Archives For coaching

phone angryProspecting is Hard!

My clients have been telling me for years that, “No one answers the phone anymore.” So why do we keep making so many cold calls.  I know there are training programs out there that claim to change all of this, but if the person you are calling isn’t picking up the phone, it’s pretty hard to improve on your message.  If you think a better vmail will do it, you’re headed down the wrong path.

What About Email Marketing?  

Email is better. If I get someone’s vmail, I may leave a vmail, but I almost always send an email telling them I left a vmail. Some people have visual vmail services, but for those who don’t, I’m pretty sure they are retrieving many vmails at once, or from their cell, and probably won’t take the time to record my number.  The email makes it easy.

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What About Sales Letters?

But what happened to sales letters?  On a recent coaching call I was talking with a sales rep who is struggling to get meetings.  He makes his 50 or so calls per week, but the conversion from calls to meetings is low.  While listening to his explanation of why, I reflected back on a recent Lunch & Learn we did together. In just four weeks he had managed to recruit 22 business leaders! All new prospects.  So while he’s only converting about 4% of his calls to meetings, in just a few weeks he was able to set up the equivalent of 22 meetings.  What’s going on here?

It might be that the 22 came because I was speaking – but I don’t think so. None of them had ever heard of me.  It’s not like Zig Ziglar’s coming to town.   No, I’m not the reason for his success.  It’s the message we used to get their attention, and the campaign strategy we used to get that message out.

The phone calling message doesn’t work for at least two reasons. First, no one is answering their phone.  But second, you only have about 6 seconds to grab your prospects attention on a phone call.  And most of the phone calls being made are to get a meeting to review company slides or offerings. No business leader has time to do that. Especially knowing that there are thousands of people just like you calling for the same meeting.

The Lunch & Learn was successful because we had first identified a specific target market. In his case we were targeting CIOs of mid-sized companies, 500 – 2000 users.  Our first point of contact was a written letter. In fact, it was a 3 page letter written with conversion in mind. Most would have chosen a one page letter, but not me. For reasons we don’t have time for in this post, the longer letter is more effective. We followed up with two more emails plus phone calls. When we finally did get through to either the CIO or an executive assistant, our call was very focused on security awareness.  This is not a new strategy. Michael Bosworth, in his 1995 book, Solution Selling, recommends setting up one-on-one meetings using a similar educational approach.  And Dixon & Adamson, authors of The Challenger Sale (Even though the author is selling against what Bosworth teaches) is saying the same thing.

In the end, we had 20 of the 22 people attend, and every attendee agreed to move to the assessment stage in my marketing blueprint.  The bottom line is conversion. If your conversion numbers are great, whatever you are doing is working (at least for now). But if not, you may need more than some phone training or a clever vmail message.

© 2015, David Stelzl

PS. Want to convert 70-90% of your Lunch & Learn audience,? Check out the Marketing Success Kit.  It comes complete with training, prewritten letters, call scripts, and everything you need to know to effectively sell through live marketing event meetings.  Click Here to Learn More!

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death of a salesmanWhat’s Your Conversion on Cold Calling Prospects?

Ask your peers – the successful sales people are probably farming accounts they’ve had for years.  Others have a different strategy. No one wants to hear from a sales person they don’t know.

I’ve had several coaching calls this week with sales people who are either new with their company, or new in their role. Some are large company sales people calling on enterprise accounts, others are SMB resellers selling managed services. The story is the same. They’re making 100s of cold calls, with about a 1% return – converting to meetings.  Note, this is not a sale, just a meeting.

After you read this…I think you’ll want more details. So here’s an opportunity.  This month, on March 26th, 1:00 PM ET, I will be presenting more on how to build your technology business – sponsored by Ingram Micro….

Sign me up!  <<< It’s free to join this event, Ingram has made it possible. Keep reading, but make sure you have a seat.

They’re wasting their time.

Not only are cold-callers wasting time – their managers will soon give up on them. Even though they are the ones that assigned the task of cold calling. The misconception is, if you make enough calls and your message is good enough, you’ll get a meeting. From there you can show them value through the amazing features of your product, and make the sale. It’s wrong thinking – 90s thinking.

Death of the Salesman

I wrote an article years ago called, “Death of a Salesman” where I explained many of these concepts. Of course, I stole the title from Arthur Miller, but I did give him credit. Sales as we know it are over. You might still be making some headway, but don’t expect it to last. 80% of purchases today are made based on Google research. Most sales calls come after the product research. The research has been done, the shopper knows the street prices, and now they want a deal.  Google is taking over the function of presales consulting.  Google knows more than you or your presales engineer will ever know.

