Letting Go is Hard to Do

By Wendy Weiss, The Queen of Cold Calling™

Every sales professional has them. Those deadly lingering prospects. The ones that never buy anything. They say, “Not just yet….” They say “Not quite ready….” They say, “Call me back in a couple of weeks…” or “Call me back in a month…” or “Call me back in six months…” over and over and over. And you do call them back over and over and over and they never buy anything. They say, “Not just yet….” They say “Not quite ready….” They say, “Call me back in a couple of weeks…” or “Call me back in a month…” or “Call me back in a few months…” over and over and over.

We’ve all been there. Calling that prospect, hoping this time will be different, hoping this time they’ll say, “yes” and that this call will make up for all the previous calls and all the time spent. Besides, if you don’t call them, then maybe your competition will… the nightmare of all nightmares… your prospect that you’ve been calling for years now will buy from someone else. You don’t want that to happen. Oh no! And so, you do call them again and they don’t buy anything. They say, “Not just yet….” They say “Not quite ready….”

So how do you end this vicious cycle that breaks so many sales professionals’ hearts?

Step one: Identify and only pursue qualified prospects. Make sure that you know what makes a prospect qualified for you. One reason prospects do not convert into customers is that they were never really qualified in the first place.

Step two: Ask the tough questions. In your conversations with your prospects, look to qualify prospects out. Ask the questions that you need to ask: Questions about the process, the budget and how that decision will be made. If your prospect gives you information that tells you that you’re no longer speaking with a qualified prospect, stop pursuing them.

Some times prospects do have legitimate reasons for asking you to call back at a later date. And that’s ok. If a prospect has a legitimate reason, then by all means call them back when they have asked you to call back. (Just make the call a little earlier than the prospect has suggested. It’s always better to be a little early than to be too late.) If, however, your prospect has not explained why they want you to call back at a later date then make sure to ask what will have changed between now and the time they want a follow up call.

And lastly, if you have prospects that you have been following up with time after time after time and getting nowhere, ask those prospects if there is a real and legitimate possibility of doing business together in the foreseeable future.

If your prospect cannot give you some assurance that there is legitimate interest, stop pursuing them. They are not going to become your customer.

Letting go of prospects is hard to do. When you let go of those inappropriate prospects, that will never buy from you, that will free you to pursue real prospects. The ones that will say, “yes.” Letting go is hard to do… but well worth it in the end.

 

Let’s Get to “Yes”

“No” to scheduling an appointment…

“No, take me off your call list…”

“No, take me off of your email list…

“No” to revisiting in the future…

“No, no, no, no, no…”

We’ve all heard it from prospects. Even The Queen of Cold Calling™ has heard it from prospects.

It is certainly true that the more skillful one becomes at prospecting the fewer prospects say, “no.” Sometimes, however, prospects do say “no” and there is nothing at all that you can do about it.

Many sales professionals fear hearing the word, “no.” Some feel personally rejected when they hear “no.” Some feel discouraged and demoralized. Some look into the future and predict that their prospects will simply say, “no” so they don’t even reach out. These types of emotional reactions to the word, “no,” keep sales pros from success.

What if there was a different way to think about it?

To me, there is nothing more demoralizing than reaching out to a prospect over and over again by phone, by email or by social media and getting no response at all. Over and over you reach out and over and over again, crickets. What to do? Keep calling? Keep emailing? Texting? Tweeting?

In the above scenario, I would always rather hear, “no.” If someone says, “no” to me, at least I know where I am. If a prospect says they absolutely will not make an appointment; if they ask to be removed from the call list or the email list… They have just given me an enormous gift: The Gift of “No.” The Gift of “No” sets me free from having to endlessly chase noncommunicative prospects. The Gift of “No” allows me instead to reach out to different prospects that might very well say, “yes” to me.

Don’t fear the word, “no.” It sets you free.

