Are you chasing too many rabbits?

Don’t waste time chasing after weak sales leads.

One of the challenges of inside sales is dealing with an inbox box flooded with inbound leads. Usually, these leads come about because the Marketing Department sent out a promotional email at a targeted group of prospects.

The email sent out usually has teaser information and a link where someone can click to download a special report or some other information. But there’s a catch – before you can read the information, you must first attend a one-on-one or group webinar or agree to speak with a salesperson over the phone.

Sneaky? Maybe. Effective. That depends.

You see, there’s nothing wrong with receiving inbound leads. Far from it. The problem is distinguishing between good and bad ones.

How do you correctly set priorities before contacting inbound leads?

First, are the inbound leads decision-makers, influencers, or curiosity seekers?

Let’s face it – most decision-makers are not going to download reports because they’re too busy making decisions. That leaves just the influencers and curiosity seekers. So, your first task is to determine which one is which. You can do this quickly by doing research on LinkedIn or a company’s website.

Second, you need to determine what size company (e.g., revenue, employee number) is the best one to contact first.

So true.

Third, but be careful – the company size isn’t always the best determining factor. You also need to ensure if the lead works at a company or organization that would need what you are selling. Are they a good fit?

Fourth, some inbound leads will provide bogus email addresses or phone numbers. Others will leave a generic email address like Gmail in hopes that you can’t find out where he works. Clever, but rarely effective, because you can always check on LinkedIn. And, in some cases, the inbound lead may already be on your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) under the correct company name and email address. You need to look.

If that’s the case, should you waste your time in contacting them? Again, it depends. If you can tell through your research that the lead comes from a hot prospect company that you have been trying to reach for a while, do yourself a favor and use a lead generation tool to uncover the best phone number and email address. Sure, the lead may be surprised that you contacted him. But…he also may be impressed that you were persistent enough to find him.

What you want to avoid is chasing rabbits. But that, I mean you don’t want to waste so much time tracking down every single inbound lead, that you lose sight of targeting high priority ones first.

I know it’s overwhelming to receive a lot of inbound leads simultaneously. But you need to take your time, do your research and take a steady aim.

Better to bag one big rabbit, than no rabbits at all.

Should you Scan and Spam?

Scanning & Spamming your prospects could backfire on you.

One of the biggest challenges of attending a trade show or conference is gathering enough qualified leads. After all, for most companies, exhibiting at a trade show is expensive. Besides paying for exhibit booth space, you are also shelling out money for travel, hotel reservations, food, swag, and booth supplies.

To make the investment worthwhile, many salespeople are encouraged to “scan and spam.”

What does that mean?

It means that salespeople will scan everyone using a badge scanner that approaches them at a booth regardless of whether those attendees are good leads or not. So, what happens is that you return to your office with what you think is an extensive list of valuable leads, only to discover after several phone calls and emails, you ended up mostly inferior prospects.

Sure, some prospects may work at first-rate companies where you may eventually find valuable leads to contact. But for the most part, you just wasted your time and money.

Why do salespeople scan and spam?

First, because not all organizations that sponsor trade shows will provide vendors (you) with a list of attendees, thus, you are forced to acquire contact information from anyone and everyone that visits your booth.

Second, even if the organization that sponsors the trade show does provide an attendee list, the purchasing fee for that information may be too high or cost prohibitive. For example, some organizations may require you to become a sponsor to receive attendee lists. On the surface, being a sponsor isn’t a bad idea – it’s good PR – but it could be too costly for your budget.

And finally, laziness. Some salespeople are just too damn lazy to qualify attendees and decide to scan everyone’s badges and hope for the best.

Which brings me to a better solution.

Rather than scan and spam, this is what I suggest you do –

With tight budgets, some companies may feel they have no choice but to scan and spam. Photo by Diane Helentjaris on Unsplash

First, qualify attendees who visit your booth. You can quickly do this by asking a series of questions to determine if you have a hot prospect or a window shopper. Questions can range from “What caught your eye at our booth?” “Why are you attending this trade show?” “What are some of the pain points you are facing at your company?”

