More Appointments With Decision Makers Is Not the Answer

“Meetings. Meetings. We need to get more appointments with decision makers!” cry owners, managers and boards of directors. But inside and digital sales organizations need better meetings, not just more. Sounds obvious, but are you doing everything possible to get better meetings and demos with decision makers?

“Meetings. Meetings. We need to get more appointments with decision makers!” cry owners, managers and boards of directors. But inside and digital sales organizations need better meetings, not just more.

Sounds obvious, but are you doing everything possible to get better meetings and demos with decision makers? I’ll bet you’re not.

Rushing into meetings gives your team:

  • Less motivation to hunt
  • Pipeline filled with unclose-able deals
  • More “no decisions” by clients

What it costs to generate a sale matters just as much as revenue. From a business perspective, wasting time on bad leads drives profit down — by driving cost up, profit decreases.

When salespeople rush meetings it decreases productivity. Under-qualified meetings waste reps’ most valuable time — speaking in real-time with prospects.

Because qualification happens purely in meetings. Objections are increased.

Instead, a qualification (screening) system ensures reps spend time on phone/in demos/appointments only with close-able customers.

Qualification is faster.

You Don’t Need More Appointments With Decision Makers

Here’s the rub: Courting un-closeable leads decreases what you want more of — time and money. Instead, field sellers (your closers) need pre-qualified discussions with decision makers most likely to close.

Before you say, “Obviously, Jeff, that’s why we have inside sales/marketing/demand generation people,” think about what you’re doing, right now, to earn more meetings. You’ve probably got a system in place, or are pursuing a systematic way to get more meetings.

Are you also giving reps ways to effectively qualify — to ensure better meetings and demos?

Too often, our “prospecting mindset” is bent on chasing quantity of conversations — at the exclusion of quality.

The lure: More activities put into the system, more sales come out. Naturally, without question. It’s a fact.

That’s what makes systems great, according to “experts.” Systems are controllable. Want more sales? Increase prospecting outreach. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

But is it really that simple? Is more appointments with decision makers the answer?

No and no. Spinning wheels on bad leads costs you. It drives profit down. Perhaps worse, sales people are demotivated.

Because your sales reps’ profit comes in two pieces: Commissions and time spent doing what they enjoy, working less. Or you might say there is a third component — enjoying their work.

Qualifying leads — before investing quality time with them — is vital to success.

The Truth About Systems

There’s a quality component to every system. It what makes one system better than another. Look at motor vehicles. Cars, motorcycles, aircraft engines.

Quality of systems drives quality of output: performance.

Purely? Of course not. Input matters. Quantity of fuel, air … inputs demand proper amount. When quantity and quality are in harmony resulting output is effective and efficient.

It’s the same in sales.

We don’t want more appointments. We want better quality pipeline. More meetings and more close-able opportunities.

Effectiveness Versus Efficiency

The happy marriage I’m describing conflicts with culture and philosophy of sales managers… even boards of directors … who want more, more, more! (promoting effectiveness, demoting efficiency)

Many are calling this model Activity Based Selling (ABS). This strategy (and philosophy) mandates quantity. Minimum number of activities.

ABS requires sellers to make X number of calls, push Y number of emails, share Z numbers of articles on LinkedIn. All good, so long the difference between effectiveness and efficiency is appreciated.

Time for Dictionary.com:

Effective: Adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result.

Efficient: Functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort.

In many cases, activities-focused selling is damaging inside/digital and field sellers’ ability to efficiently generate more and better conversations with potential customers.

Don’t care about efficiency? Not a priority? Then you don’t value money nor your time enough.

Scott Channel, a B2B cold calling expert, says “every call not made to the worthless is a call that could be made to the worthy … or lead to finding a prospect that is worthy.”

Don’t waste time. Efficient use of prospecting time drives what you want — and don’t want!

