There has been a massive shift in the human psyche, in human consciousness. Being normal and appropriate is no longer working. People are tired of the bullshit. The only way forward is through a commitment to being totally real. Loving, honest, human. Enjoy this talk about what the Great Awakening means for Sales & Marketing professionals.
Posts categorized "Sales"
After 20 years running prospecting campaigns, I am going to share a secret: success in prospecting is not a science, it is an art.
Yes, there is a science to prospecting, but the science only matters after you first master the art. Prospecting science involves metrics (i.e. the numbers game), your use of various channels of communication (email, LinkedIn, cold-calling), the number of follow-ups, open rates, response rates, etc. This is the part that most organizations focus on because it feels safe, understandable, and measurable. The art of prospecting, on the other hand, is the way your message connects with your audience (or doesn’t). The art is the way you convey not just a business value proposition but a deeply human idea or emotion. Without attention to the art, prospecting is only an attempt to execute flawlessly on a bad idea.
A prospecting email is an expression of an idea. You are an artist, you have a medium, and your purpose is to form new business relationships. To master your art is to use a powerful medium to express a powerful emotion or clear idea. Art also reveals the character and personality of its creator. You are not just prospecting; rather, you are attempting to connect with another human being by using art to bring him or her into a relationship that comes alive. Even if you are “only selling software”, your message either has power (i.e. you get responses and meetings) or it falls completely flat (in which case no metric is going to help you).
Do you believe in what you are selling? If not, either do some creative thinking and soul-searching or go sell something else. If you do believe in it, why? To believe in a product or solution means to believe that it has the potential to improve lives. To believe in security software, for example, means to know that it relieves fear or anxiety that an executive might feel if the company is left exposed to threats and attacks. The features and the commercial aspects of the solution only enter the picture later.
If you do believe in your product and in yourself…well, now you have a clear theme for your art. Find a way to convey your purest intentions sincerely, in a human tone (avoiding marketing-speak), and with character. Do you come across as someone who a CEO would want to form a relationship with? Are you respectful, caring, prepared to serve? Are you able to take a complex idea and make it simple, understandable, and worthy of an executive's time? Seriously, imagine a CEO reading your message (trust me, they do read their emails). Honestly, do you think that your message will be the spark that ignites a valuable, trusting, mutually-beneficial relationship?
If you are in sales or marketing, then nothing about your job is more important than your message. Your message is your art and a message that delivers results is a masterpiece. Dig deeper into your creative self. Envision your prospect as a human being with human emotions just like yours. Until you are sure that you have created and validated your masterpiece, set aside a few hours per week in silent contemplation. Write different ideas, pay attention to your feelings…your intuition. I have found that, when I have created a masterpiece, I know it even before the message is tested. With enough persistence, you will get there!
Maybe you have tried outbound prospecting or have tried working with lead gen vendors, but did not see the results. If you aren't getting results, that only means you need to focus on the art. You can do it yourself or find help, but by all means don't ignore the art of prospecting.
Most people dread the idea of making a sales call or presentation. Early in my Sales career, I would sometimes experience so much anxiety going into a sales call that I could barely breathe. Overwhelming fear and insecurity sometimes prevented me from connecting with the prospect.
Over the years, I eventually learned to cover-up the anxiety, but I can’t say that I actually enjoyed the process of selling until more recently. I have discovered that what makes selling enjoyable is exactly what makes life enjoyable. I will be posting more in the coming weeks and months, but for now I wanted to share the first tip: sell with a focus on the present moment.
Present-moment awareness has become something of a cliché, so it is necessary to meditate on this more deeply. Stress is something that is created before the sales call (when you worry about what might go wrong) and after the call (when you beat yourself up for what did go wrong). Instead, ponder this: no problem actually exists in the present moment (which is wonderful because the present moment is all that is real).
A person who exists in the past or the future is a person who is lost in thought. A person lost in thought fails to perceive reality. Rather than perceiving the client, rather than listening, rather than addressing what is actually happening, your monkey-mind ends up trying to figure out what you are going to say next, what the prospect thinks of you, whether they notice your nervousness, and what your boss will say if you lose the deal. In this state, you are lost and you have lost your edge.
Instead, try this during your next sales meeting: when you notice your thoughts shifting to what you are going to say, what might happen, what should have happened, or anything related to the future or the past...simply bring your thoughts right back to the present moment. As you walk or drive to the meeting, notice some detail in the world around you. Enjoy each step as you walk to the elevator. As you shake hands, appreciate the real, actually-existing opportunity you have to form a new relationship. Notice how awake and alive you feel, in this moment. Forget the outcome. Whatever happens, you will deal with it in the present moment. It is only in this state that your performance is optimal. Perhaps even more importantly; no matter the outcome, you will enjoy yourself. When you enjoy yourself, you will preserve energy, you will talk with more clients...I probably don't need to sell you on the idea of enjoying your job. The benefits are clear.
Starting now, shift your focus to the present moment. Customers do not exist in the past or the future. They exist only in the present. Meet them there.
An ineffective salesperson is an ego-driven salesperson. From his firs contact (his long-winded email pitch), he'll tell you all about "what we do". He'll make wildly optimistic promises and brag about vague successes. All of this, even before understanding anything about who you are, what motivates you, how you are trying to solve the problem today, and before understanding anything about your strategy or approach. He sees you not as an equal partner in what will hopefully become a long-term business relationship, but as an obstacle to his sale.
