If you sell IT services, specifically IT staffing services and your'e responsible for new business development, you've come to the right place. I’ve made close to 1 million sales and new business development calls, attended thousands of sales meetings, sent millions of prospecting emails and have handled every objection in the book. Now I’m going to share a whole host of new business development strategies and tactics that you can test out for yourself to add more to your bottom line.
A day in the life of an IT staffing sales professional has dramatically changed over the past 10 years. Getting prospects on the phone has never been more difficult and getting return phone calls from prospects and customers is not any easier. To top it off, today’s corporate buyer including the CIO all the way down to IT line (hiring) managers are far more educated and expect their time spent with a sales person to be valuable. To counter these challenges IT staffing sales professionals must adopt fresh ideas, innovative thinking and a more strategic approach to business development and effectively open new accounts and grow market share.
Today’s sales professional must be more targeted with their new business development including their calls and their messaging and they must be able to create not only a valuable, but a memorable experience for the prospect. Today’s top performing sales professionals have a clearly defined target market, use data science to score the quality of their leads in order to prioritize their prospecting time, consistently complete and follow a sales call plan, use quantifiable call objectives, understand their buyers persona and tailor their messaging accordingly. And, they incorporate quantifiable value propositions that demonstrate how their offering will impact their prospect’s business. Finally, top performing sales teams are obsessive with applying and tracking metrics to their prospecting and new business development efforts in order to make adjustments and continuously improve their effectiveness.
For sales leaders, one of the most important assets you need to protect is the time of your sales team. We find that sales people spend between 40% and 50% of their time simply trying to figure out who they are going to call and what they are going to say. Tack on another 20% of their time agonizing over how to properly craft a prospecting email or voice mail message and that adds up to at least 60% of their time or 24 hours a week! No wonder call volumes are so low and CEO’s are concerned by new business development including account diversification.
What if you could optimize your sales rep’s work routine to ensure they were prospecting and performing at optimal levels to improve the overall health of their sales funnel? That is the intent of Menemsha Group’s new business development sales methodology. This article is designed to share with you and demonstrate how Menemsha Group has done it for hundreds of other IT staffing firms. I'm going to share with you key insights into the Menemsha Group prospecting and new business development sales methodology including our prospecting strategy and methodology and how our sales methodology training turns sales reps into top performers.
In this article you will learn the following about sales prospecting and business development:
• How and why you need to have a clearly defined target market
• How and why you must score your leads
• How to set call objectives
• How and why you need to create a sales call plan (and track and measure completion)
• How to demonstrate value and create a memorable experience for your prospects
• How to apply metrics to track and improve your prospecting and new business development effectiveness
• What buyer personas are, why they are so important and why they are the key to successful prospecting for IT staffing sales professionals
First, Let’s Get a Few Things Straight About “Cold Calling”
For the past several years there has been much debate over whether or not cold calling is still relevant and productive. You’ve probably even seen the advertisements on Google and LinkedIn that read “cold calling is dead.” The so called “experts” and “gurus” say that sales people should never
make cold calls because customers despise receiving them and sales people don’t enjoy making them. They go on to say that cold calling no longer
works and that it is not a productive use of time. To be crystal clear, what these so called experts mean and what we at Menemsha Group completely agree with is, sales people shouldn’t be blindingly picking up the phone and randomly calling phone numbers pitching prospects without any knowledge of the prospect or his or her company. To our surprise however we still find many sales people, even those with well over ten years of sales experience going into a call
completely blind. To be explicitly clear, “Cold Calling,” for the purposes of this discussion and as it relates to the Menemsha Group
sales methodology implies the following:
• The sales rep does not know the prospect (they have never spoken before)
• The sales rep does not have a referral to the prospect
• The prospect is not familiar with the sales rep or his or her company
• Our methodology does NOT imply or advocate for sales people to blindingly pick up the phone and randomly call phone numbers pitching prospects without any knowledge of the prospect or his or her company.
