You want to sell smarter to today’s buyers who value empathy, relevance, and intimacy over sales pitches, sales hype, and sales nonsense.
When it comes to sales and selling strategies, it’s no wonder you might feel dazed and confused.
You’re caught up in the vortex of conflicting sales advice.
THE VORTEX OF CRAZY
When you tune into webinars, go to conferences, watch YouTube videos, read sales books, or even just check your email inbox, you’ll immediately see what I’m talking about.
YOU HAVE TO BE ON TWITTER! Social selling, baby! No tweets = no sales!
WAIT, SALES IS ALL ABOUT COLD CALLING! 100 cold calls a day, yep, that’s the ticket. That’s how I built my business and that’s how you will build yours. And here’s all the cold calling scripts you need for the low, low price of just 97 bucks!
WHAT? YOU’RE NOT USING SPEAKING TO GENERATE LEADS? Everyone knows that speaking is the best lead generator of all. Speaking to a group is like having 50 prospect conversations at once. You’re deathly afraid of speaking? C’mon, join Toastmasters or hire a coach. If you’re not speaking at events, you’re missing out on a ton of sales!
NO, HANG ON. SALES COME FROM NETWORKING. Networking is sales and sales is networking. Your network is your net worth. The Chamber! The ladies auxiliary! The library basement circuit. The business card exchanges. Join my networking group! That is where to meet people and get referrals and introductions. Shaking hands and kissing babies. Even a small child knows this. C’mon it’s networking time!
LIVESTREAMING IS WHERE IT’S AT! Flip on your camera and let’s make some videos. Facebook Live, LinkedIn Live, YouTube Live. Salespeople now have a virtual TV studio in your pocket and [gasp!] you’re not using it? Holy smokes, it’s the only way to reach serious prospects. Video killed the radio star so get those green screens fired up and go live, go live, go live!
ACTUALLY, I FORGOT. IT’S WEBINARS! THAT’S YOUR SALES ENGINE. Teaching sells. Grab your PowerPoint, let’s put some juicy testimonials and case studies in there. Oh, and don’t forget you have to tease, plant seeds, give them the “what” but not the “how,” build in urgency, scarcity, bonuses, and use all those tricks you learned from the webinar gurus. Master the webinar game, and the sales will pour in!
I sure am! Here’s the truth:
There is no ONE way to sell. There is only YOUR way.
And it has nothing to do with tools, tricks, or technology.
So please stop trying to do every tactic under the sun.
Stop the sales monkey work and focus on direct-to-prospect activity.
If you listen to all the crazy, conflicting advice hurled your way daily, you will be forever distracted, confused, and overwhelmed.
It’s time to stop the crazy and start the money.
Most salespeople actively want to improve their skills and increase their sales, but they keep using the same old formulaic sales approaches over and over again with limited results.
I’m here to give you renewed hope and, more importantly, new sales principles, sales strategies, and sales tools for selling smarter.
Many sales books concentrate on prescriptive tactics and manipulative tricks. This approach suggests that in sales, “one size fits all.”
The truth is that one size fits one, and the key to unlocking your sales performance is experimentation and personalization to systematize your own brand of sales success.
You can’t learn what you need to be successful in sales from just parroting phrases or using gimmicks you read in a typical sales book.
There is no cookie cutter. You’re no cookie!
You want to sell smarter to today’s buyers who value empathy, relevance, and intimacy over sales pitches, sales hype, and sales nonsense.
You want to not only bolster your bank account—but you also want to become a better entrepreneur of your expertise.
Meaning you want to sell more, more easily, and more often.
Sales will feel better, smoother, more organic, and more conversational.
Your prospects will feel less pressure and become more open, more honest, and more communicative because of the human-to-human sales strategies you’ll start to use.
If you’re like most of the smart experts I work with daily:
You feel that “old school” tactics (cold calling, ads, and spam) are useless and “there MUST be a better way.”
You’re already working hard but there’s too much to do, never enough time, and sometimes you’re not even sure where to begin when it comes to getting in front of the right prospects.
You want to earn attention from prospects by positioning yourself as an authority with magnetic sales strategies that pull (not push) buyers to you.
You want to sell more without chasing, begging, or scheming.
You want to make more money from prospects eager and willing to buy.
You want to waste less sales time, sales effort, and sales energy.
You want the sales process to be more effective, honest, open, and fun.
You want to focus on helping before pitching and serving before selling.
You want to land better clients, bigger deals, and higher fees.
You want to get out of your sales rut and find your sales groove.