It’s Worse than You Think… with a Ray of Hope

A recent study by ValueSelling Associates and Selling Power, B2B Prospecting Challenges from the Front Lines, found that: “By a wide margin, the most effective method of reaching prospects was client referrals followed by cold calls.”

Some other significant findings include: 

One out of two B2B sales reps fear making cold calls.

The number one challenge that salespeople face when trying to set up an initial meeting is reaching the prospect. 

Consistently making cold calls was the skill that scored the lowest with 25% of average reps marked as poor.

More than half (54%) of initial meetings required more than five touch points to secure the meeting.

Reps are not spending enough time on prospecting. Only 18% of sales reps spent nine hours or more on prospecting each week. 

Organization, consistency, and persistence are foundational skills for effective prospecting. 

Repeated, incremental training on prospecting and setting up initial meetings is essential for success.

In addition, according to research done by the Bridge Group, annual turnover in sales positions ranges from 20% to 34%. Further, a recent study by the Society of Human Resource Management estimates that every time a business replaces an employee, it can cost, on average, 6 to 9 months’ salary. This means that for a sales representative making $40,000 a year, it might cost $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses to replace them if or when they leave.

We here at ColdCallingResults.com recently sent a survey to our readers asking the question, “Did you or members of your sales team hit your 2018 sales goals?” Only 20% of those who responded said that they did. That means a whopping 80% did not achieve their sales goals last year.

Prospecting is foundational to sales success. Without prospecting there are no opportunities to sell.

The ray of sunshine in all of this is that cold calling is a communication skill that can be learned and improved on. In the 25+ years that I have been conducting prospecting and sales training, I have seen over and over again that once sales people learn these skills and an easy to follow process, generally call reluctance disappears, appointments are scheduled and sales happen.

If you are a business owner or sales professional who is prospecting and/or you manage a team of sales professionals who are prospecting and you are not having the success that you envision…  if you know that prospecting is of vital importance and that it’s time to master this critical skill set, then let’s have a conversation about options to make that happen. Simply click on this link, give me some background and your best phone number and times to reach you and we’ll talk. I look forward to it.

Create Leverage

You know that prospecting is important. Without new opportunities, sales don’t happen. And yet, somehow, prospecting activity often falls by the wayside. There are simply not enough hours in the day. Sometimes all you have are a few minutes for your prospecting activities. So, then the question becomes: How can you leverage the time that you do have?

1. Become more efficient.

Efficiency requires systems. When you have a step-by-step system it’s possible to get more done, more quickly. Winging it is very time consuming. The choices are:

a.) Create your own systems

b.) Come to one of our classes and learn our systems

c.) Find someone else’s system that you like.

What you must do is follow a system.

2. Get more effective when speaking with prospects.

Every time a prospect asks you to call them back at some point in the future… and you do so, you have just doubled your workload. Every time a prospect asks you to send information… and you do so, you have just doubled your workload as it is likely that you will need to call them back. Every time a prospect tells you they are working with someone and you do not have an effective response to get the appointment, you’ve just lost an opportunity.

Prospecting is very predictable. We know that if prospects do not immediately say, “yes” to scheduling an appointment they are likely to say one of the above standard objections.

If you have a great introduction you will hear far fewer objections. And then you need to know how to handle the objections that you do hear. The really good news is that this is a communication skill and it can be learned.

3. Use the proper tools.

I continue to be amazed that in 2019 there are still sales organizations that do not use any kind of software to manage prospecting activity. You cannot do this well on paper or an Excel spreadsheet. There are a number of software products made specifically for telephone prospecting that leverage your time. (You can see The Queen’s recommendations in the Wendy Recommends section below.) Find one. Use it.

Are You Making These Mistakes?

From time to time readers of this newsletter email scripts to me to ask for my comments. Here is a script that I recently received. Beware: Do not let this happen to you…

Script:

Hello (Prospect’s Name) this is (Name) with (Company Name). Did I catch you at a bad time?

