Tag Archives: sales prospecting

Harness the Power of Referrals to Make Prospecting Easier

By Jeff Beals

A client of mine once needed help opening a branch office in a different city.  I called a commercial real estate company owner I knew in that town.  The owner connected me with one of his young sales reps who was excited to receive the referral.  The rep thanked me profusely. I thought, “Well, I chose a great guy to do this deal!”

But that turned out to be the last time I heard from him.

Six months later, I ran into the client I had referred, and he told me he ended up doing a deal in that city. I asked how the rep to whom I connected him. My client’s response was troubling: “I actually never heard from him, so I used someone else.”

I was incensed. I called the sales rep and asked what had happened. He stammered a bit and basically told me he let the client “slip through the cracks.”  That was not something I wanted to hear.

The rep should have given my client extra attention simply because it was a client referred by someone. He should have sent me a short email each month during the deal keeping me up to date or at least notifying me each time the deal passed a milestone. I entrusted him with one of my precious clients, and he let me down.

By blowing off a referral, the young sales rep missed out on a golden opportunity, because referrals are one of the most important tools we sales practitioners have in our toolboxes.

You want to know the quickest path to prospecting success?

Use referrals.

It’s getting harder and harder to cut through the clutter and reach influential decision makers. That’s why referrals have never been more valuable than they are today.

In an era when buyers are jealously protective of their time, a referral from a trusted source is your ticket to the show. The higher up a prospect is in a company, the more important referrals are.

Reaching busy decision makers is not the only reason you should ask past/current clients for referrals.  By asking for business leads, you could find out about prospects who otherwise would remain hidden from your view.  There are essentially thousands of prospective clients out there who you do not yet know and who have not heard of you.  A referral is your ice breaker, a chance to know someone who could someday become one of your best clients.

Additionally, referrals can get prospects thinking about making a change even when the thought of changing hadn’t previously entered their minds.

For example, let’s say there’s a client who is marginally happy with their current vendor.  They’re happy enough that they don’t feel compelled to look around but they’re not so satisfied that they wouldn’t consider an unexpected solicitation from someone who referred you.  A referral could be just enough of a catalyst to make them consider a new provider. Referrals are catalysts.

Have No Fear

Despite the power of referrals, some sales professionals are hesitant to ask their current/past clients.  Perhaps they are worried the request will be an unwanted interruption in the client’s busy day.  Perhaps they’re worried they didn’t do a good enough job for the client.  Perhaps they fear “going to the well one too many times” — they already took time from the client when doing the deal, so they feel guilty taking more of the client’s time now.

If you have done a good job of serving the client while at the same time building trust, have no fear or hesitation asking for a referral.  In fact, you could make the argument that the referral actually strengthens your relationship with them.  It’s kind of flattering when a vendor wants me to make referrals on their behalf.  It shows me that I was an important and prestigious client.

Asking for a referral puts you and the client on the “same team” and creates more of a friendship between the two of you.  Furthermore, saying nice things about you to others reinforces and reminds your client why you’re so awesome.

Some clients might actually be a bit offended if you don’t ask for a referral. I once had a client with whom I worked a long time and built a nice friendship. After a couple years, I finally asked for a referral and testimonial.  Her response?  “I was wondering why you never asked me for that!”

Who Should You Ask for Referrals?

  • A person whose name, title and profile make you look impressive
  • Someone who will say great things about you
  • Someone who is very pleased with your product or service
  • Someone with whom you have mutual trust
  • Someone who has a large number of valuable contacts

When Should You Ask?

There’s no set time in the sales process when you are supposed to ask for a referral. That said, it’s probably best right after you have done a great job and your client is basking in your good work. Some sales pros are hesitant to ask a client from long ago.  Don’t fret if time has gone by.

Simply call and say something reminded you of them and how much you enjoyed working with them.  Then ask for a referral.

