Month: October 2015

Cold Calling or Using the Telephone for Success: Is Prospecting that Scary?

By Philippe Lavie, President, KeyRoad Enterprises, CustomerCentric Selling® affiliate

In this article, you will discover complaints sales people and their organizations have in identifying and securing qualified leads. I will review different prospecting methods and the level of effectiveness each delivers. You will then read about the common denominator that links both the methods and these complaints. We will define what a qualified lead is, and finally, we will review some ways to generate qualified leads using the common denominator, the telephone, to contribute to the success of sales people.

I am always amazed to hear sales people complain about how difficult it is to build their pipeline and therefore meet or exceed their revenue target. I often hear gripes like:

  • Marketing is sending me poor leads and I am wasting my time going after them.
  • Prospects don’t call me even though we have a terrific product feature set advertised all over the place.
  • I call new prospects but they never return my calls.
  • I can’t get anyone on the phone to present what I offer with players that can buy from me.The other complaint I hear from companies is that their sales people are not good at prospecting. These companies know they need a better qualified pipeline. They implement what everybody else has implemented to generate leads, from email campaigns, direct mailing, trade shows, seminars, and then some. Unfortunately, it only perpetuates what has failed to create the desired outcome of effectively and cost efficiently generating qualified leads.

    Upon review of these pipelines, I find that few have qualified leads. I am therefore astonished when sales people act surprised when they are not meeting or exceeding their quarterly and yearly revenue target.

    Achieving sales goals and meeting revenue target are a sales person’s responsibility. It is part of the job definition. We, as sales people, have no excuses at the end of year if we have not reached our goals and made the money we want to make. Whatever lead marketing or any other part of the organization comes up with is simply icing on the cake. Therefore, it is our responsibility to prospect and create the opportunities we will need to meet our objectives.

    Type of prospecting tools and methods
    The University of Carolina business school published the results of a research they did, dealing with the effectiveness of different prospecting approaches. Here is a brief summary of its findings:

    How effective is: Always Usually Occasionally Never
    A recommendation from someone inside your company 16% 68% 16% 0%
    A referral from outside the company 8% 36% 44% 12%
    A letter from a salesperson followed by a direct call 4% 20% 40% 36%
    A contact at an off-site meeting 0% 44% 32% 24%
    A direct telephone call from a salesperson 0% 20% 36% 44%

    Even though cold calling appears to be the least effective method of prospecting, the use of the telephone is paramount to all these methods.

    What is the common denominator? The Telephone
    Whether you cold call, warm call, or hot call, there is one tool you will use: the telephone. Unfortunately, here is what a telephone looks like in the mind of a sales person when cold or warm calling:

    And if you are a sales person, then you know what I am talking about. Fear of rejection, being a bother to the prospect, or forcing a solution they may not need, are some of the psychological reasons people resent using the phone. Is it any wonder then why sales people dread picking up this tool to build their pipeline?

    So what the sales person does is to rely on marketing to create leads and engage in any and all activities aside from the using telephone in attempt to create opportunities. Unfortunately, to be successful, a sales person has to create leads.

    What are leads?
    For under-performing sales people with below quota performance, every prospect, that calls in or with whom they have a beginning of a conversation, becomes a hot prospect in their pipeline. For companies that participate in trade shows, every person that scans their business card is also a strong qualified lead, right? The challenge is, at times, the prospect looks like this.

    My question is: Does this look like a professional with the ability to buy what you have to sell? Does he have power to move the buying process forward? Can he, more probably than not, access unbudgeted and unallocated funds to pay for what you have to sell? Unlikely, I would say.

    Never the less, pipelines are full of such leads. As soon as a prospect calls or expresses any interest in your product features, (s)he becomes a qualified one, with a smiling face and great potential, right!?.

    NO. A qualified lead and prospect is defined as a person with a known job title, working in a specific company you know something about, with an identified goal to achieve, a problem to solve, or a need to satisfy. When such a situation has been identified then and only then can a sales cycle start. So, how can you use the telephone to qualify the prospect, collect information about the company, and identify whether there is a goal to achieve, a problem to solve, or a need to satisfy?

    Using the Telephone for Success
    As the chart showed, cold calling is the least effective way to create opportunities. Never the less, using the telephone is paramount to all these business development activities, whether cold calling, warm calling, or hot calling. Moving forward, I want to focus on the cold and warm calls.

