No Guts, No Glory (Or Money)…
I still remember the first sales job I ever had, working for the hardcore telemarketing department of a company doing in-home sales for frozen meat. You can’t get a much harder sales gig than cold-calling random people at night while they’re having dinner and dealing with the kiddos’ homework to try to convince them to book an appointment with a sales guy in a suit to sell them 6–12 months of frozen meat … and THEN sell them a freezer once they realize they just bought six months’ worth of hamburger.
However, getting that job and SUCCEEDING at it was one of the BEST things I’ve ever done. It taught me how to take a HARD no and keep dialing and prospecting — something that stops 90% of all the so-called “sales professionals” out there. They’re afraid to prospect.
Look, no one likes making cold calls.
Out of the list of things I’d like to do today, it’s right above getting a root canal without Novocaine. But here’s the simple reality: No new conversations with new prospects mean no new appointments. No new appointments mean no new sales and no new clients.
Of course, cold-calling isn’t the only way to get appointments. As much as possible, you SHOULD be using EDR (Educational Direct Response) marketing like I develop for my clients to drive inbound leads. But when you couple that WITH smart, strategic “cold-calling,” you can get 2–3 times the results. Here’s how …
Step 1: Get Over Your Fear.
Why is it that the sales profession is the largest consumer of motivational material? How many engineers, administrative assistants, carpenters, electricians, or CPAs feel they need that type of training to do their jobs? (Answer: none.) Also, why do more than 80% of the salespeople who start in a sales position end up leaving sales for some other job or profession?
It all stems from fear. They have emotional weakness and NEED to be liked. They avoid confrontation of any kind and feel queasy about asking people for money (or even talking about money).
I find unsuccessful salespeople obsess over the “nos” and “not interested” responses they get. They take it VERY personally. I get asked, “What should I say when they say NO?
What do I do? What am I doing wrong?” For the most part, these people aren’t doing anything inherently wrong — they’re simply discovering a truth about marketing and selling: The VAST majority of prospects are NOT legitimate buyers (qualified prospects) of what you’re selling.
In fact, here’s how it breaks down:
1. Some prospects have a need and want what you’re selling, but they aren’t acquainted with you yet. Those are the people we want to find and talk to. They’re the smallest minority of people you can potentially call on when prospecting. Worse yet, we don’t know who they are UNTIL we call (you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the prince).
2. Some prospects need what you’re selling but are NOT INTERESTED right now. You can waste a lot of time on this group, cold-calling, trying to get them interested. You can argue until you run out of breath that they NEED you, but my advice is to let your marketing keep them in the system until they get interested.
3. Some prospects have no need and no interest, period. Obviously, we want to find people who fit into category No. 1. The problem is that they don’t show up with a big, obvious “1” on their forehead. Yes, we can cull a list and target high-probability prospects, but the only way to find those who are looking for what we sell RIGHT NOW is to deliver your opening sales “pitch” to them. After hearing it, those who are in category No. 1 will agree to move forward. The rest obviously won’t.
Once you understand and accept that most prospects — better than 90% — fall into categories 2 and 3 and are NOT “1s,” it should become apparent you’re going to get a LOT more “nos” than “yeses.” But if you emotionally and mentally cannot overcome being told “no” and allow yourself to be reduced to a timid, scared, quivering pulp, you’ll attract MORE resistance and never make it in sales. In fact, great salespeople INVITE the “no” instead of trying to ignore it or not hear it.
Step 2: Invite The ‘No,’ Not The ‘Yes.’
My good friend Chris Voss, author of “Never Split the Difference,” talks about salespeople’s obsession with getting a “yes.” Because of this, they become greedy, needy, and pushy, which triggers a flight response in the average prospect, causing someone to back away from you, mentally and (possibly) even physically.
Nobody likes to feel like they’re being “talked into” something or bullied to buy. That’s not to say we don’t do things to try to get people to buy, but you can do it in a more elegant way than with hard-close techniques. You present what you have and make it okay to say, “NO!” Also, when you make it okay to get a “no,” you don’t get as anxious about hearing it. You just move on and invest your time into finding someone looking to buy what you sell. Easier on the prospects you’re talking to, easier on YOU.