Wendy’s Comment:

Everyone is incredibly busy these days. The most likely response to this question is, “Yes.” Why set yourself up for failure in your first breath?

Script:

Once again, (Prospect’s Name), my name is (Name) with (Company Name)(Prospect’s Name), the purpose of my call is to simply schedule a brief 10-15-minute phone conversation early/late next week. (Prospect’s Name), can we carve out a few minutes next Tuesday @ 1:30 pm or Thursday @ 1:30 pm?

Wendy’s Comment:

So, this is all about what the caller wants. The caller wants to schedule an appointment. He doesn’t even say what it’s about and yet expects the prospect to jump up and down with excitement and say, “Yes.” And what’s with repeating the prospect’s name over and over again? Human beings don’t talk like that.

Script:

The agenda of our meeting is to introduce myself and (Company Name) …and the work we’re currently doing. And learn a little bit more about your (Company/Department) I only need 10-15 minutes. Can we carve out a few minutes (Day) or (Day)?

Wendy’s Comment:

This caller has yet to say why the prospect should be interested in a conversation with him, interested in the company or interested in the work they’re doing. In addition, prospects today have no interest in wasting their time teaching sales people about their company. They expect sales people to have done their homework, something this caller clearly has not done.

This caller was struggling and it’s not surprising. He was missing out on the very first rule of prospecting. He needs to answer the question: Why should your prospect be interested?

This script is all about the caller, what he wants and what he expects from the prospect. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work these days. These days it’s all about the prospect. Forget that at your peril.

Is your thinking twisted?

“The Feeling Good Handbook” by David D. Burns, M.D. describes a type of treatment for depression called cognitive behavioral therapy. The word “cognition” means “thought” and this book is a common sense look at changing the way people think and thus changing their behavior.

In “The Feeling Good Handbook” Dr. Burns lists “The Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking” that occur when people are depressed. These ten forms also exist when people are not depressed and they exist within many, many sales professionals. If you use any of these twisted forms (and most of us do in one way or another) it will negatively impact your sales. I am listing all 10 so that you can judge for yourself. The following list of “Twisted Thinking” is paraphrased from “The Feeling Good Handbook” by David D. Burns, M.D.

1. All-or-nothing thinking

Everything is black or white. If a situation falls short of perfect, then it’s a total failure. An example of all-or-nothing thinking is a dieter who has one cookie and then proceeds to eat the entire bag since they’ve already blown their diet. Another example would be if you do not have time to make 100 dials/day you then make no dials at all.

2. Overgeneralization

Seeing a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. If you overgeneralize you use words such as “always” or “never.” For example, “Cold calling never works for me.” “Prospects always reject me.”

3. Mental filter

Picking out a single negative detail and dwelling on it to the exclusion of everything else. An example: You receive many compliments from your associates about your presentation. If, however, you receive even one mildly critical comment you obsess about it and forget about all of the positive comments.

4. Discounting the positive

You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count.” If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well.

5. Jumping to conclusions

You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion. There are two categories here:

Mind reading: You conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you with no evidence to back that up. For example, your prospect says they cannot speak with you because they are busy and you think, “They are not interested.”

Fortune telling: You predict that things will turn out badly. Before a prospecting call you tell yourself, “They’re not interested” or “They’ll probably say ‘no.’”

6. Magnification

You exaggerate the importance of your (or your company’s) problems and shortcomings. You also minimize the importance of your (or your company’s) desirable qualities.

7. Emotional reasoning

You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are. “I am uncomfortable making cold calls” therefore “People do not like cold calls” therefore “Cold calling does not work.”

8. “Should” statements

You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or wanted them to be. “I should have made that sale.” “Musts,” “ought to’s” and “have to’s” are similar offenders. Should statements that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration. Should statements that are directed against other people, for example, “My prospect should call me back” also lead to anger and frustration. 

