Category: Guest article

How to write the ideal cold sales email to generate more meetings

How to write the ideal cold sales email to generate more meetings

The good folks over at Cloudura.ai published this post. It was so good that I wanted my readers to read it as well. With their permission, I am reproducing it here.

With over 4 billion email users worldwide, it is no surprise that cold emailing is at its peak right now. On average, a regular email user receives 147 new emails per day. While this is a positive number for reaching out via this medium, you’re in for a lot of competition if you’re a sales rep trying to stand out in the vast sea of emails. 

Unfortunately, while 8 out of 10 prospects prefer talking to salespeople via email over any other medium, only 23.9% of sales emails are opened, with the response rate going even lower. 

So, where are sales executives going wrong, and how can they fix their emails to realize the potential of cold emailing? 

We’ve curated a list of tried-and-tested tricks that will help you create the perfect cold email for a meeting by grabbing your prospect’s attention. 

1. Don’t Ignore the “From” Line 

The ‘from‘ line is usually set up when we configure our email, and that’s it. It hardly ever comes to our mind again to change it in any way. While that might work for everyone else, it’s a huge and unusually common mistake when you’re a salesperson writing a cold sales email. 

On average, an email user deletes 71 messages every day, and all of them under five minutes. This means that most of them are sent to trash even before your prospect opens the email. Apart from the subject line, the ‘from‘ line is the only other thing the user sees when the email is still unopened. As such, it needs to fittingly convey who you are and be consistent with the purpose of your email.

You can change the ‘from‘ line any time, depending on who your current campaign is targeted to and what your message is going to be. There are different combinations of your first name, your last name, your title, and the company’s name that can each affect your prospect differently when used as a ‘from‘ line.

A. First Name + Last Name + Company Name 

While this tells the receiver who exactly the mail is from at first glance itself, it can also seem a little impersonal and might not be enough to convince the individual to open it. 

Rachel Smith – Clodura.AI 

B. First Name + Last Name 

This may be a little too personal, thereby making you lose credibility. If you’re trying to sell the product or service your company offers without having their name attached, your prospect may feel you don’t have the authority to use it and may consider your email spam. 

Rachel Smith 

C. Title + Company Name 

An email with only your job title and the company name in the ‘from‘ line will definitely seem like one of the promotional, automated emails businesses send. Using a specific personal name can increase your open rates by 35%, and yet, a staggering 89% of email marketing campaigns are sent with a company name. These emails do not invoke the recipient to engage with them because they do not feel personal and are likely to be ignored or deleted.  

Account Executive – Clodura.AI

D. First Name + Company Name 

A little personal while still conveying where you’re from – this combination can work with most of your campaigns. 

Rachel from Clodura.AI 

Other Combinations 

  • First Name + Last Name + Title
  • First Name + Title
  • First Name + Title + Company

Do note that these are merely general suggestions on which combinations can be used, depending on the situation. However, in the end, the ‘from’ line you choose should be carefully selected based on your target audience for a particular campaign. Other factors like the context of your message and your end goal also play an essential role in its determination. 

To ensure you choose the correct ‘from‘ line, ask yourself these questions, and use the combination that best fits your answers.

  • Is the combination I’m choosing consistent with the rest of my email? Even though it is often ignored, the “from” line also plays an essential role in swaying your prospect’s opinion. Ensure that your “from” line is consistent with the subject line, the body of the email, the signature, the message, and everything else in your email.
     
  • Would I open this email if I were the prospect? 
    Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes to find out if the “from” line you chose has enough value to compel your prospect to open the email or not.
     
  • Have I carefully scrutinized my prospects to use a combination that they wish to receive? 
    As mentioned above, your “from” line depends on a lot of factors only you are fully aware of. These also include the persona of your prospect and what they expect from you. Ensure that you’re specific in your targeting and do not fall prey to the most popular idea around at the time. Each company and each campaign of that establishment will have a unique set of factors that will affect the message and, consequently, require re-evaluation to determine the ideal ‘from’ line.
     
  • Have I ensured that the “from” line indicates that the person on the other end of the email is someone they want to talk to? 
    Find out who your prospect wants to talk to and include that in your ‘from’ line. For instance, if you believe a campaign to target decision-makers will get better results if they see the Head of the Department (HOD) has contacted them, then create your email campaign and ‘from‘ line around the HOD’s name and title.

2. Create an Eye-Catching Subject Line 

Another element that forms the first impression, the subject line plays a crucial role in driving the prospect to open and read the email. Statistics support this statement — with 35% of recipients opening an email based on the subject line alone and 69% marking an email as spam based solely on the subject line.

While a prospect ignoring your email may make you lose that particular individual, marking it as spam will affect your email deliverability and, consequently, your entire campaign. To that end, it is very important to create subject lines that attract and interest the recipient. Here are some golden tips that can help you stay on track when choosing a subject line. 

A. Put Yourself in Your Prospect’s Shoes 

Ask yourself if your subject line is convincing enough to make the prospect open and read the email or not. Ensure that it responds to their needs and offers a solution to their problem. This way, you will change the subject line from being about your company and your product to their concern and how you can resolve it. 

