Why and How Telephone Prospecting is Coming Back to Life!

36 min read

cold calling

Tibor is a sales leader who has led companies like Bell Mobility, Imperial Oil, Pitney Bowes to increase results and sell better. He is the co-author of an award-winning book and is recognized as ‘Top 30 Salespeople In The World’ by Forbes. Reuters listed Tibor in ‘50 Sales Experts And Influencers You Should Be Following in 2019’ and Top Sales Management Association voted him under ‘50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management’.

He was featured in our #Limitless Webinar Series on 13 November 2019 and the topic was ‘Why and How Telephone Prospecting is Coming Back to Life.’ The following were the key takeaways from this webinar.

  • Understanding prospecting dynamics
  • How to properly communicate value in a tense moment
  • Why you want to leave your product in the car
  • Dealing with the most common objections
  • Q&A

Click here to watch the complete webinar recording –


Sanjana Murali – S.M

Tibor Shanto – T.S

Webinar Transcript:

S.M: Hi, Tibor, welcome to Hippo video’s limitless webinar series.
T.S: Thank you, my pleasure to be here. How are you?
S.M: I’m good. We should see attendees coming in now. Oh that’s great, we have like 10 attendees, that’s great.
T.S: It’s like the Russian Walmart on Black Friday.
S.M: Well let’s wait for a few more minutes and then we can get started.
T.S: Sure.
S.M: Yeah. Hey guys, welcome. How’s it going? You can just type in this chat to show your support. So we’ll just wait for another two minutes or so. We have 12 attendees.
T.S: Hmm, yeah, order a bigger pizza.
S.M: All right, I think we can get started. So good morning to everybody who’s logging in from the states and good evening to everybody from the rest of the world. My name is Sanjana and I’m the product marketer at Hippo video. Glad you guys could join the webinar today. So in the next 60 minutes, you’re going to share from T.S on why and how prospecting is coming back to life. So if you have any questions during the session, you have Q&A there. Send in your questions and Tibor will answer them like today. Okay, let me just quickly share my screen and then we can get started. There you go. So, welcome everyone for joining our limitless webinar series. We host two to three webinars every month with great sales and marketing influences. A quick introduction about me. I’m a product marketer for more than five years now. I contribute guest post on G2 crowd, SimCopa, forests etc. I’m currently the product marketing at Hippo video. So Hippo video is a personalized video distribution platform, predominantly used by SDRs, Account Executives, CXOs and marketers from enterprises and assemblies. So with Hippo video, you can take one single video, personalize it so that every contact in your email list gets unique video experiences from a single video asset. So if you could leverage unique video experiences for every prospect in your contact list, that will save you of your time and help you close deals faster. Videos currently are exploding the marketplace. Videos are being used in different processes, different streams in the industry. Be it marketing, sales, campaigns, success, support etc. So once you create these video assets, you can distribute it via blogs, websites, emails and so on. So all these workflows are built inside Hippo video. Now let me just quickly show you a video on how you can humanize your sales with Hippo video.
Everyday sales reps send hundreds of mundane text, emails, hoping to get a response or a meeting. If you are one of them, we know your struggle. However the prospect is all these texts emails look the same. How can inside sales break through this noise to stand out? Simple, by humanizing your selling with personalized videos. Start by including videos in your sales outreach. Record a quick intro video, edit it online, personalize the thumbnail and send it via email. Video email humanizes your conversations, makes you look real, and get you those coveted responses. Add interactive calls to action in your videos to encourage your viewers to book more meetings. Account executives can also make the best use of Hippo video. Include personalized sales pages in your emails to move your prospects quickly through the sales funnel. Hippo video lets you personalize your entire sales page with the curated content that instantly connects with your prospects. You can pin quick video intros, product demos, customer testimonials, and contract PDFs on the same page and share it. Hippo video provides a real-time viewer analytics to help you see how your potential customers engage. Based on the analytics, you can easily plan your follow-ups and close deals effectively. Hippo video is integrated with popular sales platforms like Salesforce, Hubspot, Outreach, Marketo, outlook, Gmail, and MailChimp. You don’t have to juggle between tabs to set your video sales funnels in action. Using Hippo video, sales teams can seamlessly convert leads into customers by incorporating videos throughout their buyers’ journey. Isn’t that wow? Use videos to speed up your sales and sell your brand better.
All right, so this is how SDRs, Account Executives, can use personalized videos in their sales funnel. So Hippo video is integrated with Gmail and outlook. You can use it to send sales pitches right from your email provider itself. So we have contextual integrations built-in with tools that you’re already using. For SRMs, we’re integrated with Salesforce, HubSpot, Sales Navigator, Fresh Sales. For sales outreach, we’re integrated with Intercom, Outreach and MaailChimp. You can check out our website for more info on Hippo video, we also have a free trial, you can sign up and give it a shot. So if you guys have any questions on how to use Hippo video for your business, you can reach out to me on LinkedIn or type in the chat, I can help you with it.