Referral Process

If prospects agree to give you referral, the best option is to have the referrer connect you directly They could make a coffee or lunch appointment for the three of you or perhaps send an email introducing you (“There’s someone you NEED to meet!”). If this isn’t an option, perhaps the referral giver could arrange a three-way phone call.

The second-best option is for the referral giver to send an email or make a phone call letting the targeted person know you’ll be calling and why they should talk to you.

If the referral giver isn’t willing to do either of the first two options, you will have to initiate the contact with the targeted person mentioning the referral giver’s name.  Before making this call, make sure you have referral giver’s blessing to go ahead and make the call.

Before you talk to referred targets, learn all you can by asking the referral giver about them and by researching them online.

Keep the referral giver informed throughout the sales process. It’s simply a matter of courtesy and is especially important if the referral giver is due a commission or referral fee.

Always be grateful for any referrals you receive. When clients allow you to use their names to seek business from their cherished contacts, they are putting their reputations on the line just to help you.  That means you have an obligation to treat those referrals with the utmost care and respect.  Caring for referrals is a sacred trust in the sales world, so take your job seriously.

New Prospecting Masterclass Will Help You

If you want to get your prospects’ attention, you need compelling language that convinces them you bring relevant value.  That’s what my prospecting masterclass is all about.

If your sales team is not prospecting as effectively as it could, schedule this in-depth masterclass for your office.  It can be a half- or full-day program.  Either way, it will give the sales reps in your company actual language they can use to turn cold prospects into paying clients.

Click HERE for an outline of this interactive prospecting workshop!

  Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

Perpetual Prospecting Is the Key to Beating the Sales Cycle

By Jeff Beals

Do you invest in the stock market?

If so, you’re probably aware of the constant waxing and waning that characterizes the life cycle of the stock market. What goes up eventually goes down and what goes down eventually goes up.

If you’re a long-term investor, you tend to wait out the market cycles and instead count on the long-term growth that has always happened in the market over extended periods of time.  If you’re a short-term investor, you may be playing the cycle, hoping to buy or sell at precisely the right time.

Either way, the stock market goes up and down.  When markets are optimistic, investors begin to feel enthusiasm, then exhilaration.  Eventually, it starts to feel like you’re invincible, that every investment you make pays off.  That false belief compels some investors to make reckless decisions and take questionable risks.

Just as the stock market reaches its feverish peak, the bull market ends.  Most people don’t realize it right away, and investors often go through a period of denial.  But eventually pessimism sets in, which leads to panic and then despair: the bear market.  Of course, when people are depressed at the bottom of the trough, that’s when things slowly start to trend upwards, starting the whole cycle over again.

Sales practitioners tend to go through cycles quite analogous to the stock market: highs and lows, peaks and valleys.

At the peak of the prospecting cycle, the “bull market,” you have so many deals to close and so much easy business that you’re tempted to put off prospecting activities.  Of course, that eventually leads to an empty pipeline.  When you realize you have no prospects in the pipe, you prospect like crazy, which eventually leads to another up cycle.

If your personal sales cycle is too volatile, you are putting yourself under a great deal of stress.  There’s one secret to evening out your cycle while keeping your revenue going up each year: perpetual prospecting.

Prospecting is the key. It’s the reason 20 percent of sales reps do 80 percent of the business (In some companies, it might be closer to 10/90).  It’s the reason why some sales reps do well even during a recession.  Prospecting separates the good from the great.

I like to define prospecting as “the art of interrupting someone when they don’t expect to hear from you in order to provide them with something they need that they might not yet know.”

As that definition implies, there is one aggressive part of prospecting: “interrupting someone.”  But the rest of the definition implies that sales reps are doing prospects a favor by introducing them to something important: valuable products and services.

If you want to be a better prospector, and consequently make more money, here are five quick pieces of advice:

Prospect Life Your Life Depends on It

Your sales life DOES depend on prospecting.  Ideally, you should consider prospecting to be a mindset, a way of life and a fundamental part of your company’s culture.  When things are going well and you’re closing so many sales you can hardly keep up, you still need to carve out at least a little time for prospecting.

