Thursday, January 22, 2009

What makes "Cold Calling" such a hot topic?

Cold calling is an old and fundamental sales skill like closing. 10 years ago a sales person might use direct closing techniques like assumptive closes. Today smart sales people let the prospect close themselves by constantly injecting soft closes in the discussion. No one likes to be sold, but everyone likes to buy. Leading the prospect in direction you want them to go builds long lasting relationships.

Cold calling is another very old sales technique that has changed over the years. It doesn't make sense to start dialing through the phone book. There are just too many defensive strategies that your prospects have already engaged. They are inundated will sales pitches. The old adage that you have 3 seconds to get 3 minutes to get 30 minutes applies. If you can't say something in the first 3 seconds that gets them to stop multi-tasking and respond, you'll never get to your 30 second elevator pitch.

What that means is that you need to already know what would stop them in their tracks before you dial the phone. As a cold caller you will need to segment your market so that each group has a discrete business problem that they would stop what they're doing to hear more about. You can't use a shot gun here, its work for a sniper. You have to be able to present that business problem in the form of a question that they would respond to. And then you have 30 seconds to hook them into a conversation.

Most cold callers are dialing machines. They could care less what the response is on the other end. They assume they will lose 98% of the time. They are trying to get through the no's to get to a yes. This is brutal on everyone. If you really planned out your approach you might only get shot down 93% of the time. Your probability of success goes up if the caller knows and expects you to call. That is where referral marketing, web marketing, snail mail, and e-mail marketing can help. It's like artillery bombardment before the beach landing.

If this is an important tool in your sales arsenal, then it makes sense to think the entire process through from the prospects end before dialing the first number.

Monday, January 19, 2009

How should a Sales Program be created and run?

Kees Vogelesang, Head of Business Operations, Oracle EMEA Strategic Accounts division

Best Answer: Took some time for me to rate all the answers ;-)

His Question: How should a Sales Program be created and run?

My Answer:
First of all I distinguish "Sales Program" from "Sales Process" they are very different. You're at Oracle, so the first question is; "What is the sales program for? Is it to grow revenue organically or provide market share growth?" Sales programs around market share growth are much more difficult than programs geared toward organic growth.

In any case I would start with an analysis of the installed base. What have they bought, when have they bought and who are they. Knowing the business profile of the clients that bought the product you want to promote during the same time frame you have targeted gives you a running start. If you don't know what you want to promote or when, this might help answer that question. Sometimes a trend pops out that answers the question for you. During this analysis for another program my staff noticed a very large installed base of EOL software; we quickly created a sales program to get these upgraded. Easy money…

Once you have a good understanding of who buys today and why, you have the starting point to move forward. Again, not knowing specifically what you would like to accomplish I can only guess at potential avenues to follow. I generally have target revenue for my program, so I work backward. What is the value of the product I want to promote and how many of these do I have to sell to make my target? I can look at my data to see who has bought it in the past. I can project that profile over the market to see the potential prospects. I can calculate the probability of success.

Now the hard part… the science is easy, the art isn't…. Now you have to be able to exploit the unique sales proposition you have in the market place to create two important things… a driving mechanism and a critical event. You have to create an offer that is so compelling that the market will want to act and a time frame to act that causes them to make a decision. Without these you have nothing….

Once you have these in place; (i.e. steps 10 through 600 are left up to you) you can create a program roll-out package for the sales force. They need the list of targets, sales training, the product promotional, and the calling scripts. Personally I would go one step further and provide proposal boilerplate and sample letters. The less you leave up to them the faster they can execute.

Last, and I always leave this to last, you will need a sales SPIFF. Some incentive to get them to act differently during this campaign then they would normally. Sales activity is driven by the compensation plan. Tie it to desired financial goals, not sales activity.

This is the best I can do without writing a book.