Ways to Stay Productive During the Holidays

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A few weeks ago we posted our Year End Sales Survival Guide. It addressed some of the most common issues that salespeople deal with year after year. After all, it is not unique to hear from a prospect that, “they are busy with year-end stuff,” or my personal favorite, “call me back after the holidays to pick this back up.” Surprise, surprise, people rarely pick up in January. This time of the year can be demoralizing for salespeople who get stuck in a rut or don’t have a plan to maximize the time. Well, have no fear. Here are a few tips to stay productive and recharge during the holidays (typically from the week before Christmas through to New Year’s Day):

Take a vacation

The best way to recharge from work is to completely unplug. If possible, take the time off. Hang out with family or travel somewhere fun. Try to ignore work for at least a few days. The time away will help you to refocus and recharge so when you come back, you are back in the fighting spirit.

Call Key Q1 prospects

If you have people that you are forecasting to close early in the new year, there is no harm in giving them a quick ring to keep things on track. It doesn’t have to be a hard sell situation either. A perfectly acceptable approach is to call and ask them if there are any tasks you can take care of during the “downtime” of the holidays that will help to speed things up in the new year

Email every prospect and mine for additional contact information

For the prospects that you haven’t really reached or connected with yet, this is an interesting week to reach out. There is a very good chance that you will get a lot of out of office messages, but that is okay. If you email all of your prospects, you will probably get a lot of valuable information from their email auto-reply. Examples of this are the exact dates they are out, alternative contact information (only to be used in the most urgent matters), and sometimes even a co-worker or alternate person to reach out to. This information should be recorded in your CRM as it can be very valuable in the future

Knock out administrative tasks

Let’s face it, we don’t like doing admin work but we know that it is incredibly important. This is a great time to block off an entire day or more to do research and other admin which will help you focus on dialing when everybody is back in the office.

The holidays don’t have to be a complete loss of time and productivity. Implementing some of the tips above can definitely set you up for a fantastic new year. Happy Holidays!

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The End of Year Sales Survival Guide

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December 31st. The end of the month. That’s scary. The end of the quarter. That’s very scary. The end of the year. That is like the first time you saw the Exorcist and had no idea what was going on. It’s a sad reality for those of us in sales that the most festive time of the year is also potentially the most stressful time of the year from a business perspective. But, this is what separates the wheat from the chaff in our profession. It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Here are a few time-tested tips to end out the year strong, while setting the table for a strong start to the New Year.

Close out what you can

Odds are your sales quota does not just disappear on December 1st, so you will definitely want to close out as much business as possible before the ball drops in Times Square. This requires a lot of persistent outreach, and a few good rebuttals when your prospects tell you that things are really busy and they want to revisit things next year. Here are a couple of options:

Offer to lock pricing in if they proceed by the end of this year. Odds are, their business assesses pricing on a yearly basis and open projects are a part of that evaluation. Another possibility is that the proposal you put in front of them expires (if this isn’t the case, take that as a lesson learned. All proposals should have an expiration date)

Use any remaining budget before next year. Most businesses have a set cycle for establishing and using budget for certain projects. Many departments have a “use it or lose it” policy around budgets, where if they do not use their budget this year, it will not be there next year. You can position your service to fall into the current budget so they don’t lose it next year.

If all else fails, this is a great time to remind your prospect to get started on project before the end of the year. Many projects kick off at the beginning of January, so this is a chance to convince them that you can slip them in early, thus giving them a jumpstart when everybody returns after the holidays.

If not, prepare for next year

It is a lot easier to enjoy the fireworks when you’ve nailed your target

It is a lot easier to enjoy the fireworks when you’ve nailed your target

If there is no chance to close these deals before the year ends, then you should focus on building as strong of a pipeline as possible for next year. Many people take off between Christmas and New Year, but not everybody. This is an unexpectedly good time to prospect. You may catch people who are in the office trying to complete busy work and who are in more of a mood to talk because they aren’t bogged down in endless meetings. If not, there is a very good chance that you will get out of office messages from a lot of people. These are valuable because they will often contain contact information of people that you can reach out to in the absence of your main contact. In addition, many contacts may leave alternative contact information to get in touch with them (just use sparingly as you do not want to call somebody’s personal phone if they are off spending holiday time with family.