Be an Opportunity Detective

Turn over every rock and scratch the dirt.  Opportunities are often buried layers below the surface.  Keep in mind that every person you meet could potentially lead to business and that prospects can theoretically be found any place you go.

Apply Discipline to Your Prospecting

In order to make sure you prospect perpetually, block out a couple periods of time each week that are reserved for prospecting activities: telephone calls, personalized direct emails or showing up at prospects’ offices.  This time should be a non-negotiable calendar commitment not to be interrupted or rescheduled unless it’s an emergency.

Be Obsessed with Prospect Value

When you engage cold prospects, you want to talk about things you believe they value instead of talking about you or your company.  For instance, too many sales reps start prospecting messages with statements such as: “We’ve been in business since 1910,” or “We offer a full suite of IT solutions.”  Instead, research the prospect before contacting them and talk about what they value and then be ready to explain how the outcomes/results of your products and services satisfy those values.

Plan Ahead

Nobody plans to fail but sales practitioners regularly fail to plan.  I recommend you map out your weekly prospecting plan on Sunday evening or early Monday morning.  Decide who you’re going to contact and research those prospects ahead of time.  That way, when you get to your dedicated prospecting time, you’re focused on communicating instead of digging through websites and looking up LinkedIn profiles.  If you do anything other than communicating during dedicated prospecting time blocks, you’re wasting the prime calling hours.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“You brought great value to our event. The workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

(402) 637-9300

The 8 Biggest Mistakes Sales Reps Make When Leaving Voicemails

By Jeff Beals

Let’s say it’s Tuesday morning at 7:30, the start of your weekly phone prospecting time.  You did your pre-call research the previous day and have your list of prospects ready to go.  You sit down at your desk, dial the first prospect’s number and…

You get their voicemail, of course.

The vast majority of prospecting calls go to voicemail.  Some sales pros gripe and grumble when they are automatically routed to a prospect’s voicemail.  They complain, that “nobody ever answers the damned phone!”

It is true that prospects are getting harder to reach.  It is also true that decision makers are more likely to let calls from unrecognized phone numbers go to voicemail.

But don’t consider voicemails to be a bad thing; see them as opportunities, little advertisements that can be customized exactly to each prospect’s unique situation.  Because you are most likely going to get voicemail whenever you call, it makes sense that you put a lot of thought and effort into each voicemail.  I know sales reps whose voicemails are so good and so effective, they would RATHER get a prospect’s voicemail than reach him or her on the first attempt.

In order to make your voicemail efforts more fruitful, here are some common voicemail mistakes that every sales rep should studiously avoid:

1. Talking too much

Sales voicemails should be less than 20 seconds.

2. Giving up too soon

It typically takes eight or more voicemails to get a prospect to call you back.  Most people quit after two or three messages, because they’re worried about being pesky or sounding desperate.  I’ll admit it feels weird to carpet bomb a prospect with eight or more voicemails, but if each voicemail highlights something of value, they are really effective.  If you are persistent there’s a good chance they’ll call you back.

3. Touching base

Never say, “I’m calling to touch base,” or “I’m just checking in with you.”  Those are annoying voicemails to receive, because they provide nothing of value to the recipient.

4. Talk about yourself

Never leave a litany of features and benefits on a voicemail.  Never talk about how great you are, how many awards your company has won or the combined years of experience your staff has.  Your prospects only care about how your product or service makes their lives better.

5. “I’m going to be in your area next week and would love to stop by and take just 20 minutes of your time.”

Just because you are coincidentally going to be in a prospect’s city, doesn’t mean that a prospect wants to drop everything she has going on and spend time with you.  Your travel schedule is irrelevant to a prospect if you have failed to catch his imagination in the first place.

6. Trying to say too much

If you only have 20 seconds to leave a voicemail, you only have time for one idea.  If you have more than one burning thing you want to say, save the second thing for the next voicemail.