B. Personalize Your Subject Line to Create a Highly-Targeted Email 

You know their problems, but do you know them? You can make your prospects feel like you see them by forming your subject line in a more personal way. In fact, subject lines with the prospect’s name in them can increase your open rate by over 29% and your click-through rate by over 41%.

For instance, in the image above, the third subject line is an excellent cold sales email example of how to personalize your subject correctly, and the first one is a generic one that you should avoid in your cold email campaigns.

C. Don’t Try to Lure Your Prospect With Click-Bait Strategies 

There are two ways a click-bait subject line can go. Either your prospect will be annoyed by the ‘sales-y’ email and ignore or delete it right away, or they will open the email only to be disappointed because of the misleading subject line and then delete it. So, stay away from trying to bait your prospect with shifty cold email ideas and simply write a subject that offers value instead.

D. Remember That You’re Reaching out to a Human 

Along with personalization, use other tricks so that the recipient knows that you’re human, and you’re treating them as one rather than a paying machine being cajoled by an automated system.  

Did you know that 56% of brands using emojis in their subject lines received a higher open rate than their peers? This implies that playing to the human emotions of your recipient can help you get better results. Moreover, only 2% of businesses use emoticons in their subject lines, ensuring that yours will stand out and be re-callable if you add emojis to it.

Have a look at this fun video by HubSpot to get a better idea of how to use emojis in subject lines.

E. Use Succinct Subject Lines 

Short subject lines with about 41 characters or around seven words tend to garner the most opens. Most subject lines are about ten characters more than this ideal one. You also have to take note of how your prospects are reading your emails. If it is on a mobile device, its interface will likely allow only about 30 characters of the subject line before the rest is cut off.

Source

3. Use the Introduction Smartly 

Okay, so if your prospects have reached the introduction stage through your “from” line and subject line, then you already have a pretty good understanding of them. Now, you have all of 5 seconds to make an impression after they have opened the email. Your opening line is crucial here.  

Instead of directly starting with your and your company’s introduction, write something meaningful for the recipient. Remember, it’s still better to keep it short, but you also want to establish a connection with your prospect that can get them to read the entire mail. You have to use these opening lines to show your prospect that you’ve done your research on them and are deliberately sending this mail to them. You have to make them feel special. 

Here is how you can do that.

A. Talk About Them 

Refer to their work that you’ve come across. It could be a blog, a tweet, a website, anything that has been personally created by them. Show your appreciation for their expertise. 

Here are some examples of how you can start your email. 

  • I loved your blog on….
  • I got your email through [Mutual Contact]…
  • I saw that both of us have [include personal connection]…
  • Congratulations on….
  • I heard that you’re in need of…

B. Talk About Their Company and Their Problem 

Next, ask them questions about the concern that your product is directly related to. For instance, “Do you know why [their company’s name] is not able to hire talent?” 

Remember that while the idea is to create a personal connection with your prospect by using mutual contacts or even flattery, do not overdo it by making this part of the introduction long. Also, stay away from including parts about their personal life lest you seem like a stalker. 

Immediately after these two sentences, add a transitional line and move towards your offer. 

4. Pitch Your Product 

Finally, it’s time to introduce your product or service. As a sales rep, you’ve already done it lots of time. You probably don’t even have to think about the features and the benefits of your product before talking about them anymore.

While that sales pitch might work in a face-to-face or even a phone conversation, emails are a whole different ballpark. Here, the prospect is not obliged to listen to or read your sales pitch. As soon as they realize that the mail is only about you selling your product, it’s a click on the trashcan. 

With cold emails, you have to present your product in such a way that the prospect finds value in it. If your pitch strays away from making the recipient the center of attention, you’ll simply become another salesperson whose business they don’t have to care about. 

You’ve already highlighted their issues in the introduction. Now, you need to seamlessly connect your product to their problems so that they can see the clear trajectory of your product being the solution.

Here is what the body should include.

  • The reason why you reached out to them personally and not anyone else – The idea is to make them feel special and valued.
  • The product that you’re offering. However, instead of including all the features of your product, add the specific benefits that they will enjoy.
  • How a business relationship with you can benefit them.
  • The testimonials or use cases of your previous clients to show how others have benefited through a business relationship with you.

Ensure that you avoid the salesperson tone at all costs and stick to proposing the value of your product to your prospect where they need you rather than the other way around. 

5. Invoke Action With the CTA 

Alright, you’re almost done now. All that is left is to put forward what you want your prospect to do. Do you want them to have a Skype call with you or a phone meeting or a physical meeting somewhere? Whatever it is you want them to do with your cold email ultimately, write it down in a short, simple, and straightforward manner.

6. Tie It All With the Perfect Signature 

Like the “from” line, the signature is also often ignored. As a part of your email, it deserves as much attention as the other elements. After all, it gives your prospect a way to know more about you and get easy access to your contact information. Here are the golden rules of email signatures. 