I will quickly move on to the main agenda for today. So T.S is the principle at Rambar sale solutions. He’s also the co-author of the award-winning book called Shift. He’s the opted as the top 30 sales people in the world by Forbes. And, voted him as the 50 sales experts and influences you should be falling in 2019. He’s voted as the top 50 most influential people in sales lead management. So that’s it from my side, over to you Tibor.
T.S: Okay, well glad to be here. I do have one small correction to make that it wasn’t Forbes that did that ranking, that was probably presented on forbes.com. So just to be accurate because that’s a good thing to be when you’re in sales. But glad to be here. What do you want to talk about?
S.M: Yes, so I’ve got like 20 to 25 questions with me that I want to ask. Let me start with the first question. First question is how do you perfect an elevator pitch? Are there any tips or examples?
T.S: Yeah, I think the way you perfect it is you ditch it. I don’t think the elevator pitch has any value in sales in 2019. If you think about the concept of an elevator pitch, it implies that you have somebody who is a target. Whether they’re an executive or somebody in the middle of the pack, but somebody that you think is going to be a buyer. Just think about it, the elevator pitch is that they’re trapped hostage in this elevator with no opportunity to escape the barrage of words that’s about to come at them from a salesperson. So I think elevator pitch is something that should be ditched, as same thing with unique selling proposition. Because again all I’m telling that poor prospect is why I’m different than the other company but not why it would make sense for him or her to buy from me. So I think that those two concepts have had their day and they should go by the way of sales 2.0.
S.M: Okay, cool. The next question is; do you have a ballpark number of calls that should strive to make per week?
T.S: So I do but that’s because I arrived at it. I have a tool, and people can reach out to me, it’s a web to called the activity calculator. What it does is it takes your specific number, so your quota, your average deal size things, along that way, plus you’re on specific numbers in terms of conversion rates from lead to prospect, prospect to opportunity, opportunity to close. So I know what my numbers are, because, again over the years I’ve tracked them and have had an understanding of how they fluctuate with the market. What’s sad is that a lot of salespeople don’t know when I ask them. You know I’ll ask salespeople who their favorite ball player is and I’ll ask them you know what their batting averages and they’ll know but when ask them what their own batting averages, they don’t know. So I think that there isn’t, and my focus has always been that there isn’t an ideal number. There’s your number, and there’s what you can do to improve it. I think what sales people can do is own their own number. So instead of comparing to somebody else, how do I get better every day. Because, again, next year you’re gonna have to start all over but this time your quota is gonna be higher so you have to be get better. So I think the best thing to do is to start off with a general number. So if somebody comes to work for me, I generally tell them go out and get ten appointments every week. After a couple of weeks, we can see what effort it took to get those appointments. By that time some of those appointments should be beginning to move through the pipeline so we will be able to measure it through that. So to answer your question, I think I can answer what mine is, I think the effort and the reward is and people actually figuring out what their own is.
S.M: Now my next question is; how do you think outside reps can best use outside prospecting to aid their phone prospecting and vice versa?
T.S: Well I mean I think they’re out there so they’re seeing things. I don’t think a day goes by when… You know I keep a pad on my passenger seat in my car because a day doesn’t go by where I don’t see something new in terms of a building that I didn’t notice. I’m sure it was there before, I just didn’t notice it or a truck will pass me and I’ll go hmm that looks interesting and so on. So I think as you’re outside, you can just visually take in your environment. I think the other is to let everybody know that you’re in the business of sales and that you’re looking for customers. So don’t be shy about asking for referrals. I think salespeople always think they have to wait for referrals until you know six seven years after the deal is done. You know if people want to go out and still one of the better sales books is Joe Gerard’s sales book, you know the great car salesman. He was infamous for giving people cards everywhere. So now it’s not cards, it’s social media. But if you’re out there let people know you’re looking for customers. They’re talking to other people. Everybody you talk to has a customer and has a supplier so that’s two possibilities. So I think again the word is being proactive instead of waiting for it to come to you. At least they’ll meet it halfway if not more.
S.M: Okay. Next question is; how can I get to a gatekeeper?
T.S: Well you can get through by changing your attitude. So I think again, you know labels mean a lot, right. So I recommend that everybody go out and find Stu Huntington and get his two books, one in particular is get a meeting with anyone. Stu has a great little formula. He has gotten rid of the phrase gatekeeper and he now looks at them as being VPs of access. When you have a VP of access, you talk to them entirely differently than when you look at somebody who’s a gatekeeper. So I think it’s the wrong question to ask what can you do to get past them, I think the question to ask is what can I do to get engagement.
S.M: Cool, fine. So speaking of VP’s, how to pitch to a c-suite?