Finally, it is also important to note that we use the term “cold calling” and “introductory call” interchangeably. What has perhaps changed the most in sales and specifically with prospecting over the past ten years is how much a sales professional can learn about his or her prospect before even picking up the phone. Sales people have access to more sales tool, both paid and free, and information on their prospects than they have ever had. Most importantly, accessing and leveraging this data in their sales calls is within 100% control of the sales rep. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that we also agree that customers despise being on the receiving of a cold call when the sales person fails to properly prepare for the call. But we don’t believe it’s the act of the “cold call” that the client despises but rather the lack of preparation on behalf of the sales rep and how little they know about the prospect and their business that they despise. And when sales people don’t understand how to properly prepare for an introductory call they too despise making them. Keep in mind that first and foremost we believe in and advocate for (and train) sales people to always be asking their friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers and of course their customers for referrals. However, I have been in sales and sales leadership for over 20 years and I know from personal experience that everyone’s referral network eventually runs dry. In fact, when I wrote my original Cold Calling Tips & Best Practices Guide in 2008 and I said “everyone’s network runs out at some point,” I meant that we all must come to terms with the fact that sales people will NEVER have enough quality referrals coming in from their network to consistently keep the top of their sales funnel full. So the whole idea or notion of never having to make a cold call is a pipe dream. When sales people do take the time to properly prepare for a cold call, it actually does work and rather well I might add! The vast majority of the $28 billion-dollar IT staffing industry has been built on cold calling. How do you think the thousands of IT staffing businesses originated and generated the $28B in revenue? Cold calls. No, not all of it but most it. There are thousands upon thousands of staffing firms out there who have built their business off of cold calling and the same is true for dozens of other industries. Now I’m also not naïve. I’m well aware that there are new, more advanced and sophisticated ways to prospecting and new business development above and beyond cold calling. I was a very early adopter of Inbound Marketing and continue to be a huge proponent of this methodology. In fact, I think blogging is the new way to build the top of the sales funnel. I
encourage sales people to write at least one blog per month. It is how we fill the top of our funnel at Menemsha Group. But even with inbound marketing, sales people still have to pick up the phone and call someone they don’t know or have not been referred to previously.
Now that we have some clarity around cold calling and prospecting let’s take a look at what makes Menemsha Group’s sales methodology so compelling so you can determine if and how it might work for you.
Defining Your Target MarketIf you asked each member of your sales team the following questions:
What is the value of your service offering?
How does your service offering impact your customer’s business
How does your company differentiate?
Would their answers be clear, compelling and consistent? If you are like most IT staffing firms the answer is a resounding no. A study conducted by The American Marketing Association, The CMO Council and Booze Allen Hamilton concluded salespeople are spending 40% of their time preparing customer facing materials More concerning is the study also found that only 10-20% of those materials and messages are considered to be compelling by prospects and customers. Why are sales people spending so much time creating customer facing materials? There are a couple reasons:
Salespeople have to keep reinventing new material for every information request because sales reps are calling on so many different buyer types (different buyer personas, more on this in a bit)
Materials and messages created for Prospect A are not relevant for Prospect B or Prospect C and
Have you ever met a sales manager or sales rep who said “Our sales team is spending too much time prospecting?” Of course not. But imagine for a second that 40% of a sales reps work week-sixteen hours are spent on creating customer facing materials. In short, when sales people have no clearly defined target market
they really don’t know what they’re selling or who they’re selling to. As a result sales people tell their prospects whatever they think the prospect needs to hear in order to get an opportunity. Sound crazy? Do you think I’m making this up? Unfortunately it is true. This is what IT staffing sales has become and part of the reason why prospecting has become so counterproductive. Here is how Menemsha Group turns those sixteen hours into customer call time and face time.
When it comes to cold calling, prospecting and new business development, the first thing the sales person must have is a clearly defined target market. This is why Defining Your Target Market is one of the first training classes in our sales methodology training program. This element of our sales methodology drastically improves new business development effectiveness because sales reps are given the direction and guidance on exactly who they are calling on and why, and what the relevant talking points are for their given target market. Customers who have gone through our new account development sales methodology training know that defining your target market is the key first step to improving prospecting efficiency and effectiveness because they also know that selling today is NOT a numbers game but is really about:
Armed with a clearly defined target market our clients can quickly and easily build a prospect call list filled with companies who share many of the same qualities of their most loyal customers. Because the companies on their prospect list are very similar in nature to their existing clients, sales reps now have relevant stories to share with these new prospects. Finally, having defined a target market that is in alignment with their existing client base, sales reps can now begin to deliver clear value propositions tailored to their prospects. Add it all up and suddenly sales reps are experiencing an increase in connects, call backs and face to face meetings. Prospecting efficiency starts to accelerate. But that is only the beginning.
