Monday, July 28, 2008

Six “Easy” Steps to Selling & Prospecting By Phone (Guest Blogger Art Sobczak)

This week, I asked my friend Art Sobczak of Business by Phone Inc.( the most important considerations when making outgoing sales calls -- to current clients and prospects.

Here's what Art had to say:

"A panicked caller asked me, 'What’s an easy and quick way to get good at making prospecting calls? I’ve got to bring in some business now!'

Well, that’s like asking a contractor, 'What’s an easy and quick way to build a house?'

There is no easy and quick way. There are some fundamental processes and principles you can follow that will help avoid mistakes, and get 'yes' answers from prospects and customers by phone.

Let’s look at them.

1. It Needs to Be All About THEM!

Get this one fact in your mind and remind yourself of it before every sales call or negotiation: Prospects do not care about you and what you want. They care about themselves. If you talk about how big or great or respected your company is, and do not tie it directly into what it might deliver to them as a result, you create resistance. They do not care that you want to meet with them or be their vendor. They are concerned about how whatever they do next will affect them.

Action Step: For everyone you call, first ask yourself what you might be able to possibly help them gain, increase, enhance, or enlarge. The more you can apply these to money, the better. And, what might you be able to help them avoid, decrease, eliminate, or cut. Further, apply these to pains, problems, fears, and to costs.

2. Learn About Them Before Calling.

Why does everyone hate telemarketing calls at home? Because they are like talking mass-mail, impersonal form letters, delivered robotically. Conversely, when someone knows about you, about what's going on in your world and communicates that, you take notice. Customized calls are like handwritten notes. They are about the listener (see point one above).

Action Step: Go to company websites, do online searches of your prospect companies and individuals, ask questions of screeners, executive assistants, or anyone in your prospects' company. Then use that information in your opening (see the next point) and throughout the call.

3. Create Interest and Curiosity in the First 15 Seconds.

The beginnings of calls elicit interest or resistance. No gray area. Most calls create resistance. That's because they are about the caller, and what he wants, (see point 1 again) and the listener feels he is being sold, so he shifts into 'getting rid of salesperson'-mode.

There are many opening statement mistakes you need to avoid. For example, even insinuating you are going to ask them to buy from you or meet with you is a huge error that creates resistance. Such as, '...and I'm calling to see what it would take to become one of your vendors.' (For a free list of telephone opening statement mistakes that create resistance, go to
Action Step: Follow this process for creating interest-grabbing call openers:

a) Introduce yourself and your company
b) hint at what relevant results you have delivered for others and might be able to provide for them
c) move them to the questioning -- for example, 'Hi, I'm Pat Seller with Advantage Industries. We specialize in working with CFOs of food distribution companies, helping them address the issue of how to control fuel costs without cutting service to their customers. I'd like to ask a few questions to see how much of a concern this is for you, and if we might have the basis for further conversation.'

4. Question at the Higher Level.
Good salespeople ask questions. Great salespeople ask the NEXT question. That's simply listening to the answer, and following up with a deeper question to get the reasons behind the first answer.

The reasons are why someone will take action, and eventually buy from you. Easy in principle, but not always followed. Probably because many sales reps are so concerned about what they'll say next that they don't listen to the answers to their own questions. For example, a sales rep asks, 'What is your biggest challenge regarding meeting your sales goals this year?' The prospect answers, 'We really need to ramp up our new customer acquisition.'
The sales rep then says, 'Well let me tell you how we can help you do that...' That rep absolutely blew an opportunity to get the prospect to see and feel his problem, which therefore puts him in a more receptive frame of mind to hear the solution later. In response to the answer, the rep could simply say, 'Oh, why is that a concern?' Now the prospect is giving better information, more about why he is motivated, and the pain is getting deeper.

Action Step: Listen to the answer, and ask the NEXT question to get better information.

5. ASK!

To get hits, a baseball player needs to swing. To score, a basketball or soccer player needs to shoot. A salesperson needs to ask. Doing everything else right will enhance your chances for a yes -- maybe even moving them to say, 'Sounds great, how can I buy from you?'

But in most cases, you still need to ask for a decision. You do not need a hundred different ways to close the sale. You DO need one or two conversational ways of simply asking for the business, an appointment, the sale, an upsell, or whatever your objective is.

