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Sales Call Planning. Are you Prepared or Will You Be Left Behind?

by Dan Fisher on Jan 28, 2015 1:52:00 PM

We have reached a new inflection point within the sales profession. Look around and you will see what I’m talking about. Decision makers are more difficult than ever to get a hold of. The lines of vendor differentiation are as murky as ever. Engaging prospects in meaningful dialog and gaining legitimate consideration (to do business together) has never been more challenging. The reason for all of this is buyer behavior has changed. The world of sales has reached a new inflection point.

An inflection point can be defined as a point in time for either opportunity or failure. Looking back on the history of the sales profession there have been two major inflection points. The first inflection point occurred when Dale Carnegie opened his sales training courses in 1912 and released his best selling book, How To Win Friends & Influence People in 1936. This book remains a classic today. His philosophy was that it is possible to change other people’s behavior by changing one’s reaction to them. Many of today’s world leading organizations continue to apply these concepts.

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Maximize Your 2015 Sales Kickoff Meeting

by Dan Fisher on Jan 12, 2015 7:52:00 AM

Well here it is, 2015, a new-year which means new goals and new aspirations.  After you finish celebrating 2014 it is once again, time to hit your number AGAIN!  More than likely you will hear about this (hitting your number) at your sales kickoff meeting (if you haven’t already). Hosting a sales kick off meeting is one of the best ways to communicate your strategy and prepare your go to market plan.  Heck, companies spend millions of dollars on these meetings to make them impactful.  Yet most attendees fail to capitalize on the opportunity because they suffer from information overload from packed days followed with late nights (and usually lots of drinking).  It's all a blur!   Despite good intentions, follow up, reviewing and applying key data points and action items doesn't always happen. When that happens, you fail to see a change in behavior which means results don’t change either. Yet, you commonly see ‘A’ players knocking the ball out of the park year after year. What the heck are they doing at these sales kickoff meetings? What are they doing after the kickoff meeting? What are they doing to capture this data and maximize the opportunity?

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2015 Sales Attack -- Two Things You Must Know!

by Gerry Gadoury on Jan 6, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Do you have a 2015 Sales attack plan? It's real simple, grow what you have and hunt for new! I know this isn’t news; it’s pretty much what you’ve been told to do since you started in this business, but I want you to ask yourself a few questions:

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Topics: account development, it staffing sales

5 Tips for Improving Sales Effectiveness in 2015

by Gerry Gadoury on Dec 15, 2014 6:44:25 PM

What is the #1 way to improve Sales effectiveness? It’s the worst kept secret in the industry. Every sales person knows the answer. Every Sales Leader. Every Owner. Then why is it that people don’t embrace it? Why is it that sales people resist it? That answer is well known as well.

The #1 way to improve individual and team performance in your sales department is the same thing that every professional sports team does to improve their performance when they get caught in a slump: Drill the basics! Practice the fundamentals!

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Two Must Have's for Winning Over IT Hiring Managers in 2015

by Dan Fisher on Dec 14, 2014 11:01:18 AM

In case you haven’t noticed, today's IT hiring manager and corporate buyers in general are insanely busy. They have large teams to manage and responsibilities that continue to expand.  Their work load is unrelenting with deadlines to meet and projects and products to deliver.  If that were not enough, these IT hiring managers are bombarded with unsolicited interruptions-sales calls-throughout their day.  To make matters worse, they continue to hear salespeople push out their broadcast message or general marketing message where they focus on their company accolades and service offerings.  Because of these factors, when a corporate buyer hears even the slightest hint of a self-serving sales pitch, (we have the best candidates, our screening process is unique, I will be in the neighborhood and would like pop by for 15 minutes) they cut you off.  So today, now more than ever sales people must:

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Topics: prospecting

Identifying Your Target Market

by Dan Fisher on Dec 5, 2014 8:36:00 AM

Can you describe to me your dream customer? Tell me about the unique characteristics of this “dream” customer.  Can you describe to me the types of customers that have been the most profitable?  Which customers are the most enjoyable to work with?  What types of problems have you consistently had success in solving for your customers in the past? If you’re struggling to come up with clear and concise answers to these questions then you do not have a clearly defined target market.  

