Landing the Call

CODE Cracking 101: From ‘Met to Net’ Insights from Cracking the Networking CODE

Dean Lindsay, President of The Progress Agents

There is this unassuming little word you often find in the biographies of famous people. The word is ‘met’:

William R. Hewlett met David Packard.
Dean Martin met Jerry Lewis.
Sid met Nancy.
Siegfried met Roy.

We meet people all the time. Meeting people is a part of life. Meeting people is one of the fundamental steps to building priceless business relationships. But it is not the only step.

There is a big, big, BIG WHOPPING difference between meeting someone and building a priceless business relationship with them. There is a long way from ‘Met to Net’ (networking), and because people misjudge this distance, the term ‘networking’ has gotten a bum rap.

I consistently ask professionals who come to workshops and speeches based on my book, ‘Cracking the Networking CODE,’ to share with me what they think of when they hear the word networking. Far too often, they say it conjures up images of manipulative, self-serving, insincere and predatory individuals, who are on the prowl for someone they can pounce on, try to sell something to, or solicit an unearned favor from.

I wish I could say this style of networking wasn’t out there, but it is, and it is a waste of time for ineffective networkers and the unfortunate people they corner. True networking is not about arm-twisting. It is not about trying to get someone to do something that does not make sense for them to do. It is not about scary old backslapping sales shenanigans.

So, how do you build priceless business relationships through networking? This is an important question to consider because, to a large degree, who you know and associate with determines who you become in life. The most successful, well-rounded and happy people are most often the ones who are best connected to other successful, well-rounded and happy people. When these people need support or information, they know who to call.

How well connected you are determines your access to those with the most money, the best contacts, the real power and influence (not to mention the best seats at sporting events). Being connected to the right people opens up opportunities for you and your company.

If you are looking for a new career path, deep down in your blood pumper you already know that you need to get out there and connect with people. Sure, in a perfect world, your track record and past successes would speak for themselves, but without professional and personal contacts, your spiffy two-page résumé on off-white professional-grade paper is likely just going to take up space in a pile on a hiring manager’s over stimulated desk. You are going to have to log off Monster.com, move away from the keyboard and find a room to work.

Becoming a Progress Agent
To build great relationships, you need to help others be successful. You need to help them progress. Everyone connects with others with the goal of progressing in some way. To build priceless business relationships, you need to be seen as an agent for their progress, a catalyst for them to take a positive step forward. They need to feel that you make a positive impact on their life, that you bring value.

Everything we do, consciously or subconsciously, is because we believe the perceived consequences of those actions will bring us what I label the ‘Six Ps of Progress’:

This goes for eating, shopping, exercising, hugging, crying, working, going to the movies – whatever. Each of us makes decisions as to what to read, who to talk to, what to buy, where to eat, what to eat, who to take phone calls from and who to help, based on whether we think these acts will bring us these Six Ps of Progress.

At each moment, we make decisions based on what we think will bring these benefits – short-term or long-term. At a mostly subconscious level, we continuously think to ourselves: Is taking this action (e.g., talking with this person) helping me move toward pleasure, peace of mind, profit, prestige, power, or helping me to avoid pain? Is this action progress, or is it simply change?

I could (and do in the book) go on and on about this, but basically the people we meet must view being around us as progress, not change.

It helps to think of networking as a creative process: You are creating ways to serve and to help people progress. You progress when you help others progress. To build priceless business relationships and become a truly effective networker, you constantly need to search out ways to help others progress. You must position yourself in their minds as a catalyst in their progress, as an agent in their progress, as a Progress Agent.

Cracking the CODE
A nurturing, giving attitude is the cornerstone to Cracking the Networking CODE. The four letters that make up the word CODE stand for the four steps consistently taken by the most effective networkers to build truly priceless business relationships and be progress-effective networkers:

C: Create Personal Curb Appeal
Effective networkers feel successful and display a genuine desire to help others progress. They are Progress Agents. They look and act the part of someone you would want to have in your corner. They don’t go to networking events looking for success – they take success with them to the events.