  • Include your phone number, email address, link to a social media profile of your choice, and link to the company website. You can choose to add or remove other points depending on your target audience and how they generally connect with you.
  • Do not add quotes and images to it. It’s not clean and takes the focus away from your real offering. Images are also easy to get automatically blocked by the email carrier, and it’s best to avoid any delivery issues.
  • If your signature is made up of messy HTML, it can be classified as spam and, again, decrease your deliverability rate.
  • Keep it minimalistic with not more than two font colors, a single font type, and no or only one icon. The more you add to it, the more cluttered it will look.
  • Include enough information to make yourself look trustworthy. If the information is too little, the prospect might think you’re not credible.
  • Aim for consistency among your organization so that you and your colleagues use the same template, font, etc. for your signature.

And send! 

What happens now?

Well, you wait for your prospect to respond. And if they don’t respond, you send them another mail to follow-up. 

7. Why Do You Need Follow-Up Emails? 

On average, about 80% of prospects don’t respond to the first 3 cold emails. Despite this, the average salesperson only makes two email attempts before giving up. In an ideal world, your prospects would understand the need for your product at first go and be ready to invest in it. But the world of cold emailing is no utopia. Professionals are busy and not willing to pay attention to a product they haven’t realized the value of yet. So, be prepared for your mail to be ignored the first time even if it is perfect. 

Source

Follow-up emails work as gentle reminders that there is something like your product in the market and that you’re still available if the prospect wishes to buy it.

Here is how you can write a follow-up email to increase the chances of a response. 

A. Take Care of the Subject Line 

Similar to our first email, the subject line of the follow-up email is essential too. Ensure that it is short, attractive, and shows the value of the email. 

  • Following up on My Email
  • Re: Introduction Call

B. Make the Introduction Contextual 

With the number of emails we receive every day, it is easy for your prospect to forget who you are or what you are talking about. To avoid that, always start by providing them with the context they need. 

  • Thank you for the meeting yesterday….
  • It was nice meeting you at the conference last Saturday
  • I’m following-up on the email I sent a few days ago….

C. Be Clear About What You Want 

Now that you’ve established where they know you from, you need to come to what the purpose of the current email is. What exactly do you want from them?

  • Are you available for a call next Wednesday / Thursday at 3 or 4 PM?
  • Can we schedule a meeting this week on Tuesday at 3 or 4 PM?
  • I would like to invite you to [the event] we’re hosting…

D. Hit Send! 

Different kinds of follow-up emails have different time-frames that they can be sent in. Of course, you’re the best judge of when you want to send which sort of email to your prospect. However, if you’re specifically looking for when to send a follow-up on a meeting request, it is best to do so within 1-2 months after the first email is sent.  

To know more about how you can carry an effective email campaign, check this blog out.

How Can You Take Your Cold Email Campaign a Notch Higher? 

Okay, so you have everything in order now. With a carefully crafted “from” line, subject line, introduction, body, CTA, and the signature, you can now kickstart your email campaign to generate more meetings. You can also follow-up with more emails to get the result you desire by taking care of their subject line, context, and purpose.  

While you have the information to rope in any prospect now, manually doing so with every lead may prove to be inefficient. To increase your sales velocity Clodura’s killer email sequence features helps to generate more interactions and book more meetings, with the right message at the right time for sales prospecting. 

Header Photo by ribkhan (Pixabay)
Good Managers Make You Better

Good Managers Make You Better

My very good friend and respected sales professional, Dean Wiener, published this post on LinkedIn. He allowed me to reproduce the post here. I think his comments are great advice for anyone that is a sales manager and even for salespeople that are looking at their current manager to see if it makes sense for them to continue with their current employer.

Today’s market is extremely competitive for salespeople. Most sales organizations cannot find enough high-quality talent. If your manager isn’t living up to Dean’s standards, you may want to find a better manager.

Conversely, every sales manager needs to look at these words from a sales expert. If you are not adding value to your sales team then you should re-think your style. The big question that you should answer for yourself is embedded in Dean’s original post:

Do you work for your sales team or do they work for you?

Header photo courtesy o f La solitudine del manager by Sgt. Pepper57 on 2017-05-31 14:59:13

Inbound vs. Outbound: Which Approach is Best for Your Global Go-To-Market Organization?

Inbound vs. Outbound: Which Approach is Best for Your Global Go-To-Market Organization?

My long-time friend, Craig Witt, recently posted the following article on Medium. He gave me permission to put it here on my site.

Most sales leaders agree that the goal of a Go-To-Market organization is to use predictable and precise approaches to engage the right decision makers in the companies they’re trying to convert.

But what is the most reliable way to find, engage and prove value to those decision makers? In debates among sales execs, two sales strategies usually wind up in the boxing ring to duke it out. In one corner: Inbound. In the other: Outbound.

These days, many sales leaders champion inbound sales strategies. The approach has its advantages, especially for offerings that appeal to wide audiences, have short sales cycles and low price points. When you need only a few touchpoints to illustrate your value and persuade a prospect to buy, inbound really shines.