Having no clearly defined  target market is the equivalent of going to the shooting range with no target; shooting baskets with no hoop, playing darts in the dark….you get my drift.  If you are struggling with this, the good news is you’re not alone.  I see it almost everywhere I go.  It goes something like this….
After sitting through the morning meeting Jimmy the sales rep goes back to his desk to begin his day. After Jimmy spends 10 minutes reviewing email he opens up LinkedIn and his CRM/ATS and says to himself “who should I call on today?”  And this is where the paralysis by analysis begins.  Jimmy says to himself “should I call this account or that account?”  “Should I try calling the account I called on earlier in the week?  “Nobody returned my calls so probably not.”  This anguish goes on and on.

My point is sales reps really agonize over which accounts to call on and how much time to invest in an account before walking away.  (Sales managers, trust me, go sit with your reps for a few hours).  The challenge is there are tons-too many in fact-of companies to choose from.  If it’s not clear to the sales rep what exactly it is they’re looking for in a prospect account, prospecting for new business becomes extremely frustrating to the point of paralyzing.  The problem unfortunately stems from a lack of a sales process and/or poor management.  Fast forward this scenario 6 months and Dick the sales manager says “gee, Jimmy has been here for 6 months and has nothing to really show for himself.  Who are his prospects and where is his revenue going to come from?”   Jimmy has no pipeline because he has no sales process to follow nor has he been given any direction on what his target market is (other than “any company with an IT department).  Jimmy doesn’t know what he is trying to kill.  So what does Jimmy do?  Jimmy goes to and other job boards and seeks out pre-defined, oversaturated job postings. What a novel idea!  I think we all know how that story ends.  Jimmy finds himself in the HR department.



In his classic book, Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore points out that companies who try to be all things to all people have significantly higher costs, never really establish a strong customer base from which to grow and often disappear before achieving profitable growth.  This sounds incredibility similar to the IT staffing industry.  Most IT staffing firms take the shotgun approach to prospecting by simply going after any and all job orders.  In other words, they try to be all things to all people and never establish a niche or core competency.  Does your firm have a core competency?  How often does your firm say “no” to a new job order?  These are the companies that never develop a candidate pipeline and continue to rely on job boards. As a result these companies struggle to achieve consistent growth. Why is that?  The sales team is purely focused on chasing job orders rather than building a scalable and sustainable book of business.  To do the latter requires a having a clearly defined target market and go to market strategy.

Selling today is about selling where you will have the greatest likelihood for success. It’s not about calling on 200 different accounts. It’s about calling on accounts that meet your pre-defined qualification parameters.  That’s right; your prospects need to qualify for your business! Not the other way around. This is why we built the Meets Target Customer Profile component into Quota King. The tool actually tells the sales rep if the account is worth pursuing. It tells the rep if the account meets the parameters for their target market.

If you’re a sales manager or sales leader, are you certain that your sales reps understand who your target market is?  Can your sales reps differentiate between a high value prospect and a low value prospect?  More importantly, can they do it after speaking with just a handful of people in the account or does it take them 3-6 months before they realize they need to walk away from the account (or that they should have never walked away from that cash cow last quarter)?  Providing your sales team with a clearly defined target market could take weeks and in many cases months off of your sales cycle.  Think about the impact that would have on both your top line and bottom line revenue!

If you’re interested in learning more about how to develop your target market, check out our upcoming New Account Development webinar sales training program that launches on January 5, 2015.  We will be covering this topic in further detail as well as many others including cold calling, objection handling and building your value proposition.

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Topics: prospecting, target market

How to Fail at Cold Calling

by Gerry Gadoury on Nov 24, 2014 6:00:00 AM

Ok, I’m not saying that this is a comprehensive list, not by any means, but it is 3 of the things that we as salespeople can do to virtually guarantee that our cold call campaign will be BOTH miserable to execute (feel the rejection!) and fail to capture new clients (yay, no commission!).

Let’s start at the top...and have some fun (you'll see my sarcasm)

By all means, whenever you get the chance and ideally from the beginning, shove it in the face of the prospect who you are.  I mean really let them know who you are and how your recruiting team is unique.  Be sure to inform your prospect of all of the awards your company has won.  All of it.   I mean, they don’t know you, how else are they going to know how your organization is unique?  Tell me if this sounds familiar, “Hello Mr. Prospect, my name is John Doe and I’m from 123 Technical staffing.  We’re an IT staffing firm based in Anytown USA and we specialize in contract, contract to hire, and permanent placement of the very best technical talent available in this market.  Do you have any needs right now?”  Hammer this message over and over. Prospects love it...and it's such a different and unique message:)

