In today's economy, and for that matter, in any economy, office technology companies need to be diligent in creating new opportunities to sell their products and services. They cannot rely solely on their current customer base because they may not be around forever. Your customers are facing the same crises that you are facing. Businesses are cutting back, cutting costs and sometimes failing altogether. Because of this, you will lose current customers and sales through no fault of your own. But there is an answer. Your sales reps need to not only farm their current accounts, but they also need to focus on and hunt down new business. A constant flow of new customers is the lifeblood of any business.
Implementing effective prospecting for your sales force can take several forms. It is not only in what you say but in how often you say it and to whom. Below, I have listed some of the strategies, tools, and tasks that we use with our clients to successfully increase the number of new qualified meetings they make each week with their ideal customers.
Make the Time to Prospect
Finding the time to make calls, send e-mails, foot canvass and go to networking meetings does not happen unless you plan for it. So the first step is to get your sales reps to use their calendars more effectively.
Easier said than done, you say? Well, start like this: Every Friday, have each sales rep find four 90-minute slots in the upcoming week that he (or she) can dedicate strictly to phone prospecting. Each rep needs to schedule this time and write it down just like a client meeting. If something comes up that prevents that calling time from happening, the salesperson needs to reschedule the meeting with himself.
Next, tell him to use the car to prospect. It is easy to add 70-100 more dials each week by making three dials to new prospects every time the rep sits down in the car, but before he moves it. This new habit is the key to maximizing the work week.
A salesperson should be dialing between 125-200 dials per week to new prospects (50 calls a week is a hobby, not a sales job). This is accomplished with four 90-minute sessions per week, plus the calling from the car.
Here is another hint: The most effective times to call are between 7:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. and then again after 4:30 p.m. These times yield the best chance of getting in touch with the decision maker.
Get your team’s calling volume up and meetings will go up. Managers should ask their sales reps to communicate on Fridays when they have scheduled the times in their calendars for calling new prospects. This can be accomplished simply by having salespeople e-mail their calling schedules to their managers every Friday. Managers should then call their salespeople once a week during those times to “check in.” This accountability will create the structure needed to make time to prospect.
Using Voice Mail to Make More Meetings
Many salespeople do not get callbacks from voice mail messages, so they do not bother to leave them when calling new prospects to ask for meetings. Their preference is to talk to the potential customers live, so they hang up if voice mail picks up. And some like to call and just leave their name and number and ask the prospect to call them back. Doing this is not clear and is very tricky. The prospect may very likely think that you are a potential customer, so when they return the call and find out you are not, they are annoyed. You do not want to start a business relationship with an annoyed prospect.
Effective prospecting has to utilize the salesperson’s time and nothing is a bigger waste of time than making a call just to hang up the phone. When calling, you will get voicemail about 60 percent of the time, so you need to have a plan in place to get calls back. A voice-mail message can be a tool to communicate to the decision maker that you are interested in his business, you know how he makes money, how business technology plugs into his success and when you would like to get together.
The strategy to leaving a great voicemail is to think of the message as a sandwich: The top piece of bread is your introduction and the request for a meeting. Example: “Hi John, I am calling to schedule a meeting with you. My name is Kate Kingston from The Kingston Training Group and we … etc.”
Clearly defining what the call is about in your message lets your prospect quickly know what he should be listening for. In your case, he is listening for reasons why he would want to meet with you.
The meat of your message is not about you. No one cares about you. Prospects only care about how you plug into them. Remember, no one wants you to call up to introduce yourself or to meet with them so you can tell them about you. No one has time. What they do have time for is hearing how your company uses office technology with clients that fall into the same industry as they are in and what the success has been. The meat of your voicemail needs to include how you help companies similar to your prospect’s and what the outcome has been. Facts sell a meeting.
The bottom piece of bread is you asking for a meeting at a specific time. Example: “So John, that is why I wanted to meet with you. I was wondering if Tuesday the 15th at 9:45 a.m. would fit into your calendar? Here is my number ... (Tip: Write your phone number down as you say it so it is at the correct speed for your prospect to write down.) I will hold that time on my end. If you happen to catch my voicemail and that time works on Tuesday, please let me know and I will be there. I look forward to helping you.”
And another tip: Asking for the meeting at 45 minutes past the hour rather than at the top of the hour will land you more meetings. If you ask for a meeting at 10 a.m., the prospect usually thinks that the meeting will be at least half an hour or longer. But if you ask for the meeting at 9:45, he feels that he can end the meeting at 10 if he is not interested. The purpose of prospecting is to get qualified meetings. When you get to the meeting, your next job is to engage the client at the meeting. But getting the meeting is the task at hand and if you ask for the meeting on the “45,” you will be more successful.
Customizing voice-mail messages and using the 40 seconds it takes to make the message about the prospect will get your sales team callbacks for real meetings. Putting these few tasks, tools and strategies into play will increase your sales team’s meetings and more meetings mean more money.
Kate Kingston is the founder of BTA member Kingston Training Group (KTG). KTG provides motivational sales training specializing in making more meetings. They train office technology sales forces to make more qualified meetings and average a 70 percent increase in meetings across the entire sales force in every company they work with. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.kingstontraining.com.