The transition into the sales cycle comes naturally from opening a conversation with a qualified prospect. The Sales cycle is all about moving both company and prospect through the steps leading up to a point of sale, i.e. an agreement to exchange money for a product, service or experience.
A sale, is the process of seeking someone out to exchange money for a service, product, or experience. Typically this comes from someone who wasn't interested, or aware of you, beforehand. To move through the process a relevant conversation must take place. With the appropriate prospecting system in place, those doing sales will know whom to pursue in the prospecting process. This is because selling is as natural as finding out what people are currently doing, and then helping them do it better. That’s it! I learned this philosophy from my favorite sales trainer Stephan Schiffman. I recommend reading a few of his books to understand the true power of questions and "do" based selling.
Know who you are dealing with.
A contact refers to any information about a person and a way to get a hold of them (Schiffman, 2003). This information can come from a database, a phone book, a lead sheet, internet solicitation or any other source. A contact then moves to a lead when the number and name have been verified. Once the decision maker is reached, they must be qualified as a prospect. A prospect is someone who is willing to move to the next step in the buying process (Schiffman, 2003). A qualified person is determined by establishing enough information about them to know what they do, how they do it and if the product or service can help the prospect do what they currently do better. If they meet these criteria, and agree to pursue the examination of products or services for potential purchase, then they become a prospect. In direct marketing there is no such thing as a bad lead, only a wrongly targeted contact (Youngman, Conley, Lynch, 2003). All prospects are potential clients in the future. If a prospect has been qualified, then it is a matter of timing and following up that determines when there might be value for that person. On the first presentation they may be happy with what they currently have or are just not interested. However, that could change tomorrow.
Once the decision maker is reached, you must qualify them to be a prospect. The only definition we’re going to use for a prospect is; someone who has shared what and how they do business and are willing to explore the possibilities moving to the next step with us. We'll determine this by establishing enough about them to know what they do, how they do it and if we can help them do it better? This lets everyone know that you have talked to them, introduced yourself, givin your reason for contact, gathered information, and in the middle of the sales cycle prepared to present recommendation and solutions and then ask for their business.
The intent and hope is to create a very elastic model. Elastic means a little bit of change in one area produces a large change in another. Whereas inelastic says a big change in one area only produces a small change in another. With the proper process in place on how to generate sales with an outbound prospecting system we will be able to say (x) dollars invested up front in these select areas produces (X) dollars of revenue, by increasing (x) dollars up front some amount more, we can increase (X) dollars on the back end revenues a lot. Every “no” is important, record them tentatively and value them as money.
Similarly, the sales cycle exists to help track the process of prospecting. The sales process is like to an equation, meaning, if all the elements are there, the desired outcome should produce somewhat the same result each time. This process is set up as: C = L = P = S; these are the ratios (Schiffman, 2003). For example, 75, 50,15,2, means if I make 75 initial contact dials, = 50 leads will surface that allow one to present to = 15 prospect and end with = 2 sales. If one does not know the ratios they are walking in the dark. Not really sure how long to work or how many people to talk to in order to achieve the desired goal. (Shiftmen, 2003).
To just sit down and start pounding out dials without a method or strategy can be an exhausting and humbling experience. For this reason, before starting a sales or marketing campaign it is necessary to know what is needed to work through the process. There are a couple reasons for this; one being, by having a clear idea of what one is working toward. If a person doesn't know what it takes to be successful they will burn out quickly. Additionally, hiring people and hardware to do marketing cost money, therefore, you need to know how to allocate resources to help market and sell (Youngman, Conley, Lynch, 2003).
While it may be true that following a method will help produce an effective outcome, there is no guarantee. Effectiveness is evaluated by the end results. If the ratios are known one can anticipate company or personal revenue and adjust it for maximum effectiveness. For example, if it took 12,000 contacts throughout the year to reach 2,400 prospects which resulted in 480 sales, generating and end result of a $50,000 income, then the ratios can be manipulated to increase revenues. This can be done by changing various elements, such as Schiffman illustrates (2003): one, contacting more contacts to increase the overall number of people for potential clients. Two, obtain a more targeted list of qualified people so there are fewer calls, but each is more effective and efficient. Three, equally important, would be to convert more prospects to clients so the cost and time from contact to client is less. And finally, one could increase the price of the product or service, fewer sales still resulting in higher income (Schiffman, 2003).
