6 Questions Salespeople Need to Ask Themselves

If you are a salesperson, you spend your days asking other people questions. However, there are 6 questions salespeople need to ask themselves. These questions will help you sell to people that are ready to purchase, sell from a position of power, and improve your client relationships. (more…)

Use Email Signatures, They are Important

I get emails all the time from clients, potential clients, and people who want me to buy something from them. What constantly amazes me is the lack of email signatures. I know for a fact that all email programs allow you to make an email signature with your name, rank, email address, phone number, Skype number, LinkedIn page, web page, blog address, and business address.

Why then, don’t people use them? It can’t be because they are lazy. Not having one loses you business.  After all, it is not always best to respond to an email with an email, especially when a topic is new, complicated, or sensitive. (more…)

How to Build a Small Business Call Center

Everyday, the CAN team interacts with clients, mentors, and friends who are leaders in their fields, and we started this series to share their expertise.
As a part of our research I interviewed Nathan Waite.  Nathan is the National Sales Director for SEMCAT Quoting Software headquartered in Lincoln, NE.  I found his advice helpful and I wanted to share it.
Hire Competitive & Passionate People:  When screening candidates, Nathan ranks competitiveness as the most important criteria for hiring new salespeople.  He has found that salespeople with competitive spirits are energized by quotas instead of being exacerbated by them.  However, he is quick to point out that a competitive spirit needs to be tempted by emotional intelligence.  Nathan doesn’t tolerate any drama on his team and salespeople need to be able to stay in the game even when they are down.  The third criteria is that people have to be passionate about SEMCAT’s products, since they are going to spend hour after hour talking about SEMCAT’s product.  However, passion about the product is different and more important than technical understanding.  Nathan has found that if people are passionate and competitive they can learn exactly how everything works.
Leader Planks not Leader Boards:  Competitive and passionate people love to know their score and the score of the company so Nathan uses call center metrics to keep his people motivated.  However, what used to be a Leader Board is now a Leader Plank.  Too many call center metrics are difficult to keep track of and distracted people instead of focused them.  Instead, The Leader Plank contains 5 call center metrics, current marketing yield, phone minutes per month, total sales per month, evaluations, and accolades.  The following is an example of SEMCAT”s Sales LeaderPlank:

Call Center Metrics LeaderPlank

3000 Minutes per Month: A salesperson’s job is to talk to as many customers as much as possible.  However, how much time is enough time.  For people that work a 9-hour day, there are 9,600 minutes of work per month, but how much of that can be spent on the phone with clients?  According to Nathan the answer is 3,000 or 31% of a 9am to 5pm Monday thru Friday work schedule.  At this rate salespeople will feel like they spend all of their time on the phone, but will also avoid burnout.
Power 50’s:  To help each sales person achieve their 3,000 minutes a month, Nathan employs what he calls “Power 50’s”.  Each Power 50 is 50 minutes long.  This is the longest an average salesperson can spend on the phone while being productive and without burning out.  He encourages his salespeople to block out 3 to 4 Power 50’s each day, and use that time call on clients.  They are supposed to treat that time like an appointment and focus all of their efforts on making phone calls.  They can return to calls, send emails and schedule other meetings around their Power 50’s.
Separate Offices:  While big companies can get away with putting a lot of salespeople into open floor call centers, Nathan recommends that if you have less than 12 people per room it is more cost effective to build individual offices.  The reason is because people are too polite.  He has found that salespeople will take turns when making phone calls or listen to other people calls and take notes.  This is especially true if their are 2 or 3 people in an office.  Basically if you have 2 salespeople in an office together, you would be better off just having one.  So if you are going to spend the money building a call center, hiring, equipping and training salespeople, maximize your investment, put them in their own office.  If salespeople have to share an office you can help them focus by giving them full headsets instead of just single ear headsets.
Phones, Headsets and Providers:  Call center telephony is an interesting industry.  There are so many options, little marketing, and no clear leaders.  Growing up without a telephone monopoly or a landline selecting a phone provider and hardware has been borderline infuriating.  I have struggled with the fact that desktop phone lacking any thought to user experience, with a “cutting edge” 16-bit color screen, that can only make voice calls can be more expensive than my computer, while Skype can make free video calls.  Nathan recommended using a Voice over IP (VoIP) system if you have an internet connection with significant upload and download speeds.  For example, CAN has 5mb upload and download for 30 people.  The VoIP provider that Nathan recommends is OnSip.  His plan for phone is simple.  He gets the phones for as cheaply as possible, and invests in great headsets.  For phones he recommends either the Polycom 430 (1 or 2 line, no backlight) or 550 (4+ lines, backlight), because they are simple and good enough to get the job done.  He recommends buying phones from eBay, because he can get them at about a 50% discount from retail and it doesn’t matter if they are used.  He uses the 50% savings to purchase each salesperson a Plantronics SupraPlus CS361N Noise-Cancelling Wireless Headsets.  Personally he uses a Plantronics CS 55 w/ Plantronics HL10, because he prefers to have one ear free in case of an emergency.
Click-to-Dial:  I asked Nathan if he had any recommendation and his only advice was to use a CRM with a Click-to-Dial feature.  This allows people to stay focused on communicating with clients instead of dialing.  In Nathan’s opinion this is the most important feature of his CRM, and it helps his salespeople meet the requirement of being on the phone for 3000 minutes per month.
Learn about building a dashboard for your call center, download “Dashboards: Take a closer look at your data.”