T.S: I guess in whatever language they speak locally. You know they’re people, you know so I think you talk to them in that way. I think the differentiation, if I understand the question, is if you look at sort of the hierarchy of an organization; you got the frontline soldiers which owes the sales people like you and me, you got the managers, you got the VP’s and then you’ve got the c-suite, right. So each of those assumes that the layer before them is managing that part of the business that’s been delegated to them. So you know salesperson is going to do what they’re being told to do by their manager and the manager is gonna assume that they’re gonna go out there. So I think that the thing you need to change when it comes to speaking to the c-suite is to talk to them about issues that they would be interested in. So what most salespeople make the mistake of is talking about a product that they want to sell now in their current cycle. Well the c-suite has outsourced the now, they’ve delegated it to middle management and below. So what they’re thinking about is next year. Most VPs that I’m talking to are past their planning for 2020, are well into their execution of their plan for 2020. In about June, we’re gonna start talking about what they’re doing in 2021. So if you want to talk right to the c-suite, then align your timeline with the timeline that they’re thinking about. Because they’re not thinking about products and specs and all the crap that we think about, they’re thinking about the business elements.
So this thing we touched on earlier about speaking their local language. I was only being half Theseus. You know the local language changes from different quarters of the building and you know if you want to look at a simple example, you’ve talk to managers, they talk about sales and deals. And if you talk to VPs, they talk about revenue. Same thing, but it’s just the way they look at it. So the way you sell to c-suite is to speak their language.
S.M: Yeah, so the next question is about cold calling. So at what point, should I stop cold calling?
T.S: When you die. In the right place because it’s real cold there from what I hear, unless you’re a bad salesperson and going to hell but anyway. That’s when you should stop.
S.M: And how frequently should I call?
T.S: More frequently the most people are comfortable with. I mean let me ask you a question, where you are, it’s Wednesday night, right. Tell me who called you Monday morning?
S.M: I don’t remember.
T.S: There you go. So how do you expect the prospect to remember because they don’t even know you, right. So I know my mother must have called me on Monday at one point but that’s about the only thing I remember. So I think there is a fine line between harassment and persistence and I’m big on persistence. I think the way that you avoid harassment, consider what the message is. Most of our message gets communicated non-verbally. So I could say all the nice sweet things I want on the phone but if my attitude is where the eff is this guy and how come he’s not answering my call, then that’s what’s gonna come across. So I think, again, it’s the way that you speak, the attitude and so on. But in terms of when do you stop cold calling? I think when you want to lose your job as a salesperson.
S.M: Got it. And then my next question is; how to follow up with the prospects without annoying them?
T.S: Oh, that’s the big one. If you answer this, we’re done. I think, as I said a moment ago, it’s a fine line, right. I think one of the ways to sort of balance it out that you don’t come across as being this too irritating person is to go across various modes of communication. So most salespeople default to the one that they’re comfortable with. For me, that’s always the telephone. But I know that the people I’m speaking to are not the same as me, like imagine that they’re different. So you have to really go across the spectrum from telephone the social to LinkedIn. And within social, you have to select your sort of outlets as it were. Snailmail, I use Snailmail a lot. I use greeting cards because you know when was the last time you got a greeting card at work. You know you open it because it’s so rare. So you know I’ve used text you know, and in the summer sometimes, I use smoke signals, so you know whatever means of communication. But your question I think there’s two ways you can go about it, you can be consistent in you know sort of two three four days apart with some logic in terms of what the flow is gonna be. So you need to sit down and draw it out like any plan that you would. The other… And you have to be really good at it and I’ve only seen some people make it work and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not good at it, is to get a real long narrative story, it’s regard the story. I know one person, she got to this one company through about 30 to 40 voicemail messages but she had the scenario, she had this style. But I think a lot of it had to do with her presentation and I couldn’t pull it off because she’s much more personable than I can be.
S.M: Okay. Speaking of which, if the prospect gives a great response over a call, like neither interested nor completely denying it, how to pull him to my interest?
T.S: Well I think, first of all you have to remember, that if you’re cold calling, which again you’re gonna do until you die, you know you’re interrupting somebody in the middle of your day, right. So you have to sort of accept the fact that first reaction, it doesn’t have anything to do with your message, it has to do with the fact that they want to get back to work. So it’s really a reaction to holy shit, I got to get this stuff done and this guy’s talking in my ear, I don’t need this. That’s what we hear over the phone is I don’t need this, right. But in this case is the interruption, not the product. So I think first of all you have to go in understanding that often the first reaction, sometimes even the second, has nothing to do with you, it has to do with the environment that they’re in and it really is a conditioned response, right. You know you do something enough times, like if you think about it, the average executive or even middle management person will get in excess of a thousand calls a year, right. So after a while you become pretty good at shutting them down. So I think, again, you need to have some sort of continuum that you can continue along. It doesn’t make sense from an English point of view but you’ll get it. So you know you have to have that lined up but if you’re good at weaving together a story in short bursts, try that. Otherwise, you know, polite persistence and so on. You know at one point, you do you know… I mean I think there’s ways to politely ask you know is this conversation continuing to make sense to you or not. Now people have the stupid thing of saying well you’re gonna buy… You can ask in different ways. You can ask you know is this conversation continue to make sense to you? Give them an opportunity to say no. Often salespeople corner a customer and they feel uncomfortable saying no.
So ask them straight out you know like if this is not a priority anymore, it’s probably not a good use of your time as a salesperson, and the only reason you want to continue to chase it is because you’re too scared to prospect for the next one.
S.M: Got it. What are the techniques to grab the attention of the prospects in the first 15 to 20 seconds while cold calling?