    After researching the company you want to target and having identified the title you want to speak with, here is the roadmap to a great call:

  • Dial the number of the person you want to talk to or dial the main company number and ask to be connected to the person you want to reach
  • If you get to a voicemail, zero out and talk to an assistant, the receptionist, or anyone available in the company that can give you the information you want to collect. This information should be about the company, its operating procedures as they relate to what you have to offer, who is responsible for the area your offering addresses, what objectives, goals, needs these individuals have, and how to contact them more effectively.
  • Ask to be connected again to the person you want to reach, or one of the key players you identified in your conversation with the assistant or receptionist. If still going to voicemail, zero out and ask to talk to that person’s administrative assistant, present what you have to offer as if you were talking to the key player, and ask to have a meeting or conference call time be secured with the key player.Do you think such a discovery conversation with an assistant or receptionist will better prepare you to have an intelligent conversation with your prospect? Once you have identified reasons why your prospect would consider evaluating your products and services by identifying a goal to meet, problem to address, and a need to satisfy, don’t you think you now have a qualified lead?

    And with such a qualified situation, wouldn’t that eliminate some of the psychological barriers sales people have against using the telephone for prospecting? By standardizing and codifying cold calling approaches, we have seen companies improve their conversion rate from prospects to qualified opportunity by 50% and their win ratio by 40%.

    In summary, prospecting is a must for every sales person. It includes many methods, although all use the telephone as a common denominator. Learning how to use the telephone for success for cold, warm, or hot calling is paramount to individual sales success. Is it scary? For some it is, although it does not have to be. Learning how to manage your calls, how much time you spend cold or warm calling during any given day, and using well known techniques to increase one’s hit and conversion rate will contribute to making using the telephone for success more effective.



The Simple Secrets of Superior Service

By Mark Sanborn, President, Sanborn & Associates, Inc.

Are you trying to provide your customers with great customer service? Before service can be great, it has to start being ‘not bad.’ Trying to make bad customer service great is difficult if not impossible, a little like casting pearls into a pile of manure. You’ll still see the random sparkle, but it’s still a pile of manure.

I was reminded of this after spending nearly two days in a hospital. My oldest son had undergone some corrective surgery. Fortunately, it was successful and went as well as possible. The surgeon and his team, including pre- and post-op, were excellent. Once we got to the pediatric floor, our experience changed.

What made our experience so poor? There is a nursing shortage, and as an employer I can empathize how hard it is to get good staffing. Both my wife Darla and I stayed with our son (she stayed overnight), and maybe because both parents were in the room, the nurses decided we didn’t need as much attention. In the end, we don’t know what the service was so poor.

Customers – your customers – shouldn’t have to rack their brains to explain why your service is inferior. While it may be insightful for you, it isn’t the customer’s responsibility to diagnose situation. It is, however, your responsibility to consistently provide superior service, especially if you want to be successful in today’s competitive marketplace.

When it comes to customer service, the distance between ‘awful’ and ‘awesome’ isn’t that great. The difference lies in six simple ‘secrets.’ The secrets aren’t difficult to uncover if you try, and they take of form of principles you can easily apply. These principles transcend industry or profession, and apply to for-profit and non-profit organizations. Don’t think of them as just techniques: They are strategic, not tactical. They are a way of thinking that determines the way of doing. Adhering to these principles – teaching, requiring, encouraging and reward them – will move you and your organization into the lofty ranks of superior service providers.

  1. Make Yourself Visible and Available
    Ever get the impression that a service provider is playing a sadistic game of hide-and-seek? Knowing that you will at some point have a pressing need, they either disappear and make you search for them, or they ‘hide in plain sight’ by being observable but ignoring any attempts to engage them.

    The antidote to this silly practice is twofold: First, make sure you stay close to the customer, literally. Don’t stalk them and invade their personal space, but make it easy to see that you and your team are present. Secondly, live by this simple rule: If they can see you, you are available to help them. Avoiding eye contact so you won’t have to answer questions or offer assistance is pathetic. But what if they have a question you aren’t responsible for answering, or a request it isn’t your ability to fulfill? Every service provider has one primary, overriding, universal responsibility: to be helpful. That means the LEAST anyone can do is find the answer/solve the problem or locate the person who can. It is unacceptable to leave customers in the wilderness clearing throats, murmuring ‘excuse me’ in the hopes that they can win an employee’s attention to engage them.