You want to make selling a natural extension of who you are.
THE BEST OF THE BEST
Finding the right people to talk to can make or break your prospecting success. Here are some quick ways to identify prospects you want to reach out to.
1. USE THE MEDIA
Look at your local business journal, the business section of your local metro paper, industry news, trade and professional publications, the Book of Lists that might be in your metropolitan area, and see who’s being interviewed, profiled, and promoted.
2. AIM HIGH
Aim high in a large organization. And aim for the top if it’s a small to midsize company.
In a large corporation, you have hundreds of buyers, not just a few!
If you’re going after that big multinational corporation, look at the VP level, senior VP level, executive VP level, VP of sales, VP of marketing, and so on. Look for senior leaders by division, geography, business unit, or brand.
For example, a quick LinkedIn search generated 696 executives with the title “Vice President” at healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson.
If you’re selling to small and midsize companies, it’s easier to reach out to the top. There’s one president, founder, or CEO. There’s one VP of marketing, one VP of sales, one VP of HR. Get their contact info, plan your approach, and you’re good to go!
3. TARGET THE BEST
Every year, there are hundreds of lists of the best companies in different cities, industries, and for different aspects of work life.
Use these lists to identify the individuals who are seen as “the best” and who are making things happen.
Here’s the guiding principle behind this strategy:
The best of the best are the ones who invest.
Yes, that rhymes.
And yes, please staple that concept to your forehead. Or make a sign with big letters and hang it on your office wall (less painful).
Because you don’t want to do a lot of convincing, persuading, or cajoling in your sales process.
The best way to avoid that is to connect with prospects who “already get it” and don’t need a lot of convincing that what you’re trying to help them with is important and valuable.
You also don’t want to go after laggards who are in terrible shape. Ironically, it’s these prospects who need you the most but will never buy.
Let me repeat that because it’s so vitally important if you want to stop wasting a ton of time looking for love in all the wrong places:
The prospects who need you the most will NEVER buy.
Stop looking for prospects who NEED you. Start connecting with great prospects who WANT you so that they can get ahead, stay ahead, and move ahead faster.
If you are US-based and you’re looking for leaders inside companies who value their culture, their people, and employee satisfaction, then start with lists like Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Places to Work in America.”
But don’t stop there. You can also look for “best places to work” and “best employer” lists at the international level and the state level (50 US states = 50 lists!) and even in major cities. Best companies to work for in Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Rome, Paris, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Sydney, and so on.
If you’re working with executive women, you’ll find lists such as: “Fortune Best Workplaces for Women,” “Forbes Best Employers for Women,” “Best Companies for Women to Advance,” “101 Best Global Companies for Women in Leadership,” and many more.
If you’re working in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space, you’ll find lists such as Black Enterprise’s “50 Best Companies for Diversity,” DiversityInc’s “Top 50 Companies for Diversity,” “Best Employers for Latinos,” “Top Companies for Asian American Executives,” “Best Companies for Multicultural Women,” and “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality.”
If you’re working with young professionals, you’ll want to check out the Career-Launching Companies list, Best Companies for Career Growth, Fortune Best Workplaces for Millennials, Best Companies for Young Professionals, Canada’s Top Employers for Young People, and many more.
If you help companies with health and wellness related issues, you’ll find lists such as “40 Best Corporate Wellness Companies,” “Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America,” and again, at the regional level, you’ll find lots of “healthiest companies” and “best companies for wellness” in various states and cities.
Are you looking for high achieving executives and entrepreneurs? Check out local and regional lists of “30 under 30” and “40 under 40.” These can also be industry specific, such as “40 Under 40 Emerging Community Bank Leaders,” “40 Under 40 Champions of Construction,” and “40 Under 40 Top Diverse Talent in Silicon Valley.”
One set of awards overlooked by many people, but shouldn’t be, are awards celebrating the best in a certain profession or job title.
Take a minute right now and check out all these juicy search engine queries:
CEO of the Year Awards
CFO of the Year Awards
CIO of the Year Awards
CMO of the Year Awards
HR Executive of the Year
Financial Executive of the Year
Sales Executive of the Year
There are lists upon lists upon lists that will help you discover the best of the best.
Want all these juicy leads delivered straight to your inbox in real time? All you need to do is set Google alerts for all the relevant search terms above. Let me repeat that: juicy leads delivered straight to your inbox.
For laser-targeted prospecting, it doesn’t get much better than that!