7. Forget to leave your call-back number

One of the easiest excuses a prospect has to NOT return a voicemail message is if the call-back number is not readily available.  Only 7 percent of sales voicemails are ever returned, which means it’s hard enough to get call backs.  Don’t do anything that lowers the likelihood.

8. Being misleading

Some sales reps like to deceive prospects in their voicemails either by implying that they are returning the recipient’s call (even though the recipient never called them in the first place) or by name-dropping a person they don’t really know. You don’t want to do anything that comes back to embarrass yourself if you do end up getting a meeting.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

+1-402-637-9300

info@jeffbeals.com

How to Steal Your Competitor’s Clients

By Jeff Beals

Most people don’t know this, but from 2003 to 2009, I taught a commercial real estate sales-and-leasing course at my local university as an adjunct professor.  It was an upper-level course offered in the spring semester, so I typically had a lot of graduating seniors in my class.

One of my students passed her real estate licensure exam upon graduating and affiliated with a large residential brokerage company. She came from a prominent family, was active in the community and had a large network of friends. She was dismayed on two separate occasions when a family member and good friend chose NOT to use her as their real estate agent.

You see, those people had bought and sold houses before and chose to keep their former real estate agents.

Why? The agents had done a great job for them and had built relationships that were too strong for the unproven newbie to break. My former student was persistent, however. She kept prospecting and promoted her services to thousands of people. A year later, she had built plenty of professional relationships and was doing big deals.

I share this story with you to demonstrate that long-standing relationships are difficult to break. That’s why those relationships are so valuable. It’s hard to crack the bond your competitors have with their existing clients no matter how awesome your company is and how talented you are as a sales professional.

But it’s not impossible.

Here are some things you might consider if you’re trying to wiggle in between a client and your competitor:

Just One Thing

Some sales professionals have success by building a relationship with a prospective client and then asking for just a small piece of business.  You can say something like this: “I know you have a strong relationship with XYZ Company, and I respect that. They certainly do a good job.  But I know I can provide value too.  What if you gave me just one account, just one small piece of business, so I can prove myself to you?  At the same time, you spread your risk by having more than one company working on your account.”

Send a Gift

One way to get the attention of a competitor’s client is to send a strategic gift.  I like to find the newest business book on the market especially one that relates to the prospect’s business or interests.  Send a note explaining why you think the book is relevant to that person.  It sometimes helps to shrink-wrap your note and the book together, so it seems like a big deal to the recipient.  You can then call the recipient a couple days after they receive the gift.  You’ll find the recipient likely will be more interested in talking to you because you sent an impactful gift.

Read the Reviews

In some industries, clients write reviews about companies online.  Study the reviews written about your competitor.  If you see a number of negative reviews that form a pattern, you might be on to a vulnerability you can exploit to get between them and their current clients. One disclaimer to keep in mind – if a client blasts your competitor online, it could mean the client is the problem and not your competitor.  That could come back to bite your company if you take on that client.

Be Persistent

Perhaps the most important piece of advice is to be in the fight for the long haul.  If you walk away immediately upon hearing that a prospective client already has a relationship with one of your competitors, you’re giving up too quickly.  Perhaps you could start a nurturing campaign in which you send compelling, value-laden emails to the prospect thus building a relationship slowly over time.  You could periodically send them valuable bits of information or advice that show you are both thinking about them and coming up with unsolicited value.  That will make you look good vis-à-vis their current provider who is likely taking the client for granted and no longer going above and beyond the call of duty.

Plant High Hurdles

Determine one or more things that you do better than any of your competitors.  Then, when you’re trying to steal away one of your competitor’s clients, set a high hurdle.  In your conversations with that client, say something like this: “Whoever provides you with this service should always do ‘X.’”  Of course, “X” is the thing you do well that you know the other company can not do.