O: Open Face-to-Face Relationships
Effective networkers connect with new people everywhere they go. They also research the various networking event options and commit to a networking strategy. They get out and about and reach out. They proactively open relationships. Be aware that it’s possible to go to a networking event and not have any ‘networking moments.’ It is not just about showering and showing up. It’s about connecting with people and finding ways to help them progress.

D: Deliver Solid First Impressions
Effective networkers know their first impression sets the foundation for all future impressions, and they make sure it’s progress-based. Effective networkers strive to stand out in a positive way in the minds of people with whom they want future contact. Effective networkers focus on being interested, rather than interesting. They turn people on to them by tuning in to others.

E: Earn Trust
My definition of trust is the promise of progress. Effective networkers follow up and keep in touch. They get to know and stay involved with the people they meet and earn their trust through a series of progress-based impressions. They continually find ways to help – to ‘be progress’ for those in their network. This is where most ineffective networkers drop the ball.

Networking is not about chance meetings. Hard work makes luck, my friend. Go make some luck. Even if your Blackberry or ACT database system is bursting with names, numbers and email addresses, it will not do you a bit of good unless you build the relationships.

Sure, being in business is challenging.
Sure, it’s nerve-racking to look for a new job.
Sure, sales can be tough to come by.
Sure, marketing is a moving bull’s-eye.
Sure, people are often pressed for time.

But here is something else I know for sure: People do business with, as well as help, share information with, brainstorm with and give referrals to people they trust and value. They trust and value people who genuinely care about them and provide progress for their lives. They trust and value people who offer the promise of progress.

Be Progress.

My Ten Tips for Getting through the Screen

By Carol Super, Author, Speaker & CEO, Selling without Selling

Answer this: What’s the most challenging aspect of the sales process? Presenting? Negotiating? Closing? Most salespeople would immediately say, “Getting the appointment!” And what’s the most difficult aspect of getting the appointment? Right! Getting past the screener. These surefire 10-steps reveal the secret of getting through.

I’m a print media salesperson. However, whether you’re offering media, insurance, software or anything else, getting through to a prospect is obviously a very necessary and usually very challenging first step.

After many years of experience, these are the ten steps I have developed to increase my rate of success in getting appointments:

    1. I make friends with the screener
      • I make it very clear that I realize that he or she has very important job and that you recognize that their responsibility is to only let calls through which are of value or potential value to their employer.
      • I make sure I know the screener’s name…and
      • As much as possible about them
      • When I do get an appointment and get to meet the screener in person, I bring a token gift of appreciation for their help. That is, a Starbucks gift certificate. “Thanks for all of your help. Have some coffee on me.”
    2. I always try to have a referral name to use. The referral could simply be one of your clients with whom you were successful. i.e. “One of your competitors, Acme Widgets, doubled their response rate with our program.”
    3. I try not to leave a voicemail, unless it’s the umpteenth time I’ve called. You or your assistant can find out from the screener when’s the best time to reach the prospect. Many executives, like you, may be early arrivers and/or work late. Also, sometimes right before and after lunch I can find people at their desk.
    4. I prepare a voice mail script before I leave a message. But first…I often just call to hear the sound of the prospect’s voice and their manner on their voicemail message. It gives me a clue to the type of individual they are. I check for whether their voice sounds inviting or whether they speak in clipped phrases, for example. I try to match my tone and demeanor to theirs. If they speak quickly, so do I. If they sound easy-going and friendly, then that’s how I sound, too. Remember, people are most comfortable dealing with and trusting those persons who seem to be most like themselves.The three basic criteria for a good voice mail message are:
      • Be brief
      • Get to the point…and most importantly…
      • Include a ‘benefit’ that makes it worthy of returning

 Having a benefit makes a critical difference, as does a referral or the name of a satisfied customer he or she might know.