T.S: Don’t talk about yourself, don’t talk about your company, don’t talk about your product, talk about what you think they want to be in 12 months. So if you’re talking to somebody, and you sort of know the industry, and I’m assuming you would if you’ve been selling it, you know what are some of the logical trans, logical objectives, what are you seeing from others who are deemed to be leaders in the particular vertical doing that you know makes sense for other people. But it has to be really exclusively subject that’s on their side of the fence. Anything that sort of sounds like cues you know that really will not be that interesting to them.
S.M: Okay. So how do I prepare for cold calling the best possible way?
T.S: Well we start with a cold shower in the morning, no. I think you know like you’ll prepare for it as you would with any other professional endeavor, right. You practice, which is something a lot of salespeople don’t do more and more. I think with some of the reporting technology out there, they can listen to themselves and so on. So you know practice is a big thing. I think talking to people. So you know like you asked me about the c-suite. So almost every company has its own c-suite. So if for instance, and I’m just being you know for demonstration purposes, if you wanted to know what a chief financial officer is thinking, go talk to your chief financial officer. He or she can’t be all that different than every other you know. So you know go out there and look at some association sites. You know what are the associations are talking about because on the association sites, they’re gonna be talking about things and they think their members see value, and otherwise they’re not gonna join up. Take a look at what some of the commercial trade shows are doing. You know there’s company after company that does vertically and almost functionally and you only have the trade shows. What are the topics that they’re talking about? Because again in order to attract paying customers to the trade show, they’re gonna have to talk about things that are of interest to those people.
So once you have that prepared then understand who in your client base, you’ve been able to move the dial for in those directions and then talk about that. But again, not about your product or whatever but the dial that was moved to what effect. Just with your luck, they decided to do construction in the building today, but sorry.
S.M: Okay. The next question is best way to respond to how did you get my number.
T.S: Well, in my youth, I used to say off the bathroom wall but you know it didn’t really work that well for me. So I think that there are a number of legitimate sources that people should be aware of that you know provide numbers. It’s a business like anything else. I know people don’t like it but you know it’s in business like anything else. So for instance up here in Canada, I use a service called Scott’s directory. It’s a professional directory. It gives me access to a couple of hundred thousand companies that I could prospect. So I tell them straight out. If I’m prospecting somebody in Canada, I’ll tell them straight out that you know I went to Scott’s and I got it. But you know the internet has changed and I don’t get that question as much anymore. If I get it, they’re usually older than me and that’s rare these days. Because everybody expects that you know all the information is out there, everybody had registered for this should expect that you know they’re gonna be called to their death. I don’t think people ask that… I really haven’t been asked that question in five or six years. Because again, my expectation is anywhere I go on the web is gonna be tracked. So my expectation is that all these software that are scraping LinkedIn already gave out my phone number. So I think that somebody who lasts that question is probably privileged because they haven’t interacted with social media.
S.M: Got it. The next question is how to handle objections in cold calling?
T.S: Professionally, objections are part of the game. You know so you’re not surprised when you go to a restaurant if somebody asks you if you’d like a drink. So it’s the same way that you know if you’re going to make a cold call, you should expect. In fact, I would put my mortgage on it that you’re gonna get an objection. So then you handle it professionally because it shouldn’t surprise you and you should be ready. You know at the end of the day there’s only about five objections that you’re gonna get consistently. So if you know that 80% of the time you’re gonna get one of those five, I would say the odds are in your favor. But I think what most sales people do that doesn’t help the situation is they try and defend their position. So they come in there with a story about their product, the client will say oh I’m not interested or the client will say we already have that and so now of a sudden it’s an invitation to defend the product, to defend the brand and so on. But again, as we spoke about before if he’s calling or he or she calling a c-suite, that person has already passed their contribution to that decision, right. They’ve set the strategic direction and so on.
So if you’re calling into the c-suite and you get an objection, then you know respond in a way that you would in a business conversation and that’s what lacking in the success for a lot of salespeople is they’ll call an executive but they don’t know how to talk to an executive. They want to talk product and the executive wants to talk strategy and then they’re talking across each other. So you know I think if you want to handle an objection, understand why that person would want to talk to you and then focus on that instead of defending the product. It’s perfectly understandable that the first impression after being interrupted by phone call in the middle of a busy day, but they might say you know what I’m not sure I really want this. Which is an invitation to expand on it instead of defending it. What do you mean you don’t want it? I’ve heard sales people. I listen in on calls and I ask people what they say and you know when they hear I’m not interested, they actually ask what do you mean you’re not interested, I haven’t said anything yet. It’s the silliest thing a salesperson can say but I hear them saying it. I hear that more often than the question of where do you get my number.
So I think you need to be professional, you need to expect it and you need to think of it as an opportunity to expand the conversation. So I go back to what objectives I’ve been able to help people in that type of scenario achieve and then it’s no longer a discussion about me and my product, it’s an instruction about that objective. If that objective is not a highlight or a priority for him or her, I could pick one or two others but I’m not going back and forth with them and I’m not playing sort of let’s defend the objection. I’m trying to, again, based on my experience, I know I can help this prospect, I’m trying to find a way to align the conversation. It’s not… Again just the way people ask the question of how do you handle objections like right away it’s like you know it’s this Frankenstein thing. It’s part of a conversation. What your job is is to change that interruption into a conversation. So don’t think about it as objections, think about it as somebody saying you know well tell me more. But again, I mean not like blindly but listen to what they’re saying.