  2. Be Interested
    As a rule, people aren’t coming to you for your product or service because they find you interesting. There is nothing wrong with being interesting, or having a wonderful personality or fascinating life experiences. But what customers aren’t primarily concerned with doing business with interesting people. They want to do business with people who are interested in them. They want someone concerned with their needs, desires, fears and expectations.

    If you want to remind yourself and others on your team of this important concept, just remember the lesson of young Johnny. Johnny was ten years old when he came home from school and shared with his mom that he had a new girlfriend. “Wow, a girlfriend,” his mom exclaimed, “What does she like about you?”

    “She thinks I’m cute, that I’m funny and I’m a great dancer,” Johnny answered.

    ”And what do you like about her?” mom continued.

    Johnny’s insightful response was, “That she thinks I’m cute, that I’m funny and that I’m a good dancer.”

    That’s the essence of being interested. We respond positively to people who are interested in us and want to help. They make us feel good, and that’s what draws us to them.

    Start CARING about customers. Superior service begins with a genuine interest in and commitment to customers. It is about caring about them as individuals, and being obsessively concerned with the experience they have when they do business with you. And if you don’t fundamentally care about the people you serve, I assure you that they won’t care about doing business with you.

    The best product at the best price isn’t the best deal if you don’t care about customers.

  3. Keep Promises
    We have the ability to put people into space and bring them back safely on a regular basis, so why can’t we figure out how to keep our commitments?

    If you say you’ll bring the ________ (you fill in the blank), bring it in a timely manner. If you say you’ll bring it right away, then bring it RIGHT AWAY.

    Service providers seem to take commitments to lightly. One of the quickest ways to irritate customers is to tell them what you’ll do for them, and then not do it. Don’t return the phone call. Don’t notify of the delay. Don’t complete the repair.

    There are two ways to benefit from this principle. First, don’t make stupid commitments. If you know monkeys have a better chance of flying than making the service call when you said you would, don’t make the commitment. The easiest commitments to keep are the ones you don’t make.

    A mediocre service provider would read that last paragraph and figure the answer to their miserable existence is NON-COMMITMENT. Not so. Customers want to know and feel comfortable that what they know is accurate, and what they expect to happen will happen. So commitment to what you CAN do.

    If you think you can get back to someone the same day, but know for sure you can get the information they need by noon tomorrow, the commitment is EASY: “I promise to get back to you by noon tomorrow.” If you call back before the end of the day, the customer will be pleasantly surprised.

    More commonly a service rep might say, “I’ll try to have it for you by the end of the day.” First, the words “I’ll try” tell the customer you haven’t really committed to anything and that you’re simply trying to appease them. Secondly, if you don’t call back until tomorrow morning, the customer is justifiably mad.

    If you’ve ever heard me speak, live or on tape, you probably have heard me say what I’m about to share in print. It is the ultimate HOW NOT PROVIDE SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SERVICE STRATEGY. It will make you memorable in a good way, and make you stand out compared to your competitors. So are you paying attention? Okay, here is it:

Say what you’ll do and do what you say.
Simple enough? While not always easy, it is most assuredly simple. You should have a little person, like an imaginary friend for grownups, who sits on your shoulder every day and whispers into your ear, “If you can’t do it, don’t say it. Say what you’ll do and do what you say.”

  1. No Excuses
    It is harsh to say that nobody else really cares about your problems, so let me be gentler: No customer really cares very much about your problems. Your mother might care, and maybe your spouse, and maybe the sweet saintly woman from church who prays for you every day, but your customer doesn’t really care. They have enough problems of their own.

    I had a flat tire. I took it to the place where I purchased my tires along the ‘we’ll replace it for free if it gets damaged’ guarantee

    After having the tire guy examine the flat and doing the compulsory paperwork, I was told to come back in an hour. I waited a full ninety minutes before I returned knowing that I hadn’t yet written this article (specifically principle 3) and that even if I had, the tire guy probably wouldn’t have read it.