For example, when we cold-call a MSP, I train my SDRs (sales development reps, or appointment-setting crew) to say, “Have I caught you at a bad time?” NOT the usual fake, “How are you today?” By doing this small thing, we are allowing the prospect to say, “Yes, you’ve caught me at a bad time!” and get us off the phone. Almost no one says that. In nearly every case, they’ll say, “No, I’ve got a minute.”
When booking a follow-up, we’ll say, “Do you want me to call you back after you’ve had a chance to look through the materials, or would you prefer me not to call?” We invite the no. (Step 3 states the opening script we use when calling a prospect that is unfamiliar with us. You should note that we always send some type of marketing in advance — a letter, email, or both.)
Step 3: Land A Good Opening Pitch.
To increase your chances of success, cut out all the meandering, weird small talk and get right down to the point of your call: What can you do for ME, the prospect? I’m constantly surprised at how hard this is for people to understand. They’ll trip all over themselves, talking on and on about what they do. Let me share with you an example of one of our opening pitches:
Rep: “Hi, this is [Rep Name] calling from Robin Robins’ office here at TMT. Have I caught you at a bad time?”
Prospect: “No, I have a minute.”
Rep: “Great. We’re a marketing firm that specializes in helping MSPs and IT services companies like yours get more and higher-quality clients who are motivated to buy. As a way of introducing ourselves to you, we’d like to give you a free marketing guide and livecast recording on how to consistently get one to two new MSP or IT services clients a month. Does that sound like something you’d like to have?”
No To Free Information: “Okay, thank you for your time!” (Hang up and mark “Not Interested.”)
Yes To Free Information: “Okay, great! Along with this free program, we can also offer you a free, private, one-on-one consultation to review your specific situation and make suggestions about how to get more clients. During that session, we give you our proprietary marketing roadmap to IT services — it’s a plan we’ve developed over 20 years of working with well over 10,000 IT firms like yours. It shows you where to start and what is required to fully implement a working marketing plan. Would you like to also schedule that now in addition to us setting you up with the free program?”
As you can see, we’re being very concise about what we can do and the benefit to the prospect. You should also notice we’re leading with free information FIRST, then offering the consultation. The free information will also “sell” them on the next step of a consultation, so if they get that material, there’s a high chance they’ll come back to book the appointment later.
What I would also encourage you to notice is how we ask, “Is that something you’d like to have?” IF they say NO, then we move on. Same with the appointment. I don’t want them trying to “talk” or pressure someone into being interested. It wears them out and annoys the prospect.
Step 4: Know Your Numbers.
Another key area to look at if you’re failing at booking new appointments is your numbers — specifically the dials, connections, and activities you’re doing to get the appointments. Most are making far too few calls to get sufficient momentum and results. Then, to make it worse, they’re coming to a negative assumption on too small a data set. From my experience, most people are GUESSING their numbers. They THINK they made about 100 calls, and THINK they talked to 10 people. They don’t know what objections they got, and they don’t know if they had any callbacks or what percentage of the list was “bad” (wrong numbers, wrong person, wrong company, etc.).
You cannot improve what you cannot measure (or won’t measure). I would also suggest you don’t come to any conclusion about a list, offer, or script until you’ve TALKED TO at least 50–100 decision-makers. That means you might have to call 500–1,000 prospects to get the 50 conversations. If you make a decision on too small a data set, like talking to five people, you don’t have a statistically accurate test. MOST people give up way too early, assuming the list is bad, the offer doesn’t work, “people” aren’t interested, etc. Bull. Work on your script, delivery, and overall strategy until you get the right recipe of list, script, offer, and process. (More on Client Acquisition By The Numbers here.)
Here are other things you can do to improve your results:
• Take a closer look at the list. Is it qualified? ICE COLD? Obviously, an ice-cold list is going to be far less welcoming of your call than a list of unconverted leads you previously engaged with on a webinar or at a trade show in your marketing.
• Send a marketing piece in advance of the call. All things being equal, sending out a quality sales letter in advance of a call will soften the beachhead and improve the effectiveness of the call. It also gives you a reason to call.
• Stop obsessing and move on. Keep calling and let the “nos” roll off your back. If they tell you to take them off your list, then do it and call the next one. It’s ALL a numbers game, and you have to make up in activity what you lack in skill. If you’re so thin-skinned that all of this bothers you, get out of sales.
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