As to my background and credentials as editor of this publication: I began my career as a sports journalist, where I worked closely with Sports Illustrated, and later as a reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer and as Weekend Night Sports Editor for the Cincinnati Post. I moved on to work as a copywriter in the marketing department at Union Central Life, then one of the top 50 insurance companies in the US. My next stint was as a Marketing Manager for KDI Corporation, a high-tech A&D conglomerate. From there I served for a couple of years as a writer and account executive at a promotion agency, working for Champion Spark Plugs, Owens-Corning and Jeep. I did a stint as editor of an international trade magazine and then made the jump to marketing management at a chemical company, and later at NuTone, a manufacturer of home building products. That’s when I made the big jump, opening a sales promotion agency with partners Richard Blumberg and Barron Krody. Over the next two decades we built the agency up to one of the 50 largest in the US, serving Procter & Gamble, Toshiba, Florida Power & Light, 3M, Imation, Quaker State, Pillsbury, St. Paul Insurance, among others. I sold the agency to join Cincom Systems — the oldest software company still in existence — where I worked with a phenomenal group of marketers as Marketing Director for Manufacturing Customer Strategies and to manage marketing programs with Microsoft Dynamics, our primary business partner . I retired from Cincom at the end of 2015 to put renewed focus on this online magazine.

Accelerating Sales in 4 Steps

The customer experience begins with the first sales call. Done right, customers will love you from the start. The sales person needs to be persistent, but always needs to deliver high value to a prospect to earn your way into their business.

The one warning I will give before you ge too deeply into rather long post is that here, you will find no silver bullets. To be sure, you will find a lot of bullets but none of them will be silver. Each requires work on your part. No one has become a successful sales professional unless they were willing to put the shoulder to the stone.

The 4 Principles of Sales Acceleration

Don’t create lists of prospect names … research organizations.
Ignore rejection … stay disciplined to overcome the resistance factor.
Pick up the ten ton phone … preparation will make it feel light as a feather.
Listen … every interaction strengthens your position.

Acceleration Lesson 1: Don’t create lists of prospect names … research organizations

Too many sales people rely on purchased lists for their cold calling initiatives. We know of no better way to freeze your career with cold calls into the wrong people at the wrong companies.

A list or even your own Roladex is only a starting point. 98% of marketing promotions fail because they get delivered to the wrong people and miss the right people. There is an old adage in the direct marketing business: Ten things are important for success; the first seven are list, list, list, list, list, list and list.

The list is no longer an easy proposition. Remember when I said successful selling is hard work. This is where the hard work begins. The sole decision maker has been replaced by a consensus-buying committee. A lot of people influence this decision chain. You need to know who they all are.

Get the list wrong and every action after that will be carried out with incredible inefficiency. Every day you get up from bed and head for your telephone feels like you have aged another ten years.

We have learned under fire that we must research the organizations and dig into each prospective company to unearth every name that is likely to be a member of the buying committee.

Determine for each type of prospective company what “functional titles” are most likely to be on the buying committee. If you don’t know, call a few of your most trusted contacts from companies that buy what you are selling and ask for their help in understanding who contributes to the buying decision. Then use any of the online services (or go to the public library and use the various directories they have on their shelves) and research your top 100 prospective companies. Get the names right. Confirm the names with a phone call.

Acceleration Lesson 2: Ignore rejection … stay disciplined to overcome the resistance factor.

The best-in-class sales professionals understand the importance of account strategy and of staying the course. This takes vision. You have to see it first and feel it second. Some sales reps see things as they are and ask why. The best see things that never were and asked why not.

While you are researching your top 100 sales prospects, begin optimizing a disciplined process that you will follow day after day. Sales people who fail typically have no process: “I just make calls and start off talking football.” You laugh, but in our years of consulting you would be amazed at the number of times we have heard that exact boast from sales people attending our seminars.

The customer buying cycle is more determined: seeing that there are problems, committing to change, exploring possibilities, committing to a solution, justifying the solution, making the solution. You need to know when to reach them.

We can all imagine the scene on the other end of the phone. The prospect accidentally takes the phone call instead of dumping us into voicemail. It’s not that they are rude, but just that the people we want to talk to are rather popular with all vendors. They get 25 calls a day from vendors and that could be a waste of their time. When we get them on the phone, they are immediately doing their best to get us off the phone. It is a gargantuan struggle of wits.

The only way to cut through this battle of wits is to shift your strategy and stay the course.

On average, you will make 3 to 5 cold-call attempts over 30 to 45 days to get your first contact. Only 10% of initial calls result in a connection. Call your prospect in the off-hours and deliver your first messages on voicemail. Then call during business hours. They’re more likely to remember your name since you warmed them up with your initial calls. If you miss them again, deliver the next in a pre-planned series of voicemail messages.

Now you are using voicemail as part of your systematic process. We have used this methodology for nearly a decade. The results? After the third call to a prospect, we experienced a 60% call-back rate … and this rate increased with each call after that. The moral of the story is that success goes to the persistent, disciplined and well organized sales professional.

Acceleration Lesson 3: Pick up the ten ton phone … preparation will make it feel light as a feather.

We all know how heavy the phone can feel when you are making that initial cold call. It is hard to lift a ten ton phone. But when you are prepared, the handset is a lot easier to lift. We all want fatter pipelines. We want to talk our way into more deals.

What we say in the first few seconds will determine if we can take a warm sales lead from telemarketing or a cold call that we are making into the pipeline. We have learned that one way to do this is to get more successful with the initial prospect contact.

Here’s the fastest way to end the conversation – talk about your product.

Here’s the fastest way to propel the conversation – talk about the customer’s situation.

Earn the right to get the first face-to-face meeting.

“Hello, my name is (Richard). Thanks for taking my call. I’ve been looking into the comments your CEO has made about improving distribution productivity. Do I have that information correct?

“Yes, distribution is one of our major initiatives.”

“We have done a lot of research in this area ourselves, including some interviews with agents who sell your services. We helped XYZ Company with solutions that improved their processes by 15%. I’d like to share some of this information with you.

“What company are you with?”

“I’m glad you asked. I am with Special Systems. We have been bringing process improvement solutions to over 5,000 clients around the world for the past 25 years. We are just coming off a record year. We’re doing great because we have clients who value the solutions we offer.”

What happened there?

You thanked the prospect because you genuinely appreciate it these days when a busy person takes time to pick up the phone. We did not start off with who you were or the great things your company does, but instead tried to establish empathy and dialogue. You established a key metric along with an example of how your company fixed a similar problem. You got them to tip off what their pain really was.

This calls for doing the right research before the call. Get the story right. Get the approach right. Get the call objective right. Know your value proposition. Nothing can go forward unless we all master the first five seconds of every call we make with a prospect.

Acceleration Lesson 4: Listen … every interaction strengthens your position.

Peter Drucker: “The most important thing about communications is hearing what isn’t said.” What would Yogi Berra have to say about that? “You can see a lot just by listening.”

Repeat the facts you just heard.
Respond to the thoughts and beliefs you heard.
Convey the underlying feelings and emotions you believe are involved.

By listening, you can now provide more effective help to the customer because what you say or do will be contextually relevant to the customer’s stated needs.