Why Efficiency Is Worth It

Being effective is simple compared to being efficient. Setting more meetings isn’t difficult when you take a meeting with practically anyone. Effectiveness takes less time, effort and communications skills than efficiency. But it’s not worth the trade-off.

People choose getting more meetings over better meetings because they’re too lazy to get the better ones. There, I said it! But this is slowly killing you/your business.

Cold calling expert, Wendy Weiss, recently profiled financial advisor, Jerry Iancangelo. Jerry invested in a quality-driven way to screen out decision makers with lower chances of closing.

Iancangelo says he learned, “How to pre-screen people better so I could stop driving everywhere and meeting just anybody.”

As a result he’s built a $200,000 recurring annual income while doubling his time off.

“With the extra money and time, I can now vacation in Hawaii every year … take better care of myself and have a happier, healthier lifestyle with good food and proper exercise,” says Iancangelo.

Being effective is simple compared to being efficient, but pays benefits.

Better Appointments at Scale Is Possible

Constant over-valuation of more meetings is diminishing the value of better meetings. Don’t let this culture poison your prospecting strategy. Invest in scale-able ways to drive more and better appointments with decision makers.

Beware of over-focusing on reps hitting activity quotas — neglecting the qualitative communication skills needed to approach C-level decision-makers

We live in a world where sales managers struggle to differentiate between marketing automation and effective sales follow-up. Lines are blurred by the tech tools.

But are they? The best sales and marketing email solutions are working overtime to help sales reps understand—sales qualifies the leads marketing warmed up. I think I know why.

Because buyers of such tools prefer effectiveness (more meetings) over efficiency (better meetings).

More meetings, they believe, requires more activities. Not getting enough deals closed? Simply pull a lever and force reps to make more outbound dials, emails or LinkedIn connections.

But it doesn’t work that way. There is no room for mass emailing messages in sales environments.

Sales is (and always will be) a numbers game. But business growth, profitability and earning more free time is not driven purely by quantity of outbound activities. Excluding quality of conversation from sellers’ strategies is a mistake.

Make sure you and your organization are not over-focusing on hitting activity quotas — neglecting the qualitative communication skills needed to engage C-level decision makers.

What has your experience been?

 

What’s Your Online Sales Communications Technique?

Want to make yourself un-fireable to your employer, put more money in the bank and make yourself attractive to future employers? Develop a communications method to start conversations exploiting all tools: email, phone/voicemail, LinkedIn and direct mail.

4 Tips for Using Email for Acquisition and PromotionEmail templates. Call and voicemail scripts. These are components of your sales communications technique — not your philosophy. Your tactical approach to starting conversations from cold. What’s the No. 1 trait possessed by today’s best producers? Communications technique.

Want to make yourself un-fireable to your employer, put more money in the bank and make yourself attractive to future employers? Develop a communications method to start conversations exploiting all tools: email, phone/voicemail, LinkedIn and direct mail.

Got Technique?

Diligence is key. Persistence. It often wins conversations — and closes business. But without an effective, repeatable communications technique, you’re dead in the water.

Not able to interrupt — start conversations from cold with customers? Not good at keeping existing conversations alive — or re-starting them? You’re done.

True, many of today’s top producers hate prospecting. Some loathe it. But they have a reliable method to use over-and-over … to provoke email and voicemail replies.

They may not love prospecting, but they don’t fear it. They don’t rely on pumping out emails containing regurgitated marketing prose either. Instead, today’s best performers are figuring ways to help prospects feel an urge to ask for more. They have a way to spark curiosity from go.

One Size DOES Fit All

One of my students, Glen Scotzin, sells telecommunications services to small business owners. Another, Mark Lentell, VP of services at Accucode, sells multi-million dollar IT deals. But they each use similar techniques to get more replies from prospects using LinkedIn, email and voicemail.

Are there scripts the same? Not exactly. Are their sales cycles different? Dramatically. Price point is also very, very different. But their communications tactic is simple: Provocation.

Glen and Mark both use a repeatable method that is unlike 95 percent of what flows into their customers inboxes and voicemails every day.