But Don’t Do This:

There are a number of techniques you can try, but there’s one technique I don’t recommend: discounting your price.  That’s the easy way out, and it’s a short-term way of thinking.  Some sellers think they’ll win over a new client by giving them a drastic discount.  It might work, but know this – once you give a discount, the client might always expect that price.  Plus, if you discount too much, you may end up losing money.  Finally, a willingness to discount may make your project appear to be of diminished value.  If you want a good client for a long period of time, you need to earn them the old-fashioned way (by providing value) as opposed to the easy-but-temporary way (discounting).

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events in this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

+1-402-637-9300

info@jeffbeals.com

Stop Mistaking Marketing for Selling

By Jeff Beals

On separate occasions I recently met with two small business owners.  These guys don’t know each other but they have a lot in common: Despite great effort, neither is happy with their revenue. Both companies are “getting by” but are far from thriving.

A quick examination revealed the same reason why revenues are falling short. Both owners are mistaking promotional activity for selling activity.  Let me explain…

Both of these entrepreneurs tirelessly promote their companies.  They belong to service clubs and chambers of commerce. They show up at networking events.  They lead active social lives.  They advertise on radio and in print. They buy Google AdWords. They sponsor events.  One of them even sponsors a youth sports team.  Yet despite this activity, neither is getting enough new business to come through the door.

So, what’s the problem?

While they’re doing a great job with promoting, neither is focused on selling. Both entrepreneurs are getting their brands out in the marketplace.  They are creating name recognition and associating their brands with positive feelings.  But promotion is simply not enough.  Promotional activities don’t in-and-of-themselves lead directly to signed deals.  If you stop at promotion, you’re not going far enough.

To make a military analogy, think of promotional activity as analogous to an air raid and selling to be an analogy for the infantry.  If one country is going to attach another, they often use their air forces to weaken the target before the infantry soldiers invade.  You don’t win wars with air power alone.  At some point, soldiers have to win it on the ground.

Now, I’m a little hesitant to use the military analogy because good sales people don’t “attack” prospective customers.  Instead they work with them to find beneficial solutions.  Nevertheless, promotional activities “soften” up the target audience while salespeople (the “ground forces”) finish up everything.

No matter how tirelessly you promote and no matter how much you spend on marketing, making a sale usually requires someone from a company to do four things in exact order:

  1. Interrupt someone’s day and turn them into a prospect;
  2. Figure out what prospects truly care about;
  3. Demonstrate how the product/solution exactly meets their needs;
  4. Confidently ask them to sign up.

To be successful, companies have to repeat this process with multiple people each and every day.  If you’re not focused on the four activities above, you are wasting time and money.

But it’s not just glad-handing, socializing owners/executives who are guilty of this.  Some salespeople are too.  Yes, people who actually work in sales will often promote instead of sell.

Some salespeople will wine-and-dine clients but not steer them to the close.  A good name for these salespeople would be “professional lunch eaters” or “professional coffee drinkers.”

It’s easy to do the relationship-building part of sales, but it’s hard for some people to follow through with the closing part. Asking for the order is inherently difficult, because it’s not fun to be turned down. It’s human nature to avoid rejection. Because of that, many people put themselves out there, build relationships and simply hope and pray that the clients will come to them.

That’s too passive. Waiting for people to volunteer to be your clients might work occasionally, but it won’t generate enough business to sustain you.

It’s true that successful entrepreneurs, executives and sales professionals must engage in promotional activity, but that is simply a means to an end. Your success is ultimately judged when your prospect signs their name on the dotted line.  That means you must be constantly focused on the real measure of success.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events in 2016. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events in 2017!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

+1-402-637-9300

info@jeffbeals.com

How to Overcome the 4 Biggest Prospecting Challenges

Sales Prospecting Class Logo NARROW

By Jeff Beals

Prospecting is not just something sales professionals do to fill their pipelines. Prospecting is a mindset, and for the most successful sales pros, it’s a way of life.

