If you or your team excel at setting B2B discovery calls,
there are things you know and do,
that are not accepted or done,
by those working much harder for much less results.
These are cold calling contrarian truths,
accepted by top peformers,
but shrugged off by mediocre and bottom of the pack callers.
1. Top Sales Achievers Do What Works, Even If it is Uncomfortable, inconvenient or against what the great unwashed “know” to be true.
The top sales producers do what works. No matter whether it is accepted by most, comfortable for them, they want to do or they really really really want to find prospecting success another way.
Guess what? Cold Calling for Appointments is not rocket science. Not easy, but not rocket science either.
If you cling to the fantasy that you are different, your industry is different, your customers would not respond to those strategies… do it your way, and keep banging your head against the wall.
2. Top Appointment setters do not make the most calls.
If you think more activity will save you, you probably don’t even know the right questions to ask, never mind the answers to how to set more appointments with perfect prospects when they are actively seeking to buy.
You can stir a pot faster and faster of lousy script verbiage, non-existent call process and lousy lists but it won’t change what you have.
The most successful appointment setters generate qualified leads in a steady stream. But they don’t make the most dials. You have to make enough calls to be in the zone, but “more dials” is never the reason for call success when other factors are not present.
Making more dials when you have few conversations or convert too few to appointments rarely makes the difference. Once you are in a reasonable range of dials, improving on those other 2 areas, having more conversations, converting more conversations to appointments, typically will get more drastically improved results. Improving on those things involves some strategic thinking, knowledge of the sales and marketing principles that drive success, preparation and practice, not “more dials.”
3. This game is more about disqualifying sales leads than it is about qualifying.
You got that right. Disqualifying. Up front, quickly, no benefit of the doubt, ruthlessly and with certainty, is far more important to accelerate sales ramp up.. The goal is not to make excuses and conjure up reasons to keep the weak and hopeless alive. There is no Heimlich maneuver in sales prospecting, no mouth to mouth, no chest compressions. The best appointment setters and sales closers identify and kill the weak. ASAP.
Those who are best at finding gold are best at identifying what is not gold. Deciding whom NOT to call, whom NOT to call again, who NOT to meet with is critical. Get good at not wasting your time and guess what… you spend a lot more time with worthwhile prospects.
Reality is that most b2b sales staff and team members are dealing with a long sales cycle. Sales cycles of six months to two years are not uncommon for a business to business sales rep. That is a different situation than b2c. Top b2b sales producers are very good and have the guts to identify and properly slot those that are not worth the sales effort right now.
4. Giving up is very important. Sales People Must Know When to Move On.
You think you will win this game by initiative and effort? Call call call and then call again. You are wrong. Big mistake made commonly is to continue to invest time well past the point of diminishing returns. Work a plan. Work a process. When you reach the end of the plan, let go.
5. Don’t Pay Attention to What They Tell You. It is usually not literally true.
This one is a little tricky. I guess what I am trying to say is don’t listen literally to what a potential customer or account says. Many, who tell you they are “all set,” “want info” or a call back are not giving you an accurate picture of the situation. If you at that moment do what they say, you will be losing many opportunities. You must have responses to these common forms of resistance so that you can uncover the accurate story and get the meeting now when possible. When you hear objections like those above a calculated response will get you a meeting now about 25% of the time.
6. Gatekeepers and Sales Influencers Are Much More Willing to Give you what they think is UNimportant to you.
This is kind of stupid but true. On the phone, if you come right out and ask for something… qualifying info, direct dial, extension number… gatekeepers will keep the cookies in the bag. Yet, if they think the same info is unimportant to you, they give it much more freely.
Use the “Columbo” strategy. Ask for what you really want after the fact. Your first request you don’t really need, it’s the afterthought you just remembered as they were about to hang up or transfer you that you really wanted. I find I can get qualifying info and info that makes it much easier to get someone to pick up the phone when using this “Columbo” technique.