    When I showed up I waited to get my fixed tire. When I got to the counter, tire guy explained that the tire couldn’t be fixed. The sidewall was damaged, and they needed to order a new one, and the only remaining replacement tire on the earth was on an island is the South Pacific. My face went into neutral which is what I’ve learned to do instead of saying bad words. I calmly asked a logical question: why didn’t you call me? All my phone numbers were on the paperwork. His response, “Sir, we were really busy.”

    What I wanted to say: “ME TOO. I just left my office again in the middle of the day and drove over here to learn that like me, you too were really busy. The difference is that I was PAYING you to be really busy by buying your tires and having them serviced at your shop. A phone call would have saved me time and I wouldn’t be standing in front of you having this stimulating discussion.”

    Tire guy thought an EXPLANATION was an EXCUSE. An explanation provides data and information about why something didn’t happen. An EXCUSE says not keeping my commitment is okay because…” The sidewall was damaged. We were really busy. My boss is psycho. The sun was in my eyes.

    Sometimes an explanation is a nice touch, especially if the customer asks for one. An excuse is rarely a nice touch, unless it is legitimate. What might a legitimate excuse be? “We didn’t fix your tire. After you left a tornado touched down and blew away our shop, but fortunately nobody was injured.”

    Okay means the customer will listen to the excuse and say, “You’re absolutely right. That’s an acceptable reason you didn’t fix my tire. But unless the tornado took your phone, you should have called.

    Unless your excuse is a humdinger like that, don’t make one.

  2. Apologize First, Explain Later
    Whether or not you have a legitimate excuse, and whether or not the customer is interested in any kind of an explanation, the first thing to do with an unhappy customer is apologize sincerely. An insincere apology is in many ways worse than no apology at all.

    How can you apologize sincerely if you don’t feel you are at fault? Assuming something has ruffled the customer’s feathers that you didn’t cause, there is still reason for an apology. It’s a bit more cosmic, but valid: apologize for the unfairness of life on planet earth. Just don’t use those words.

    Here’s what I mean. A client calls you on the phone and comes unglued about a problem you and your firm didn’t cause. The caller is having a bad day and you won the unhappy camper lottery and now he or she is taking it out on you. Here’s how you apologize;

    ”Bob/Jan, I am sorry for the difficulties you are experiencing…”

    You’ve empathized, and that is the beginning of both calming them down and being of help. The next statement should NOT be, “Now let’s find the person who caused all this grief and beat them with a stick,” although saying it would make you feel better. The next step is to focus on the solution: what needs to happen? You can deal with the “whom” later. Pointing to another party you believe is really responsible seems like you are blaming and passing the buck. What the customer wants is relief, but before that can occur, an apology is in order.

    (The truly analytical are going nuts at this point because saying “I’m sorry you’ve had this difficulty…” isn’t, by letter of the law nor Webster’s Unabridged, an ‘apology.’ But read on anyhow.)

    Why point out something as painfully obvious as the need for an apology? The answer: The apology has become nearly extinct. Service providers just don’t offer them much anymore. And it really galls those of us who are the victims of rotten service.

    Let’s say I call the Housekeeping Department of a hotel to inquire why at 4:00 pm my room still isn’t cleaned and serviced. The person who answers the phone takes the inquiry literally and says, “We’re really behind. There were a lot of late check-outs.” Assuming that I’ve got a twisted sense of humor I reply, “Gee, sorry to hear that. I hate those late checkouts. They don’t consider how hard it makes your job, or that I’ll be living in squalor all day. I guess I should have stayed at your hotel on a day there weren’t so darn many late checkouts.” Then I chuckle good naturedly and conclude by saying not to worry about it. Wake me up later tonight to clean my room.

    The correct response from housekeeping, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience Mr. Sanborn.” That should come BEFORE anything else. Let me finish the script, “There are a lot of late checkouts today, and I offer that as an explanation, not an excuse. Your room should have been cleaned and made-up this morning. I will send someone (note: Be careful here of the promise you make) within 15 minutes to service your room. Will that be satisfactory?”

    Now the key here is: Does the person seem sorry? Or is it just perfunctory that they made the apology? A little empathy and sincere apology go a long way towards creating superior service

  3. Tell the Truth
    Don’t lie. You may not need to spill your guts and tell customers more than they want or need to know, just don’t lie. If you don’t know how long the delay is going to be, say so. Don’t say, “It should only be a brief delay.” In the world of should, there should never be any delays, brief or otherwise Instead, try this radical approach, “Folks, we are experiencing a delay. At this point I don’t know how long it will be, but AS SOON AS I KNOW I’ll get back to you. And if I don’t know very soon, I’ll get back to you anyhow to keep you informed.”