But for organizations with longer sales cycles that offer high-value solutions — where the right prospect is more important than just any prospect — an outbound GTM strategy is the way to go. Here’s why.

The Shortcomings of Inbound

Outbound sales strategies deliver a level of control to the sales process that inbound can’t provide. At its simplest, an effective outbound strategy:

  • Leverages data-driven insights
  • Serves personalized outreach and content to specific personas at specific companies
  • These target companies match the sales organization’s Ideal Customer Profile
  • Rigorous processes ensure personas receive engagement and world-class content that addresses their unique concerns

While inbound enables brands to become practically omnipresent throughout a prospect’s online experience — thanks to their marketing departments’ retargeting ads, social posts and keyword-rich blog posts — their sales teams basically tread water until the prospect fills out a contact form.

The week-to-week quantity of inbound leads can fluctuate wildly, too. There’s very little predictability to when (or how many) prospects respond to an inbound organization’s content. This quickly clouds a leader’s visibility to accurately forecast the status of deals. Ultimately, a GTM team throws a lot of branded content into the wild and hopes that someone, anyone, responds.

Lead quality usually suffers as a result. When you’re casting a wide net for prospects across many channels, you can’t guarantee the quality of the fish that are dragged into your boat. Inbound leads may be from industries or markets you have no intention of serving.

Other inbound leads may simply not be a good fit for your business. Your solution may not fit their actual needs, or they may be unwilling to pay for your offering because they don’t understand its value.

And even if you do convert these disparate prospects into customers, you’ll likely face another challenge down the road. If you seek to improve your solution by soliciting their feedback, you may find yourself making changes that are informed by customers who probably don’t fit your ICP. Trying to serve customers whose needs are different from your ICP’s can dilute your solution’s value to the prospects you actually want to convert. This can sabotage your ability to scale the business.

Predictable Results Require Precise Control

With outbound, you fully control the list of prospects and personas your reps will target. You build an effective way to engage them. Once that’s in place, you can start providing them value immediately.

When properly implemented, this process is far more nuanced, direct and efficient than inbound. But closing the right deals for your organization requires research, vision and precision. Remember, you want to:

  • Sell to certain companies, not all of them
  • Engage specific personas, not everyone
  • Craft messaging that addresses a prospect’s precise concerns, not vague challenges
  • Provide valuable content that’s personalized for them

Outbound empowers you to individualize your content and outreach in granular ways: by role, company, industry and more. This personalization throughout the buyer’s journey culminates into much higher close rates.

You’ll also have much more visibility and confidence in your pipeline. Unlike the continuous uncertainty surrounding inbound’s lead quantity and quality, outbound helps you better predict the deals you’ll close in a given month or quarter.

This transparency also helps with staffing. If your outbound approach is refined, accurate and effective, you’ll always know when to hire more reps to scale your GTM organization.

Tips for Taking your Outbound Efforts Global

If your global GTM organization is considering a pivot to an outbound sales strategy, here are some next-step best practices to keep in mind:

Don’t Be Everything to Everybody: Develop your ICP and target your outreach only to companies and contacts that fit that criteria. Stay focused. Remember, when you try sell to everyone, you often don’t sell well to anyone.

Hold Your Nerve: Be willing to invest in your outbound efforts, and be patient. Successfully making the switch to outbound can take time — both to demonstrate financial return, and for your GTM team to acquire the right mindset, skills and resources.

Talk the Talk: If your GTM organization is targeting prospects in international markets, make sure your website and other key content is localized for their preferred languages. This ensures your digital channels can be highly tailored, authentic and relevant for global audiences.

Consider Localizing Your Business Approach: Also tailor your approach for the unique expectations of international buyers. Business customs vary from market to market. British marketers may be more technically savvy than their American counterparts, for instance. European B2B CMOs may have wildly different concerns than Asian CMOs. Confidently navigating these waters demands research and cultural fluency.

Conclusion

Outbound sales strategies empower you to exercise more control and creativity over the sales process. You’ll be able to proactively engage the right prospects, and deliver ongoing value with relevant, world-class content.

While the approach requires resources and a longer time to operationalize, the results are worth it. Remember, the ultimate goal of a GTM organization is to use predictable and precise approaches to engage the right decision-makers.

For low-velocity sales organizations, outbound is the best way to build credibility among prospects, and help you get, keep and grow your customer base and market share.

Your Personal Brand Is Important

Your Personal Brand Is Important

I have had the privilege of working with some of the best salespeople in the world. At the very top of that list of excellent salespeople would be Dean Wiener. Dean recently put out a post on LinkedIn giving advice to other salespeople as to the importance of his personal brand. With his permission, I am posting it here in its entirety.

Dean’s advice is perfect for all salespeople to follow. It follows with my oft-repeated advice from my book Eliminate Your Competition where I point out that all salespeople need to make sure they are effectively selling three things:

  1. your product
  2. your company
  3. YOU!