Finally, this is a good time to nurture your pipeline for next year. Reach out to as many people in your pipeline for next year as possible and start getting the wheels in motion a couple of weeks early. You will thank yourself when all of your colleagues are two steps behind you in early January.

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One Reason NOT to Abandon Cold Calling

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After reading the article below, I found myself truly inspired to respond. I should probably lay out a few disclaimers.

Disclaimer 1: The author of the linked article is an authority on social selling, and raises good points about the value of social. My article is simply to argue for the continued benefits of cold calling.

Disclaimer 2: I believe that there needs to be a BLENDED approach, not one or the other

http://www.social-experts.net/why-the-phone-and-cold-outreach-no-longer-dominate/

Essentially, the author argues that DESPITE proof from legitimate sources (CEB/Gartner and Salesforce) he feels cold calling is fruitless. His “proof” is interesting to say the least. He cites a three year old “case study” which a friend conducted. The study:

  • States that for every 100 cold calls, you’ll have 4 outcomes, none of which are positive

  • You are told to go away

  • You are told they purchased 3 months ago

  • You are told to call back in 3 months

  • You get voice mail

  • He argues that with Social Selling, you’ll have a better ability to nurture, engage, etc

To be clear, I don’t disagree with the value of social selling, but I 100% wholeheartedly disagree about abandoning cold calling. What the author doesn’t mention is that phone calls allow you to connect human to human, voice to voice. Despite all of the advancements in technology and AI, there is still something very real that can be conveyed on the phone.

The sale starts from the no. If every salesperson gave up when they were told no, the profession wouldn’t exist. This is what separates the good from the bad.

But, the number one reason I would argue to continue cold calling is BECAUSE of articles like this. The more people, such as the author, who stop cold calling, the more likely people like us are to get through. The phone will become a differentiating channel and will seem all the more personal. 

Quick Sales Research that goes a Long Way

Over the last 5 years, the sales role has seen numerous trends which have changed the way we prospect and sell. From Social Selling to Inbound Marketing (oh, by the way, I’ve got a lot of thoughts on this but that is for another day), the way that we engage with prospects is much different. The marketing agencies are waging a war on the cold call (again, later) and it is admittedly harder to get people to speak. Email is the most stubborn, ruthless gatekeeper known to man.

The days of working your way through a list cold, and using the old principle that the more dials you make, the more contacts you make, has some flaws in it. There is still a very real correlation to dials and contact, but it is on you, the salesperson, to do everything in your power to increase your conversion rate through adding value. One of the best ways to do this is to sound like you actually know what you are talking about right away. A little research on your prospect can go along way. But be cautious; there is a fine balance between having some key insights on your customer and sounding like a complete stalker.

It’s up to us as sales professionals to evolve with the times. That doesn’t mean put away the phone. Instead we need to do a better job of getting our prospect’s attention. One key way to set ourselves apart is by doing research to identify what your prospect actually cares about. It’s not always easy to draw a direct line from their job to your product. That’s where research comes into play. The areas of research that are going to give you the best bang for your buck are the prospect them self, the company that they work for, and the industry that they are in. Having a blended knowledge of the three will go a long way.

Below is a look at various places to research and how they help you identify information about the individual, company, and industry.

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As you can see, there is an incredible amount of information available if you are willing to spend the time looking for it.

Help! My Customer is (Acting Like) An Asshole!

First, I want to preface this by saying that the term “asshole” may not be appropriate, which is a something I hope to get across below. In today’s clickbait, read the title and assume the content era, you can never be too careful. With that being said, all salespeople will have situations where they feel like they are in an abusive relationship with a potential customer. It’s important to understand that there may be a lot more going on behind the scenes. When you understand the true situation, you should be able to overcome anything.