And it works. Mostly because Glen and Mark both:

  • Believe what they’re selling has merit. This drives words choice.
  • Research and understand intimate details about their targets.
  • Are distinctly different. They look/sound unlike others trying to gain favor of targets.
  • Apply trigger-words and often use a “less is more” provocation technique.

“I have fundamentally changed the way I look at (and practice) prospecting,” says Mr. Lentell “because I now how a deep understanding of the psychology of selling.”

The Psychology of Prospecting

Customers ignoring you? There’s a reason — a really, really good one. The way customers behave is driven by what they experience. If they experience emails like this all day long, they have been trained to delete them:

Hi Janet.

We have connected on LinkedIn but not met.

Would you like to catch up for a coffee so I can hear more about what you do?

Regards
Ankur

The above message is:

  • Typical — 95 percent of people are sending Janet that after connecting on LinkedIn.
  • Shorter than average (most are equally benign but verbose).
  • Delete-able for a half-dozen reasons.

You’re a busy person. How busy are your targets? If three, four or even six people per week asked for your time — so they could get to know you — would you have the time to spare? If yes, for how many of them — each week?

The ask (for a meeting) is too big. Way too big. It is also without a compelling reason.One that is in the selfish interest of Ankur.

Your Customer Sees Through You

Think about your inbox. Whether sellers say or imply it, the request isn’t to get to you as a friend. This is about getting to know you — to sell something to you.

Sharon Drew Morgen is a buying psychology expert. She says there’s too much focus on building relationships when trying to sell. Instead, relationships are outcomes of effective conversation-starting tactics. Focus on a better tactic instead.

“As a carryover from Dale Carnegie, relationship building has been used as a ploy to manipulate a sale,” says Morgen. “If buyers like us, the thinking goes, they’ll buy. But everyone knows your pretending. Your relationship will not facilitate a sale.”

Here’s the rub:

  1. Buyers cannot buy unless they have managed their internal change management challenges.
  2. Buyers know you’re motivated by an agenda to sell something.

But this can be overcome — not by becoming a completely un-biased person. Instead, Morgen promotes a better method. A more honest one: asking un-biased questions.

Picture yourself asking questions that don’t relate to your agenda. Instead, the questions are hyper-focused on the potential buyer’s “decision-making tree.”

Morgen rightly calls such questions “facilitative.” These flavor of questions are the key to facilitating conversation that puts the buyer in charge.

They Replied, Now What? A Better Sales Email Follow Up

Congratulations on earning a reply to your cold sales email. But, for most sellers, what comes next hurts: lack of response. You’re not alone. Most sellers suffer from “too much, too fast” syndrome. Prospects open the door with, “Sure, tell me more” or “Yes, I’m open to hearing what you have to offer.” But this is where most of us go wrong.

Will Slack Replace Email?Congratulations on earning a reply to your cold sales email… or a lead from your marketing campaign. But for most sellers what comes next hurts: lack of response.

You’re not alone. Most sellers suffer from “too much, too fast” syndrome. Prospects open the door with, “Sure, tell me more” or “Yes, I’m open to hearing what you have to offer.”

But this is where most of us go wrong.

We reply with details about our solutions — the problems we fix and how we fix them. We talk about benefits of doing business with us. We yak about ourselves and expect potential customers to continue the conversation they just invited.

But this often results in clients “going dark.” They consistently don’t reply. Why? Because your prospects probably are not:

  • Actively interested; they’re only passively curious
  • Able to be honestly interested (the pain is dull, the status quo is in place)
  • The decision maker after all (it’s a group decision)
  • Ready to assemble the decision-making team
  • Informed about what is needed (operationally) to enact change

I could go on but will stop here. You get the point.

The worst reply (to a client’s invitation to talk) is one about you and/or your solution. Instead, drill further into your prospect’s world.

Why did they reply? Was it a passive or serious interest? Do they actually have pain — or are they anticipating it?

