Who are you competing against?

"Who is your competition on this deal?"

"Who do you compete with in this market?"

"Who else is bidding on this project?"

If you are in sales, you probably hear questions like this all the time.

Most people think immediately about companies or products in this situation and I understand why. When we are thinking about solutions to problems, we immediately think in absolutes and options.

Here at API Group our biggest competition is the default option - Doing Nothing.

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It's true and not only for potential clients. In our day-to-day activities making sales for financial services companies over the phone, we miss more sales with people who do nothing than we do for prospects who choose to buy from someone else.

You'll automatically make more sales by focusing on this competitor, inaction, than any product or service that might be an alternative in the market.

The enemy is inaction. The next time you pick up the phone, instead of thinking about making a sale, think about getting the prospect to do something, even if it means buying from someone else. 

Have an attitude of action and watch sales increase.

The best time to call is...

Companies spend thousands of dollars every day (second?) to generate leads online. Have you ever wondered what happens to them?

The folks over at InsideSales.com have taken some time to study this issue and try to come up with some optimal times to call. They started research in 2007 and have continued to update it.

Through a series of charts and graphs they break down days of the week, times of the day and the response from time created. It can be fascinating stuff for those of us in the business.

One of my favorites is this one:

More than 3/4's of the leads never got called.

The first thing any company needs to do is have a system to follow up leads. The same study showed that 55% of leads never received even an email response.

I'm sure this isn't your company. You have a system. While you are thinking about it, take some time to evaluate your own sales process to see if there is any chance for prospects to "fall through a gap". Chances are that there is a gap and it needs closing.

If you can't see a way to close the gap, talk to an outsourcer like us and we'll make sure that prospects are attended to promptly and get them into the sales funnel. 

 

What are we thinking before we make that call?

We think it's important to pull ideas and concepts from wherever we can, not just in phone sales. One of our favorite resources for ideas is the Advanced Selling Podcast (check it out here). They are focused on B to B selling, but I find it to be a good listen for ideas that can be applicable to the B to C world we live in.

They preach to their listeners the concept of detachment. What I think they mean is to divorce yourself from the outcome of any meeting or deal. This is more relevant for phone sales than anything else I can think of. 

If you were to summarize most people's complaints about sales calls they have received, you can trace them back to lack of detachment (manifested as scarcity and desperation). Whether you know it or not, your voice gives your motives away. 

We've all received a call where we could sense that the person on the other end was desperate for a sale or needed an appointment or meeting from us to keep their job. It's almost visceral to listen to their pain.

Before you pick up the phone, rid yourself of the "neediness" for an outcome. Why even worry about an outcome when the likelihood is that the call won't even be answered.

Instead, stay present, focus on your introduction and don't worry about what might happen beyond the intro.

You will immediately sound different from anyone else that calls that prospect today or any other day for that matter.

Sounding different is your best weapon. It causes your prospect to think and shakes them out of whatever daze they are in and lets them begin to at least pay attention to what you are saying.

Where it goes from there is still up to you. Getting their attention is battle number one.

Are you ready for the collision?

We love books here at API Group and spend a lot of time talking about them and looking for new sources. One of the most often cited here is Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff (Amazon).

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Oren's background is investment background and the focus of the book is on presentations. Don't let that stop you from reading it as it is Telesales gold. 

His chapters on Frame Control should be mandatory reading for anyone that picks up a phone.

What is a Frame? Frames are a point of view, a perspective or a position. Everyone has them especially when you are in a selling situation. Your prospect is putting on a defensive attitude about being called out of the blue (frame) and you have your own frame that involves getting to the next step.

That is no revelation. The revelation is that, "Frames do not combine or mix, they collide

That's what happens on every call, a frame collision. A verbal crash.

And as Oren says, "The strongest frame wins".

So how do we make sure our frame is the strongest?

While it fits with the analogy, it's not necessarily brute force. From our experience "Strength of Frame equals Technique + Enthusiasm."

Think about this the next time you pick up the phone, "Am I prepared for the collision?"

For more information about the book and the programs that Oren and his team offer, check them out at www.PitchAnything.com.

Strength of Frame = Technique + Enthusiasm

What would your Sales Superpower be?

We love the work of the guys at Gaping Void (check them out here). If nothing else, get on their daily email list for thought provoking ideas wrapped around their art.

Listening is a Superpower is one of my favorites.

 

We spend a lot of time worrying about what to say and how to say it. We spend a lot of time worrying about who to call and when to call them.

What we don't spend time worrying about is listening to what our prospects are saying. 

We need to flip that on its head and start with what we can do to better listen to what is being said.

How many calls have you made where you asked "How are you today?" (bad question but that is another post) and not waited to even hear what the person said?

Start today with that concept. Remind yourself that every time you ask a question, be sure to listen to the answer. It doesn't matter if you like the answer, but you must at least listen to it, process it and then worry about how to answer or even if you should answer it at all.

Almost no one talks their way into a solid sale. Go over your list of refunds or cancellations from the last 30 days and you will see it littered with missed opportunities to listen.

Let's focus on listening more (not necessarily better) and using that to create opportunities rather than kill opportunities.

Go over your list of refunds or cancellations from the last 30 days and you will see it littered with missed opportunities to listen.

Are you afraid of No?

While I read more books than most, rarely do they have an effect greater than Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. Find it here

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What does a book primarily about negotiating from an FBI hostage negotiator have to do with TeleSales? A lot, but not necessarily what you might think.

Our prospects aren't hostages and neither are we. What Mr Voss primarily discusses are questions and more specifically the right kind of questions to ask. He flips conventional selling wisdom on its head by emphasizing "No Questions" under the guise that it is much more difficult psychologically for people to say No than Yes and therefore that no gives more valuable insight.

i couldn't agree more.

We see this everyday on the phones. Instead of trying to get our prospects and customers saying yes, we want to hear no. That gives us something to work with and breaks through the barriers to having an honest conversation which we believe is the best way to have sales success.

The prime example of this theory is the opening of a cold (or warm) conversation. Have I got you at a bad time? always wins out for effectiveness in our tests. It used to really stand out although more people seem to be using it. That doesn't really matter.

What I like about it is that it demonstrates to the prospect that you aren't afraid of a no early on and helps level the playing field for the call.

This is a small nugget in a veritable feast of great tips for people who are on the phones. We'll discuss a few more of Chris's techniques in later posts.

For now, we're focusing on No questions and making sure we always listen for the insight that they glean.