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Red-Hot Cold Call Selling
By Paul S. Goldner
AMACOM BooksCopyright © 2006 Paul S. Goldner
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe 10 Commandments of Prospecting
Prospecting can be much like going to the health club. It's something that you know is good for you and will produce excellent and predictable results, yet it's something that most salespeople seem to avoid. When I reflect back on my first selling position, I was always busy but never seemed to prospect and hence, never seemed to sell. What we are going to propose in this chapter is a simple 10-step system that will help you in the prospecting process. While each step in the system may not seem to break new ground, it is the system itself that yields tremendous results.
A system is simply a proven methodology for accomplishing a goal. Years ago, I had a goal of losing some weight. I tried dieting on my own but was not successful. Then, I joined the Weight Watchers Weight Loss Program, followed its system, and was very successful. The difference in results came from the difference in the system. The interesting thing about the Weight Watchers system is that it worked with an amazing degree of accuracy and predictability. Those who followed the system lost weight; those who didn't had less success.
A further interesting observation is that only slight modifications to the systemseemed to destroy its effectiveness. In other words, in order for the system to work, it had to be followed to the letter. Once you started to add your own ingredients, you started to upset the fine balance upon which the system was developed.
For example, one small element of the Weight Watchers system is that participants are asked to record their daily food intake in detail. Now you might wonder what record keeping has to do with weight loss. However, there was an amazingly high degree of correlation between weight loss and those who kept accurate records! Those who followed the system and recorded their food intake lost weight. Those who did not follow the system and did not record their food intake seemed to never lose weight.
The only way I can account for this observation is that we all report to a higher authority. In the area of weight loss, we can call that higher authority the "Great God of the Scale." Unfortunately, the Great God of the Scale is always watching, even when you are not recording your food intake. As such, I am certain that those who did not lose weight did not keep accurate records of their food intake. However, the Great God of the Scale did keep accurate records and made certain that they did not lose weight at the end of the week. The key point is that the Weight Watchers system includes record keeping. If you want the system to work for you, accurate record keeping must be part of the program. There can be no compromise.
Just like there is a Great God of the Scale, there is also a Great God of the Sale who watches your prospecting and selling activity. Follow the rules set forth by the Great God of the Sale, and your results will be very predictable: You will be a selling superstar. Violate those rules, and you proceed at your own risk. The 10 Commandments of Prospecting is a proven success formula for prospecting and selling success.
COMMANDMENT 1: Make an appointment with yourself for one hour each day to prospect.
Prospecting requires discipline. Prospecting can always be put off until a later day when the circumstances will be better. I can assure you that the time will never be exactly right to prospect. Make an appointment each day to prospect. Prospecting should be placed on the same priority level as a meeting with a client or potential client or a meeting with your boss. Write the appointment into your time management system, and do it! Prospecting is so important to me that I even do it on my cell phone, usually when driving my car. I do use a hands-free kit as required by law. This practice can be very productive for me. This is often the only time I have to myself during the day. Although some might consider this practice extravagant, if I make one additional appointment each month I believe that I receive a very generous return on my investment.
COMMANDMENT 2: Make as many calls as possible.
Smart Prospecting taught us only to call the best prospects in the market. Therefore, every call we make has the potential to be a quality call, since we are calling only those prospects who are most likely to buy large quantities of our product or service. Make as many calls as possible during the hour. Since every call is a quality call, more is always preferred to less.
I've often been asked whether I take calls during my prospecting hour. The answer is a resounding "No!" While prospecting, my phone is always on DND (Do Not Disturb), and my door is always closed. If you set aside one hour a day for prospecting, make certain that you make one full hour of calls. Any distractions will serve only to dilute your efforts. Remember, the Great God of the Sale is always watching and will reward you only on the basis of the Law of Sowing and Reaping, not on the Law of Intending to Sow.
COMMANDMENT 3: Make your calls brief.
The objective of the prospecting call is to get the appointment, unless you are in telesales. I will talk about telesales in a moment.
You cannot sell a complex product or service over the phone, and you certainly don't want to get into a debate of some sort. Your prospecting call should last approximately two to three minutes and should be focused on introducing yourself and your product, briefly understanding the prospects' needs so that you can provide them with a very good reason to spend some of their valuable time with you, and, most important, getting the appointment.