    Telling the truth is about telling what you know or admitting that you don’t know. Customers are tired of being lied to. They don’t like little tiny lies and they don’t like great big lies. They may not be happy with the truth when they hear it, but they’ll be even angrier if you lied.

There they are: Six simple secrets for superior service. I doubt any of those ideas surprised you. You knew them all along. And probably your team knew them, too. It really doesn’t matter that you knew them is you don’t do them. Creating superior customer service is in the doing, not the knowing.

Dust off those simple old secrets. Share them with everyone on your team. Remind everyone about them at every opportunity. Reward those who “get it” and practice the principles. Then you’ll benefit from happy customers who return more often, spend more money and tell more people about the superior service you provide.

The Demise of PRM As We Know It

By Diane Krakora, President & CEO, Amazon Consulting, LLC

We must look at where Partner Relationship Management (PRM) came from originally in order to evaluate whether traditional PRM has become obsolete. Remember ChannelWave and Allegis? How about PartnerWare, OnDemand, and WebBridge? In 2002, these organizations were high flyers – the next big thing – doubling within one year into a $2 billion industry, according to IDC. These solutions were helping companies “synchronize, optimize, and understand sales and demand impacts across channels,” according to META Group, at the time.

But the value propositions of “creating a single selling experience across multiple organizational boundaries” (META 2002) never grew roots and these PRM-focused companies were either consolidated or folded. Gone is the old promise that one solution can fill all your partner management needs.

It really takes the entire company to ensure that partnerships are successful. As partnerships touch all facets of the organization, all of those facets like marketing, field sales, finance, sales operations, legal, technical support, training, professional services, and even product marketing are affected by the success or failure of partnerships established by the channels or alliances groups. Thus the systems that help engage, empower, and evaluate partners must also live in different parts of the organization. The promise of traditional PRM was to create one system that addressed and supported all these areas. That’s crazy – these teams already have systems to manage their individual business unit processes.

PRM promised to be all things to everybody, trying to solve several complex problems in one complete solution. These early solutions attempted to holistically re-engineer the way partners engaged with an organization, and the processes by which an organization managed their partners. This ended up to be too much process at one time – for both partners and the channel management team. Change is difficult for most people and the sweeping modifications in process, work flow, and engagement styles required by these all-in-one PRM systems was too much at one time.

Additionally, since effective partner management is truly a team effort, the PRM system needed to integrate with other corporate systems – in marketing, sales, and training – to be successful, but PRM systems weren’t implemented using this approach. The demise of this solution was mainly due to the incredibly low adoption and usage rates by partners as well as internal teams.

This all-in-one approach to PRM was both complex and expensive to implement. Average implementation times in the early years of PRM were between 10 and 16 months. Trying to get all the different groups that own the processes such as sales operations, marketing, and training to agree on one system and one set of universal business practices was a monumental undertaking. And training and sales organizations weren’t bought in to the idea that a PRM solution could meet their broader requirements – the PRM solution only addressed partner-related needs. Prices for PRM solutions ranged between $250,000 at the low-end, to more than $1.5 million for a full application – and implementation costs could easily match the system price.

Today even the definition of PRM is unclear. Is PRM the software application that you buy or rent? Is PRM the process and partner programs? Is PRM the partner portal? Or is PRM “A business strategy to select and manage partners to optimize their long-term value to an enterprise” as defined by Bob Thompson, the self-appointed PRM guru. Ask four different PRM vendors and you’ll get four different answers. Ask 10 different companies with established channel programs, and you’re likely to see 10 very confused faces.

It doesn’t really matter, as traditional PRM is history. Gartner isn’t even tracking PRM as a category anymore and instead directs users to B2B e-commerce solutions. According to Gartner, “Partner relationship management functionality is no longer a separate B2B e-commerce application category and users should include PRM functionality in B2B e-commerce assessments.” In a Google search for PRM, only one of the top ten responses is what we would consider “Partner Relationship Management” software. If it’s not in Google, then PRM, as we knew it, MUST be history!