Take your call center even further. Learn how using our eBook, Predictive Analytics: The Future of Business Intelligence.

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A Simple 6 Step B2B Sales Process

The following is an introduction to the basic sales process we teach new sales reps at CAN.  Our 6 step sales process guides them from selecting the right prospects, making first contact, selecting your sales approach, your first face-to-face meeting, determining next steps, and getting the deal closed. I hope that it will help you build a reliable sales strategy you can use to close more deals. (Learn how we predicted who was most likely to enroll at a Top 10 Online University) 

Sales Process Step 1: Select the Right Prospects

Investing the time to carefully select your prospects is essential because you want to make sure that you are investing your time and energy on developing the right opportunities. I recommend looking for people that have the need, willingness and resources to purchase what you sell. Focusing your efforts will help ensure that you invest in providing your prospects with a great client experience. At CAN, in addition using predictive analytics for lead generation, our salespeople spend a lot of time looking through business cards and LinkedIn connections from trade shows and networking events.

Sales Process Step 2: Make First Contact

Once you have selected your targets the next step is to make first contact. Your goal at first contact is to simply get a meeting. This is especially true if you prospect is not familiar with who you are. We have found using a combination of email and LinkedIn messages work the best. One of CAN’s sales reps studied the linguistic patterns behind  our most successful emails and developed the following formula to produce good results when sending requests for the first meeting to prospects:
Greeting + Lead in {positive emotion} + profit/growth hook + Who We Are + the product and results + Outcome for Client + Meeting Request with 2 possible options + Close = Meeting
The following is example of a meeting request email from one of the CAN salespeople;

Good morning. We spoke briefly at the alumni center after your presentation on CompanyX and building a start-up within a company. Based on your experience and position at CompanyX, I think you might be interested in my company, Contemporary Analysis.

Contemporary Analysis uses mathematics and big data to predict and influence human behavior. One of our products, Pulse, applies predictive analytics to analyze the profitability, loyalty and activity of individuals in your client portfolio. This allows you to focus your marketing and customer service efforts, anticipate trends in your portfolio, and engineer greater retention and profitability by contacting the right people at the right time. I would like to explore how you could use Pulse and perhaps some of CAN’s other solutions to increase sales for the CompanyX family. Are you available to meet this week or next at our office at 1209 Harney #200, online via Skype or over the phone? I am available on Monday after noon and Tuesday at 10am and 1:30pm.

Thank you,


As a tip, I recommend scheduling your meeting request emails to be sent at 7:00 am on a Monday or Tuesday. This is optimal because most people check their emails when they first get into the office, and on a Monday or Tuesday their schedules are the most open to explore new opportunities. Also, it makes people feel like they were your first priority of the day. If someone does not respond to your email, I recommend connecting with them using LinkedIn or another social network.

Sales Process Step 3: Select your Sales Approach

Once your prospect has agreed to meet with you it is important to prepare for your face-to-face meeting. One of the most important steps in preparing is to select your sales approach. Different people require different approaches, and while it take a little bit of research selecting the right approach will help you make the best first impression possible. The following are 5 typical sales approaches. The key to success is imitation of the person. You don’t want to mock the person, but you want the person to be able to see a little bit of himself or herself in you. If you can successfully do this, the people that you talk to will be more trusting and will connect with you quicker.
1. The Ego: This person wants to feel important, and they will most likely respond to you and possibly purchase your product to satisfy an egotistical need.
2. The Expert: The person considers themselves to be an expert in their field, and will expect you to have a minimum knowledge of their field, or to be an expert if you are approaching them about something in their field.
3. The Good Samaritan: These people are very open to being contacted, but they don’t want to be sold. They want to help out and listen to someone.
4. The Skeptic: With skeptical people you want to lead with facts and figures. They won’t agree to a meeting with you unless you have Case Studies, Testimonials, and or an impressive client list.
5. The Explorer: These people are very open to being contacted, because they love learning about new things. When you approach them about an opportunity, it has to be unique and also be exciting. If it is these to things you will most likely get a meeting.

Sales Process Step 4: The Face-to-Face Meeting

Typically in business-to-business sales your prospects are only able to meet with you once or twice before they decide whether or not they are going to purchase. Because of this, it is essential to make the most of your face-to-face and then move the sale forward using emails and voicemail.
During the first meeting you want to make sure you understand what your prospect the person wants to achieve, what their budget is, and who the key decision makers are. Your goal is to ask as many questions as possible, because this establishes rapport with the prospects and it becomes harder to get answers to the tough questions once you are on longer face-to-face or over the phone.

When learning about your prospects goals make sure to remember that people buy things and companies pay for them. So you don’t want to focus just on the company’s goals, but also the aspirations your prospect has and what pressures they are under. While your solution still needs to produce results for your client the company, helping your client the person will help you win the contract and future contracts.