Since nearly all companies are outstanding, you will almost never win or lose because of your company. It is virtually always a tie in an evaluation. The same is true of your product. In today’s competitive environment, it is unusual to have a product that is a slam dunk better than the competing products. Yes, you can have a product that is better at a specific time than its competitors, but eventually, the advantage weakens as competitors step up against your leadership. There is one item though that you completely control and you can personally make better every day – YOU! You need to be as strong or stronger value to your customers as the first three legs of the selling stool.

Re-read Dean’s advice again, and I am sure you will see value in his approach. Learn from his leadership.

Thank you to Dean for sharing this advice with the selling community at large.

You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Header Photo by OpenClipart-Vectors (Pixabay)
Rate Yourself As A Winning Sales Coach

Rate Yourself As A Winning Sales Coach

This is a follow-on guest article by L. T. Dravis from the previous article 7 Secrets Of A Winning Sales Coach. If you haven’t read this previous article then it makes sense to jump over and do the pre-reading.

Take time to discover just how good you can be by taking time to understand how good you already are!

Respond to the following scenarios using five basic scales. A quick way to score this test is to simply use a highlighter to hit the number that most closely matches your response.

Your responses will not only help you determine where you stand on the following five critical elements of Sales Coaching but will also help you prioritize those areas you may need to improve:

1. GOAL SETTING SKILLS:

My goals are realistic, clear, compelling and support our company’s complete sales success in our territory. I discuss Sales Goals with Senior Management and with every Sales Player, individually and collectively, on my team. I supply lists of Sales Goals to Senior Management and Sales Players on a regular basis for their review, discussion, and final approval.

NEVER. . . [5] RARELY. . . [10] OCCASIONALLY. . . [15] USUALLY. . . [20] ALWAYS. . . [25]

2. COMMUNICATION SKILLS:

I communicate often, easily, and quickly. I double-check to make certain each person I speak with understands my position and I also double-check to make certain that I understand the other person’s position. I place a greater emphasis on listening than I do on speaking.

NEVER. . . [5] RARELY. . . [10] OCCASIONALLY. . . [15] USUALLY. . . [20] ALWAYS. . . [25]

3. JOB SATISFACTION AND PERFORMANCE:

I enjoy my work. I make a solid contribution to the bottom line with my Sales Coaching skills. I take good care of myself, physically and mentally, so I remain capable of performing at the top of my game.

NEVER. . . [5] RARELY. . . [10] OCCASIONALLY. . . [15] USUALLY. . . [20] ALWAYS. . . [25]

4. PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS:

I work to maintain a sense of balance between my position as Sales Coach and the responsibilities of my superiors and colleagues. I consistently challenge myself to improve my performance as a Sales Coach, as a colleague, and as an employee. I constantly search for newer, better ways to expand my skills and the skills of my Sales Players. I am willing to delegate wherever necessary and I freely share coaching responsibilities with Assistant Coaches and role models.

NEVER. . . [5] RARELY. . . [10] OCCASIONALLY. . . [15] USUALLY. . . [20] ALWAYS. . . [25]

5. TEAM BUILDING SKILLS:

I stay in close, daily touch with each Sales Player to coach, motivate and help in any way I can to increase sales and profits. I am quick to praise Sales Player successes and I never publicly criticize anyone in the organization.

NEVER. . . [5] RARELY. . . [10] OCCASIONALLY. . . [15] USUALLY. . . [20] ALWAYS. . . [25]

RATE YOURSELF AS A WINNING SALES COACH

What does this test mean? How did you score? Add up the total number of points and consider the following score analysis:

TOTAL POINTS – 125-115: EXCELLENT. You are doing a great job. Your goal setting skills, communication skills, job satisfaction and performance, professional relationships, and team building skills are well thought-out, realistic, and viable. Pat yourself on the back and keep up the good work.

TOTAL POINTS – 110-95: GOOD. You are performing well. Your scores tell you which areas need improvement. Prioritize objectively; select the single most critical area to work on first and take immediate positive steps to develop the skills you need. Put your ego aside and ask your Assistant Coach(s) and Sales Players for suggestions.

TOTAL POINTS – 90-80: FAIR. Review your responses. Pay special attention to high scores and low scores. On reflection, do your responses accurately portray you as Sales Coach? Would you change any response? If you wouldn’t change any response, change your behavior relative to the lowest scored scenario. A tip: The most critical scenario is number 1, Goal Setting Skills. If you didn’t score well on number 1, jump on the problem and get all the help you can . . . immediately.

TOTAL POINTS – 75 or LESS: TIME FOR A CHANGE? If you are not suffering some sort of temporary setback (domestic problem, health problem, personality clash at home or on the job, short-term financial crisis, etc.), stop what you are doing and discuss your situation with someone you trust. If you’re unable to immediately change your responses to these scenarios, you should seriously consider stepping aside in favor of someone else in the organization who is better equipped to perform as a Sales Coach.

Copyright © 2008 by l.t. Dravis. All rights reserved.

