Regardless of the industry and industry segment, successful entrepreneurship begins with the entrepreneur’s ability to sell. He or she must be able to sell to investors, clients, suppliers, and employees from day one. Of course, it’s essential to have developed a great idea, product or service, and business model, but without perfecting the ability to articulate the vision, communicate it well, and close the deal, the company or concept goes nowhere.
Unfortunately, not enough emphasis and time is dedicated to the importance of sales in an entrepreneurial venture. Sales is a cornerstone to entrepreneurial success. However, many just wing it with the mindset of, the product or service will sell itself or build it and they will come. The bottom line is, nothing sells itself and unless there is awareness of what is being built, no one will know!
This week at Acceler8Success Cafe, taking nothing for granted I will focus on basic sales skills. From prospecting to closing, I’ll work through various steps in a sales process. For now, I will keep it simple because quite simply, understanding and implementing sales fundamentals will go a long way toward entrepreneurial success, and quite frankly, success in achieving almost any goal.
One more thing, and this is vitally important to your “sales” success, key to a successful entrepreneurial venture is the founder, the entrepreneur being the number one salesperson, the number one promoter. No one will ever do it as good as you!
Sales Prospecting: Motivation & Overcoming Rejection
Style points don’t count. Ability is not enough. In sales, winning comes only with the right attitude! And winning at prospecting or cold calling, whatever you may call it in your business, is all about attitude!
When you’re responsible for developing new business, one of the keys to success is your attitude toward prospecting.
If you don’t have the desire to prospect, or are afraid of it, you won’t do it often enough. As a result, your prospecting skills become weaker. This in turn causes your motivation to diminish and prospecting then becomes a monumental task.
When we evaluate the reasons why a salesperson has failed or plateaus at an unacceptable level, we are constantly reminded of the following: they are not motivated to prospect or, have a fear of rejection. Neither their lack of motivation nor the fear of rejection is the main culprit; both are to blame. It is a catch-22. Either the lack of motivation causes the fear of rejection, or the fear of rejection demotivates them. Either way, the person never becomes the effective prospector they could be or should be.
What I’m offering here, are some ideas on how to get motivated and stay motivated when prospecting or cold calling. I have also included suggestions that will help you overcome the fear of rejection. When you internalize these concepts and techniques, you will become the most effective prospector you can be and will achieve the level of success you deserve.
Believe in it: it works.
Prospecting over the phone or cold calling “door-to-door” or on LinkedIn is a very effective way to find qualified leads for your business. Since the beginning of time, farmers, livestock ranchers and a variety of other vendors have been bringing their products to market on horse and buggy. Today, millions of companies spend millions of dollars and have millions of “salespeople” doing it.
Prepare yourself properly.
Prospecting is like a contact sport. You are either prepared and have an advantage over the other person, or you are unprepared and don’t. Top salespeople have regular phrases, statements and/or scripts they use to generate interest on the part of the prospect. They are also prepared with a list of common objections and responses to handle any resistance the prospect or gatekeeper throws at them. This preparation comes from practicing with a peer or sales manager and/or from making a lot of calls to prospects. The key question is, “Are you fully prepared?”
Every time you feel like quitting and/or find yourself procrastinating, you are being bit by the “Fear of Rejection” bug. The only way to beat this bug is to maintain the discipline to keep going. Discipline in business is about forcing yourself to do something that you don’t want to do. When you are staring at that name on your list or standing outside the prospect’s door – Just do it! No one has more power to discipline you than you.
Convert that feeling.
Try to understand why you get sick to your stomach when you have to prospect. Or why you hate the phone and have a fear of rejection. Ask yourself why you feel this way and then listen for the answer. When you are in a quiet place and are truly interested in finding the reason, it will come out. Don’t let that feeling control you. You have to learn how to control it. Once you have control, you can convert the negative feelings into positive energy. The good news is, the worse you feel now, the stronger you’ll be when you convert it and the more chance you have of being a prospecting dynamo!
Don’t take it personally.
Most, if not all, of the prospects you are going to call are bombarded with salespeople each week. And they reject most, if not all of them. They are not rejecting you; they have rejected every other salesperson that has called them this week. So, when you call, it is not you they are rejecting, they are rejecting another salesperson. Don’t feel so singled out. You are among an elite group of people whose goal it is to find people who are not so willing to or who are unable to reject salespeople. And that’s easy when you have a good call list and are well prepared.
Partner with a buddy.
Many people that exercise would rather do it with a friend because this helps keep them motivated. Both people enjoy the workout more, plus they keep each other in line. We recommend you find another person in your organization or network that has the same or better work ethic as you and agree to keep you motivated and positive during prospecting sessions. When you make commitments to each other of when, how long, and who you are going to prospect, you subconsciously put incredible pressure on yourself to hold up your end of the bargain. This is very healthy pressure to have.
Make the time to prospect.
This is part of the discipline theory we spoke of before. Most every person responsible for sales I’ve met says they are busy, and some say they are too busy to prospect. This is nothing more than an excuse and an infection by the “Fear of Rejection” bug. Top salespeople make a habit of allocating a certain percentage of their week to prospecting. Regardless of their workload, they put a priority on prospecting and do it regularly. It is your responsibility to make time to prospect and create this habit.
Organize your list of leads.