    1. When leaving a voice mail, I make sure to repeat my name at the end. In fact, I repeat my name and phone number twice.
    2. I am prepared to answer the inevitable question from the screener: “What’s this about?” Once again, use a referral or the name of a competitor who was successful with your product or service. Mention to the screener that their boss will definitely be interested in the details of the programs or products that have worked so well for the referral person or competition.
    3. I find out the prospect’s email address. Then I develop and send an attention-getting email note so that when I or my Assistant calls the screener back, I can say, “I’m just following up on a note I sent to Jerry.”
    4. I memorize a script and keep it in front of me…and practice it until it sounds totally natural. This is key.
    5. Finally, if none of the above gets me through, I send a creative gift to the prospect. For example, I once sent a premium chocolate bar with a note that said: “This chocolate bar is very rich and so is the demographic our company delivers.”For one high profile, impossibly difficult prospect I sent a live canary in a cage with a note that said, “Give me five minutes of your time and you’ll sing our praises, too.” He called me personally the next day to set up an appointment.
    6. Think of the client that you are pursuing and why you are a good match and make the token gift appropriate. There is another tool I use to ensure my successful persistence when it comes to making more sales calls or reaching that key person. It’s a concept that separates successful salespeople from also-rans:
      • I keep track of what my call-to-appointment ratio is for the week. I write down the calls and dials and circle only the calls I get through to and then indicate with a double circle those with whom I get an appointment.
      • And I make my calls at various times of the day. From very early to quite late, to match the work styles and schedules of those I’m trying to reach.

Recently, one Friday, I made 35 calls and got only 2 appointments…but they were definitely worthwhile. In my biz, as with most businesses, it takes 20 calls to get 1 appointment.

I’m certain that by following my 10 steps and being patient, organized, persistent and creative, you’ll significantly improve your call/appointment ratio…and your income. Please feel free to email me if you have any specific problems that I might be able to help you with.

To Close More Sales, Talk To The COWMAN

By Brian Jeffrey, President, SalesForce Training & Consulting Inc.

I know you’re curious, so I’ll tell you right now what a COWMAN is. A cowman is what a cowboy wants to be when he grows up! At least that’s what I tell participants in our ProSell sales training workshop. I know, I know, it’s a bad joke!

Of course, COWMAN is an acronym and I’ll share its meaning-and importance-in this article.

Common Failing

If there’s one common problem many salespeople have, it’s failing to properly qualify a prospect. No matter how hard I try to drum into salespeople’s heads that they need to ask the right questions, many still don’t get it. They figure that if the person is breathing, they’ve got a hot prospect.

Having a pulse is only one of the properties of a good prospect (unless you’re a funeral director). Having a need or want for what you’re selling is much more important. Yet, too many salespeople don’t bother to find this out. They jump right into their presentation (sales pitch) hoping the prospect has the need or want and will buy.

One of the major reasons salespeople don’t ask enough questions is because they aren’t sure what questions they should be asking in the first place. I’m about to share with you the secret of knowing what questions to ask to properly qualify a prospect.

Meet the MAN

There’s an old saying, “If you want to make a sale, you have to talk to the MAN.” MAN stands for the person with the:

  • Money
  • Authority, and the
  • Need.

In order to properly qualify someone, you have to find out if he or she can afford your solution (has the Money), is the proper person (has the Authority to make the final decision), and has a Need for what you’re selling. Not all three qualities necessarily reside within one individual and the MAN may end up being three or more people (i.e. a committee).

I was introduced to the MAN during my first formal sales training course in Toronto during the 70s. The instructor, who had never sold a thing in his life, told us that in order to make a sale we had to “talk to the MAN” and explained what MAN stood for.

He was at a total loss, however, when I asked him what questions I should ask to make sure I was talking to the MAN. No amount of probing could get him to say anything beyond, “Ask if they have the money, the authority, and a need for what you’re selling.” Not too helpful to a struggling salesperson hoping to improve his skills. I wanted him to tell me what questions I should ask, not what type of questions. I struggled on alone.