5 TIPS FOR FIRST CONTACT CALLS
1. A GREAT OPENING QUESTION
Because we work with owners of professional services firms, my first question during an initial conversation is always:
What have you done to get to where you are today? Give me a quick sketch of your professional journey up to this point. And then we’ll spend the rest of the call on where you’d like to go next.
Why is that a great opener? Because prospects love talking, and they love hearing themselves talk. And their favorite subject is, of course, themselves.
The sooner in the sales conversation you get THEM talking, the more sales you will close.
2. “DO YOU MIND IF I TREAT YOU LIKE A FEE-PAID CLIENT?”
This is another important phrase to use near the beginning of your calls. Sometimes prospects will ask, “What does that mean?”
And my answer is:
That means I’m going to give you some specific advice., I may interrupt and redirect our conversation to maximize the value of our time, and I’ll tell you what you need to hear and not necessarily what you want to hear. Is that OK with you?
Do you know how most prospects respond to this question?
Oh wow, that would be great. Yes, please. That’s exactly what I want. I’m so confused. We’re stuck with this problem.
3. DON’T TELL THEM ABOUT YOUR SMARTS. SHOW THEM.
Deliver a powerful experience of value. Make this a call they’ll never forget.
Get real with them and hold up the mirror. Make them sweat.
Challenge their thinking. Bust some myths.
Rock the boat. Stir the pot.
Even better, share specific stories of similar clients you’ve helped and how those clients felt before, during, and after your work together.
Show them their own potential. Uncover the lies they’ve been telling themselves or their teams or their customers.
Let them have it exactly as if you just cashed their $50,000 check and this is your first meeting!
If you do that, their choice is not about, “Do I want to hire this expert?” but instead, “Oh my goodness, this was so VALUABLE! Do I want to continue?”
Once they’ve personally experienced the value you deliver, it’s going to be much harder for them to want to stop.
Continuing becomes the only logical choice, doesn’t it? Treat prospects like clients and you’ll get a lot more clients!
4. THE “TEST- DRIVE” QUESTION
This is a question you need to ask at the end of every exploratory call:
“Bob, before we wrap up, I have one more question for you, and then I’m happy to answer any of your final questions. In my experience, two kinds of folks sign up for these consultations. The first group are folks who just want the free advice, insights, and guidance, and that’s it. The second group are folks who want the free advice but who are also test -driving what a working relationship with me would feel like. Which group do you find yourself in?”
You’ll be amazed because prospects will tell you the truth.
About 50 percent will say, “Nope, I’m good. I just wanted the free advice. Thank you so much.”
A full 30 percent will freely tell you, “Yes, actually, I looked at your website and saw your LinkedIn profile, and we do actually need to hire some outside help in this area, so I am in test-drive mode.”
What about the remaining 20 percent?
It’s when someone says, “You know, I came on this call with no intention of buying anything or hiring you. After this conversation, though, I must tell you, I think we do need someone like you to help us, and I’d like to talk about what it might look like for us to work together.”
Those are the best responses of all because they clearly prove that you totally rocked the consultation call!
5. SET UP A SEPARATE CALL TO MAINTAIN YOUR SALES INTEGRITY
A lot of salespeople make the mistake of selling on that initial exploratory call. To me, that is a violation of the “prime directive” in the selling universe:
Never sell on a consultation call, and never do free consulting on a sales call.
That first conversation is truly a helping call, a consultation call, a diagnostic call, an exploratory call.
It’s not a sales call. Sales calls are earned, not assumed.
For those prospects who told you they are in “test- drive” mode, simply invite them to open their calendar right at the end of the helping call.
Here’s what that might sound like:
“Great! I’m honored that you want to talk about what a working relationship might look like. Let me be clear: that was not the intention of this first call. I would never do a ‘“bait and switch’” on you.
“This was purely a helping call and a consultation call, but because you’re interested in working together, I’d be happy to set up a second call with you to discuss what we might do together. I’ve got Tuesday at 10 or Wednesday at 9:30. I’m on Eastern time. Which one of those works better for you?”
Once they agree to a time, send them a calendar invitation and a confirmation email with their preferred date and time in their own time zone.
The easier it is to book a sales call with you, the more sales calls you will book.
CLARIFY, SPECIFY, AND QUANTIFY
It’s not always easy to get your prospects to tell you EXACTLY what outcomes they’re truly looking for.
Sometimes, they don’t even know themselves! No worries.
Here are some of my favorite questions to help you clarify, specify, and quantify the tangible outcomes your future clients want.
Q: After our work together, what’s happening then that’s not happening now? Q: What’s new? What’s different?