9. Labeling

Labeling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. You attach a negative label to yourself or to others. Example: You make a mistake and then say to yourself, “I’m a loser.” Labeling is quite irrational because you are not the same as what you do. 

You may also label others. When a prospect does not respond as you had hoped you may tell yourself, “He’s a jerk.” Then you feel that the problem is with that person’s character instead of with their thinking or behavior. This makes you feel hostile and leaves little room for constructive communication.

10. Personalization and blame

You hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. An appointment with a new prospect is cancelled because that prospect has left the company. You think, “If only I was better at prospecting, this wouldn’t happen.”

Some people do the opposite. They blame other people or their circumstances for their problems. Blame doesn’t usually work very well.

Are You Ready for 2019?

It’s now almost 2019. Almost a brand-new year. Are you ready for it?

You may have spent the last month or so planning and setting your goals for 2019. Or maybe you’re just getting around to it now. Unfortunately, so many people set goals that do not come to fruition.

In January every sales professional or business owner says to herself/himself, “I’m going to make this year my best year ever,” “I’m going to make more prospecting calls,” “I’m going to network more,” “I’m really going to build my pipeline this year,” “This year, I’m going to close more sales,” “This year, I’m going to hit my numbers out of the park…” and so on. And so few do.

Here is The Queen’s recipe for setting goals that you can accomplish. The secret is in setting yourself up to succeed and then following the Law of Action.

  1. Identify the goal and write it down. Be specific. It’s not enough to say, “I’m going to make more prospecting calls.” You need to identify the specific number of calls you’ll make. If your goal is to “network more,” define the word, “more.” Exactly how and how much?
  2. Identify the reasons you’ve picked this particular goal and write down those reasons. If you don’t have really strong motivation for accomplishing the goals you’ve set out, you likely will not accomplish them.
  3. Write down the exact date that you want to have accomplished your goal. This gives you something to work towards. Or set up bench marks for yourself with goals for particular dates that build on the goal before.
  4. Break your goal down into bite-size pieces or the bite-size steps that you’ll take to reach that goal. If the goal is too large it will overwhelm you, so break it down. Write down all of those smaller pieces or steps.
  5. Set yourself up to succeed. Ask yourself the following question: “Is my goal realistic?” Often people set totally unrealistic goals and then it’s no surprise that they are unable to accomplish those goals. Set yourself up to succeed by picking a goal that you can actually accomplish. Make it a bit of a stretch, but something that is a real possibility.
  6. Follow the Law of Action. Nothing happens until you take action. Take action consistently every single day toward your goal and you will be astonished by what you’ll be able to accomplish.

Happy holidays. Happy New Year.

Wendy

Time to Follow the Money

Here is a question that I recently received from a reader of this newsletter:

I want to get your opinion on ‘distractions.’  I was having a nice dialing session Thursday morning but my phone kept ringing in the background.  Most of these calls were from existing customers and I ended up spending a lot of time on Account Management issues. I never finished my prospecting calls and instead spent a lot of time doing customer service.

In today’s world there are so many distractions. Phones ringing, email, texts, social media, you name it… So many things can get in the way. On top of that, there are only so many hours in the day. How do you allocate those hours when you have too much to do and not enough time to do it? How do you decide what to do first? And, if you’re like a lot of high achievers, everything on your list is marked “High Priority.” What then?

Here is my main tool for budgeting time successfully. (I can get a little overwhelmed too.) The tool is easy to use and does not require complicated instructions. Nor does it require that you whip out your charge card.  Here is the secret to managing and prioritizing time: “Follow the Money.”

Make a list of every single thing that you need to do. Then prioritize that list according to which “to do” is closest to putting money in your pocket. Which ever is closest to putting money in your pocket, do that first. Then, look at your list again and determine which next “to do” is closest to putting money in your pocket. Do that next. And so on.

Following up on a proposal for example, is closer to money in your pocket than making a cold call. Calling an existing customer to ask for an additional order is closer to money in your pocket than calling a referral to introduce yourself. Making a cold call is closer to the money than doing your administrative tasks or account management.