Your goal is to quickly determine if you are speaking with a potential key decision maker or influencer, or are you speaking with an intern or a low-level employee who has no clout at his company, and thus, has little interest in what you are selling.

If the person you are speaking with fits your ideal criteria, politely ask to scan his badge. Then, if you’re not too busy, show him around your booth or do a short demo (if you have a laptop and a big screen) of what you are selling.

Second, even if you don’t have an attendee list, if you have been in the industry for a while, you should know who the major players are that you want to target. So, contact potential attendees by email and direct mail, and invite them to visit your booth. Or, better, schedule a one-on-one meeting with them at the trade show. And to make this process even more comfortable, include a link to  Calendarly in your email invitation.

Third, if you have enough employees attending a trade show, encourage them to attend workshops and other presentations, or early morning breakfast sessions, to network to find qualified leads.

And finally, don’t forget attending social networking events which are always prevalent and popular, as another means of finding good leads.

Scanning and Spamming is outdated.

It’s also counterproductive and could hurt your company’s reputation and brand. The better approach is to be more strategic by setting specific priorities on who you should speak to during and after a trade show. In the long run, you will come out ahead.

Are you a Teller or a Seller?

Running your mouth too much could hurt your sales.

Once upon a time, two salespeople worked at the same company. While both were friendly, they are competitive and hungry for new orders.

The salespeople were Mr. Teller and Mr. Seller.

After several months of hard work, Mr. Teller was depressed. He wasn’t making his quota. On the other hand, Mr. Seller was not only meeting his quota, and he was exceeding it – big time.

What was Mr. Teller doing wrong?

Here are the differences in the approaches between Mr. Teller vs. Mr. Seller.

Mr. Teller loves to talk to his customer’s about all the features of his company’s products. He was like a walking encyclopedia or brochure and telling everything he thought his clients wanted to hear. Mr. Teller was doing what is commonly referred to as a “product dump or vomit” to his clients.

Mr. Seller liked to talk too. But he learned from experience it is always better to listen more and talk less. He viewed his role as being a problem solver. But before you can solve problems, Mr. Seller first had to uncover the pain points and needs and wants of his clients.

Mr. Teller avoided asking too many questions. He was afraid of rejection, and he didn’t want to offend his clients by being too noisy or appear pushy.

Selling is better than telling when you listen and engage more with your clients.

Mr. Seller, on the other hand, enjoyed asking questions because he knew it was the only way to qualify his clients. He didn’t fear rejection or take it personally when a prospect said, “No.”  He knew it was all part of the job.

Mr. Teller was not proactive when it came to finding new clients. He was very passive. Rather than make cold or warm sales calls, or ask for referrals, Mr. Teller used social selling. Mr. Teller thought all he had to do is connect with key decision makers on LinkedIn, and like their comments or posts, and the key decision makers would magically call him or appear at this door.

Mr. Seller liked using social selling too. But he didn’t rely on it exclusively because he knew that few key decision makers would contact him because of connections and likes on LinkedIn. Mr. Seller believed in warm or cold calls. He also effectively left good voice mail messages and used interesting subject lines on his emails to gain the attention of key decision makers.

Mr. Teller always waited for the prospect to decide. He never asked for the order. He just hoped and prayed that the prospect would make the “right” decision based on all the information he presented.

Mr. Seller didn’t wait for the prospect to decide. Instead, he helped guide the prospect through the sales process by asking qualifying questions, determining needs, and pain points. Once Mr. Seller thought the client was ready,  he asked for the order. He didn’t use tricks, gimmicks, or high-pressure tactics because he knew that wasn’t necessary.

Finally, frustrated, Mr. Teller went to Mr. Seller and asked him what his secret was to get more sales.

“Stop telling and start selling,” replied Mr. Seller.

So, are you a Teller or a Seller?

You decide.

Should you leave voice mail messages?

You must be creative and strategic when leaving voice mail messages.

There is a running debate in sales on whether you should leave voice mail messages when contacting prospects.

One school of thought goes like this –

Leaving voice mail messages is a waste of time because most people rarely return phone calls anymore from salespeople. If you leave enough voice mail messages, the prospect may delete them before having a chance to listen to your entire pitch.