Furthermore, the effectiveness of a campaign will be determined in part by the money invested to insure professional, trained and efficient telemarketers (Youngman, Conley, Lynch, 2003). A company can choose to run the campaign in house or outsource it by hiring a call center (Youngman, Conley, Lynch, 2003). As always with the question of outsourcing depends on who can do it cheaper? To explain, in order to pull together 75 contacts it will cost the company (x) amount of dollars, using resources like advertising, marketing, promotional materials, staff overhead and salaries. That number divided by the overall revenue generated helps make a clear decision what is more cost effective. In most sales departments there is not a high overhead cost of people, since commission is the main form of payment (Verrecchia, 2008). However, telemarking is different. Telemarketers are not necessarily salespeople; however, salespeople should be telemarketers. Here is why, a telemarketer is typically someone who works for an hourly wage and has little involvement and commitment to the company (Verrecchia, 2008). Usually a outsourced marketer does not know or understand the extent of the products and services and mostly is working a “job” for the sake of income not a lifelong developing career. Depending on the price of product or service will determine if the money, space, workers, and training is worth doing it in-house or outsourcing it.
In the meantime, regardless of where your campaign takes place, one thing is true. Having an abundance of quality contacts is what enables salespeople to produce results. This gives the marketer the joined responsibility of success. (Verrecchia, 2008). If the salesperson knows that if “this deal” does not go, and they will still have more leads to call on to make their income, a lot of pressure is taken off of the situation and the prospect. Marketers succeed when salespeople succeed, and vice versa. As Riehl (2003) wrote about in his congressional report about stopping unwanted telemarketing calls; “the era of high pressure sales is over (Riehl 2003).” No one buys, at least not twice from high-pressure sales. The best way to make sure marketers are not high pressuring is to make sure they have no reason to be. It is better to let a deal go and move on to another one rather than try to force a close on everyone.
With that in mind, accordingly, the script or pitch is the deliverer of the message, the first tools that a marketer has, usually the script will direct the amount of pressure in the situation. The script should still only be used as an outline. An effective script is one that has been internalized by the marketer to sound like a natural conversation, rather than an automated reading (Levisnson, Smith, Wilson, 1998). Everyone has to find his or her own phone personality. No script can be read verbatim, although it is a good place to start. This script outline is based on Verrecchia`s (2008) article on how to cold sell:
- Identify you and your company.
- Give the reason for your existence.
- Ask some qualifying questions.
- Present the product or service that is appropriate.
- Ask for the sale or relationship.
In spite of a good script or pitch, people can hear sincerity. If a prospect suspects that they are talking to a newly hired hourly wage marketer they will shut him or her down before he or she can tell them why they are calling (Rowson, 2004). So the best way to avoid this from happening is to understand what it is the company is offering and what it is expected to be accomplished (Rowson, 2004). Do not use industry “jargon” that may confuse or alienate (Unless you're dealing with someone who is in the position of understanding technical jargon) (Hurst, 2008). Believe in what you're advocating. Speak with confidence and passion and think positively, the next pitch could be worth money.
The best script in the world is only as good as the person delivering it. With that being said some common mistakes that marketers use in their pitch or sales call as a telemarketers. These mistakes are usually made in the first thirty seconds of contact (Hurst, 2008). An effective pitch grabs the prospects attention simply by introducing oneself and stating the reason as to why they exist. This is all one needs to get done up front. It is not necessary to deliver the whole message in the first 30 seconds. If it is done properly the prospect will give more permission to move forward. Consequently, It is often thought to grab someone's attention one has to say something, exciting, or outrageous. This is a mistake (Rowson, 2004). Everyone at some point has received a call or heard a sales pitch similar to one of theses:
marketer: “Hello, is this Bobby Jo ness?”
You: “yes this is Robert Jones, grrgrrr.”
marketer: “Oh super, great, I’m so excited to talk to you, what if I could offer you an unlimited return on an investment for doing nothing. Wouldn't that be great!?”
marketer: “Bob I’m not calling to sell you anything, but to raise money for needy children in Africa, all you have to do is buy a magazine in support. How many orders can I put you down for?”
marketer: “Bob I’m doing a marketing test in your neighborhood, I need people to evaluate a demonstration of a floor cleaning machine. You'll get a free gift just for watching.”
If businesses doing marketing want to be taken seriously, one has to cut out the gimmicks, and word play. Tell people who you are, why you're occupying their time, and what you want. Anything less is only adding to the current dislike for marketers. No one likes to do business with an amateur, so do not act like one. However, keep this in mind. Do not sell the way you think you're capable of selling, sell the way that works! The issue for most people will not be a tenacious approach, but a half hearted attempt well behind the line. This is why the best place to learn about marketing is from other marketers. The next time the phone rings and the caller ID says “unavailable” pick it up and listen or the next time you are walking through the mall and a kiosk worker asked for a minute of your time, listen, you just may learn something.