Once you start following the money it is immediately obvious what you need to do next, and then next, and then next…

The Secret to a Full Sales Pipeline

I spent my formative years in ballet class. While other kids went out to play, I went to ballet class. In high school while others attended after-school activities or hung out together, I went to ballet class. By my mid-teens I was taking class five or six times a week or maybe even more. This was a habit that continued till injuries sidelined my professional dancing career.

This habit of taking a ballet class every day was not mine alone. Every dancer, professionals or those seeking to become professionals, take class every day. It’s a habit, it’s a reality, it goes with the job. It is impossible to dance professionally without taking class. Even the stars, Misty Copeland, for example, take class every day.

In my late teens I had some personal crises that stopped me from going to class everyday. At one of my rare appearances in class, my teacher asked where I had been. I told her what was going on in my life. She said to me, “That’s no reason not to take class. You have to take class everyday, no matter what.”

Sounds harsh doesn’t it? But she was right. Not taking class only gave me something else to feel bad about.

When I started my sales training business, I used that same “no matter what” approach to prospecting. I prospected every day. I started out with absolutely no corporate connections. I was a ballet dancer, I only knew other ballet dancers. I did, however, know how to prospect. On and off for years my “day job” had been telemarketing. I began to prospect the same way I learned to take class, every day, no matter what. Years later I have a thriving business. Even today I continue to prospect every day, while perhaps not for as many hours. Every day brings some prospecting activity, no matter what.

So how does the busy entrepreneur or business owner find the time to prospect every day no matter what? The answer is simple, put it in your calendar. Schedule time in your calendar every day for prospecting activity. At the scheduled time put aside what you are doing and prospect. Do not take other calls, do not work on other projects, do not allow interruptions. Simply prospect. When the time you have scheduled is over, stop prospecting and go on with your other tasks.

Schedule appointments with yourself to prospect and keep those appointments. We get angry and upset when prospects miss appointments. Ask yourself: Why is it all right to miss an appointment with yourself?

Prospecting success (just like learning to dance) comes over time. In order to keep your sales funnel full you must constantly be on the lookout for opportunities. To be successful you must engage in some prospecting activity everyday, no matter what. It’s a habit, it’s a reality, it goes with the job.

Are Your Scripts Destroying Your Calls?

Last week I had a conversation with a prospect who said to me that he did not believe in using scripts. What he actually said was that he did not believe in using “canned scripts.” And I would have to agree.

For some reason, the idea of scripting in many people’s minds is tied up with the concept of being “canned.” I’m not sure where this comes from but many seem to believe that if you are using a script, you cannot possibly be yourself or be real.

On the other end of the spectrum, I often receive emails from readers who ask me if I can recommend a “good, generic script.” I always laugh when I get these emails. You see, what you say to a prospect has to be relevant. Generic simply won’t cut it.

So what does it mean to use a script yet to be relevant to the prospect?

It simply means that you know your market and that you are prepared.

Prospects today are busier than ever. They are stressed out. They are doing more with less. They hardly ever answer their own phones. If you want to get prospects’ attention on prospecting calls you better have something compelling to say. This requires preparation.

If you hope to have your prospects return your calls when you leave messages or respond to your emails, you better have something compelling to say. This also requires preparation.

There are two types of preparation: The first, is really understanding your market and the relevance of your offering to that market. The second type of preparation is taking that relevant information and putting together a clear and concise introduction. The prospect needs to understand who you are and how you might be able to help them. This is your script. In today’s prospecting world, you simply do not have a lot of time and if your prospect doesn’t understand you or doesn’t see the relevance your call will be over before it has even started.

Scripting is not a “canned presentation,” something that you say over and over again no matter what the prospect says. Scripting is about being relevant—quickly. Scripting is about being the best “yourself” that you can possibly be in order to get your prospect’s attention and willingness to engage.

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