If you work in sales, nobody has to tell you that prospecting today is exponentially harder than at any other time in history.  Why is that?  Here are four reasons:

  1. Prospects are busier than ever, making them distracted and difficult to reach.
  2. Products are services are now commonly considered to be mere commodities.
  3. Salespeople all sound and act the same. Too many of us utter the same meaningless jargon and gimmicky sales lines.
  4. Prospects have access to unprecedented information about products and services. They can find out anything they want about your company through a simple Google search. In many cases, they can find online reviews about your offerings.  They can go onto a discussion forum and solicit opinions about you and your products. The problem with all this information, however, is that it tends to be overwhelming, unfiltered and often taken out of context.  Prospects are highly informed but not necessarily accurately informed.

The combination of these four challenges has turned prospects into price-sensitive buyers who are hesitant to engage with salespeople.

So, what can we do to rise above the fracas and succeed in an highly competitive selling environment?

Prospect like “your hair’s on fire” – Because prospecting is harder than ever, you need to be more diligent.  Like I mentioned earlier, prospecting is a mindset, a way of life.  You could even call is a “lifestyle.”  Embrace it. Welcome it.  Do it every single day of the week.  While prospecting can be nerve-wracking and frustrating, push through it.  If you are positive about it, you’ve won half the battle.

It’s not about you – Always focus on what the prospects value, not what you care about.  It’s never about you. It’s not about your company. It’s not about your product’s features and benefits.  Think of yourself as a detective assigned to figure out how you can best help the mysterious person known as your prospect.

Apply discipline to your prospecting – Even though there are more enjoyable things to do as a sales professional, you have to make prospecting one of your top daily activities.  You even have to do it on days you’re closing other deals.  Top producers reserve blocks of time for prospecting and they don’t allow any distractions during those times. I know of no other use of your time that is more likely to lead to long-term sales success than being a dedicated, disciplined prospector.

Value-based language – When emailing prospects, leaving them voicemails or talking to them face-to-face, ask questions that determine what they value and then explain things in a way that shows how you deliver that value.  Good prospectors research and test language they can use when engaging potential customers.  Ultimately, you want language that captures a prospect’s attention, conveys value, makes them feel comfortable sharing sensitive information with you and then compels them to make some sort of a commitment.

Make a plan – While you need to be an exuberant and disciplined prospector, you do need a plan. If you run to the nearest phone and start dialing cold prospects haphazardly, you’re wasting your time.  Your plan should include what types of people you target, where you get leads, how you do pre-call research, the language you use to establish value and the tactics you use to push them further down your pipeline.

This comes as a surprise to a lot of people, but did you know that prospecting is the number-one deficiency among salespeople and sales departments?  It’s true. Most of the problems that salespeople complain about are ultimately caused by poor prospecting methods or a lack of prospecting discipline.

I want to make you aware of a unique prospecting resource available to you. My colleague Beth Mastre and I are offering the “Sales Prospecting Masterclass” on Tuesday, August 29th in my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.  It’s sponsored by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, but anyone, regardless of whether they are a chamber member, is welcome to register.

This class will change the way you prospect.  It’s a “deep dive.”  We’ll spend the whole day covering what actually works in today’s challenging sales environment.  Every participant will leave with a step-by-step, personalized prospecting plan and actual language you can use to engage prospects the very next day. Click here for information or to register!

Video: What’s the Single Most Important Thing to Know about Sales?

Click here to watch this week’s video!

What’s the most important thing to remember when it comes to selling? It’s not about you! That’s it. Always remember, whether you’re prospecting, presenting or closing, focus on the buyer, not your features and benefits. But be careful to avoid the “biggest sin in business.”

You’ll hear all of that and more in this week’s “Blue Chip Sales Tip” video!

PROSPECTING: Sales Pros Should Be Seemingly Everywhere

By Jeff Beals

The most successful sales professionals tend to work long and hard.  A significant chunk of those hours is typically dedicated to prospecting activities: networking, making phone calls, placing outbound emails, responding to emails, hosting guests, visiting people who refer/recommend them to clients and developing raving fans who champion their cause.