How do you know if I’m right? Look at your conversion rates. Are you converting more than 10% of your calls to meetings? I would be surprised if more than 20% of your calls lead to anything more than voice mail. I spoke to one guy this week who is reaching 30% of his audience, but still, only about 2% are converting to meetings. Another rep in the enterprise space can’t reach anyone meaningful.  Several of my calls were with people who have recently been handed lists – they know their primary contact is too low in the food chain, and they need a way to move up. But how?

A Radical Approach to Selling

Over the past 12 months I’ve been conducting workshops on a radical approach to sales. If you look at my sales concepts in detail, you’ll see they have a lot more to do with marketing than sales. David Merman Scott recently published an article supporting this idea – sales and marketing must merge. He’s right. That doesn’t mean the marketing department goes away. We still need meeting planners, data sheets produced, and marketing graphics.  But the marketing concepts are what drive new logo business. And sales people will need to master them, essentially becoming their own marketing department.Blog Subscribe Ad

Look at the big 4 – they are consultants…but behind it all, everyone is still in sales. They create business. No one wants to meet with another sales person. And no one wants to see your corporate presentation. But there are things you can do.

Marketing is a science. The science of how we think and what we respond to. Conversion depends on great marketing. Consulting is the art of helping one move from point A to point B – where Point B is the preferred state to be in.  Can you do that?  If you think the engineers are responsible for this and your job is to set appointments – you’re wrong.  You need both. You need the ability to attract new business through marketing, and the ability to help them solve a problem at the business level. This is consulting. This is why PWC wil continue to prosper long after the technology sales person is out of work.

Can you become this person?

The answer is yes. The university system would have us think we need to go back to school, get a new degree, and start over. The truth is you can make the jump by applying the concepts given in Napoleon Hill’s well known book, Think and Grow Rich. There are 17 things to do, but the bottom line is a passion to get there. From there it’s working hard to get there. Reading the right books, working with the right coach, and being willing to invest in the right tools.  Your company may not allow you to expense these things – what should you do? Look for the ROI. If you don’t you’ll lose. Spend your money wisely, but make the investment where you’ll get a strong return.  I spend my own money on coaching, books, and marketing tools every month. It’s paid off – it’s multiplied. I’ll continue to invest.

That’s right – there are tools. Learning to use LinkedIn as a marketing platform. Learning to write great copy. And then putting your new marketing brain to work – what would attract a new logo buyer?

One of my clients actually took my advice and wrote a book!  I have it right here – he sent it to me last week and I was amazed as I held it. There’s nothing more powerful than sending your book to a VP, and then following up with an email to…not sell them something, but talk about the book. From there the sale is easy.  But you don’t have to write the book. You could send someone else’s, but it must be profound, and you must have studied it in a way that brings new applications to benefit you new prospect. Writing a special report can be almost as powerful….from there, its a matter of finding ways to get your book or report to the right people. This is a whole lot easier than cold calling.

Marketing events are still the number one way to get business. The problem is, most are doing them wrong. This won’t lead to business, and will often leave you wondering if it’s worth the investment. You’ll need to spend more to do it right. You’ll need a great speaker – which you will have to pay for. But if you can land 20 new logos, as I did a week ago, your return will be obvious.

You will also find yourself needing auto-responders, your own personal blog, hard-copy sales letters, and landing pages. These are all marketing tools, and they work. But chances are, your marketing department won’t use them in a way that creates new leads for you. It’s up to you to figure out how to use them, and how to bring in new business.   I’ll give you more in the upcoming Ingram event – What I Learned About Sales While Working on Multi-Million Dollar Projects with PWC.

© 2015, David Stelzl

P.S. One thing I learned from PWC is how to price…resellers are losing margin every day simply by how they go about pricing….I’ll show you some strategies that are easy to apply later this month. Don’t forget to sign up.

Not only are they wasting time; their employers will soon give up on them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 26, 2014 — Leave a comment

family 2014Happy Thanksgiving! I am grateful for the opportunity to work with all of you who have benefited from reading my blog, attending my workshops and live sessions, and those who continue to work with my through the SVLC Insider’s Circle and Coaching/Mastery Programs…

IMG_9025“What questions should I ask when meeting with an executive?” This question came up about three times last week during various marketing events, coaching calls, and emails with clients – “Can we put together a list of questions for the sales team to use when talking to executives?”  I usually get this question when talking about Marketing Events and Demand Generation follow up – that’s about the only time I see sales people really engaging with executives in a proactive discovery process.

It feels better to have a list of questions – a list of 5 to 7 questions that can be read from a script, with a place to record answers.  But don’t expect this to actually work.  If it were that simple, sales people would be in front of executives with a list like this all the time.  My experience is, once you pull out the list, you’ll lose your audience’s attention.  One size can’t fit all – and if you need a list, it’s clear that you don’t do this very often.  Imagine pulling out a list to ask your spouse how their day went.  What would they think?  Well, they might wonder if this were a conversation or a project for school?