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, Email me at LTDAssociates@msn.com (goes right to my desk) and since I personally answer every Email, I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/L._T._Dravis/204600

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Header Photo by 472301 (Pixabay)
7 Secrets Of A Winning Sales Coach

7 Secrets Of A Winning Sales Coach

Guest Article By L. T. Dravis

I recently heard a fascinating story from a Sales Coach who told me how he succeeded in overcoming some significant challenges when he was recruited as a rookie sales manager for a major-brand forklift dealership in the late 1990s. Despite the brand name and the brand’s reputation for quality and excellent resale value, the dealer’s sales record for new, reconditioned, and used forklifts was abominable and had been lousy for quite some time.

At this Sales Manager’s request, I’ve agreed to keep him anonymous, so for our purposes, I’ll just refer to him as George.

George had been the number one salesman for a southern California forklift company selling more units in his territory in a month than most of his competitors sold in a quarter. George was relatively well known throughout the industry, so a failing dealership in the northwest desperately needed to sell or die, so management went after George like the hare chasing the tortoise.

Well, this was nothing new for George. He’d been recruited for years by dozens of other dealers all over the country. But the dealership in the NorthWest was something else. Sales had been slipping for several years, market share had plummeted to historic lows, and the service and parts departments were experiencing a severe revenue shortfall due to the cumulative, drop-off in overall new, reconditioned, and used forklift sales. So, the dealer principal called George and literally begged him to meet for dinner so he could offer him tons of money and complete freedom to run the sales department anyway he saw fit.

George is anything but dense. So he looked at this opportunity for what it could be, not for what it seemed to be. The new job would undoubtedly be a tough challenge with lots of inherent risk of failure. On the other hand, it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When he looked at the new job’s potential, George realized he had nothing to lose. Not really. After all, if he could turn this company around, he’d be able to write his own ticket with anyone, anywhere. On the other hand, even if he failed, he could always hit the road and earn six figures selling forklifts for any dealer, anywhere.

So, he looked the dealer principal in the eye, shook his hand, and accepted the position.

George inherited nine salespeople with his new job. The only producer in the entire sales department was a mid-forties salesperson we will call Jasmine (not her real name). Now, Jasmine had only been in the industry for about five years, yet she was selling forklifts like there was no tomorrow. None of the other eight salespeople seemed to have the experience, training, motivation, or the character necessary to focus on much of anything beyond a draw, driving a company car, and taking paid holidays.

Morale had dropped as low as sales, profits, and the infrequent commissions check.

George immediately sat down individually with each salesperson to talk about what was really going on. He promised to keep each conversation confidential as he asked each sales person to talk about why they weren’t generating more sales and profits. He was disappointed but not surprised to hear the usual excuses for the poor performance he’d heard from salespeople for years, “There’s no business in my territory because it’s saturated with forklifts.” And, “Our competitors outsell us because their prices are lower and I can’t compete.” And, “The economy is slowing down, and no one is buying.”

Within 3 months of George’s arrival in the sunshine, all those excuses faded like memories of last year’s Grammies, and the sales department was selling new, reconditioned, and used forklifts like never before.

So, what happened?

What did George do to change things around so dramatically?

Well, here’s what he told me:

GEORGE’S 7 SECRETS

1. George’s First Secret – Do nothing:

For the first few weeks, after he became Sales Manager, George did nothing at all. He didn’t make any changes; in fact, he didn’t even make any suggestions.

The sales crew was delighted because they began to believe that George would never be as good a sales manager as he had been a territory salesman. There were two reasons for this unlikely attitude. First and foremost, the sales crew didn’t want things to change, not really, because they didn’t believe changes would do anything but make them work harder for less. Secondly, they’d heard all about George’s heavy-hitter reputation and thought it made them look bad, so they secretly rooted for George to finally fall flat on his behind.

Given the severity of the sales situation, the big question floating around the company was why isn’t George doing anything? Is he just lazy? Is this the Peter Principle in action? Is George not up to the job? Or, is he too much of a wimp, too scared to tackle this huge, long-term problem head-on?

Not hardly.

George did nothing because he was too smart to move too quickly, too soon. He knew that before he could institute changes to increase sales and profits, he first needed to invest some serious time and patience learning to understand the dynamics that had killed sales for so long at this particular dealership.

This time and patience thing took more than a little courage on George’s part. It was tough for a results-oriented guy like George to overlook caustic comments from Senior Management and pass off the disappointed stares flashed his way by the few people in the sales department who really did want change. Nevertheless, he stayed focused on gathering information, analyzing sales records and call reports, talking with salespeople, managers, department heads, and customers, digging for the root causes of the only problem that really mattered: Not Enough Sales!

2. GEORGE’S Second – Secret Build Relationships with Sales Players:

After George analyzed management support, financial resources, company image in the territory, facilities, equipment, customer service, parts and service support, product quality, and the company’s relationship to its factories, he concluded that he was right about the root cause: The sales team was utterly incapable of doing its job. Sure, like any warm body, each sales person was capable of taking an order for a forklift, but nine of nine salespeople weren’t trained in the skills they needed to sell significant numbers of forklifts. Eight of the nine obviously lacked confidence and direction and had never experienced any consistent success … so they had no positive history to fall back on. Nine of nine salespeople worked – when they worked – only for themselves because not one of them had a clue about the collective importance of working together as a team. Last but not least, since Jasmine had always been off doing her own thing, completely disassociated with the rest of the group, her colleagues had no role model to emulate.