You want to know, right away. The best way to understand if you’ve “got a live one on the line” is to ask. Help the prospect prove they’re serious to you. Start the qualification process.

Don’t Take the Bait

The trick to earning a reply (to your follow up message) is triggering it. Talking about your solution to their problem is usually not a trigger — even if prospects ask you to. It’s a trap. Don’t take the bait. Instead, pivot. Provoke your prospect to reply with more details.

Help them qualify themselves in a way that screams, “I don’t want to pitch you … yet … so let’s talk about you first.”

Like this: “Lisa, I don’t want to waste your time. Before I provide details will you kindly tell me …?”

Make your email about them — honoring their time and asking for a little more information about why they opened the door for you.

Whether you’re trying to provoke a discussion from cold — or continue one — you’re not selling. You’re facilitating: facilitating a conversation about change.

Make Sure Prospects are Worth Your Time

When potential buyers respond to your first email don’t over-react. It may not be as fantastic as you think. You’ve been invited to reply. Great. But is this going to be an actual conversation? If so, will it be a good one?

Sharon Drew Morgen’s Buying Facilitation® model can help. Her methodology transcends sales prospecting, yet, her principles drive effective email and telephone conversations.

Especially if your prospect has yet to invest time in the decision-making process.

Here’s what Sharon Drew taught me — that creates mutually-beneficial conversations for me and my students.

Once you’ve been invited to have a dialogue, it’s time to structure your messages. Consider the desired outcomes and ask questions that help the client reveal where they are in the purchase decision process (are they in it at all?!).

Sharon Drew says this model involves both the buyer and the seller being equally served. Sellers help buyers gain control over private change management issues — thereby helping buyers become ready to buy and helping you close more deals.

Ask Facilitative Questions

Sharon Drew calls the consultative facet of her process “Facilitative Questioning.” It’s part of her Buying Facilitation® process — a change management model.

In an outbound prospecting or inbound lead follow up context, the concept is extremely useful. It helps train us slow down — think less about questions we need answered, more about questions prospects need answered.

We become the observer of their thought-process (if not a trusted guide).

“The time we spend pushing solutions rather than helping buyers facilitate their change process is misplaced, mistimed and misguided,” says Sharon Drew.

She says this results in “a product/solution push into a closed, resistive, private system.” Instead, it should be an expansive, collaborative experience.

If its not, Sharon Drew says, “we end up closing only the low hanging fruit … those ready to buy at the point of contact … unwittingly ignoring others who aren’t ready even though they may need our solutions.”

Give Buyers Time, Space

Basically, Sharon Drew is teaching sellers how dangerous it is to push too hard. When we just launch into our benefits  —or ask leading (biased) questions — we don’t give buyers time and space needed to prepare for their ultimate decision.

We also (usually) don’t get a chance to participate in their decision-making process.

Sharon Drew’s position can be provocative. For example, she says: “Prospecting/cold calling is driven by sellers to gather needs/information and offer solution details … all biased by the need to place solutions.”

She says traditional prospecting, “ignores the full enigmatic fact pattern of the buyer’s environment and change issues, and touches only buyers seeking THAT solution at THAT time at THAT period of readiness, omitting those who could buy if ready …”

The Brutal Truth

Customers value more what they ask for than what’s freely offered. Customers value more what they conclude for themselves than what they’re told.

So you’ve got to ask yourself:

  1. How can I get buyers to ask for help? (get into the conversation)
  2. Then, how can I get buyers to figure things out on their own? (facilitate the conversation)

Answer: An effective communications technique. Cold calling and cold emailing can help.

Once you’ve sparked interest in having conversation, focus on helping customers discover, on their own, what they want, when and why.

Ditch your pitch. Resist the urge to take customers down the path before they prove they’re ready to walk with you. When your next prospect opens the door with, “sure, tell me more” hold back. Ask questions that help them prove an active interest.

Help them reveal why they replied. Dig deeper. They’ll appreciate your doing so and are more likely to reply back.