Q: What do you hear in the hallways?
Q: What are you hearing in your meetings?
Q: What’s the back-channel buzz after we’re done with this project?
Share your relevant client success stories to show them examples of what they are looking for.
You know, this reminds me of one of our other pharmaceutical clients. When they came to us, it was pretty much a carbon copy of what you just told me. Here’s what she just sent me last week. Is it OK if I read an email to you? “I literally can’t believe I work at the same company. Our culture has totally transformed. You wouldn’t recognize this place from nine months ago.”
Q: How do you see this ending up if all goes well?
Q: What would be a home run result for you?
Q: What does winning look like?
Q: What’s one piece of tangible evidence you’d love to see?
A home run would be getting our voluntary turnover to less than 2 percent.
Winning means we become the #1 distributor in the US.
We’d get our top 20 spot back on Fortune’s “100 Best Places to Work in America.”
Q: What does success mean for you personally?
Well, personally, it would make me the local hero around here. We’ve been trying to tackle this all kinds of ways, and no one has been able to crack the code. It would make me feel great to have contributed to finally solving this problem.
Q: What does success mean for you professionally?
I’m hoping to get promoted one more time because I’m just five years away from retirement. I really want that SVP job, and our CEO said solving this is his top priority for the company.
Q: What does success mean for you financially?
I can’t wait to have my stock options fully vested. And last year our bonuses were really light. This year I want to double my bonus, and a big part of that is based on hitting KPI’s that this project will affect.
Q: How would you describe your ultimate destination?
Help them paint the exact picture of their Eiffel Tower and their romantic sunrise breakfast with the love of their life.
Q: Can you put a number on it?
This is my favorite follow-up question.
Anytime someone gives you a vague complaint, unclear goal, or a squishy answer, ask them for specific numbers.
PROSPECT: I’d like to see our retention numbers go up.
YOU: Where are they now? Where would you like them to be? Can you put a number on it?
PROSPECT: Our employee benefits costs are sky high.
YOU: What does “sky high” mean to you? Can you put a number on it?
PROSPECT: We want our defect rate to go down a notch or two.
YOU: Interesting! Can you put a number on it? What does “a notch or two” look like?
In any sales conversation, never accept fuzzy, squishy answers!
DON’T GET BLINDSIDED
Your sales process is zooming ahead when suddenly...
“I gotta run this by the committee before we sign.”
“We can’t do anything until the big board meeting.”
“Our VP needs to approve this. And she hates consultants.”
Nobody likes to be blind-sided. You do not want any surprises coming from their end. And they don’t want surprises coming from you. Each surprise, each unexpected twist, can add to your sales process anywhere from a week to a month. And you don’t want that.
The best way to prevent surprises is to ask key buying questions early on in your conversations and throughout at every major step and milestone.
If you want to instantly sell more, find out right away HOW this prospect is going to buy!
Start with no-frills, direct questions about their buying process:
If you were to decide this is a good idea, how do you buy things like this?
How do you implement?
What should I know about your timing? Sign-offs?
When do you budget for things like this?
Do you think this deal is going to work?
What’s missing or what should we add?
Are you going to pitch it?
What else do you need to see from me?
Can I help you put together some numbers?
Do you have some numbers I could include?
The next set of questions is for multiple-buyer situations.
Who else besides you will be making this decision?
Are they going to like it?
WHAT are they going to like?
WHAT are they going to push back on?
What else is going to be in our way?
How would YOU respond to that?
What answers do you need from me to so you’re prepared to answer their questions?
How much detail do YOU want?
How much detail will THEY want?
Are there any surprises we should be prepared for?
If this were just you and me, how excited would you be to move ahead on a scale of 0–10?
Hint: If they answer 9 or 10, you’re good. If they answer 7 or 8, ask, “What would need to change to get us closer to 10?” If they answer 6 or less, you have a problem. Go for no with “I don’t think we can make this work. Do you?”
Bonus idea: In his book, To Sell Is Human, Dan Pink offers this brilliant advice for any answer below 8: Ask the opposite question. “Seven? Interesting. I’m curious why you didn’t choose a lower number? Why isn’t it a five or a two?” Watch the prospect now start to resell themselves on why working with you is important, urgent, relevant, and useful.
Be relentless and follow up like a friendly bulldog.
Never let an active prospect get more than 5 days away from you.
Always show up in their world like a happy, squeaky wheel: Send more value. Ask more questions. Offer more engagement. Invite further dialogue. Come back with more ideas to genuinely help them.
More and better and faster sales will follow.