of us are faced with every day. Any of which are perceived as more important than the call coming in at that very moment. Your call.

Here's why I get the big bucks to share wisdom:

No one is waiting for your call when you are prospecting, and they just might be too preoccupied--mentally, emotionally, and physically-- to speak with you. Brilliant huh?

But true.

When we understand that, and if this truly is a prospect that you want to pursue, and firmly believe you can offer some value to, consider some real-world alternatives.

Instead of calling, try an email, fax, or a handwritten note mailed with a real stamp, stating,

"I have the feeling I called you at a bad time the other day. I apologize. The purpose for my call was to run an idea by you that could potentially help you to (fill in the blank with some result they would be interested in). I'd like to ask you a few questions to determine if we have the basis for a conversation. I will call you again on Friday, or you can reach me at at 800-555-2922, and my email is...."

Naturally, if you have any other Smart Call intelligence, personal connections, knowledge or trigger events, or any other value points you'd include those as well. The purpose is not to pitch, but to raise a question that they just might want the answer to.

Is this likely to get a high response rate?

No. You probably won't get any response. If you do, yay, big bonus. But, when you do call back, you now can refer to the message you sent, providing another point of reference. And perhaps you will reach them at a better time.

I know everyone won't do this, and perhaps you deem that some prospects wouldn't be worth the time. OK. Another alternative would be to simply place them back in your calling rotation for a few weeks down the road. They won't remember who you are.

Woody Allen's famous quote is

"Eighty percent of success is just showing up."

Big plus if you show up at the right time.

What do you do when you get the quick brush off? Please share your suggestions at my Smart Calling Blog.

Continue having your best week ever!

About the Author:
Art Sobczak, President of Business By Phone Inc., specializes in one area only: working with business-to-business salespeople--both inside and outside--designing and delivering content-rich programs that participants begin showing results from the very next time they get on the phone. Audiences love his "down-to-earth,"entertaining style, and low-pressure, easy-to-use, customer oriented ideas and techniques. He works with thousands of sales reps each year helping them get more businesses by phone. Art provides real world, how-to ideas and techniques that help salespeople use the phone more effectively to prospect, sell, and service, without morale-killing "rejection." Using the phone in sales is only difficult for people who use outdated, salesy, manipulative tactics, or for those who aren't quite sure what to do, or aren't confident in their abilities. Art's audiences always comment how he simplifies the telesales process, making it easily adaptable for anyone with the right attitude.

Contact Info
Art Sobczak
Business By Phone Inc.
13254 Stevens St.
Omaha, NE, 68137


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