Becoming Politically Correct

Standing before a group of salespeople, many of which are female, and telling them they have to “talk to the MAN” can be dangerous to your health. So I developed a new acronym and began telling them that, while the three elements in MAN are critical, the really smart salespeople “talk to the WOMAN” which stands for:

  • When (when will the final decision be made-timing?)
  • Organization and Other person (get to know them)
  • Money (can they afford your solution?)
  • Authority (who makes the final decision?)
  • Need (do they need or want your solution?)

Yet Another Evolution

Although WOMAN helped us better qualify a prospect, I soon realized there was still a missing piece to the puzzle – the Competition. Hence, WOMAN evolved into COWMAN with the C reminding us to ask about the Competition.

  • Competition (who else are they considering)
  • Organization and Other person (get to know them)
  • When (when will the final decision be made-timing?)
  • Money (can they afford your solution?)
  • Authority (who makes the final decision?)
  • Need (do they need or want your solution?)

So now the COWMAN is the salesperson’s qualifying checklist for determining what information needs to be gathered to fully qualify a prospect. The critical pieces of the qualifying puzzle remain Money, Authority, and Need with the other three elements-Competition, When (timing), and information about the Organization and Other person-being important but not critical.

Order of Asking
While the order in which you ask the questions isn’t critical, I usually recommend the following sequence:

  1. Need (or Want) questions. These questions are tailored to the product or services being sold and fall into four categories that I’ll outline later.
  2. Timing questions (When): “When do you expect to go ahead with this?” “When do you need the project completed?” “What time frames are we looking at?” “When will the final decision be made?” “When do you expect to issue a purchase order?”
  3. Competition questions: “Who else are you considering?” “Who else are you looking at?” “Will you be considering anyone else?”
  4. Ability to pay (Money): “How much have you mentally budgeted for the project?” “How much were you thinking of investing in…?” “Prices range from $A to $Z with $M being about the average. Will that be a problem?” “Approximately how much have you set aside for this?” “What budget range were you thinking about?” “Approximately how much were you looking to spend?” “What price range had you planned for?”
  5. Authority questions: “Who, other than yourself, will be involved in making the final decision?” “Will… (name) also be involved in making the final decision?” “Who can veto this project?”
  6. Organization and Other person questions which, like the Need questions, are tailored to meet specific situations. Here are a few examples:
  7. Organization questions:
      “How did this company get started?” “What are your major products/services now?” “Where do you see the company going in the future?” “What are some of the major challenges that lie ahead?” “How do you see your department/division evolving in the future?”
  8. Other person questions:
      “How long have you worked here?” “Where were you before coming here?” “When you have a chance to relax, what do you like to do in your spare time?”

“Need” Questions
The “need” questions fall into four general categories:

  1. Problem questions. These are specifically crafted questions. Here are some phrases that can be used as question starters. You have to fill in the blanks. e.g. “Tell me a little about…” “What are you looking for in terms of…?” “Have you had…(describe a specific problem)?” “Do your people complain about…?” “How often does the problem effect…?” “How do you see the problem?”
  2. Situational questions re: current suppliers. e.g. “Who are you using now?” “What do you like about them?” “Who are you currently dealing with?” “What were some of the major factors in choosing your current service provider?” “What do you like best about…?” “”What are they doing now that you really appreciate?” “What is one area they could improve?” “What has to happen before you’d consider changing companies?”
  3. Situational questions re: current products/services. e.g. “What are you currently using?” “How is it working out?” “What types of products/services have you used in the past?” “How do you use them?”
  4. Pay-off questions. Once again, you have to fill in the blanks to develop your own questions. e.g. “What would it mean to you if…?” “If we could… would that be of value?” “What would it mean, in terms of dollars and cents, if we could…?” “What do you think of…?” “What’s your reaction to…?”

Build Your Checklist

Just like pilots always use a checklist so they won’t forget to do all the right things when taking off or landing a plane, smart software salespeople always use a checklist so they won’t forget to ask all the right questions when qualifying a prospect.

So remember, if you want to close more sales, be smart, always use your qualifying checklist, and make sure you “talk to the COWMAN!”