What Questions Should I Ask?

Instead, I recommend using a framework.  A series of topics that guide the conversation.  This framework has to be second nature – memorized.  This takes some practice.  In my book, The House & the Cloud (available for free as a PDF from my blog sidebar), I provide an example of a security focused discovery conversation.  I start out by exploring things that my client feels are critical to their business.  The heading reads, “What are you trying to protect?”  But the essence of the question goes much deeper – because its not really a question; its a framework.  I am searching for those applications and data repositories that contain highly valuable data.  It might be client data, intellectual capital, or some application that allows the business to work ten times faster than it would if certain work were done manually.

The second line of questioning focuses on threats.  “What would threaten these critical systems?”  This requires some give and take.  The client may not know how to answer this – the sales person might need to explore this with the client, coming up with possible threats based on the business vertical, type of data, cybercrime trends, or current conditions of the business (for instance, on the cusp of some new invention.)  The final area deals with the company’s ability to detect a problem before it’s too late.  This is a shorter question.  At this point, the sales person would have most of the data they need, but would want to know how comfortable this particular “Asset Owner” (as I describe in the book) is with their company’s ability to see into the network.  Don’t confuse this with a technical question about intrusion prevention software.  What you’re looking for here is a clue as to how safe or vulnerable this asset owner (who owns some level of liability) feels with regard to their data and applications.

How Does A Sales Person Learn This?

How does a sales person master this process?  The simple answer is, “training and coaching”.  Unfortunately, at least in this industry (technology sales), companies have substituted product knowledge for sales training.  Knowing your product is necessary, however, product knowledge is not sales training.  The executive discovery process is something that takes practice.  It’s intimidating to walk into a business owner’s or VP’s office.  One bad meeting with a CIO might be the final nail in the coffin for a promising account.  But what if the sales manager were to set aside time weekly, during the sales meeting, to run through a few tips and to have a couple of people practice?  What if it were part of the regular routine to provide new insights and experiences shared by other team members?  Perhaps you could master this skill.

Getting Started

A great conversationalist has a skill – and great sales people need this skill.  When it comes to working with executives, and working through the discovery process at that asset owner level, there is no substitute for having been trained and coached on executive level conversations and interview skills.  Here are three things you can do right now to get started:

1. Read the CIO journal section of the Wall Street Journal – be able to discuss trends such as cloud services, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), social business, and information security, and be able to make application to business.

2. Read the books other executives are reading.  This might require you to ask around – which can’t hurt.  Recent books by Jim Collins are always a good place to start.

3. Practice…look for people in social settings and push yourself to listen and learn from them.  Ask questions about how they got into their profession, what has made them successful, how they would advise a young person entering their field, and what cautions they might give to someone entering that field.  People love to share their war stories.

© 2013, David Stelzl

 

Half-Time

August 15, 2012 — 2 Comments

Half the year is already gone – at least if you’re watching the calender year.  It’s around this time each year that I take some time to review my year personally.  I review my plan, by goals, my vision and mission, and I look to see if I am on track with the things I really wanted to accomplish this year.  I don’t buy into complex business plans that no one reads – I know you need them for investors…but as a sales person, division manager, small business owner, and just personally, you should be tracking on some basic goals, and aiming at something through the year.

Take a moment this week and ask yourself some questions:

  • Do I have a passion for what I am doing?  I am working on something I really care about or am I wasting a year of my life?  If you’re not focused on something you really care about, I recommend getting a migration plan in place…life is too short to waste it.
  • Am I on track with developing my business, or am I just busy?  Remember to work on your business through the year – rather than just working hard in your business.  If you are not improving you business, you are not building for the future.  At some point your business will dry up unless you continue to innovate.
  • Do I have a personal development plan in place and am I on track with it.  Closely following point 2, you should be working on some personal development things along the way.  Are you reading, working with a coach, scheduled for training…or are you riding on your raw talent?  People are either improving or digressing.  Which are you doing?  You don’t grow without working on it.
  • Is your life balance in balance?  Are you all work and no family?  Are you all work and no personal time?  Or are you not really working this year?  All of these end badly.  Take a look at your time allocation and make sure you are giving balanced time and attention to clients and your business, spouse and kids, personal growth, spiritual life, and whatever else is part of your life balance.
  • Are you managing your finances?  Do you know where your business is financially – are you over spending, betting on the future, taking unnecessary risks…are you taking on debt in an unstable economy?  Make sure your cash flow is in order, your debt is on the decline, and your budget is balanced.