If you reflect on the strategy outlined in the previous chapter, you should see that your job as a professional salesperson is to find those prospects who are ready, willing, and able to buy now, as fast as possible, while repositioning the remaining prospects in your target market to an appropriate spot in your sales pipeline. Given that you are trying to find those prospects who are ready to buy now, as fast as possible, a rejection at this point in the sales cycle should be viewed as a positive event in that it allows you to reposition the current prospect to a later point in your sales pipeline, while now moving on to other prospects who might bear more immediate fruit. This is not to imply that you do not want to make a bona fide attempt at getting an appointment with your current prospect but rather to suggest that you don't want to expend undue effort in doing so. When you really think about it, if a prospect is not ready, willing, and able to buy now, there is very little you can do to change this situation. Therefore, you need to know this as soon as possible so that you can move on to those prospects with a need for your product or service and make your investments there.
With respect to telesales, your goal is also to get an appointment. It is the same type of appointment that you will get in field sales with the exception that your meeting will be held over the phone. The purpose of your initial meeting, whether in field sales or in telesales, is to "discover" the customer's or prospect's needs. I call this a "discovery session."
At a discovery session, you ask the prospect or customer a series of open-ended questions (a question that cannot be answered with a brief response) to learn about or discover his needs. A discovery session is an information-gathering session.
I said earlier that if you are in field sales, your goal is to get an appointment. This means that at the end of your prospecting call you might sales something like, "Great! I am going to be in your area next Tuesday and would like to stop by and introduce myself. Are you available at 3:00?"
If you are in telesales, you might say, "Great! What I would like to do is ask you a few more questions now to see if I can help you in the area of...."
In both field sales and telesales, the goal of the prospecting call is actually to enter discovery. The only difference is that in field sales, the discovery session typically takes place on a later day at the customer's office, while in telesales, the discovery session often takes place as the second stage of the call.
In telesales, you can also set up discovery sessions for a later date just as you would in field sales; however, your discovery session will still take place on the phone, not in the prospect's office.
We are going to discuss scripting in depth in the next chapter of this book.
COMMANDMENT 4: Be prepared with a list of names before you call.
Again, the Great God of the Sale is always watching. Not being prepared with a list of names will force you to devote much, if not all, of your prospecting hour to finding the names you need.
If you recall, we talked about market intelligence resources in Chapter 5. There, we referred you to Hoovers, OneSource, Factiva, Harte-Hanks (for technology companies), Google, and the company Web site. In Chapter 5, I also gave you a 10-step process to develop your account list or contact list. This is one of the most important set of activities you can do as a professional salesperson.
I acknowledge that this will take time but, remember, I likened this to an investment. In any business, you must make an upfront investment of capital in order to get the business started. Sales is (unfortunately) no different. Defining your account, prospect, and contact list is your upfront investment. They way it works is that you make this initial investment to start the prospecting, territory, or account development process, and then you make ongoing investments, much smaller in magnitude, to keep refining your contact list over time.
Also remember that you will always be busy, you will always feel as though you are working hard, but if you are not prepared with a full, complete, and prioritized contact list, you may jeopardize your calling time. Research time is not calling time.
At a minimum, you should have at least a one-month supply of names on hand at all times. However, this is a bare minimum. I fully recommend that you follow the 10-step process outlined in Smart Prospecting so that list management will never be an issue for you.
As an aside, I have found that trading for leads can be a very effective supplemental way to build a prospect database. This is a supplement to purchasing the names from highly qualified sources like those we discussed earlier and in our discussion of Smart Prospecting. Remember, all salespeople are in the same boat. We are all in need of leads in order to survive.
It has been said many times in the past that time is money. Leads are money, too! In fact, they're the lifeblood of your career and should be treated with due respect. In order to trade leads, find someone in a complementary business who is likely to call upon the same types of prospects that you are, and trade.
In my case, I was in the computer training business. I traded leads most often with sales representatives from software publishers. We both sought to find technology decision makers and influencers in large corporations. Companies that sold training, other than computer training, would also be good trade candidates for me.