Push for the meeting on the introductory call. Take no prisoners. Don’t let her off the phone without getting a commitment for a face to face meeting, You take meetings in your living from complete strangers off of a cold call right?  On second thought, pushing for the meeting is a sign of weakness,  PUSH HARD for that job req on the first call, the very first time you’ve spoken with this person!  Heck, why wouldn't they give you the job order? 
Still with me, Great!  If the first 2 tips haven’t tanked your campaign this 3rd one will burn some bridges!  Whatever you do, do NOT do ANY pre-call planning.  Who has time for that?  Just pound out call after call so you can have the highest call volume in the office (because that’s the most important thing right?).  Prospects LOVE it when you call, know nothing about them, tell them all about yourself, push them for a meeting and a req, and then ask them a bunch of questions that you could easily learn with 2-3 minutes of research on their company website and LinkedIn.

Special Bonus

You still have some life left in your campaign?  Let’s take care of that now!  Here’s the big secret.  This is KEY:  Don’t do any 2 calls the same way.  By all means do NOT follow a script.  You don’t want to sound like a robot, do you?  Make every call UNIQUE.  That will keep it interesting, won’t it?  The last thing you want is to know what you did to make the call a success. So be sure to mix it up!

There you have it!  You follow those 3 tips (and the BONUS!) and I can promise you that you will have the most futile, miserable cold call campaign that you can imagine!

Okay, I admit it.  I may have been (Slightly!) sarcastic when I wrote this blog.  These are pretty extreme, even silly, examples but who hasn’t seen this?  The article, while written tongue in cheek, is true.  If you lead your call with who you are, push the prospect for a meeting or a req too soon, waste manager’s time asking questions you should already know the answers to, and (BONUS!) make every call different by “winging” them instead of following a script you will fail.  There is no maybe here.  It is as close to a guarantee as I can give you in this business.

Now, if you’re ready to learn how to do it right you may want check out our blog post Cold Calling Tips Best Practices or download our Cold Calling Best Practices White Paper.

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Topics: cold calling

Sales Call Preparation for IT Staffing Sales

by Dan Fisher on Nov 20, 2014 11:19:47 AM

A few weeks ago I was coaching a sales rep where I was jacked into a headset and could hear the entire phone call including the prospect on the other end of the line.  Unfortunately the call went horribly wrong.  The prospect answered and the sales rep instantly froze and fumbled his way through his introduction.  The prospect then asked a few questions where the sales rep stuttered a very unconfident response in which the prospect responded with “I’m all set, thanks for the call.” Click.  

Afterwards, I asked the rep what he thought had happened and why he thought the call deteriorated so quickly. The reps response, "I didn't expect the prospect to answer my call.  I was caught off guard."  Say what?  Come again?  What do you mean you didn’t expect the prospect to answer the phone?   Mind you, this was a hot prospect the sales rep had been pursuing for months.  

This may sound crazy, but unfortunately I see this behavior with IT staffing sales people a lot more often than you think I would.  Sales people consciously neglecting to prepare for sales calls.

Accessing decision makers over the phone has never been more difficult (just imagine, phone lines will be gone in a few years. What will we do then?!).  In fact, accessing decision makers is by far the biggest frustration I hear from sales people and sales managers.   But you know who else is frustrated with these sales calls?  Your prospects, that’s who.  Why?  According to a study by the CEB, only 36% of sales professionals are prepared for sales calls.   Those numbers are absolutely staggering!!

Have you ever received an unsolicited sales call?  Better yet, have you ever received an unsolicited sales call from an unprepared sales person who knows nothing about you and your business? I have and I have to say, they’re pretty annoying and absolute waste of time. This is another blog topic in and of itself!  The long and short of it is, I'm actually embarrassed for these people.  

Knowing how incredibly difficult it is to reach IT decision makers (I find it takes roughly 30 raw dials to reach a decision maker), doesn't that place an even higher premium on sales call preparation and the ability to execute your sales calls?    I certainly think it does.  Heck, you have one shot to really knock their socks off! Who knows how long it will be before you get that IT hiring manager on the phone again.

Why then are only 36% of sales professionals prepared for their sales calls?  Here are a few theories.