George made it his business to continue to get to know each salesperson, both as an employee and as a person. Each afternoon, he would invite one of the nine to come to his office early the next morning for 15 minutes or so before the switchboard opened, just to talk. He provided fresh coffee, hot chocolate, and a variety of pastries to please any taste. Discussions were friendly, casual with lots of give-and-take. Over time, each individual came to learn that George wasn’t a threat and, at the same time, they began to believe in George as a leader and as a coach who could and would help them sell more and earn more, more often.

3. GEORGE’S Third Secret – Create a success role model on the team:

If you’ve heard the term “Stepping Up” then you probably heard it in the NBA or NFL. “Stepping Up” means that a top performing player assumes a leadership role on the team. Because Jasmine was the only real performer in the sales department, George decided to help her step up. He trained her thoroughly on the ins and outs of the Sales Coaching concept to help her realize that despite years of separation, the team really needed her to become a Success Role Model. George knew very well that the best way to transform eight below average producers was to get them to emulate the one strong performer.

George also realized that if Jasmine’s sales began to drop – for any reason – she would lose credibility with the rest of the team. So, he worked to coach her, subtly and quietly, because he didn’t want to offend her sensibilities as a top performer. He worked with her consistently because he wanted to keep her numbers strong. In George’s second month as Sales Coach, Jasmine was able to generate nearly 200% of budgeted new, reconditioned, and used sales in her territory. And, senior management and others around the company began to drop their doubts about George’s abilities.

At this point, we asked George why he didn’t merely set himself up as the team’s role model. After all, his sales history was nothing to sneeze at!

His reply?

“I felt that my example wouldn’t be as meaningful as the example Jasmine could set,” he said with a smile. “After all, even though these salespeople weren’t particularly friendly with each other, they knew Jasmine well enough to respect her abilities as a top-notch sales person and would, therefore, be more likely to emulate her strategies and tactics.

“We started slowly at first. In Sales Practices and Team Meetings, I’d ask Jasmine to talk about her week was going. She’d tell us who she sold to and why. It was just a casual conversation. No lectures, no pressure. After a couple of weeks, I began to encourage the others to interact with Jasmine, to ask questions, to talk about their successes and failures. And, in no time at all, we had our Success Role Model working to help the team sell more, more often, with no resentments and no resistance.

“Over time, I realized that Jasmine had become Sales Coach in Sales Practices and Team Meetings while I had become the moderator. Gotta tell you, I couldn’t have been more pleased that my plan worked out so well, so quickly.”

4. GEORGE’S Fourth Secret – Clearly communicate performance goals:

George refused to waste time with mealy-mouthed platitudes. Because he felt obligated to turn the company around as quickly as possible, because forklift salespeople work in an incredibly competitive business, George refused to take anything for granted. He believed that he owed it to Senior Management, to himself, and especially to Sales Players, to come clean and communicate his expectations to everyone concerned.

So, George established the following three categories of Performance Goals for the team:

Activity Goals, Behavior Goals, and Results Goals.

An ACTIVITY GOAL, for example, requires each Sales Player to send out a minimum of 25 mailers per week with telephone follow up calls within seven days of each mailing.

A BEHAVIOR GOAL requires each Sales Player to provide a quote to the customer within 24 hours of the initial contact.

The RESULTS GOAL that got the most attention requires each Sales Player with at least one year in a territory to sell a minimum of $100,000.00 in sales of new, reconditioned, and used forklifts each and every month.

5. GEORGE’S Fifth Secret – Set your standards high:

No matter how productive you are as a Sales Coach, George says, no matter how hard you and the company work to support the sales department, there will always be someone who won’t step up to the plate. George doesn’t hesitate to confront poor performers because he refuses to tie the team’s performance to the lowest common denominator. He focuses on the only thing that really matters: Consistent, profitable sales! If a salesperson can’t or won’t generate enough in profits to exceed the company’s cost in payroll, commissions, benefits, etc., George recruits a replacement and immediately cuts the player from the team.

If a Sales Player is a marginal performer but is willing to admit the shortcomings that need to be fixed, George, Sales Coach, works to bring that person to the point of making the final decision. This means they either ‘decide’ to join the team, immerse themselves in the Sales Coaching process, and start selling or they ‘decide’ to leave the company… immediately.

George told us that that the only thing worse than someone who resigns and leaves is someone who resigns and stays… so he never allows anyone to stay if they are already checked out.

Author’s comment: Sensible approach… no wonder this guy’s a winner.

6. GEORGE’S Sixth Secret – Emphasize dignity and respect for all:

Look, George says, after the dust settles, we are all just people. We are fallible human beings who make more mistakes than we care to admit. So, George makes it his business to firstly admit his own mistakes, no matter how tough it may be to do so. Because he agrees with Dr. Phil when he says you can’t change what you won’t admit, George expects Sales Players to accept responsibility for their own shortcomings. Irrespective of performance failures and character flaws, George continually reminds the team of his expectation that everyone – Sales Players, senior management, department heads, key personnel and, of course, the coach – will treat everyone else with complete dignity and respect.