A second recommendation that will probably surprise many of you is to consider trading lists with your competitors. Although this might sound surprising, there is no more qualified list around other than your own, so why not trade?
After you have gotten over the shock of this recommendation, please consider the facts. First, I have found that there are no secrets as to who the decision makers in a company are. If you can find them, so can your competitor. If this is the case, why not develop a qualified list as soon as possible? By trading lists with your competitor, you will have substantially increased your effectiveness. Of course, both you and your competitor could have found every decision maker in the marketplace by yourselves. But this takes time. Trading lists will allow you to accomplish your goal of covering the market quite a bit faster than had you attempted to do it yourself.
Second, if you are not doing a good job servicing your customers, your competitors will wean them from you over time. If you are doing the best you can to service your customers, you will have nothing to worry about by having your competitor call on your leads. Finally, if your competitor cannot convert a lead, why not give you the opportunity? This action will stimulate demand in the industry and give your competitor (or you, if the tables are turned) a better shot next time around.
Earlier, I stated that trading leads is one of the best ways to develop a qualified list other than through purchased lists. When I refer to purchased lists, I want to distinguish between the type of list you would buy for direct-mail purposes and the type you would buy for telephone prospecting.
Lists purchased for direct-mail purposes typically have better prospects than those that you could quickly garner from your local business publication, a company Web site, the public library, or your local Chamber of Commerce. A direct-mail list will have names of prospects who have at least expressed an interest in your type of product or service or a closely related product or service. In contrast, contacts on lists taken from local business publications and other similar sources may not have expressed any interest in what you are selling.
Recall our earlier discussion about purchased information and free information. Lists taken from your local business publication, for example, have a nominal cost (they are essentially free), and, as a result, you must spend a great deal of your own time to survey the list and find those prospects who might have an interest in your wares.
However, there are typically lists that are even better than those used for direct-mail purposes. These are lists that are highly qualified by the seller, typically through phone interviews and other techniques. In other words, the seller of the list has spent a great deal of time finding exactly who might have a strong interest in your product or service. This is time that you would otherwise have to spend yourself, which is why the sellers of the list can charge a premium for the prospects they provide to you. These lists can often provide you with multiple decision makers per company location and multiple company locations. Some lists go as far as to provide you with information on your prospects' strategic direction in the industry. These are the purchased lists that will yield your greatest return on investment. The data sources that we have discussed in this book-Hoovers, OneSource, Harte-Hanks, and Factiva-all fall into this category.
COMMANDMENT 5: Work without interruption.
I recommend that you not take calls and not entertain meetings during your prospecting time. Take full advantage of the prospecting learning curve. As with any repetitive task, the more often you repeat the task during a contiguous block of time, the better you become. Prospecting is no exception to the rule. Your second call will be better than your first, your third better than your second, and so on. In sports, this practice is called getting in the groove. You will find that your prospecting technique actually improves over the course of your prospecting hour.
COMMANDMENT 6: Consider prospecting during off-peak hours instead of during conventional prospecting times.
At first, this idea may seem trivial, but I can assure you this is a high-impact recommendation.
One day, I was driving to a client for a presentation. It was about 8:00 in the morning. The presentation was to start at about 9:00. The drive to the client was nice and easy. I was near my home and was driving on a major highway. The highway was straight, and there wasn't much traffic, so I decided to make a few calls.
Before I arrived at the client, I was able to make 10 calls. Eight of the 10 calls were actually completed. This is amazing. In this day and age, with the prevalence of voice mail, getting a direct contact with the person you want to speak to is very hard. I don't think you need me to tell you that. Yet, I was able to complete eight of the 10 calls that I made. Remember that a completed call is one where you call the prospect and actually speak with the person you intended to. The outcome of the conversation is not relevant at this point. As long as you speak to the person you intended to, I consider the call completed. We will talk more about some benchmarks that you can use to measure your progress when we talk about reporting and tracking, in the final chapter of this book.
Excerpted from Red-Hot Cold Call Selling by Paul S. Goldner Copyright © 2006 by Paul S. Goldner. Excerpted by permission.
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