Prospecting must be perpetual. No matter how busy you may be, you need to get out of the office and show up at networking events. We need to reach out and engage the world around us. As a rule of thumb, you need to have meaningful encounters with people in your network every day—including weekends.

I admit that’s a demanding standard.

The good news is that these encounters don’t necessarily have to be at formal functions held in formal venues. Your sphere of interest is ubiquitous. Strike up conversations with people around you. Reach out to people and get to know those who might refer a desirable prospect to you some day.

Many prestigious, big-time clients in the typical industry can only be reached through relationships. They do not commonly walk into your office asking to be your customer. They are not amenable to cold calls, and they won’t respond to your direct mail piece no matter how pretty it is. You have to go out and meet them face-to-face in the places where they live, work and play.

“Big elephant” clients know they are important, and they expect to be wined and dined, so to speak. They are big deals and expect to be treated like a big deal.  That requires sales professionals to go out into the world and actively communicate. Getting access to the highly desirable clients requires you to be among your sphere of interest on a regular basis (or get a referral from someone they trust).

Get out there and meet everyone you can. Ask questions. Be like a detective turning over every stone, looking for any shred of evidence that can help you make the sale.

Great salespersons are seemingly “everywhere.” They live their lives so actively that other people feel as if they see them everywhere.

If someone ever says to you, “I see you everywhere,” you know you’re doing something right.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events in 2016. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events in 2017!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

+1-402-637-9300

info@jeffbeals.com

Replying to RFPs Is a Waste of Time (Most of the Time)

By Jeff Beals

When I was in high school (circa 1986), I auditioned for a couple of Hollywood movies.  One of the movies was being filmed here in my hometown while the other one held auditions here in addition to several other cities. I tried out just for fun, and knowing the long odds, I never expected to be chosen.  Though I wasn’t offered a part in either film, the experiences were eye opening for a 17-year-old kid.

The first audition was a positive experience. It was a comedy film written for a teenage audience. I tried out for the lead role, which was fittingly enough, a nerdy high school kid who was forced to fight an intimidating bully who had just transferred in from another school. I had an appointed time to show up and spent about 30 minutes with the casting director and his entourage. I read several scenes and then answered interview questions. I felt like I was actually being considered for the part.

The second audition was a “cattle call,” in which several hundred would-be movie stars showed up at a local hotel ballroom. After waiting a couple hours, I was brought into a separate room with a group of six other guys. They lined us up, looked at each of us in comparison to one another and then told half of us to go home. I was one of the guys told to leave.  That was it.  I waited for hours only to be sent packing having never said a word.

Do you want to know why I received so much more attention in the first audition than the second?  I was actually recommended for the first movie by a local talent agency that had been hired by the movie producers.  At the second audition, I was just one of 250 nameless, faceless unknowns.

Why do I tell you this story?

Because it reminds me of the Request-for-Proposal (RFP) process in the world of sales.  As a general rule, I hate RFPs and I only respond to them under rare circumstances.

I hate RFPs, because they are just like that cattle-call movie audition. Think about it this way:

  • A company decides it needs a new vendor, so several employees sit down and think of all the things they do and don’t want and then dream up a bunch of hoops for would-be vendors to jump through.
  • They send the RFP to every potential vendor they can think of.
  • Prospective vendors practically do backflips trying to meet all the RFP requirements and end up rushing to meet the deadline.
  • The company that issued the RFP then examines all the proposals that were submitted and compares them.  Ultimately, they decide that some of the proposals are basically offering the same products/services, so they choose the lowest-priced bid.
  • And it can get even worse.  The finalists are sometimes pitted against each other in a bidding war to see who is willing to discount their price to the lowest number. It’s a race to the bottom.
  • The “winner” ends up doing a lot of work for too little money.

This is not a recipe for high profitability.