A few things I am doing this week:

  1. Updating my goals for 2012 – adjusting, course correcting, and updating the status.
  2. Checking my business against my vision – am I on the right path for where I want to be in 2013?
  3. Reviewing my strengths and 2012 victories – invest more in your strengths, get rid of those things that are dragging you down.  This is a good time to cut people who work for you, if they are not living up to your expectations.
  4. Reviewing frustrations and putting some get well ideas in place.

A Couple of Important Projects I am Working On:

  • Finishing up an eBook on effective event marketing – should be out soon along with a free Webinar on success!
  • Putting in place my mentor private forum and building some tools and content to fill it out.  This will be available from my home page:  http://www.stelzl.us
  • Adding more audio programs for professional development – on my webstore…

© 2012, David Stelzl

My handcrafted bookcase

Months ago I embarked on a new project – my first major woodworking project, complete with exotic hardwoods, joinery, and inlays.  Starting with raw mahogany boards, I’ve come to this picture (left)…Several times during the process I found myself stopping in frustration as I took rough lumber, resawed it down to board size, planed it, joined it, and fit pieces together.  Cutting moldings, fluting, routing, and sanding…it’s a big deal.  There are no nails in this type of building – it’s precise, cumbersome, artistic, and difficult.  How did I get here?   Mentors and reading.

Woodworking is a skill.  There are so many tricks and techniques to building jigs, joining wood, and just making things work; it’s something you could go to school for I guess, but the best way is to work alongside someone who really knows – someone with experience.  The master craftsman and the apprentice.  With our focus on schools and universities, we’ve lost a lot of this, but for thousands of years, this has proved out to be the most efficient way to learn and grow.  Co-op programs, apprenticeships, interns…business coaching; it’s all mentorship.  It’s finding someone who has been there, or has hands-on experience, who is able to take the time to walk another person through the process.  Whether you’re building, writing, drawing, parenting, or building a business – find experts to learn from.  Some are paid, others are free, but in the long run, the investments you make will return to far more than you can imagine.

© 2011, David Stelzl

 

Taking yesterday’s movie star concepts a step further, let me share another analogy that is near and dear to my own profession.  As an active member of the National Speakers Association, I meet quarterly with some very successful speakers; people I consider to be at the top of the speaker industry.  Our topics vary as much as our style.  Some are humorists without any concrete message, another is a professional storyteller delivering tales of the south, many speak to sales audiences as I do, and others have a religious, motivational, or health angle.  But the one thing we all have in common is that we make our living speaking to audiences, sharing our experiences, and hoping to motivate people to change or providing encouragement in an area our audiences need expertise of help.

So what makes a speaker great?  I’m sure you’ve been to seminars, national sales meetings, or trade shows and have heard great speakers.  You’ve also probably heard people who don’t have the gift of speaking.  What’s the difference?  Well, I have come to believe that it’s not just in the DNA.  There’s a success formula.

When I first began my speaking career I needed a demo tape.  I was talking with some of the veterans of our NSA chapter and the president asked, “How many times have you given your primary keynote?”  I had given it ten times at most, although I had spoken to various audiences over my career.  He then encouraged me to wait.  “Wait until you have given this talk at least one hundred times.”  A hundred times; I couldn’t image waiting that long.  I needed it now.  But he assured me I would be sorry.

Months later, a former World Champion Toastmaster humorist came to address our group.  He talked about how he had entered the speaking industry and then he played video clips of himself from his early days of speaking.  His first clip was from a comedy club about twenty years ago.  It was awful. In fact, it was so bad, I was embarrassed for him as I watched it, and felt very uncomfortable sitting there with him in the room.  I don’t think I have ever seen such a bad comedian.  Nothing was funny, and it turns out, his friends had put him up to this.  But that day, he determined to master the art of speaking!  Our guest continued through the morning, playing samples from fifteen years ago, ten years, five, two, and now.  It was amazing to see the transformation and to hear how, through coaching, practice, and self-recording, he had studied to improve his program.  He had become an expert, and he had achieved the number on position.

Well, despite the advice I received from our chapter president, I went ahead and had my demo tape made.  I was happy with it at the time, but a few years and several hundred speeches later, I was embarrassed to watch my own tape.  I now see what our chapter president meant.  It takes practice, and with practice and the right input, the talk becomes great. It’s not just DNA – it’s work.

Like the movie star, the speakers you really like, have practiced.  They’ve given the talk you just heard, hundreds of times.  The speakers you don’t like are probably not professional speakers, they probably did not have any coaching, and they probably speak infrequently.  Most of all, they have probably never had to sit through their own presentation.  Their lack of practice shows.

So you are in sales.  You give the same information over and over, but are you giving the same talk, and have you critiqued it, been coached on it, and put time into making the material great before going live?  Or do you just wing it when you get on stage.  Who do you want to be?  The movie star?  The great speaker?  Of the guy that encourages you to spend the meeting reading your email?

© 2011, David Stelzl