At One of a Kind Sales, I lead a team that does cold calling of prospects to set up initial meetings for our clients. Companies like ours often use one of two methods to accomplish this: either the ‘features and benefits’ approach or the consultative selling method. I have a strong preference for the consultative selling method.
‘Features and Benefits’ Selling Focuses on You
When you’re selling using the ‘features and benefits’ approach, you’re focusing attention on yourself and your offering. The core messaging centers on how the offering’s features will benefit the prospect. These kinds of conversations feel more like a hard sell, and I believe that they are perceived that way as well by the prospect. From the moment the conversation starts there’s little focus on understanding where the prospect fits in the equation. Because of this, features and benefits selling tends to lead to more immediate rejections.
When cold calling using the ‘features and benefits” approach the objective is normally to schedule 15 minutes with a prospect to talk to them in greater depth. But this is 15 minutes spent with a client that has not been qualified. I can’t image that anyone would think this is a good use of time. We also find that appointments arranged using the ‘features and benefits’ approach result in a high percentage of ‘no shows.’
Consultative Selling Centers on the Prospect’s Needs
In Consultative Selling, the prospect is the focus of the discussion. The discussion is about their needs and challenges with the objective of determining whether they are a fit for our solution. Then, and only then do we schedule an initial meeting. We request a 30-minute initial conversation. During that meeting we continue our conversation with the prospect about their specific situation. This approach fits with what we know about psychology of most buyers: it’s all about them, not about us. In our experience, the consultative selling approach has yielded higher quality initial meetings and an overall higher conversion rate.
If you’re in sales and you’re transitioning from a ‘features and benefits’ approach to consultative selling, you’ll end up sharpening your skills. Admittedly the transition may be somewhat uncomfortable because you are accustomed to talking about the offering right away. As salespeople, we are excited about what we are selling and have a natural desire to talk about it. But delaying this gratification and focusing on the prospect’s needs first results in a better qualified prospect. You’ll have a greater likelihood of being able to close a deal.
At One of a Kind Sales, we love to do cold calling. We also train inside sales teams to do cold calling. If you’d like to discuss how we can help move your business to the next level by increasing your sales opportunities reach out to us at 908-879-2911.
What do you do when you have a qualified prospect that gives every indication that they want your solution but they suddenly disappear? It seems like they’ve fallen off the face of the earth. They don’t respond to calls, texts, or emails. I’m sure many of us salespeople have experienced this at some point.
This is where sales training comes into play because it gives you a set of tools to use in different circumstances. In this situation, you need to clarify whether in fact the sale is still alive.
One approach you could use is to express some vulnerability and offer to “close the file” on the sale. For example, “I thought we were ready to move forward, but it seems like something might have changed that I’m unaware of, and I should probably close the file.”
You could call this approach the “Takeaway.” Using this technique, you share what you thought, communicate your sense that there is a change in strategy or situation, and demonstrate your willingness and comfort to walk away. You give the prospect an “out” without putting them on the defensive. The goal here is to elicit a response while preserving the relationship you’ve built. Your ultimate objective is to ascertain whether the sales process will move forward.
If The Answer is No
If the client indicates that things have changed and they are unable to move forward, you know you can move on to the next opportunity. You may get insight into why things changed, and then you can determine the type of follow up that should happen. The Takeaway sets you up so that you’ll be able to shake hands and walk away on good terms.
If the Answer is Yes
If the discussion resumes, then the client should be willing to make progress towards closing the deal. This could be one of those situations where factors you have no control over have impacted progress: a change in leadership, a family illness, an urgent project, a financial issue. But it also could be that they have questions that they have been able to verbalize. You’ll take your cue on how to proceed based on their response to the Takeaway.
I think what’s most important when using the Takeaway is remembering that you are on an equal footing with your prospect. You’ve committed your valuable time to them because you had a solution that fit the prospect’s needs. They have given you their valuable time for the same reason. When something fundamentally changes, it’s better to address it to understand what might need to happen so that the sale goes forward, or the file can be closed.
At One of a Kind Sales, we believe training is fundamental to sales success. If you or your team need help in using sales techniques to close more business, contact us at 908-879-2911.
My team and I make sales calls every day. We focus on building a relationship of trust with a prospect while moving towards the close. To accomplish this, we use customized scripts that we’ve internalized, as well as a variety of proven sales techniques.
There are three useful techniques that we don’t use as readily as we might when we move deeper into the sales process. I have seen them be very effective in moving discussions forward when used strategically.
“My Biggest Fear”
Express a specific concern you have about how the prospect might perceive your solution. An example of this is: “My biggest fear is that you see this solution as an instant fix. In fact, it may take several months for you to see its impact.” This technique calls attention to a potential stumbling block and positions you as an honest presenter of the facts. You’re calling out an issue that the prospect may not have paid attention to that could emerge later and derail the sale. If this is an issue for the prospect, it’s better to find out now and address it.