Then, if for whatever reason you are still convinced to take a call, his focus continues to be on his own needs. He'll run through a standard pitch about what his company does (caring mostly about how well he delivers the pitch), he'll ask whether you have budget (money he wants), whether your project has a timeline (money he wants sooner rather than later), and he'll qualify you to understand whether you have decision-making authority (he doesn't want you to waste his time). All of this, even before he understands what you need or why you took his call to begin with. Even if the conversation does eventually shift to you, how can you be sure you aren't wasting your time or wasting your breath?
Sure, sometimes the customer will buy from an average sales rep. If there is a well-defined need and there are few other choices on the market, then average sales performance is tolerated as just business as usual. But the best salespeople do more than just take orders when they are ripe. The best salespeople know how to step outside of their own ego and how to consult with clients.
To sell without ego is to first understand who the prospect is, what the prospect needs, what he or she is doing today, and where current and past efforts have failed. Top sales performers pitch nothing until they understand the prospect's perspectives, biases and assumptions. This understanding is the foundation from which you can move forward. From there, consultative sales requires that you lay-out a path forward that meets the prospect's needs and, beyond this, exceeds what the prospect is able to accomplish without you. When this has all come together, you can feel the tone shift and the mood lighten. You know that it is only a matter of time before the terms will have been negotiated, the deal will have been signed, and a long-term mutually-beneficial relationship will have begun.
Sales is hard. Because of countless bad experiences, prospects aren't usually open to us and are almost never nice to us at the start of a conversation. Beyond this, salespeople fail far more than we succeed. In many industries, closing 10% of your leads is the best you're ever going to achieve. As salespeople, we need to remind ourselves not to take it personally. It isn't about us.
Don't let ego get in the way of new business. An ego-less salesperson tries to see the world from the client's perspective, treats people well, and places himself in the service of all stakeholders.
Conventional wisdom in sales tells us that cold-calling works better than emailing. Conventional wisdom is usually wrong.
There is a good reason that salespeople talk so loudly about cold-calling and this has nothing to do with results. Put simply, a person claiming to make 50 cold-calls per day seems more hard-working than the guy in the next cube who is busy with an email-based process. Cold-calling is loud. Everybody around you will know you are busy. So if you care more about maintaining the perception that you are a hard-worker than you do about delivering results, then by all means you should continue to live in cold-calling hell. But if you are open to a better, easier way to proactively fill your sales pipeline with great opportunities, keep reading.
If you are selling complex, high-value solutions to the enterprise and are trying to get in touch with executive-level decision-makers, then email is the most effective, efficient, and practical way to introduce your product or service. I run a global lead generation agency. We use email exclusively to arrange executive-level introductory calls and on-site meetings for our clients. Here is why our email-only strategy works better than cold-calling:
1) Email is read by everyone, even CEO's (or at least their admins).
2) Email allows you the opportunity to perfect and clarify your message and then repeat that message again and again (cold-calling requires a new performance every time).
3) Email can be easily forwarded to the right person and then responded to without any friction or effort on your part.
4) Email allows your prospect the time to think, whereas cold-calling usually illicits an automatic "no" response.
5) Decision-makers do not answer their phones to unknown numbers. If they do, they see it as a rude disruption.
6) Email allows greater reach more cost-effectively. With the right approach, you can easily reach out to ever decision-maker across your target market every quarter.
7) Cold-calling is usually done by very junior talent. When you have one shot to impress a CEO, do you want a telemarketer in India reading a script? Or would you rather have your top account executive taking a scheduled and confirmed call?
Email works. But just because email is the most effective medium for outbound prospecting, that doesn't mean it always works for everybody. Success in outbound prospecting is all about strategy and execution. You need the right message delivered to the right person in the right way. Here some of the variables you will have to perfect for success in email prospecting:
- You need to identify the right target market for your products or solutions and then build a list of every company that meets your criteria (a target account list)
- You need to understand which titles within the organization are most likely to buy and go after them
- You need a message that distinguishes you from the hundreds of other messages in your prospect's inbox
- Even when you have the right strategy, you need to achieve the right volume. Successful outbound prospecting campaigns will result in introductory meetings with between 10% to 20% of your target accounts each quarter. I have seen this to be the case across industries. So if you want 10 - 20 new introductory phone calls from outbound prospecting, you go after 100 accounts. If you aren't able to achieve this result, then something is wrong with your strategy or execution.
- You need to turn prospecting into a machine. You have to research the right contacts to build list, send emails to a set number of new accounts each week, and follow-up with second-round emails the following week in the case of non-response. You need to manage responses to that you know which accounts to continue with and which accounts to put on hold. You need to chase down referrals and lukewarm prospects week after week until they agree to a meeting. You need a system. Effective prospecting is a well-oiled machine.
- When the introductory call finally does happen, you need the right talent on that call to establish credibility and advance the deal forward. The point of prospecting is to close deals. You (or your organization) should be able to close 1 - 3 deals out of 10 introductory calls or else you are doing something wrong in the sales process.
A world-class sales organization is one in which all of these pieces are working smoothly. In my experience working with dozens of companies to implement successful prospecting campaigns, very few organizations are getting all of these pieces right. Even when they are, they aren't consistent enough and they often aren't able to replicate results across geographies.
Check back for updates on how to craft the perfect prospecting email. In future posts, I will also share some of the specifics about how we run these highly-effective campaigns for clients worldwide.