Acton Step: Force yourself to practice the behavior of asking, in all areas of your life. You will get no's to be sure, just like an athlete misses shots. But do not focus on the misses; reward yourself for the simple attempts, and cherish the yes answers. They will become more frequent.

6. Be Yourself

You become a better salesperson the less you SOUND like a salesperson. The more conversational and natural you are, the more effective and likable you are. Pretend like you are talking to a good friend. Write out, practice, and digitally record your openings, questions, answers to anticipated questions, next questions, and ways of asking for the business. Then repeat the process. Being natural and conversational means being confident with where you will go next. That comes through preparation and practice.

There is no easy way to sales and prospecting success using the phone. There are proven, time-tested success principles that, when used, gives success easily."

Art Sobczak, provides how-to, conversational ideas and processes for painless, conversational sales and prospecting by phone. Get his free ebook, “29 Telesales Tips You Can Use Right Now” and his weekly e-mailed tips at

Monday, July 21, 2008

Leadership During Chaos (Guest Blogger Ed Oakley)

When you Google the word “leader” you will find 368 million – that’s right, MILLION -- “hits.”

When you visit and enter “leader” in a book search, you get 433,048 possible titles.

“Leader” and “leadership” are difficult concepts to define. It’s more of a “I’ll know it when I see it” type of thing.

I frequently speak to corporate women’s initiatives regarding leadership. And, of course, read as much as possible about the subject – including blogs.

My colleague, Ed Oakley of Enlightened Leadership Solutions, had the following post on his "Leadership Made Simple" blog.

Ed's blog was nominated one of the Best Leadership Blogs of 2008. His story just proves that you don’t need a fancy business title to “Step Up! for Success.”

“February 23rd 2008 -- I was waiting for my flight from Richmond, Virginia, last month after presenting 'Leadership Made Simple' to 150 managers of a large company headquartered there. That is when I experienced impressive leadership in the midst of chaos.

It all began when United Airlines’ 'Simon' (an automated message system) informed me via my cell phone that my flight through Chicago was cancelled. After an hour wait on a priority line, I knew there was a real problem of some kind. When I finally talked to United, I discovered that snow in Chicago had closed the airport and created major travel problems within the entire United system, and no doubt, other airlines, too.

The only chance I had to get home the same day was if I could make a flight to Washington Dulles that left in one hour flat. I did the 'OJ' dash to get to the airport and the gate, huffing and puffing, only to find that the airplane had not yet arrived. I was actually quite relieved.

The entire air travel system was in chaos, and there was a line of dozens of people waiting to talk with Michael Quintel, the United gate manager. Every person needed to share their problem - concerned about connections mostly - with a gate agent who really had little or no control over anything.

I was sitting about 10 feet away from Michael’s podium, so I heard everything. I was personally calm because my connecting flight from Dulles to Denver was several hours away. I was in the right state of mind to simply watch and listen how Michael handled the situation.

This guy had the patience of Job! He listened to the same story over and over and over. Yet, every person was treated as if THEIR story was original. Michael was absolutely MASTERFUL at having every individual believe he was there for them and was doing everything he could do for them. And he sincerely was! It’s where he naturally came from. In every single case, the frustrated and concerned passenger walked away more calm and confident than before he talked with Michael.

What I realized was that Michael was able to stay 'Forward Focused'
no matter what happened. What a model he was for what I want to be like when I grow up. It is a model of emotional maturity - and I am continually working on mine.

If I were to try to create a simple model for what Michael did so well, it might look like this.

He stayed 'Forward Focused' while he:

- Listened completely to each person, honoring them and their situation.

- Shared exactly what the situation was - in terms of how the situation affected that individual - no matter how many times he had to tell the same story again.

- Offered any options that he could find in his computer, helping them take responsibility for their own decision.

In every case, they walked away feeling better about their predicament.

My hats off to Michael Quintel, United Airlines representative, a proven leader in a challenging situation!”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Customer Service Basics Are Timeless (Guest Blogger: Lisa Ford)

All businesses -- no matter what product is sold or services offered – are in the business of serving customers; it isn’t rocket science.

Why then, do people have such a hard time being customer focused and providing excellent service?

Lisa Ford is THE customer service expert. Read on for her guest blog commentary -- she makes a lot of sense!

"Today’s new buzz words in the world of customer service are 'customer engagement' and 'customer centric.'

The concepts are very valid and important to create a relationship with the customer. But as I read the articles, I can’t help but think these are just new phrases for the same old stuff that has been around forever.