Get the prospect to justify why they need your solution. During the discussion, you could comment: “It looks like this might not be one of your priorities now.” This will either lead to confirmation that it isn’t important to them, or it will cause the prospect to explain to you why it’s a priority. The outcome is that your prospect develops a better understanding of how your solution is relevant to them.
This is a variation on the Justification sales technique in which you suggest that the prospect doesn’t really need your solution. You could say, “Perhaps you don’t need any help in addressing this.” Once again, the prospect has a couple of obvious responses, the first being “you are right,” and the second being, “No, we need help.” You’ve gotten the prospect to validate the need for your solution.
Using these techniques may reveal that there is no opportunity at this time. But experience has taught me that it’s better to know this as soon as possible so that you can move them into follow up mode and transition to the next opportunity.
You can see how these techniques might move the relationship forward and reinforce the value of your solution. Keep them in your sales tool chest and use them appropriately.
At One of a Kind Sales, we love sales, and we particularly love cold calling. We believe being well-prepared to sell is critical to success. If you or your team would benefit from learning more about these and other sales techniques, call us at 908-879-2911.
I know the feeling. You’ve got the prospect on the phone, and you’ve confirmed that they likely have a problem you can solve. You’ve secured the appointment. And then you think to yourself: ‘why not just give them a little preview and see if you can get them even more primed for the first appointment? Who will it hurt anyway? Won’t it speed up the sales process?’
I have learned that taking this approach is both premature and risky. The further you move away from the established process for cold calling, the more likely you are to get poor results. While it might seem that moving some aspects of the first scheduled meeting into that initial phone call might speed things up, it’s better not to. In fact, when you get this feeling, that’s when you need to slow things down. Why?
Learn From the Prospect
Keep in mind that although you may feel that you know all you need to know about the prospect, at this point what you know is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more. During the first scheduled appointment, you’ll focus on establishing rapport and confirm their communication style. Also, you’ll encourage them to speak in greater detail about how the problem you solve impacts their business. It is unwise to proceed directly into “sell mode” without this information.
Focus on the Prospect, Not Yourself
When you enter “sales mode” in a cold call, you shift the focus from the prospect to yourself and your business. This is counter to the way that we can differentiate ourselves. To accomplish this differentiation, we need to keep the focus on the prospect. Keep these questions in mind:
- What are they experiencing?
- How do they feel about it?
- How is it impacting them?
During the call, your job is to listen and learn in order to capture and acknowledge what they are saying to you.
Establish and Maintain Your Differentiation
When you start selling during that initial phone call, you may not realize it but you will sound just like every other salesperson. Rather than listening to the prospect, and learning from them, you’re busy telling them why they need you. Rather than hearing and understanding how the problem you can solve impacts them, you’re discussing an impact that might not be important to them, and potentially losing an opportunity as a result. To the prospect this interaction feels more like a hard sell than relationship building.
In my experience, I’ve learned that its best to stay laser focused on the main objective of that initial cold call: confirming that there is a need that can be addressed and making the appointment. That’s all.
At One of a Kind Sales, our core expertise is Cold Calling! We’d love to work with you to create the most productive approach for you and your team. To explore the possibilities, give us a call at 908.879.2911.
In this post, I will show you the results of our End of Year, 2021 Prospecting Survey and share my takeaways.
First, a big thank you to everyone who participated – I truly appreciate your taking the time to share your experience!
The survey was short, only 3 questions. The goal was to see what is working for YOU and to identify YOUR preferred methods of prospecting.
People were allowed to pick multiple options and to write in any that were not on the list.
The first question was: “What mode of communication is most effective for you when prospecting?”
As you can see from the screenshot above, Email came in first. As a die-hard Cold Calling fan, I was happy to see that Phone Calls came in a close second.
And I will note that one person wrote in, ‘direct mail’ as their choice.
Which tactics do YOU prefer?
The next question was, “What is YOUR preferred mode of communication when prospecting?”
Someone wrote in Direct Mail for this question as well.
It was interesting to see the same first and second place entries and I wonder if some of this is because people tend to use the tactics they are most comfortable with.
The third question asked people to indicate their age range. We did have a good mix of participants and because there weren’t any large discrepancies in the results, I didn’t drill down to cross reference by age.
I was surprised that LinkedIn came in so low. Clearly, more people need to tap into the power of that platform. I will address this in a future post.
And it seems that video is also underused. As much as I LOVE Cold Calling, it really is only one part of a comprehensive outreach plan. Remember to use all tools at your disposal!
Some takeaways and insights
Again, it is clear that people are still uncomfortable picking up the phone and talking to a stranger. They are still more comfortable with text or email – but neither of those tactics offer human connection. And we KNOW that human connection drives engagement and sales.
