Inbound marketing is a wonderful tool. We have added material regarding how to handle inbound leads to our training and development programs. We have also added material and regularly coach our clients on how to use LinkedIn, Data.com, blogging, participating in relevant groups, and other tactics to create more awareness and drive potential leads into your sales funnel. It’s important and if your sales people are still prospecting like it is 1987 you’re probably missing some great opportunities.
But don’t believe it when you hear your sales people or a consultant tell you prospecting no longer works for your business. Yes, cold calls are difficult. Yes, cold calls have a much lower return and take a lot more work (it may take 100 cold call attempts to book three qualified appointments). Yes, it is much easier when you get an inbound lead, a referral, or best of all a solid introduction. That said, developing the skills and regularly practicing the art of making cold contact with target prospects will help your sales people in all aspects of prospecting and will help them convert at a higher rate when they receive qualified inbound leads, referrals, and introductions.
When your sales people (or worse, sales managers) push back and resist the idea of making cold call attempts to grow your business we urge you to stand firm and stop accepting excuses. You’re A-players will just get to it. You B- and C-players will need more coaching and a higher level of accountability and activity monitoring.
Here are five steps to help your sales people put greater focus on top-of-the-funnel sales activities:
1. Establish daily targets
Set reasonable targets for minimum daily activities and let them know that is a requirement of their job and if they cannot do it they will need to do something else. You may need to bolster your sales manager’s resolve on this, particularly if the level of accountability across the sales team has been weak.
2. Outcome-based versus activity-based goals
We prefer outcome-based goals versus activity-based goals. So for example, an outcome-based goal might be “have five (5) conversations with decision makers every day” or “book one (1) qualified appointment every day.” Activity-based goals can also be effective and are particularly appropriate for newer sales people or sales people who are just learning the basics of prospecting. An activity-based goal might be something like “make 30 call attempts before 9 am.”
3. Right fit prospects
Make certain your sales people understand exactly who they need to target and focus their prospecting activities on potential clients who will be a great fit for your business. If you need help, download our Sales Focus Worksheet to help get started.
4. Practice, practice, practice….Review
If it has been awhile since your sales people have made a cold call, make sure your sales manager leads them through the basics and actually has them practice some calls with their peers. Yes, sales people hate this type of role play. Too bad. You will get results faster if they go through a few practice calls before they start making live calls. Once they start making calls, have them pull out their smart phones and record their side of the conversation so they can hear what they sound like and adjust. Have them review these recordings with a peer accountability partner or with their sales manager. Need help getting started?
5. Low and slow
The single biggest mistake we see sales people make when they reach out to a cold prospect (even veteran sales professionals) is they lose control of their tonality and pace. As they get nervous their tonality goes up and they start talking faster, both of which make them sound like a nervous sales person. Remember, low and slow is the way to go. They will sound more confident and competent. This takes practice (see above).
Is your sales team prospecting on a regular basis? Share these tips with them, and find out how it could increase the leads coming into your funnel, and ultimately improve your sales numbers.