Thus, it’s better to keep calling until you reach someone or send them enough emails that they will reply to you.

The other school of thought goes like this –

Leaving voice mail messages is just one of many ways you can break through the wall to reach a prospect. Sure, the argument goes, most prospects will not return your voice mail messages, but with a combination of different tools, including emails, and social selling, like Twitter and LinkedIn, you will eventually reach your important contact.

So, which is the better school of thought?

I take the middle ground.

Yes, you should leave voice mail messages. But…. don’t waste your time leaving your phone number. Because based on my experience, most prospects these days will not return your phone calls. Even inbound leads will rarely return your phone calls. Why? Most of them are busy, and they don’t want to play phone tag.

(I will only leave my phone number if the prospect requests it in his message as a matter of courtesy).

The better solution is this –

Leave a short voice mail message telling the prospect why you are calling. Then identify who you are and what solution you have that you think will solve their problems or pain points. And finally, let them know that you are sending them an email with openings for this week and next to schedule a short initial call.

I recommend doing this at least four to five times in a combination of using LinkedIn and Twitter.

What you want to avoid is the following –

First, you don’t want to do a “product vomit”, i.e., telling the prospect everything about your product and benefits before you had a chance to qualify him and understand his concerns or problems properly.

Second, you don’t want to leave cryptic messages, like “This is Joe Doe. I have some important information to share with you. I will call you at 4:00 p.m. today to discuss further.”

That kind of message will make most prospects angry because they don’t have time to play games. Also, because they have hectic schedules, they probably will not sit around and wait for your phone call.

Sure, you may try the approach of leaving an honest message about why you are calling and inform the prospect that you will call back at a specific time later that time or the next. It could work. But I doubt it.

Just as phone technology has changed, your voice mail techniques must change too.

Third, don’t repeatedly call and leave messages. Give prospects some space and time to call you back. As a rule, when I leave a voice mail, I quickly follow-up with a short email outlining some openings I have for that week and next. Further, I may attach an interesting article or some other content to share that I feel will interest the prospect. After leaving a message and sending out an email, I will usually wait at least two to four days before following up.

Fourth, I leave a different voice mail each time. I usually have a script of different voice mails to leave. The same is true when sending emails. Leaving the same message or posting the same email is boring and will undercut your chances of getting a sale.

Fifth, avoid long lingering voice mails. Try to keep the voice mail no longer than 30 seconds. Your goal is to get to the point quickly, highlight why it’s in the best interest for the prospect to speak with you and move on. You will have plenty of time later to do your sales pitch and presentation.

Sixth, ask a specific question in your voicemail. Instead of opening with “This is Tom Smith from ABC Company calling about Widgets products,” start with “How are you securing your passwords?” or “What types of sources are you using for tax research when doing tax preparation?” And then go on and add that you offer a solution that could help him them, and that you will send them an email with some openings and more details. Sometimes, I might mention specific vendors that use our services/products, and do a little name dropping.  In other voice mail messages, I might add a benefit or two that may help the prospect.

Don’t be mysterious when making phone calls.

Seventh, don’t be that mysterious caller who never leaves voice mails. Yes, I’ve been guilty of doing this before, but I now realize it was a mistake. Why? Because if someone is screening your calls and you don’t leave a message, they may not think it’s important and they will completely ignore you.

And finally, don’t sound salesy. Speak with your normal tone of voice. And, please don’t sound desperate. That’s a major turnoff.

Leaving voice mail messages is just one of many tools you have in your arsenal to make sales. Even if a prospect doesn’t respond immediately, it’s a great way of promoting your company with the goal of getting a deal down the road.

Sometimes you must play the long game to be successful.

Credits:
Middle Image by Monoar Rahman Rony from Pixabay
Bottom image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay

How to Attract Attendees to your Trade Show Booth

Exhibiting at a trade show takes a lot of planning.

It’s trade show season. That time of year when you and other salespeople attend trade shows in hopes of gaining more leads.

Your bags are pack.

You’re ready to go.