A lot of people think they need to reach out to a potential prospect via email before cold calling – to ‘warm them up’. That is a falsehood. Emails don’t warm anyone up and opening an email doesn’t mean they read it. When they pick up a phone, at least you KNOW you are talking to them.
And you know that you are standing out. Not lost in a sea of emails in an inbox.
We have found, over and over, that people are happy to talk to strangers – it is just how you approach it.
When you launch into selling mode or start off by listing your features and benefits you can be sure they will be turned off and disconnect.
No one cares about Features and Benefits – they are busy and care only about their own world. Showing them that you understand that world and explaining how your service and insights can help them succeed and get ahead in that world, IS of interest!
ADDING value to the prospect’s day and business is all that matters. Focus there.
You must keep in mind that what the person values is key – not necessarily what you are there to sell. And to understand what they value, you need to ask the right questions and LISTEN to the answers!
Click on the links below for some articles on the right questions to ask and how to actively listen:
Give Cold Calling a chance
To all of those who didn’t choose Cold Calling as a tactic that works for them, I challenge you to TRY it!
I don’t mean to just pick up the phone and dial. I mean to really set up an effective Cold Calling Campaign and see the results. Or better yet, have us implement one for you (click here to learn more about how we can make Cold Calls and set qualified appointments for YOU.
What do YOU think?
If you didn’t participate and you would like to take the brief survey, click here
I will keep it live through the end of March and I will revisit/ revise this post if there are any significant changes.
Thank you again and keep Prospecting!
Welcome to the New Year!
I want to get straight to the point and address the elephant in the room. Covid is still raging and its presence is still impacting our businesses. We have made some headway and there is reason to expect the year to improve but for now, I want to give you some advice for selling during covid – a 2022 edition.
How have things changed?
2021 brought us a vaccine and a bit of freedom. It also brought us face-to-face with some things we never really had to address before.
Supply Chain Issues
Supply chain interruptions have disrupted businesses of all stripes. The medical supply, electronics and automotive industries have been hit hardest but if you manufacture ANYTHING, it’s a good bet that these supply breakdowns have affected your ability to build and deliver your products. Things are starting to get back up to speed but you need to keep these disruptions in mind and be sensitive to those whose businesses and bottom lines have been negatively impacted.
Yes, you should stay optimistic, but be cognizant of your prospects’ struggles.
Business As UNusual
Business structures have also changed, in some cases, quite radically. On one hand, you have companies that are back up and running, in person, as they were before the pandemic. On the other hand, there are some that have embraced a new, virtual only, existence. And many are still figuring it all out, trying to make some hybrid of the two, work.
Don’t assume that everyone you call is sitting at a desk in an office or that they are still just down the hall from the decision makers. Be aware of the multitude of configurations now in play and be flexible. Ask what method of communication works best for them and then use it. Selling during covid means that now, more than ever, being flexible and adaptable is mandatory.
Patience is a Virtue – and a Real Necessity
In addition to adapting to these new work logistics, most of us are also juggling numerous personal, family and health changes and challenges. People may have shorter fuses and less patience. Remember that this is in no way a reflection of your worth or skill.
Ask people if it is a good time to talk. If it isn’t, ask when might be better. Be patient and you will be rewarded with their time and attention.
Do NOT Waste Time
When you are able to speak with someone, make sure that you are ready! It is very rare that people ever really have time to kill but for most prospects, time is tighter than ever. Be considerate and don’t waste their time – or your own.
Do NOT Sound Salesy
It is NEVER a good plan to go into hard-sell mode or to sound salesy. But with people’s time and patience stretched thin, sounding like you are trying to sell them something just isn’t going to work.
How are Things Still the Same?
As much as things have changed, most of our tried and true tactics are still effective.
Check out our Cold Calling Success Tips and this post on Active Listening.
We are ALL Starting Over
As Mark Hunter pointed out recently, the new year levels the field. We are ALL starting at zero. The high performers, those that missed their goals last year and everyone in between. Don’t focus on the last year, but the one ahead.
Your Mindset Will Determine Your Outcome
Keep your eyes on the horizon. Focus on what you want to have accomplished by December of this year and stay optimistic.
For more on this, see my post Optimism Increases Sales
The pandemic has created even more noise and news to distract you. Ignore it! Stay focused on your goals, your KPIs. Perform the activities YOU need to do to meet those goals.
Keeping busy will help you ignore those distractions and once you see the progress you are making, it will be easier to keep going!
Wishing you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2022 and here’s to hoping we won’t need a 2023 edition about selling during covid!
Here are a few related posts you might also find helpful:
Prospecting Post – Covid
How has the Covid-19 Pandemic Changed Cold Calling?