You know I’ll give you an example. There are larger companies that I call will tell me that they have a training department. Not a surprise, right. So instead of trying to go with this that I know from experience that one of the challenges that a lot of these learning and development areas have is getting adoption in the field. So when they tell me we’re all set, we have our own people, you know I say I get that because, and I give them a reference that they can relate to a customer of mine or whatever. Had the same view before they saw how my program actually increased adoption of internal programs. So now instead of fighting them about programs, I change the discussion to I’ve got something that will help you increase internal adoption. That’s why they invite me in. They could give a shit about my prospecting program at first, but once I get in you know I give them what they want, we have a conversation and we both get what we want out of it. But I didn’t defend my program, I talk to issues that I know that they’re dealing with. Again, that’s that preparation and research that needs to be done for the cold call. It’s not taking a cold shower.
S.M: The next question is; how do you sell when there’s no strong USP in your product when compared to your competitors?
T.S: How do I sell or how do I see it being done?
S.M: How do you sell?
T.S: I think you need to be convinced of your own value. I think that some of the people you know some people are afraid of their own value, they’re afraid to quote the price, especially if they’re on the upper end of that line. But you know I present it to somebody yesterday and they said you know you’re a lot higher than anybody else that we’ve talked to and I said thank you. You know like I’m worth it. I’m not saying that out of conceit. I see a lot of my clients have great products and I see that they’re able to help their customers and while the widget or the piece of equipment or whatever may not be that exotic or that interesting, when you look at it from the context of what it enables in their business, it has a lot of value. So if you focus again, you know people who have heard me talk before I talk a lot about leave your product in the car. Well if you make it about the product and the product doesn’t have much of a proposition, then you’re gonna be in trouble. But if I could shift that conversation as to what I can do for their business, again it’s not easy, they’re not gonna jump on it right away but all of a sudden they don’t have to defend the product because now we’re talking about can I help you get to where you want to go. Again, and that doesn’t guarantee a sale but it leads to a different conversation.
S.M: Okay. And what are the best ways to end the call?
T.S: By getting the appointment. I think again look, you want to be practical because the wonderful thing is leads are recyclable, time isn’t, right. So salespeople get hung up on chasing this thing just so they could prove that they got them, right. But then talk about the time that you wasted getting this guy you know versus the same time being invested in you know other potential opportunities. You know so to me, if you’re gonna fight to the end of the call then you may win the call but you’re not gonna get much else. But if I try and sort of take away the objection to three, maybe four times, and then I say something to effect like sounds like now’s not the right time I’ll give you a call back in the future then I leave that door open for coming back. But if I fight to the bitter end then there’s no future. So the best way to end the call, other than getting the appointment, is to make sure that you have an opportunity to come back without being that guy who wouldn’t let go.
S.M: Got it.
T.S: By the way just to add to that, everybody on this call has a story where they stayed in touch with somebody two three four years and they finally got the business. That’s because, again, they left that door open. So I know sometimes people want to go for it because they want the deal but remember it’s sort of a sudden death type of thing. You go for it but you may not have the opportunity to come back. So the cure to all this, before we run out of time, is they wouldn’t want to hang on to that questionable opportunity if they actually had other prospects that they could work on, right. So if you have plenty of opportunities in your pipeline, you really could care less if one of them slips away. But if you only have two opportunities in your pipeline and one slips away, you’re half empty. So the cure to allow you your question is you just pick up the phone and prospect.
S.M: It’s hard to overcome call reluctance.
T.S: Call what?
S.M: Reluctance.
T.S: Reluctance. On the part of the salesperson or on part of the manager?
T.S: When he goes to the grocery store and he can’t afford to buy food and his children are going hungry you know that might get him to think about picking up the phone and stop being so reluctant. You know, I think look at the end of the day sales is not for everybody, right. Unfortunately, we’re an industry that chews through a lot of bodies, right. We have a constant need, almost every LinkedIn profile you go through says we’re hiring, we’re hiring, we’re hiring, right. So I think that in terms of call reluctance, if somebody’s not willing to do the job then maybe they’re in the wrong position. I’m sorry but like I think the reality is that there’s a lot of salespeople who really should be serving at McDonald’s. So that’s the way to solve call reluctance is open up a Burger King or McDonald’s and send your SDRs over there. I mean at the end of the day, look, any other profession, right. If you were playing football and you refused to kick the ball, how long would you be on the team? You know I think that, yes, I understand they were human we have to be nice about it and so froth and so on, but again you know if you’re not gonna kick that ball and you’re on the pitch, what do I need you for.
S.M: Next question is; phone call or email, which is effective in prospect…?