It is a complete waste of time to make phone calls to companies and people who are not qualified to buy whatever you may be selling. Top salespeople have at least 100 qualified leads on their call list at all times. A qualified lead is defined as a prospect you know can use and pay for the products or services you offer or is currently using similar products or services offered by your competition.
A business card is not a prospect.
We are amazed at how little value salespeople put on prospects. They get a business card from somewhere, write some notes on the back and use this as their main prospecting system. A stack of these things with a rubber band wrapped around them is an inefficient method of prospecting. I highly recommend becoming digitally organized on your iPhone or tablet and keep as much information as possible on each prospect. In addition to the name, title, phone number with direct extension, and address of the person who has the authority to buy your product or service, you can collect additional information and use it to your advantage.
Call Decision-Makers only.
Strong lead lists will have the name of the Decision-Maker for each lead. A Decision-Maker is generally defined as the person who makes the decisions in relation to your products or services. Generally, there are two things I look for when categorizing someone as the final Decision-Maker: 1) the ultimate authority in their organization to over-rule everyone’s decisions regarding products or services, 2) the ability to allocate money, set budgets, issue POs, sign checks, give a credit card or enter into agreements. They have the money, and they can spend it!
All at once or not?
Salespeople regularly ask me if it is better to cold call for eight straight hours (one full day) or to break it up into two four-hour sessions. Frankly, I have met successful salespeople that do it both ways. One salesperson may prefer to allocate a full day to nothing but prospecting while another may prefer to break it up into two mornings on two different days. I don’t think it makes a difference. I believe we all have to find the method that is comfortable for us. Provided you discipline yourself to concentrate on prospecting during this time period and not on other busy work.
Break up the day/session.
The fact of the matter is that even great prospectors are going to be rejected. Prospecting is a numbers game based on percentages. Having said that, I believe it is sometimes difficult for people to take a lot of rejection for a long period of time. So, I recommend breaking up your session in a fashion similar to this. Make a particular number of calls to brand new prospects and then, make some calls to prospects you have previously called on, then call some people for referrals, then take a short break.
What I have just described is one cycle. The length of each cycle will depend on your commitment to prospecting, your work ethic and level of tenacity. In order to effectively prospect, you are going to have to repeat these cycles as often as you can in order to get results. Only you can determine the length of each cycle and how many cycles per day you are comfortable with.
Use a headset.
Not for motivation, for discipline and efficiency. When you are “literally” connected to the phone via a headset, it is much harder for you to walk away from your desk. So many people put the phone down and have trouble picking it back up. They don’t even realize it, but as soon as they put it down, the resistance to picking it back up is even greater. If you don’t have a headset, make it a rule that you will never put the receiver down until you dial at least “x” number of calls. Just hang up each call with your finger instead of putting the phone down. Once it’s down it’s even harder to pick back up again!
Hold all calls.
Not for motivation, for discipline and efficiency. A telephone prospecting session is just that – outgoing calls only. Have your admin or assistant hold all your calls or direct them to your voice mail. Telephone efficiency is all about rhythm. Once that rhythm is broken it’s hard to get it started again. When you start to field incoming calls, you might get sidetracked by a friend or even worse a customer or client who needs something now. Boom: rhythm broken.
It’s a numbers game.
Even professional baseball players are only successful at getting on base 30% of the time. And they rate in terms of skills in the top 1% of all the millions of kids who start out playing baseball. So let me get this straight. They are the best of the best, get paid millions of dollars and yet actually fail on a consistent basis 7 out of 10 times! Why don’t they get the fear of failure? Because they understand it’s a numbers game. In sales efforts, a 20 to 30% success rate is good. When you can secure 2 – 3 appointments from every 10 prospects or leads you are doing a good job. Keep in mind that every customer “no” gets you one step closer to that elusive “yes.” Just keep stepping up to the plate.
Build on little successes.
Regardless of your experience level, you may occasionally hit slumps just as professional athletes do. To overcome this they don’t quit, they focus their attention, practice regularly and keep at it. Little by little they start to succeed and get their confidence back. You can do the same by working a strong referral list or by calling on some previous contacts. By doing so, you will get your rhythm back. As soon as you start to succeed throw in a couple of cold prospects and watch your confidence take over. Even if you are not in a slump, during a call session you may want to call on some older contacts to keep your motivation and confidence level up.
Increase your tolerance level.
You don’t start your running career with the 100-mile marathon. You start by first running the 5-mile marathon. Then you build your level of tolerance and stamina. Same with prospecting. If you are suffering from a lack of motivation or the fear of rejection, start small and build your way up. Start with 10 calls the first week, 15 calls the second week, 20 calls the third week, 25 calls the fourth week, and so on.
Recently, I was speaking with a veteran salesperson of about 16 years. For the past 8 years, he had a strong account base and did not have to make cold calls. He just took a new job with a company that does most of its business by telephone prospecting. He said he was scared at first (he took a cut in pay in hopes of the bigger payoff) but had faith in the company and went at it. He told me the main reason he has been more successful on the phone than most of the other new reps is because he sets goals for himself every week. He has goals for the number of times he dials the phone, the number of contacts he makes and the number of appointments he sets. Basically, he said he works as many hours as it takes to hit his goals. Now that’s commitment and desire!