But before you hit the road, you need to make sure you have a game plan in place to ensure your trip will be worthwhile.

While there is a debate in some corners on whether vendors should invest in exhibiting at trade shows for not, most companies will attend at least one event each year. There are hundreds of state and regional conferences each year, but unless you are working for a major corporation, most vendors will select at least one or two “must go” big events.

Exhibiting at a trade show is expensive. Besides paying the registration fee, you must consider transportation, hotel, and meal costs. Some trade show sponsors will nickel and time you to death, by forcing you to pay high prices in wi-fi access, rental furniture like chairs and tables, carpeting for your exhibit space, electricity and much more.

So, your goal is this – how do you get more bang for your buck? Or, to put it in another way, how do you ensure that you will attract as many high qualified attendees to your booth to convert them into paying customer later?

Here are some tips to help you –

1). Plan – you can’t wing it when it comes to exhibiting at trade shows. You need to review your plans at least two (2) months in advance. One way of doing this is to create a checklist. The list should include what you should bring (e.g., swag, power strip and extension cords, presentation media, business cards), who should attend, a summary of all expenses, where you will be staying and much more.

2). Target key attendees – if you are lucky, you will receive an attendee list at least a week or so in advance of the trade show. However, not all trade show sponsors provide these lists to exhibitors. And even if they do provide lists, sometimes you must pay extra to acquire the list. If you are fortunate enough to receive an attendee list, review it carefully and determine which attendees you would like to meet at your booth or in a designated area for private meetings.

Attendees are like cattle – you need to make sure you steer them in the right direction to your booth.

3). You don’t have an attendee list, now what? Let’s say the conference sponsors are not providing attendee lists, or the lists are too expensive. No worries. As a skilled sales or marketing professional, you should already know who the key players are in your niche industry. Reach out to them at least two (2) months in advance and see if they are planning to attend the event. Sure, some may fall through the cracks, but hopefully, you will find enough to make your participation at the conference worthwhile.

4). Pre-Show Promotions – there are several ways you can promote your exhibit at the conference. Email campaigns will help. Plugging your attendance on social media, like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook will undoubtedly draw a crowd. And don’t forget using YouTube to get the word out. And depending on your budget, you can send targeted direct marketing pieces to critical prospects. The underlying goal is to create buzz before the show begins. If you wait too late, most attendees will have already been overwhelmed with promotions from your competitors.

5). Flyers or Leaflets – most conference sponsors will give attendees a “goodie” or tote bag filled with conference agendas, trade show maps, and swag. For a fee, you can have your company’s brochure inserted in the bag, or available at or near the registration desk. And finally, you can hire a flyer distribution service to insert your brochures underneath doors at hotels where you feel most attendees will be staying. (I’m unsure if this is legal or not, but I know one of my employers used that tactic effectively at a few conferences).

Exhibit booths should be inviting and open for attendees.

6). Booth display – You need to stand out, but you don’t want to overwhelm attendees with your message. Your goal is to attract people to your booth, have a short conversation, scan their badge or acquire their business card, and determine next steps after the conference. With that said, avoid too many flashy or ostentatious signage. Instead, simplify your message so that when someone walks by your booth, they will immediately understand who you are and what you’re selling.

Also, make your booth inviting. Try to avoid having a table between you and attendees, because it makes it appear that you are setting up a barrier. Instead, go with open spacing and have tables on the side for handouts and swag. Having a monitor on the edge of your display showing a short video (2 minutes tops) will help. You can also use the monitor to provide a brief demonstration of what you are selling.

You must remember that the attention span of most attendees is short. They are dealing with information overload. They have a limited time to visit booths. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone plans their attendance on who they want to meet in advance. So, it’s your job to get their attention quickly and plan next steps.

7). Have someone walk around with a sandwich cardboard sign – yes, it’s tacky, but it works if you want to stand out of the crowd, especially at a significant event. The sign walker could also hand out cards announcing times for upcoming drawings, or special presentations. It wouldn’t hurt to have someone walk around with a funny or eccentric costume, and hand out cards describing your company and showing your exhibit location. Again, the goal is to get people to your booth.