T.S: Both, you know why make a choice. I think about as the expanding toolkit. You know there’s always this stuff I remember in sales to God came out. What is the sales to God and everybody said oh because we’re using the tools. Well, notice I’m gray, I’m old, I’ve been using these tools for a long time. I remember when you know the Palm Pilot came out in the 90s, salesperson were the first ones to jump on it. So you know really I think it’s an over focusing. Email, this, that, whatever as I said earlier. To me, what I’m seeing and what I’m reading and I would say I can validate for my own experience, is again there’s this balance of time that we talked about. So if you can pull together a combination of email, LinkedIn, phone and Snail mail, I think you’ve covered the broader space that you can. In fact, I’ve seen stats that show that if you add social or chat, it actually takes away from the success as opposed to adding to it. 34:35
S.M: Okay, cool. The next question is what’s a good conversion percentage for cold telephone prospecting? What are your highest and lowest?
T.S: So you know my numbers are twelve, six and one. So for every 12 people I call, I generally speak to about six and I’ll get an appointment. So I think if you convert that, it’s somewhere in the range of about 14% percent or something like that, right. So that’s contact to appointment. I’ve seen other people who have slightly better, slightly worse, but they all seem to congregate around this sort of contact to appointment. If I can connect with five people, I generally get an appointment. I have somebody in the financial sector that I’m working with, they have a much stronger because, again, people want money so they’re more willing to talk to them, right. Whereas I have people who are in you know the wireless trade where it’s becoming more and more commoditized, not in the negative but it’s ubiquitous. So you know their numbers are a little bit higher because they’re churning through more people. But I find that sort of 14, that contact to appointment that 14%. An appointment, it doesn’t have to be face-to-face. It could be a web meeting, it could be a phone call, it’s just the person is committing to listen to you for that segment of time. About that 14% or so is what I’ve seen.
S.M: This is a follow-up to that question. So which industries have what conversion rates?
T.S: You know, I could send you and you can send it on to the people because I was just doing some work with a marketing company on that. As I recall, I mean I know that tech was in and around 8% conversion rate leads to opportunities, right. There were a couple that will lower and I think there were more industrial and transportation estates that probably erroneously people might consider to be commodities but I can look it up and send it to you because they had a whole chart on it. So it’s just behind the screen here and I don’t want to go away. But there wasn’t any that stood out that much further as I recall. I think the research that we were looking at we were thinking that the numbers were actually lower than what we anticipated. We thought that would convert at a higher rate.
S.M: Okay, got it. The next question is how to develop a winning sales strategy?
T.S: How to develop a winning sales strategy? I don’t know. Can we solve world hunger first? So I think much of that depends who you are, right, because I think if you’re a sales person the word strategy becomes a bit big, right. Because you need to strategize around your territory and your customers and all that but a lot of things have been satisfied. I mean you know the fine as it were. So I think what I would look at it is say okay so how does it decision made. You know like there’s the embryonic gene thought you know that notion of you know in the back of a napkin on the 19th hole of the golf course, somebody had an idea and they take it back to the company, some of the people in the company move it around, look at it and all of a sudden it sort of makes its way down that decision path until they’re finally selecting the vendor. So I think that the way that I would formulate a strategy is to try and understand how I could plug in at each of the stages along the way. So what are the different messages because they’re different timing or the different messengers because again, as we talked about earlier an executive is going to be looking 18 months out where it’s a frontline sales manager and maybe we’ll be looking six months out. So I think really a winning strategy is a series of connected strategies based on who you’re selling to. But I always go back to the one thing is that what would this person consider to be a success if we met six months after the fact. You know had different people telling me different things. I had one VP telling me as long as I don’t get fired I’m good, right. So that’s an easy thing to satisfy, right, but I’ve had others you know.
So I think a winning sales strategy is really understanding who the key player are likely to be in your decision which means having to review previous decisions and then create a slice for each of those and it’s the combination of those that I think leads to a broader strategy. But again, I think the big strategy is something that I don’t want to say should be left to the other people but at the end of the day the job of a front line salesperson is to execute. You know there’s a lot of variance and a lot of style and a lot of personal you know God-given skills that I can bring to that but at the end of the day I really don’t have to worry about where my brand is in the market because that’s been decided. I find too many salespeople you know pitter patter and do things that take away from what they’re supposed to be doing. I guess that’s an element of call reluctance. Like as a wireless manager once told me that he finds it fascinating that there’s always a battery that needs to be driven across town just when it’s time to prospect.
S.M: Got it. Next question is; what is it no go at performing cold calls?
T.S: Well swearing, you know, most days I get away with it. You know I think, again, you have to remember that we’re interrupting them and this is a big thing. I tell people remember that you know like some somebody asks what you do for a living, tell them that you’re a professional interrupter. All right, because I think unless you accept that, you’re gonna be always behind the eight-ball. So given that you’re interrupting somebody, think about what you react like when you’re being interrupted and what would help you meld into the call or what would offend you and just make you that much more you know not willing to be part of the call. I think talking negatively about any competition, whether it’s my competition or their competition or anything like that, it’s clearly off bounds. You know anything you wouldn’t do to your grandmother, you shouldn’t do to a prospect.
