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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.

By David Stelzl

 

© 2011, David Stelzl

Photo taken by David Stelzl

For some reason, discussing money is the major hurdle.  Yesterday I had several sales calls with potential buyers.  One example stands out… We had discussed the need, talked about options, come to a conclusion on next steps, and even picked dates to begin.  My prospect then said, “Send me a proposal with some options and pricing.”

I was tempted to agree, but then that little voice reminded me of Mahan Kalsa’s book, Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play (which I highly recommend). Why would we wait for the proposal to agree on options and pricing.  Paper doesn’t sell, I do.  We have verbal agreement on the vision, but no specifics.  Why waste time and possibly ruin the opportunity by putting the wrong thing down on paper?

Instead I simply said, “Let’s review some options right now and make sure we are in agreement on how to proceed.”  I verbally gave him my interpretation of what we were planning to do, offered a couple of options, restated the value, and then offered a fixed fee.  I then said, “How does that sound to you?”  He said, “That sounds great.”  Now I can write the proposal, which is now really an agreement, with confidence.  I converted it to a PDF, attached it to an email, and wrote, “Here is exactly what we agreed to.”  The likelihood of closing this kind of agreement is much higher than the elusive agreements made in most sales meetings.  Meetings end without any real commitment, and the request for proposal is often just a polite way of ending the meeting.  There is no agreement, and there are no specifics from which to craft the proposal.  In the end, this type of proposal goes nowhere, leaving the sales person to forecast at 50%.  In other words, I have no idea…

© 2011, David Stelzl

Visiting Cisco in Mumbai

In a recent sales opportunity we (the seller and myself acting as a sales coach) were charged with providing a competitive quote on unified communications (UC) products.  The company already uses UC, so the quote is simply an upgrade.  The seller assembled the quote, listing all of the necessary hardware, software, and services to move their client to the latest version.  The problem here is, the proposal has no differentiation!  It’s commodity product, necessary services, and a price.  You might say your uniqueness is in your people or your certifications, or perhaps you are the go-to provider for that brand of UC.  But in this case, you don’t have a platform to demonstrate value, so no one is going to see it.  What do you do?

The answer is in the discovery process.  Most of these deals are assigned to a presales technical person.  The sales rep has simply become a relationship manager, adding no value to the deal.  The technical person is generally too technical to effectively interact with the decision maker.  So the sales person and decision maker wait on opposite sides of the deal, the sales person hoping for a “yes”, and the decision maker checking against budget and competitive quotes.  Instead of sitting on the side lines, my client and I put some business level questions together to help us uncover the business needs surrounding this upgrade.

  • How does this prospect use their current unified communications platform?
  • What applications are they using with their phones
  • How do they use collaboration technology – how could they be more efficient if they knew more about it?
  • What are they not using, that would really add to their current business process?

This list goes on, but the point is, IT can’t answers these questions.  They may have an opinion, but it won’t be accurate.  These questions are asset owner questions.  Behind them is the understanding that someone is running a department that would benefit if they knew more about the power of UC.  With this in hand, the seller now has the opportunity to compare their findings with the technical findings their engineer will come up with.  With both in hand, the seller can now advise the client on how to change the way they do business.  Chances are, if the seller spends enough time with the top producers in this company, they will discover some of the secrets behind high performing employees, tie some of this success back to technology, and find ways to improve the current process with the latest upgrades, features, and add-ons available on a UC platform.  This is what it means to provide value – an effective value proposition.

Stay tuned for next month’s Free webinar – mark you calendar for June 8, Leveraging the Discovery Process to Justify New Business.

© 2011, David Stelzl

In preparation for our final day in the Virtual Making Money w/ Security Workshop I thought this short clip on urgent proposals would be apropos:

© 2011, David Stelzl

The fastest way to inculcate the concepts from our Making Money with Security Class is to try it.  Last week I had opportunity to interact with one person attending the 3-day virtual class currently in process…

He writes, “I thought I would try to apply some of the nuggets I have learned this week, in a meeting I had earlier this morning.  It went really well!  I met with a CISO and we discussed assets and started applying the likelihood vs. impact philosophy.  As I was doing this, my customer said the biggest problem he has is understanding likelihood.”

…This is predictable.  As I stated in last Thursday’s session, everyone seems to focus on the impact side of the security equation, but CISO’s and asset owners are already well aware of this, and continue to hear the same ROI and Insurance sales pitches almost daily from your competition.  By taking the “Likelihood” approach, a new discussion evolves.

He continues with a great question, “Based on this approach, is determining likelihood done through risk assessment or are there more dimensions to consider?”

If you’re in the class, you know we have one more session to cover, and this is where we will address this in detail, …but, this is the right question to be asking…how do we move this conversation forward to create business?  Here is a portion of my reply:

“…it means starting with executives rather than IT, and interviewing them to understand the assets; how they’re used, who uses them, who can’t use them…etc.  Then, armed with a complete understanding of the data (the assets), the technical side of the assessment should be used to discover how the necessary security is being achieved, or how to reduce the likelihood to an acceptable level of risk.  The ‘’Impact vs. likelihood” graph from by book, The House & the Cloud becomes our primary deliverable, backed by data from the assessment.

His final comment: “Application to real world is the best way to learn… I personally missed focusing on the asset and pitched it more towards the vulnerability discovery.  The asset that has the vulnerability determines the impact and the level of the vulnerability determines the likelihood.  Starting to add up.’’

This is exactly right and leads to the justification this sales person needs to create new business.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Photo by David Stelzl

The purpose of a sales presentation is to sell; to convince the prospect that you have a solution to a problem that they in fact have, and that you are the best problem solver around.  The fee in turn, must be commensurate with the value delivered.

But here’s the problem:  First, 95% of the possible prospects in your territory don’t necessarily agree that they have a problem – or at least have a problem that you specialize in solving.  Second, most presentations are informational, offering no compelling value.  They are not centered on solving a known problem.   The other 5% of the people out there admit they have a problem, but have no reason to believe your solution is any better than the next guy.   In this case you lack differentiation.

Since most presentations look pretty much the same, the client’s propensity is to continue doing business with the known quantity unless in incumbent’s price is severely undercut.   Don’t overestimate your brand or uniqueness based on things everyone has, or at least say they have.  Start treating your presentation as a commercial, or perhaps an infomercial.  Put more time into making a great presentation and you’ll waste less time on unqualified meetings.

© 2011, David Stelzl