7. Many, who tell you they are “all set,” will in fact buy from a competitor within 2 – 12 months.
Happens too often. Someone who swears satisfaction, no money, no interest, no need and no time is called back six months later and guess what? Just signed a million-dollar contract for products and services they had sworn they didn’t need. And with a lousy competitor to boot. Too late.
If you are a b2b service provider reality is that if it is cost effective to cold call and set appointments that most of your targets don’t buy or change vendors often. It’s more like every two or four years, maybe. In a business to business sales environment you are far more likely to interact with someone when they are not in active buying mode. You must have phone script strategies to flush out those that will have a need in the near future. If you don’t, you are doing all the work to run 99 yards to the goal line but stopping on the one-yard line with no one in sight. (I hate sports analogies.)
Use model responses to resistance and quick probing questions to ID those opportunities after they say “no, no, no.”
8. Lead Generation Success has much to do about basic management, being setup properly and working efficiently.
Your sales manager, or, if you are managing yourself, your own self management efforts matter most at the beginning phases of the sales process. What you do early on has the most impact on ultimately closing a deal.
Why would someone torture themselves prospecting for 5 – 10 – 20 hours weekly using a paper system or an excel spreadsheet trying to set appointments and getting little but headaches, but won’t spend the one time 3 – 5 hours it takes to get properly setup to work at maximum efficiency all the time. Productivity doubles with this one step. No joke.
You wouldn’t go swimming with weights tied around your waist, ankles and neck. Yet, when you prospect without being setup properly, which takes very little time compared to the time and torture you will invest in calling, you doom yourself to failure. You just can’t move fast enough to survive.
Spend just a little time to make sure you have the basics in place first, then build from there. List selection, contact manager setup, basic script paths, a call process, an automated follow-up system, just getting the basics right in these key areas greatly increases the odds of your success. Without them, you are doomed.
Manager yourself properly by being setup with the basics from the beginning. That has far more impact on your closing than “magic words” used on poorly qualified prospects when you are desperate to make any deal.
9. Most call lists are far too large for available time and resources.
Pull down a call list many times larger than you or your sales team can call and you guarantee wasted time, inefficiency, poor targeting and calling frustration. Heed this b2b sales tip at your peril.
The most common result by far of failed sales campaigns is too much time spent on lower probability targets. You don’t get more results by downloading 25,000 records (see it all the time) when your sales team can at max call 3,000 in the next six months. Those records degrade every month. Plus, managers usually pull down far too many records because they don’t know how to prioritize the call universe.
They won’t spend the few hours, or simply don’t know how to generate a qualified list, yet expect results when 80% or more of sales time is spent talking to totally unqualified suspects. I see this often and the good people always flee these environments.
10. Lack of sales script preparation.
You only tend to hear 5-7 things on the phone over and over again with b2b lead generation, yet many have not completely thought out the best response. You kill yourself to get a conversation. To not have a tightly worded powerful response ready is self-defeating. Those who “wing it” every time thinking they sound more conversational are deluding themselves.
11. How many people answer their phones only to tell you they are in a very important meeting and can’t talk, but will schedule a meeting with you, if you know what to say.
Happens all the time in business to business sales. People answer the phone to whisper that they can’t talk to you because they are in a meeting. Your first thought? Well, why did you pick up the phone from an unknown number knucklehead? But you don’t ask. It’s tough to get a prospect that meets your best account profile to pick up the phone. Don’t retreat to wimp mode. “Um, OK. Sorry. Click” Prepare for this moment and you will be surprised how many appointments and worthwhile follow-up calls you can get.
12. You can’t model behaviors and beliefs of those that set too few sales appointments, yet expect drastically different results.
Albert Einstein is credited with saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
Yup. So why would an ambitious salesperson study the collective judgment of the mediocre, the struggling, those that are not top producers, those that abandon their plan every time they hear about a “fresh strategy” or a “new rule of selling” are doomed to forever tread water?
Why would someone buy into the sales thinking of that group and say “Now there is my ticket to sales success!”Makes no sense but it’s the modus operandi of far too many salespeople.
