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.

If you like my post, please read my book – Jumpstart your Sales Career: Help for New Salespeople.

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

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

How to Work Remotely in Sales

The key to working remotely from home is to be organized.

Working in sales is tough enough without having to also work remotely from your main office. You may feel isolated. You may feel out of the loop when key company decisions or announcements are made. You may worry if your manager likes you or not. Soon, panic may take over, and your sales will plunge.

However, many salespeople find themselves working these days remotely – either in coworking spaces like WeWork and Regus or in most cases, from their homes.

The number of employees working remotely is growing. According to Flexjobs’ report on “The State of the Remote Job Marketplace,” nearly 4 million U.S. employees, or about 3% of the U.S. workforce is now working from home at least half the time, compared to 1.8 million in 2005.

And Sales is one of the top 7 fields with the most remote jobs, according to the report

There is an ongoing debate on whether employees should be allowed to work remotely or not. One argument is that all employees should work in a central location to help create collaboration and an esprit de corps among employees. For example, there are times when salespeople need to engage in ad hoc conversations or buy-in to new initiatives that are hard to create when employees are working remotely.

And while most employers can undoubtedly watch your performance on company-own laptops and phones, and review your orders and pipeline, many still feel it’s better to keep a watchful eye on you in the office.

But many companies – especially start-ups – have no choice but to have you work from home because they can’t afford to lease large office space. With bootstrapped budgets, many of these companies are a willing gamble and have salespeople work from their residences.

Further driving the trend to have salespeople work remotely is the difficulty of finding and keeping good talent. While companies in large urban areas usually don’t have problems finding and attracting good salespeople, companies in rural areas may have no choice but to offer remote positions.

And finally, many companies, both small and large, prefer having salespeople work remotely in defined territories to save on travel expenses when visiting important customers or prospects, or attending trade shows.

I’ve worked in both the central office and my home. I was given a chance to work remotely in one of my last jobs, but I turned down the offer because I was afraid that I couldn’t do well in my career, and I felt I would miss out on all the office gossip and information.

However, that became a moot point when my employer, which was based in Chicago, closed our location and I was given a choice – move to Chicago and freeze my butt off, look for a new job, or work remotely from my home.

I chose the latter.

In hindsight, I now regretted not working remotely from home when I was given a chance. Yes, at first, I was a little reluctant because I was afraid there would be too many distractions, or my laptop wouldn’t work correctly, or my phone line tied to my direct work number would drop inbound calls. But those fears soon went away, and I quickly adjusted.

Sometimes working outside of your home can make you more effective in your job.

I found that I was more productive working from home than in the office. I was less stressful. I also appreciated having more free time without fighting traffic while commuting to and from work. And finally, I avoided getting drawn into office politics.

But if you are hired or forced to work remotely, how can you succeed in sales and make a good living?

Here are some tips –

1). Dress like you’re going to work. Yes, I know that sounds stupid. You may think it’s OK to work in your pajamas, underwear, robe or whatever, but trust me; you will soon regret it. If you dress like a bum, you’re going to feel like a bum. Your attitude towards your work, clients and prospects will go downhill. Yes, you can get away from not wearing shoes, or for women, not putting on makeup.

But don’t allow the convenience of working from home to reduce your professionalism. On the contrary, the further away you are from your main office, the more professional you must become if you want to be successful and keep your job.

2). Get the hell out of the house. Staying all day indoors is boring. Sure, you can watch TV or videos online, but you need to get out for at least 30 minutes or so to clear your head, or else you will not be functional for the rest of the day. Take a short walk or run an errand. Maybe take a short break at your favorite local coffee shop. Or better yet, have lunch with friends or clients. But whatever you do, don’t be stuck using the phone of the computer or on the phone all day. Get out.

3). Keep a regular work schedule. It’s easy to fall out of your work routine while working remotely from your home. You may crawl out of your bed and walk straight down to your home office and start working without eating breakfast, drinking coffee, or brushing your teeth. You may tell yourself that you can make up for it later in the morning.

But I wouldn’t recommend it.

Soon, your work at home will bleed into your home life, and your entire life will be disrupted. At the same time, when 5:00 or so rolls around, you need to leave work behind. Of course, I know sometimes you must put in an extra hour or so. But the biggest mistake I made while working from home is that I ended up burning myself out by working too many hours in the evening without taking a break.

Don’t make that mistake.

4). Remove any distractions. Sometimes you may have no choice but to work in your living room, dining room or even or kitchen. Not all of us have the luxury of living in large homes where you can convert a room into an office. But if you can afford to create a home office, do so. In using the long way, you will benefit from the distractions that we all deal with at home. And if you are lucky enough to have a home office, remove anything that could distract you – that includes the TV, radio, or anything that could prevent you from working.

5). Stay in touch with your manager and co-workers daily. Working remotely can be lonely. That’s why it’s important to stay in touch with your manager and co-workers daily. While your manager may not always be accessible, but you need to insist that you have at least one meeting per week to review your performance, receive updated company information, and make sure your sales are on track. Also, share your calendar with your manager and others so that you know when they are accessible for conversations.

It’s also important to stay in touch with your co-workers too. I know that they, like you, are busy trying to make their numbers, but a quick phone call (not just email or text) can help you gauge what’s happening at the home office.

Meeting with your manager once a week or month can help guide you when working remotely at home.

6). Meet your manager in person at least once a month or quarter. You can do this by either traveling to your company’s main office or by inviting your manager to stop by. If your house is a total mess, meet your manager at his hotel or local coffee shop. It’s essential to make face time with your manager to ensure that both of you are on the same page.

7). Use the right tools. That means making sure you are using a headset and have stable phone and internet connections.  It also wouldn’t hurt to have Skype for conference calls.

8). Are you still living at home with your Mom? If the answer is no, then don’t expect her to clean up your office area. That’s your job. Like any office, make sure office files and information are within arm’s reach, so you don’t waste your time going through your bedroom closet finding critical data right before important meetings.

Working remotely isn’t for everyone. While most salespeople must have the discipline and drive to achieve or exceed their quotas, not everyone is cut out to work alone.  I hope my suggestions will help you.

Credits: Second Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash
and the Third Photo by  rawpixel on Unsplash