George promotes this aspect of his Sales Coaching effort by taking the entire sales team out of the office once a month – every month – for a fun dignity and respect building group activity – go-karting, golfing, dinner, lunch, breakfast, something.

7. GEORGE’S Seventh Secret – Coach hard, play hard, and win:

George believes that his job as Sales Coach is just as critical as an NFL coach. Like any winning NFL coach, George recognizes that he has to stay close to the action. To be a capable, credible coach, he has to be visible to Sales Players, customers, prospects, senior management, department heads, and key personnel in the company. So, like any good coach, George spends a great deal of time each week talking to people, on the phone, in meetings in his office, traveling with Sales Players, in front of prospects and customers, asking questions, and observing how sales plays are won and lost.

As a result, George has gained incredibly accurate and timely insights into his performance, into the performance of the Sales Team, and into the real needs of customers and prospects. These insights, of course, have helped George set realistic team goals, reward winning Sales Players, supply real customer needs, and thereby triple sales within 12 months.

You can do the same and more… if you really want to.

Right?

EPILOGUE

This team thing is nothing new. We all play our lives out on a variety of teams … the team at home with our families, the on the job team with colleagues, the team we play on with good friends and close neighbors and on and on.

Some of us stand on the sidelines, watching and cheering… we are called receptionists, sales coordinators, service, and parts folks, truck drivers, and senior managers. Some of us take the field and compete… we are called Sales Players. And a crazy few of us do it all: we watch, we cheer, we train, we cajole, we motivate, we even play… we are called Sales Coaches!

As Sales Coach, your primary responsibility is to create a winning environment in your company, an environment that comes about only when you:

  • Identify precise goals… be clear and very vocal about what you want to achieve and when you want to complete it, and colleagues & friends will hold you to your goals!
  • Clearly communicate winning ideas to your team
  • Transform winning ideas into winning realities

When you clearly communicate your goals to individual Sales Players, they will begin to adopt your goals as their own. And, when your Sales Players understand the value and significance of your goals, they will play harder to help you achieve them.

And that’s how you play the sales game to win.

Copyright © 2008 by l.t. Dravis. All rights reserved.

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, Email me at LTDAssociates@msn.com (goes right to my desk) and since I personally answer every Email, I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/L._T._Dravis/204600

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Disqualify Sales Prospects to Facilitate Sales Cycles

Disqualify Sales Prospects to Facilitate Sales Cycles

Guest Article By Michael Halper

As a sales person needing a commission and to hit quota, we are usually in a mode where we are telling sales prospects why our products are the right product for them. But if the sales opportunity is not moving in the direction or at the speed that you would like, it can be powerful to do the opposite and disqualify the prospect by questioning if our product is the right fit for them.

New Car Example

Let’s take an example of a new car shopper to display how this could work. The prospect has been looking at cars, done the research, completed the test driving, and narrowed the choice to one car. She has expressed interest but is hesitant to move forward to the next step in the process which is to purchase.

At this point the momentum and speed of the sales cycle has slowed so the sales person has three options:

1. Do nothing: The sales person could do nothing and let the prospect manage the speed and direction. This can lead to getting stuck in “idle land” which could result in more time being wasted on both sides and increase the probability of “no decision”.

2. Push harder: The sales person could push harder and try to sell more aggressively to the prospect. The risk here is that, if there is internal confliction going on in the sales prospect, then by pushing harder could push them away.

3. Disqualify: When the sales person notices the hesitation and confliction, they can disqualify by mentioning that maybe the purchase is not right. After this is done, if the purchase is a good fit, the sales prospect will begin to respond by selling on why it is a good fit and get through their hesitation.

As you can see from those options, disqualifying a prospect when they show resistance or hesitation can be a very powerful sales tactic. Below are some of the key benefits from doing this at the right time in sales opportunities:

Improve Momentum

When you do this on a qualified prospect with genuine interest and authority to buy, when you push them away by disqualifying, they will typically come back by selling you on why it makes sense. By the prospect selling you, this can take a deal that is either not moving or moving backward and create new momentum.

Uncover New Information

When a sales prospect begins to sell you after a disqualification, you will stand to uncover new information as they will likely communicate in their own words why it makes sense and that could uncover new details on their needs and how they stand to benefit.

Establish Credibility

By disqualifying a sales prospect, you will take a huge stride in the area of establishing credibility. This is powerful as the typical sales person will opt to be more aggressive in a scenario where they sense hesitation. By you disqualifying, not only do you stand out from the competition, but you also appear to be putting the interests of the prospect before your own interests of closing a deal.

Michael Halper is an ICF certified coach that works with individuals and organizations helping to drive growth and improvement. For more information about coaching and development visit Compass Coaching you can read more about Disqualifying Sales Prospects or Sales Coaching.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_Halper

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