Identify and model the prospecting behaviors of those that have actually done what you seek to do. Whether you like it, want to do it, it is uncomfortable or not. Do it. You will get comfortable when you start making more money.
13. You are interrupting and are going to annoy people. Get over it.
The same verbiage and sales script paths and responses to objections and gatekeeper interactions, that are welcomed by many and lead to maximum conversion to happy satisfied accounts, that same verbiage and approach will be an unwelcome interruption and annoyance to those with no need.
Non-buyers will always be annoyed by something they are not interested in. Of course. Worry only about your message to the buyers and communicate well with them. Totally ignore those who are annoyed.
Your main objective should always be to maximize your reach to qualified buyers and have something worthwhile to say to them when you do. The first 3 seconds and the first 30 seconds are most important to that conversation.
When someone with a need and authority to buy picks up the phone (and of course you don’t know that when you hear “Hello.”) be clear, direct, specific and say something that is meaningful to the prospect and enables them to understand you are credible and can help them. Enable them to quickly “get it”and let them say “yes” or “no.” That respects the time of your prospect.
In my humble opinion, those that drop to their knees to beg and start with “Hi, how are you?” “Have you got a minute?” “I know you are busy and will only take moment.” “I am not worthy, I am not worthy.” They are the ones that annoy the most as they suck up time and say nothing that is helpful to the prospect.
14. There are far more good profitable accounts within the group you speak to but won’t meet, then there is in the group you meet with.
Think hard about this b2b marketing truth. There is far more great profitable business within the group that you speak to yet initially refuse your offer to meet, than you will close from those that agree to meet.
There is far more gold just below the surface of those that agree to meet with you, than you will skim from the top. Most of you reading this are dealing with long sales cycles. It makes perfect sense that the odds of you bumping into someone at exactly the perfect time to sell is low. Yet many of those you speak to will buy from someone else in the foreseeable future.
If your response to someone that says “no” to your request to meet is to ask if you can call back in three months to check in, you should admit that you are clueless and change your approach. You must have script strategies to identify those that have needs and will soon change vendors or buy from another.
15. “Cold calling is a waste of time” is simply not true.
I teach phone prospecting but I don’t love it. I set 2,000+ C-Level sales appointments and it was work, not fun. Appointment setting is usually equated with cold calling but many set appointments with existing accounts, dormant accounts, referral sources and those that have been referred. Core B2B appointment setting success behaviors are the same whether the call is cold, warm or hot.
Appointment setting, cold, warm or hot, is just a marketing tool. Like any business to business marketing or sales tool, use it when it makes sense for you to use it. If you have better tools, use them. If you do decide to appointment set, then do it right. With B2B sales cold calling and appointment setting, like any tool, used correctly in the right places it gets results. Used Incorrectly in the wrong places… it doesn’t. I have seen businesses turn around and lives change using this tool. To arbitrarily dismiss it in all circumstances seems foolish to me.
16. Not allocating your time to the best quality pool of suspects is the biggest mistake I see.
If there are a lot of things not right about your appointment setting process and all you did was start calling and zeroing in your highest probability suspects, you would immediately see lead generation results improve. You could continue with your lousy scripts and poor call process, yet just interacting with a higher quality pool of sales prospects can deliver an immediate jump in qualified opportunities.
Remember this. No matter what else you are doing right with your appointment setting and cold calling, if you have not prioritized and focused your efforts on your highest probability prospects, you are doomed. Don’t care how good your phone scripts are or how adept you are with your CRM. You are doomed.
Example: You only have time to call and follow-up on 50 new suspects weekly. You can identify 1,000 suspects who look like your best clients. You can identify 20,000 suspects who fit the profile of your average, low volume, little profit accounts. It is mind boggling to me how many salespeople, who could choose to spend 100% of their prospecting time talking to suspects with a high probability of being good accounts, will slog through calling all the rest saying “I don’t want to miss anyone.”
It makes no sense.
Well, there are a lot of crazy things that happen out there in sales prospecting land.
Go get em.