There are many reasons why a person can act rude to a seller. For some it is a true power trip. For others, they might have had bad experiences with bad salespeople in the past. There may also be something major going on in the person’s personal or professional life which has them in a bad mood. While all of these reasons are understandable, there is also the possibility that the person is just truly an asshole. I hate to say it, but these people exist. If you need further proof, view the comments section of a political article on yahoo news.

Sales is about a buyer and a seller coming together to agree on a solution which is mutually beneficial (revenue for the seller and a positive business outcome for the buyer). If you can keep the conversation focused on this and deflect whatever is pissing the buyer off, you should be able to forge a good path forward. Here are a few additional tips for getting things back on track.

Call the person out in a very polite manner. A few suggestions are, “I’m sorry. You seem a little upset with me. Did I do something to offend you?” or “Let’s take a break from this conversation and discuss what has you so upset. I very much want to earn your business, but if you are mad at something I have done or said, I want to resolve this first”

Most people don’t realize they are such assholes and when it is pointed out, they tend to back off.

If the person continues to be abusive, you can also push back. This is risky and may cost you the deal, but nobody has the right to treat you poorly. As with the tactic above, many times people will react positively to this and will be a lot more positive going forward.

There is no silver bullet or magic solution to dealing with abusive customers, but talking through it and being respectful is the best, most time-tested approach. If at the end of the day, you have practiced extreme patience and empathy, and you are still getting a lot of abuse and flack from them, you always have the option of walking away.

The Five Things you Can Do To Improve Sales by Waking up a Little Earlier

If you read the daily habits of some of the most successful and influential people in the world, you will find that one thing many of them have in common is being early risers.

The Rock, arguably one of the most well known and well liked people on the planet, in addition to being regarded as an extremely hard worker, wakes up as early at 3:50 AM to hit the gym. The results speak for themself. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, while not quite the gym rat that The Rock is, wakes up at 3:45 AM, and just so happens to run the biggest business in the world. Bill Gates gets up at 4:00 AM. The list goes on and on, but you get the picture.

Salespeople have a lot to gain by getting up just a little bit earlier as well. Here are five things that you can accomplish with as little as an hour of extra time tacked on to your morning.

  • Send out a few personalized emails - Mass email and email lists are becoming less and less effective. They are great for broadcasting out useful information in a newsletter format, or for communicating key updates for a captive audience, but their utility in sales prospecting is fairly diminishing. Personalized email, containing truly unique references to the prospect and their business goals, on the other hand, are a great way to set yourself apart. Use your extra time in the morning to research 3 prospects and tailor one of your best cold email templates. If you do this 5 days per week, you are going to send 15 effective emails to prospects per week, before the day even starts.

  • Beat the morning rush - most sales veterans know that the best time to call C-Level executives is either before 8 AM, or after 5 PM. Set yourself apart from the pack and place a few calls before you start your commute

  • Organize your day, leaving more time for selling activity - Administrative work is a necessary evil, but doing it at the wrong time (prime selling time) is poison to your pipeline. Organize your day by clearing off unproductive meetings, researching key prospects, pre-writing a few emails, and clearing out your emails from the prior day

  • Read a Few Blogs for Inspiration - Another trait of highly successful salespeople is to read..a lot. There are a ton of sales and business blogs out there that will get you out of your comfort zone. In addition to this, you should have some time to check the news for any key information or updates about your key prospects

  • Meditate to clear your head - meditation is easily one of the best ways to reduce stress and clear your mind in advance of a productive day. There are varying theories on when to do this, but one of the best times is definitely first thing in the morning.

This doesn’t include a number of other health and wellness initiatives that you can tackle in the morning, but it gives you a taste of what you can accomplish by just starting a little bit earlier.