S.M: The next question is how much time does one spend in prospect research versus on calls?
T.S: So here I’m gonna be a bit different than most people I’ve seen. I think people spend way too much time on research. Because two reasons, and you know people get into it, I’m sure they’ll give up my contact number, I’ll take on all comers. You know the tendency among human beings, and salespeople are human beings contrary to rumors, is we want to demonstrate what we’ve accomplished, right. So if I go out there and I do research on a half hour on you and your company, when I get you on the line, I’m gonna want to show you that I did all that research, right. Which means I’m gonna talk about stuff that has nothing to do with getting the appointment, right. So if I know nothing other than how I can help you move that dial, remember earlier we talked about I want to move the dial in your favor, that’s all I know then that’s all I could talk about, which means that’s what the call will be about. But as soon as I started reading the president’s letter and this and this and that and da da da. When I start talking about all this stuff that is not getting me closely to an appointment. Now, I don’t want people to be jumping up and down, I’m sure somebody’s doing it somewhere that, I’m not suggesting going there is stupid, right. You know but there’s general things about the industry that you need to know, there’s general things about that company that you need to know but I don’t need to know their kids’ names. You know and I don’t need to know their birthdays, I don’t need to know their favorite flavor of ice cream. You know like I’ll get to know that as we involve the relationship, right. At this point, my goal is to have you commit to having a conversation with me, right. Once you commit to that conversation, yeah, I need to do that research. But if you consider the numbers I shared with you earlier, twelve, six and one. If I do 20 minutes of research on every single company. So what’s 12 times 20 minutes? 240 or whatever. I’d be spending five or six hours doing research to get one appointment, right. Then I ask myself how much is an hour of my time worth? I can buy that appointment cheaper, right. So save the research for when you have a need to do it. But all you’re gonna do… First of all, if you want to call up and you’re interrupting them and they’re gonna object which is just reflex, it has nothing to do with you, right. Right away all that research goes out the window because you got to sit there and talk about there, right. So let’s say you don’t do what I say which is fight with the client but you start talking to them and you start putting all the research that you did. Well they know all that, right, because they put it out there on the internet so you’re not delivering anything new to them. What you’re communicating to them is they have the ability to click a mouse and read what’s on the screen, right. Now if you can put all that together and come up with something that relates to an objective, then your research can go to that. But again, I don’t think you’re gonna get that from that website, you’re gonna get it from your own knowledge, your own subject matter expertise, the other customers that you’ve sold to the other customers who consider you to be a valued vendor, a valued advisor. So if I know why my customers are buying from me, what I’ve been able to help them with, I think that’s what they should focus on.
S.M: The next question is by Stephen. He has asked can you show us a 90 days plan that we can use to become you?
T.S: I show all my customers that… But I think rather than sort of being stuck on a 90 day plan, I think the first thing that people should do is really understand how long their sales cycle is and I think that they should formulate these plans along these cycles. The other, which I think again, is similar to the research and I understand what the question is coming from but you know… I know it’s simple but if you just look at it that if I put a new opportunity into my pipeline every day, right, and that means I have something to work on and regardless of what my sales cycle is, I’m gonna have something coming out at the other end, right. So I think for the 90 day plan, I think I wouldn’t base it around days, I would base it around my cycles. So how long is my sales cycle? How long am I in, what’s commonly called, discovery phase? How long does it take me from discovery to get to a proposal to get through commitment and whatever has to happen between the proposal and that commitment? And I think I would put the plan that would be one, then I would go to the marketplace and they can comb through my blog and the tool is somewhere in there. But they can go to what we call the opportunity matrix and that’s looking at a number of different factors that will help you divide your marketplace into various tiers, again, based on that company’s specifics. Then from there you just hit the ground but I think you need to do the work upfront. I understand the appeal of this sort of 90 day concept but I would really more base it on your sales cycle. Like when people ask me when they’ll see the difference as a result of the work that I do with their teams? I generally tell them that it’ll be into the second cycle. So whatever their sales cycle is, the stuff that I do will begin can bubble up in a second one.
So I would do it that way. I would look at really what my cycle is, prioritize who’s likely to buy at a higher value, who’s likely to buy maybe with lesser value, who’s gonna you know not as likely to buy but if they buy, it’s gonna be big and then begin to apportion your time that way. But a lot of the rest comes down to what you’re selling, who you’re selling to, territory, and things like that. So if they’re serious I would invite them to get in touch with me offline.
S.M: Sure. The next question is what is your philosophy when it comes to a career in sales?
T.S: My philosophy to a career in sales, avoid it like the plague man. Nah, I’m just kidding. I think you have to… I don’t know. I’m trying to find my politically correct dictionary. I think you have to look at it as a career. You know let’s face it, a lot of people who come into sales are really transient. You know they come in, you know they sniff around, they use it to climb up the ladder, especially you know and growing in the streets were turnover is you know… Three or four years later only a handful are still in sales and their careers have progressed and that doesn’t necessarily mean hierarchically but just they’ve grounded out at salespeople. I think a lot of people think that sales is easy because there’s a lot of good salespeople out there who make it look easy but there’s a reason that the 80/20 rule exists. So I would ask them if they’re prepared to do it as a career as opposed to something that you know I’ve seen scenarios where people took on a sales job so they can get into the company and then they move to marketing or product or what have you… Did you start in sales? No? So I think the idea is to really understand that it’s secure that they commit to.