It is all a reminder that we are in business for one reason – to service and sell the customer. The customer holds all the cards and the customer rules. Seems pretty basic.

So, what do customers want? I am sure the list could be quite extensive however, here are my top five:

1. Do what you say you will do. That simply means deliver on your promise whether that is a brand promise or a promise from an employee. Just do it. Be reliable. You don’t deserve to deliver a lot of fluff or wow if can’t deliver on the basics to start.

2. Be responsive to their needs. Even better, anticipate their needs. So how do you determine what they need – ask and listen, then act.

3. Take responsibility. Walk them through the problem to a solution. In other words, OWN their concern and see it to a resolution.

4. Pay attention to the details. Use their name, call back when promised, choose your language carefully and create an experience because you are passionate about customer service!

5. Remember it is the customer’s time and money. You are not doing them a favor. They are doing you one - don’t forget it.

Customer satisfaction means relying on the basics. They work every time. The problem is we make it all too complicated. Yes, we need customer relationship management strategies, customer engagement and a customer-centric focus. But we don’t have the right to go there until we deliver the basics first.

I speak at many company meetings where the slogan for that gathering is something like -- 'The Year of the Customer.' I always wonder what year is not the 'Year of the Customer?'"

Lisa Ford is a speaker on customer service issues. She is the author of Exceptional Customer Service. More on Lisa’s work can be found at; 770.394.4860.

Monday, July 7, 2008

10 Tips for a Stress-Free Vacation (guest blogger Dr. Alan Zimmerman)

I am away much of July – time with my husband in Scotland (he will be playing golf, I will hike!), and then time with most of my family in Italy to celebrate my husband’s big birthday.

My thought for this month is to get some “guest bloggers” from some of my buddies in my two mastermind groups. I know you will enjoy reading what they have to say, too!

While I'm away, I plan on applying this week's guest blogger's wisdom, from Dr. Alan Zimmerman --

"As I read your blog and some of the issues you’re dealing with, it strikes me that a lot of people get stressed out when they’re supposed to be relaxed … such as supposedly relaxing on vacation or during holidays. So I thought you might enjoy my top 10 list for a stress-free vacation or motivation. Some of the tips come from my book, PIVOT: How One Turn in Attitude Can Lead to Success. Some of the other tips I added just for you.

1. Do only the most important things.

Every activity and gathering may seem important during a holiday event, but they are not. Focus on the family and friends who mean the most to you and get to the others later in the year.

2. Practice an attitude of gratitude.

The more thankful you are, the less stressed you can be. Every day during a holiday season, take two minutes to list all the things you're thankful for.

3. Remind yourself, 'You'll never get it all done, and that's OK.'

No matter how hard you work or how fast you work, you'll never get all your chores done. There's always more you could do. So be it. Let it go. The founder of Christmas said, 'I come to give you peace.'

4. Avoid mind binders.

Never say such things as, 'I get so stressed out during the holidays ... There's so much to do ... I always come back from vacations more exhausted than when I left.' The more you think or say such things, the more stress you'll have.

5. Set your spending limits in advance.

You may be stressed by all the expenses and overspending on a vacation or a holiday weekend. But don't get fooled into thinking it's the high cost of living that's causing your stress. It's the cost of living high.

6. Choose your fights carefully.

Holiday gatherings at work or home can sometimes bring difficult people together. Don't get sucked into a conflict unnecessarily.

7. Do a check up from the neck up.

Examine your attitude. 85% of people have a less than positive attitude. If you fall into that category, give yourself the gift of a new attitude for the holiday by setting the goal of getting a better attitude, doing some affirmations, and have others hold you accountable.

8. Pay attention to your body.

A vacation is supposed to be joyful, but it has become too stressful for some people. Listen to your body to see if you're off balance or have too much stress. You'll always have signals that you must listen to. If you don't listen, your dis-stress will lead to dis-ease.

9. Be an actor.

Instead of re-acting to other people's holiday expectations or demanding behavior, choose to respond in a way that you feel good about. Don't come down to their level. Let your enthusiasm bring them up to your level.

10. Remember you can change.

Don't buy into the big lie ... when people say, 'I can't help the way I feel ... That's just the way I am.' You may not know how to change your attitude, but it is totally changeable if you simply spend 5 minutes a day practicing a few simple disciplines.

That’s it. Now go out and really enjoy a stress-free holiday or vacation."