  1. Sales managers rely too heavily (and in many cases exclusively) on activity as their primary means for measuring sales success (call volume) and fail to measure outcomes. These sales managers continue to apply pressure on their sales people to “close” face to face meetings from sales calls. This actually drives aggressive and transactional sales behavior where sales people make their personal agenda (landing the meeting) the priority of the call. Thus, they don’t prepare properly because their goal is a meeting and they need to secure “X” number of meetings to keep their manager off their back.  Prospects however see this from a mile away, detest this behavior, clam up and end the call. Everyone looses in this scenario.

  2. Sales people are not clear on how to prepare for sales calls. Sales people have not been taught how or shown how to properly prepare for a sales call.

  3. Some sales people are just flat out lazy. Yes, I said it.  Be honest, it is far more easier to stick with the status quo and simply “wing” your calls then it is to put in the proper time and effort in preparing for your sales calls.

If you are a sales leader or business owner you have to ask yourself, how much is this costing me and my organization?  More importantly, what are you doing to ensure your sales team is prepared for their sales calls?  Below are four tips on how to prepare for your sales calls.

Pre-Call Planning Research

The real key to getting good management level meetings and having meaningful conversations with IT hiring managers including executives is to have good situational and functional knowledge of their business. This knowledge can be developed through personal experience, training, reading, research and planning and speaking with other people in the account. You should also be checking their Linkedin, Twitter , Facebook and other social media pages for additional information.

Prior to making a sales call sales people should try to uncover their buyer’s persona.  A buyer’s persona is data including critical issues that will be relevant to your  conversation.  Ideally, you want to try to uncover any of the following about your prospects before making the cold call:

Role & Responsibility including level of seniority
Career path
The problems they face day to day given their role
Main information sources (what do they read, where do they do their research online)
Industry drivers/macro trends
Their blog
Shared connections

This research should only take you a few minutes, not hours.  

Free Conversation Starter Resource Guide

Impress Your Prospect, Demonstrate Credibility

The quickest way to turn your prospect off and create objections is to talk about yourself, your company and your service offerings.  Do NOT talk about your company accolades and why you think you are so unique. The real key to building credibility with your buyers and compelling them to open up and speak with you is by sharing with them what you know about them.  You will impress your prospects and clients by demonstrating what you know about them personally and their company and/or department.  Tell them how much time you spent researching their company, what you learned and why it is so important to you to build a relationship with them and their firm.

What’s in it For Me?

When you make a sales call, especially a cold call, your prospect is thinking:

“Is this sales person worth my time?  What will I get out of this call if I take 5 minutes to speak with this sales person?”

You better have a good answer to this question.  To do so, you need to come ready and prepared to share ideas and insight with your prospect that would be of value to him or her.  If you understand your prospects persona, you will know what type of information they will be interested in.  In general, corporate buyers are really interested in learning about market trends and how their business or department stacks up against the competitors and other peer organizations.  They’re also interested in understanding how you approach problems with your customers and how you impact your customer’s business. You need to come prepared with these stories and ready to share lessons learned.

The Art of Questioning

In addition to being prepared and understanding exactly what it is you will say to open your call, you also need to come prepared with your top 10 open ended probing questions. Think about what it is that you really want to get out of the conversation. The answer to that question will tell you what questions you need to be asking.  Just make sure you ask them in an open-ended manner.  The quality of prospects response will vary greatly if you asked close-ended questions vs. open ended questions.

So don’t be part of the 64% of sales people who are not prepared for sales calls.  You only get one chance, so take full advantage of it!

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Topics: cold calling

Sales Metrics to Hold Sales Managers Accountable

by Gerry Gadoury on Oct 28, 2014 10:14:20 AM

As owners and senior management it is our responsibility to track the behaviors and sales metrics of our sales managers, just as we expect them to track their sales team and hold team members accountable.  This is a critical step in the development of a strong and successful sales culture that, as owners and senior managers, we model the behavior we expect of our direct reports (Managers) and, by extension, the individual contributors in the organization.  In most organizations the sales managers are also responsible for carrying their own book of business.  That is the assumption for the purpose of this discussion.  So, what do we track?

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5 Tips For Turning New Hires into Sales Superstars

by Dan Fisher on Oct 28, 2014 9:51:01 AM

We are paid professionals for identifying, interviewing, screening and delivering superstar candidates for our clients. We get paid handsome fees for our work. So why is it so darn difficult to turn our own internal hires into superstars?  After all, we're the experts, are we not? 

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A blog offering fresh ideas, novel sales strategies and sales leadership advice for the IT staffing industry.

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