Sales Process Step 5: Determine Next Steps

During your face-to-face meeting you want to move the call as far as possible towards a decision as possible. However, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to get a decision either for a sale or no sale during your first meeting. The following are definitions that the CAN sales team uses to evaluate the outcome of every client interaction, and this helps us determine where opportunities are in the sales cycle. Having clear definitions of where opportunities are in the sales cycle allows our sales team to determine what next steps to take and which opportunities to prioritize to make sure we meet our sales quotas for the next 15, 30 and 60 days.
Advances (Successful): An advance is when an event takes place either during the call or after the call that moves the sale toward a decision. The events need to represent an agreement with the customer that moves the sale forward toward the ultimate decision. Advancements take many forms, but invariably they involve an action that moves the sale forward. Typical advances might include:

  • A customer’s agreement to attend an off-site demonstration.
  • A clearance that will get you in front of a higher level decision maker.
  • An agreement to run a trial or test of your product.
  • Access to parts of the account that were previously inaccessible to you.

Continuations (Unsuccessful): Where the sale will continue but where no specific action has been agreed upon by the customer to move it forward. Continuations are often a way to politely get rid of a seller. These calls do not result in an agreed action, yet neither do they involve a “No” from the customer. Typical examples would be calls that end with a customer saying:

  • “Thank you for coming. Why don’t you visit us again the next time you’re in the area.”
  • “Fantastic presentation, we’re very impressed. Let’s meet again some time.”
  • “We liked what we saw and we’ll be in touch if we need to take things further.”

Orders (Successful): This is when the lead closes the deal by signing a contract or paying. This is not a “I am 99.9% likely to close,” event. Orders have to be contractual or monetary.
No-Sale (Unsuccessful): This is when a customer actively refuses your principal call objective. Good examples of this are when a client tells you that they aren’t interested, won’t agree to a future meeting or denies your request to see a more senior person in the account.
Your goal is to choose next steps that continue to move the sale forward until you either receive an order or a no sale.

Sales Process Step 6: When and How to Close the Deal

Once you have led your prospect to the realization that they have the need, willingness and resources to purchase what you sell, the simplest close is to simply ask for the business and then wait until your prospect breaks the silence. Even if it takes 10 minutes, they will eventually break the silence, and if they are confident that you have the solution necessary to achieve their goals they will most likely respond by agreeing to purchase what you sell.

Learn more about the right sales leads for your business:

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Scaling 1 to 1

As a  business owner and salesperson I require time to myself to think, rest and connect with people, however their are always others that want my attention.  I have had to resort to locking myself in my office and forcing myself to focus at the expense of the world around me.  However this alienates people and can be very lonely.  The following is a list of my ideas about how to scale 1 to 1.  I decided to put my ideas into a blog post because I want to share my ideas about how to scale 1 to 1.

A Chauffeur to the Virtual World: It is important that you and your employees are always carrying business cards because they are the easiest way to chauffeur realtime face to face interactions to non-time sensitive virtual interactions.  This allows you to spread out interactions so that you eliminate bottlenecks.  It is important to ask for the other person’s business card to make sure they know that you actually want to connect.  Explain that as much as you want to jump into the relationship right now, you want to reconnect at a later time so that you can give your full attention.

Transition Meetings: In order to scale 1 to 1 it is essential to move interactions from the physical to virtual. I resisted moving my meetings from physical to virtual.  However, over the last year I have moved almost all of my meeting to the virtual world.  I was sick of spending hours driving back and forth, and showing up late to meetings because of traffic, exhaustion and bad planning.  The key to moving meeting to the virtual world is to properly set up your virtual meeting room.  At first my virtual meetings felt awkward and where full of technical difficulties, and thus it was difficult to establish rapport with the people I was meeting.  After investing in a camera, professional grade studio microphone, a professional physical space, and a wired internet connection, I was able to establish the same rapport with my clients as my physical meetings.  I think the key was that I was comfortable, especially since I didn’t have to hold a microphone.  On the software side of virtual meetings I highly recommend using Skype and Glance.net.  They are very simple systems that load very quickly.
A Lobby Full of Ideas: Developing a lobby allows you to add value to people that you have just met and also your current clients when you are not around. CAN’s lobby is composed of a set of standard emails that are well thought out with content specific to different types of people we meet in different circumstances.  For example we have a list of our favorite things that we send to people we have just met introduce them to a few of our favorite things, our products and our company.  The goal of our lobby is to enhance the CAN customer experience by introducing potential customer to CAN and our products so that we can spend our face-to-face time engaged in learning about our customers and not telling them about CAN.  CAN is currently working on a series of emails specifically for people we have just met, people interested in our 5 products, and clients of our 5 products.
Scale Conversations: You can use your blog to scale 1 to 1 by writing about frequent conversations that you have, and then inviting people you engage with to add their thoughts.  This moves your realtime face-to-face interactions to a non-time sensitive virtual interaction, and you can network your new connections with other people that are having a similar conversation.

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