So if you think about a good salesperson, right, we make probably as good as good lawyers and good doctors, right. So think about what it takes to become a good lawyer and a doctor. It takes years and years of education, this that. It’s not just charming good looks and a little bit of luck. You know if you look at the best salespeople over time, they’re the ones who really put that practice to work. You know have come back over and over and over and take their bruises and so on. So I think that if you really are looking at as a career, which is the word I’m focusing on in your question, then you have to look at it as though you were looking at a career at engineering. You know most professional endeavors have annual continuing education credit requirements, not sales. You know you can be as bad as you were yesterday without anybody caring about that, right. So I think we as a whole as an industry need to pick that up and we’re beginning to do that here in Canada. I know that there’s been steps in the states to make it a more formal education and profession and so on but I’m still not aware of an MBA in sales that’s being offered anywhere. So right away when you show up at the door the marketing person has an advantage because there are MBAs in marketing, right.
So you know I think they should really think about am I ready for this career because it takes the same level of commitment. They’re not gonna make money year one, they may, because every blind squirrel walks into a nut sometimes. But if they’re really serious about it, the payoff is going to be a couple of years in, but if they invest those years right, that payoff will continue and it will grow. We managed to shake out most people in those first few years.
S.M: Got it. So who do you follow and look up in sales?
T.S: In sales, I’m glad you put that in there, I would have gone in a different direction. You know I mentioned Stu, I likes Stu because I think he’s genuine. So when I read his stuff, I really enjoy it. You know oddly enough, there’s a lot of people in sales who I respect but I find there’s only so many ways you can spin the wheel, right. I include myself in this, you know I’ve been blogging for 12, 13 years, probably more and you know I know that sometimes I’m just presenting the same idea in a different way but hopefully in a way that maybe somebody will pick up on it before. But you know what I tend to look to is people in other functions and I try and find parallels between that and sales. So I listen to different pods about human behavior or different parts about you know different relationship elements between people, not to do with sales at all but you know… This one that I’m trying to remember where I was reading and the guy talked about this book and I found that there were a lot of parallels in that bringing it into sales. So I think it’s by design but lately, first of all I get like a book every other week that people want me to review and candidly they’re beginning to sound the same including mine. So I find that I’m going to other practices and listening to other podcasts. Adam Grant has one that Ted puts on work life that has some great stuff because, again, the principles I think apply to sales as well, it’s just nobody is presented in that way. Then, again, the circle of people that I’m with you know people like Michael Cole, I find to be very informative. Some of the people that you’ve had, you know whether it’s Jeb, you mentioned Nancy Nardin before we started talking. So you know a lot of those people you know continue to be part of the people that I look to. I think you might be aware I did that prospecting unbound summit so I met some new people there, you know Jason Jordan would be another one that I look to. Because again I just find their look at sales as refreshing even though it’s well experienced if you know what I mean. And then you know I always go to my wife to get advice.
S.M: That’s so sweet of you. One last question to go before we end this webinar. So what is that one key takeaway that you want to give it to our audience today?
T.S: Other than my phone number? I think the key takeaway is, again, that ultimately it’s about the business. So it’s hard for people and I know the salespeople hear this a lot and so on, but it really isn’t about your product. Yes, your product is great and it’s wonderful and your CEO is like a sage, you know he came from God directly down to earth, all that is great. But that’s not important to the customer, the customer is thinking about what can I do to move my business forward. Some of them that will mean plugging a hole in the dike and dealing with the problem right now, and for others who are cruising and doing good, they’re trying to see how they can accelerate it. So I think the key takeaway is forget yourself, leave your product in the car, and go in there with a blank canvas, you know some colors and brushes, and see what you can paint up with that client. Each painting will be different because your partner in this is different. But if you go in there with a picture already pre painted then your fate is already pre painted.
S.M: Is there anything else you want to add apart from the questions that we discussed?
T.S: No, I mean I think you know the goal should be to have fun. I think this is one of those rare opportunities where you can actually have fun, make money and control your own income in time. So there’s a lot of other professions that you can make money and that they come with some luggage and restrictions. I think if you’re a good salesperson you know there’s a lot of freedom in a lot of rewards but like any profession, it takes application. A lot of sales people you know are reluctant to apply, just like they’re reluctant to pick up the phone.
S.M: Okay. Cool. Tibor, the webinar was super insightful and funny. I totally loved it. I totally loved hosting you our webinar today. Thank you, Tibor, for doing this webinar with us. We will keep this connection going. To the attendees, we’ll be sending you the webinar recording so you can listen to it again, take notes and share it…
T.S: Again and again and again.
S.M: Yeah. Alright, so thanks a lot, Tibor, for joining today and thanks a lot to all the attendees for taking the time to attend the webinar. Thank you.
T.S: Thank you.


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