Generally speaking, I recommend you respond to RFPs only when your relationship with the client is so strong that you are essentially guaranteed of winning.  Some companies have policies requiring that vendor relationships go out to bid periodically. If this is the case at one of your best client companies, tell them you will help write the RFP.  You can then write the RFP to favor you and the way you do business.

If you don’t write the RFP or at least have heavy influence on the RFP, it very well could be an expensive waste of your time replying to the RFP.  An exception would be when the RFP is a mere formality designed to make shareholders feel better and you are the pre-chosen winner.

Now, I realize that there are some industries where RFPs are a rooted part of the culture. In other words, they’re so common that there’s no getting around them.  That’s not the case in most industries.  When at all possible, avoid RFPs.  Just like the cattle-call audition, you have little chance of winning.  Meanwhile, you spend tons of time and money preparing a proposal and get no revenue in return. If by some miracle, you are chosen, you’re probably going to get skewered on price.

Just say “no” to RFPs!

By the way, that movie for which I was actually considered turned out to be a box-office flop, earning only $1.5 million during its opening weekend. But it did play on cable television for many years.  To this day, I’ve never watched the entire show but have seen bits and pieces of it.  I’ll never forget the first time I stumbled upon it. I was flipping through television channels and landed on something that looked mildly interesting.  As I started watching the show, it felt so familiar. Then I realized that I was watching the very scene I read during that audition.  It was fun to think what could have been…

How to Get Glowing Testimonials & Valuable Referrals

Social Proof cover 150 RGB

By Jeff Beals

The sales manager got a lead on a nice piece of business. It was big enough of a deal that he assigned two sales reps to the account: Julie and David. Those two had worked together many times and had landed more than their share of big deals.

As expected, Julie and David did their due diligence before meeting with the prospect. During the first meeting, they asked questions and focused on what the client truly valued. After three meetings, it was time for the client to make his decision. Julie and David were confident. They’d really hit it off with the client. Everything “felt” right, so it was quite a surprise when they got the bad news: the client had chosen a competing company.

What happened? Julie and David did a post-mortem call to find out why they didn’t win the business. “It was very close,” the client said, “but the other company had a lot of testimonials.”

Seriously?!!? They lost a multi-million-dollar deal because of some testimonials?

This is actually a true story.

Even in sophisticated, high-ticket-price transactions, winning and losing can actually come down to little things like references and testimonials.

It’s called “social proof” and it’s one of the most powerful tools in a sales professional’s arsenal.

Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and the so-called “Godfather of Influence,” believes that social proof is one of the most important components of influence. You are far more likely to persuade someone’s thinking if you remember that “people follow the lead of similar others.”

Cialdini cited a study in which researchers went door-to-door collecting donations for a charity. When people answered the door, the researchers showed them a list of neighborhood residents who had already donated to the charity. The longer the donor list, the more likely prospective donors were to contribute.

In another study, New York City residents were asked to return a lost wallet to its owner. The New Yorkers were highly likely to attempt to return the wallet when they learned that another New Yorker had previously attempted to do so. But learning that someone from a foreign country had tried to return the wallet didn’t sway their decision one way or the other.

Simply put, social proof is why testimonials and referrals are so important in sales.

But social proof has grown in importance in recent years. Why is that? The Internet.

Prospective clients can access social media reviews of your company with the simple click of a mouse, which means it’s getting harder to hide bad service and inferior products. But because so much information about companies and products is so readily available, buyers have come to expect social proof. Prospects want hard evidence that you’re a safe choice.

Social proof can literally be the difference between success and failure in today’s ultra-competitive selling environment. Make sure your sales tool box is stocked with the best tools available…

To continue reading about testimonials and referrals, download Jeff Beals’ brand-new eBook: “Social Proof: How to Get Glowing Testimonials & Valuable Referrals.”

You can download it for FREE by clicking here 

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events in 2016. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events in 2017!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

+1-402-917-5730

info@jeffbeals.com