8). Show sponsorships – For a fee, vendors can help sponsor themselves by purchasing Gold, Silver or Bronze sponsorships that will be displayed in conference literature or website. Sponsorships might also include promoting your company’s logo on an attendee name badge holders, lanyards, coffee or lunch break tables/carts, opening reception, outside tote bags, or charging stations for cell phones.

Also, trade show sponsors may receive special treatment, such as earlier access to attendee lists to help promote yourself sooner over your competitors.  Overall, the goal of sponsorships is to enhance your company’s image and brand…and get more sales.

Exhibiting at trade shows can pay off by helping you attract the right prospects who you can convert into sales. Just make sure you do enough planning and preparation to make it valuable experience without breaking your budget.

Credit: Top Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Middle Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

In Sales, How to Climb out of a Slump

We all need a little help to get out of a slump.

We all experience highs and lows in sales. That’s a given.

For a while, you’re on a winning streak. The big orders are rolling in. Your sales manager loves you. Some of your colleagues envy you. Your checking account is balanced. You’re paying your bills on time.

But then it happens – you hit a brick wall. No matter how hard you try, or how many customer appointments you make, nothing is coming in.

You hit a slump.

Now what?

Here are some tips to help you

1). Don’t panic. Unless you are working for a company with a short sales cycle, you usually won’t experience a slump unless it’s during an industry’s slow season. Every industry has a busy and quiet time. For example, in retail, the busy season is during the holidays. In the tax preparation industry, the slow period starts from early March and runs through the end of tax season.

But if you are like most salespeople, you are working in an industry that has a long sales cycle. If that’s the case, of course, you are going to run into a slump occasionally. You already know from experience that the order process can take a long time because several decision-makers are probably involved in placing an order. For example, I’ve read that more than ten years ago, it would take maybe two people to make a decision. Now, it can take as much as five people to make a final decision on an order.

2). Review best practices. Admit it, have you been coasting for a while. Sure, you got lucky and snagged some large orders, but really…. how much work was involved on your part? Now that you hit a slump, maybe it’s time to review your best practices.

For example –

Are you making your follow-up phone calls?

Are you sending out emails with interesting subject lines?

Are you making enough attempts to the key decision-makers?

Are you even sure that you are contacting the correct key decision-makers?

Are you wasting too much time chasing after low hanging fruit and not investing enough time on more difficult, but long-term profitable, prospects?

Are you managing your time correctly?

In short, are you following the basics or just winging it?

Only you can answer that question.

It never hurts to seek a helping hand.

3). Ask for advice. There is no shame in seeking help. Meet with your sales manager. If you have a mentor, talk to him. Maybe have someone listen in on your sales calls or your online tour presentations. Yes, I know that sales can be competitive and sometimes it can feel like a “dog eat dog” world, but you have trust someone to survive.

4). Analyze your pipeline. Is it clogged? Are you chasing after prospects that you know deep down are never going to buy from you, but you enjoy talking to them? Are you clinging on to leads that are offering you false hope? Go through your pipeline. Set priorities. Weed out the prospects that you know are worthless. Then, go back to work and make the calls.

5). Start prospecting. If your pipeline is dry or running low, start prospecting. What!?! You thought the marketing department was going to help you with leads? Do you still believe in Santa Claus? With all kidding aside, most marketing departments are helpful, but you’re the one earning a commission – not them. So, unlike the marketing department, you must make the extra incentive to get sales.

6). Take a break. Are you a workaholic? If yes, stop. Relax.  Go to the movies. Take a long walk. Do some window shopping. The goal is to clear your head and take a breather before jumping back into the fray.

7). Continue to educate yourself. I say continue because I must assume that you’re smart enough to realize that you must always constantly improve your sales skills. How? By reading. By watching YouTube videos. By attending sales training workshops. It’s easy to fall into a slump and make lame excuses about not learning. That’s not an excuse – that’s a death sentence to your career.

8). And finally, be persistent. No one says that selling is easy. It’s not.

That’s it. I hope you like my advice. Please let me know if you have any comments that you would like to share with me.

Photo credit, middle picture: by Noah Buscher on Unsplash