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How to Grow the Size of Your Deal

There are countless studies that explain how much easier it is to sell to an existing customer than to win new business. Even hunters can take advantage of this. It’s depends on your compensation plan and how long you have to develop an account, but the best time to sell additional services or at least plant the seeds for them is right after you close your initial deal.

Why is this?

First, the customer (presumably) already trusts you. Winning new business isn’t easy and there are a lot of fish in the sea. For a buyer to choose you, there needs to be a certain level of trust earned. Assuming you have gotten this far, you should be able to use this to your advantage to leverage additional products/services. It should go without saying that the services need to be in the buyer’s best interest, otherwise you risk the trust that you worked so hard to build in the first place.

You have already gone through their purchasing process. This includes legal/contract review, purchasing/procurement, and possibly a security or IT audit. As tedious as this seemed on your end, don’t think that your buyer doesn’t hate it. They most likely don’t want to go through these steps again, so if you are able to position the right services/products for them, and it avoids them having to go through these steps with another provider, you are in good shape.

Depending on your business and what you sell, there is likely an onboarding process. It is up to you to ensure that this goes smoothly, even if you aren’t directly responsible. In sales, we are always responsible for seeing through what we’ve sold. Join any calls, meetings, etc. Share insights from the sales process. Be your buyer’s advocate, and make it the most frictionless process possible.

If you nail these steps, you are much more likely to win additional business quickly after the first sale.

What To Wear the First Day on the Job

The days of wearing a brand new suit and a freshly starched white shirt, with a wide tie and an eager smile are over. The corporate culture across the globe has changed drastically. You still have conservative bastions of tradition in financial centers such as New York, London, and Hong Kong. Some industries such as banking, law, and insurance are more likely to stick to tradition as well. With all of that said, the tech boom of the last 30 years, coupled with a focus on working comfortably rather than formally has had a profound impact on how we dress on a daily basis. More and more people work from home, at least part of the time, and the fact that many prospective buyers don’t dress as formally has changed how sellers dress.

All of these factors can make the first day on the job intimidating for a new hire. Go in overdressed, and you rest being labelled as a stuck up kiss-ass. Don’t dress formally enough and you could come across as a lazy slob. It’s really important to nail the first day, and luckily we have you covered.

The key is research. Luckily, it won’t take you long, but the effort is well worth it. There are a few places to try:

  • Company website - many websites will have pictures of employees on their first days, company events, interviews with current employees, etc. Take a look on the site to see if you can find anything of use. Another place to check is the company social media sites. Facebook has emerged as a place for employers to highlight their company culture, with the hopes of attracting new talent.

  • Talk to existing employees - this is kind of a no brainer. If you know somebody at the company, ask them.

  • Recruiter or Hiring Manager - most people have dealt with a recruiter, HR rep, or their hiring manager. This is probably the best person to ask for advice.

If all else fails, men can wear a white or blue shirt with a tie that has a splash of color. Bring a sportcoat that you can either take on or keep off, but will still work with the rest of the ensemble. Ladies can do the same, minus the tie.

How to Avoid Mispronouncing a Name

No matter what you do, you will never be able to avoid coming across a name that you just can’t pronounce. This is doubly true as you move your way up in the sales world and start selling in countries other than your own. Here are a few easy tips to make sure that you don’t wind up looking like an uncultured asshole when you reach out to them.

Youtube. Seriously, use youtube. There are a ton of videos pronouncing anything you can imagine. Some channels are dedicated to pronouncing names. I have used this to win more than one bet.

Google. This one is a bit obvious, but feel free to ask how to pronounce a name. Along the same line of thinking, you can ask Alexa, Siri, Google Home, etc and should find what you are looking for.

Ask a gatekeeper or coworker. If you come across somebody at the organization who is trying to patch you through to the person, humbly ask them how to say the name.

If you wind up speaking with this person and hadn’t had a chance to do the research, just swallow your pride and tell them that you don’t want to butcher their name. They will ultimately appreciate you trying. A bonus here is that you’ve just broken the ice without having to jump into sales mode.