Helping our customers define their target market is just the first step in our prospecting and new account development sales methodology. Imagine the following scenario. You’re a sales rep working for HighTech Staffing Solutions. Your recruiting team (or marketing team) has given you the two leads below. Which one is the higher priority? Which lead should you call first? What makes that lead better than the other lead and why? What makes either lead a higher priority than any of the contacts on your daily call list? These are the questions that sales people anguish (and waste time) over every day. Lead scoring eliminates the anguish by providing sales reps with a quick and easy way to prioritize leads.Lead scoring allows you to assign a value (a certain number of points) to each lead (before they become a qualified prospect). Lead scoring helps sales rep’s, sales managers and marketing teams prioritize leads and increase efficiency.
The Menemsha Group sales methodology allows for assigning values to leads and accounts (not to mention opportunities) including the different demographics associated with a lead. We also work with our clients to help them assign their own point value to their leads. This, as with the defining your target market exercise, significantly increases prospecting efficiency and effectiveness. When helping our clients define their target market we also help them identify the attributes of their customers that they enjoy working with as well as the attributes of leads who haven’t become customers or who were difficult to work with. Once we review the historical data from both sides, we help our customers decide which attributes should be weighted heavily based on how likely they are to indicate someone’s a good fit for the company and become a customer. Below are just a few of the attributes we
encourage clients to incorporate into their lead scoring system.
Are you more interested in selling to a certain company size? Specific industries?
Are you more interested in local companies or national companies?
Are you more interested in selling to buyers who use a VMS or MSP?
Are you only interested in selling to buyers who you have direct access to?
Are you only interested in selling to buyers who own their own hiring budget?
Are you interested in selling to managers who have a team size of 1-10 or 11-20?
Other attributes could include:
Skill sets (they hire for)
Do you have a clearly defined message and value proposition tailored for this buyer type (hiring manager)?
Chances are the answer is no. Don’t worry, you’re not alone but this is an area where you can get a huge leg up on your competition. One of the reasons why sales professionals have such a difficult time demonstrating credibility and getting face time with today’s buyer and is a lack of understanding who they are
selling to. Core to the Menemsha Group sales methodology is an understanding and belief system that sales people must properly tailor their message to the persona of the buyer they are calling on or selling to. We also refer to this as “speaking the language of the customer.” Unlike traditional staffing industry sales training which assumes all buyers are alike (or that we all just sell to HR) and the solution is the same, Menemsha Group teaches sales reps how to identify and define each of their buyer personas and how to sell and speak to each differently.
Buyer personas are generalized representations of your ideal customers. They help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better, and make it easier for you to tailor your messaging (verbal, email, voice mail and content) to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of the different IT hiring managers or the specific buyers that you sell to.
At the most basic level, buyer personas allow you to personalize or target your sales messaging and marketing for different segments of your audience. For example, instead of sending the same lead nurturing emails to everyone in your database, you can segment your emails and subsequently the message you send by buyer persona and tailor your messaging according to what you know about those different personas.We know how challenging it is to get a prospect to return our calls or respond to our email messages. Even when we do get a prospect on the phone it is still very difficult to get the prospect to engage in a meaningful conversation. The key to unlocking this challenge is by building out buyer personas. When you understand what is important to your buyer, the challenges they face and the concerns they have it becomes much easier to structure relevant questions and to get them to engage in a productive discussion.
Are you worth talking to? That is the question going through the mind of corporate buyers and IT hiring managers when they receive calls, emails and voice mail messages from sales professionals. Before you answer that question keep in mind that today’s customers are smart and have become immune to all of the buzz words and jargon. Even if your customer service, candidate database, recruiting methodology or screening process is better than your competition, it doesn’t matter because most of your competitors are making these same self-serving statements. Decision makers, those who own their own hiring budget and/or profit and loss statement (P&L) are measured and evaluated and earn their bonus based on how well they manage their P&L. For these reasons, Menemsha Group believes (and subsequently teaches) that decision makers need to hear how your IT staffing service offering is helping other companies and other IT hiring managers reduce costs, better utilize assets and/or increase revenue. If you’re an IT staffing sales rep and you can’t articulate this value to an IT hiring manager, why should they listen to you let alone meet with you and buy from you?
Fortunately, before any company builds and implements a new piece of software or hardware or “streamlines” and “optimizes” a business process, a feasibility study including an ROI analysis is conducted to determine the ROI of the new piece of software, hardware or business process. Corporate America doesn’t make these investments without first knowing their expected ROI. For these reasons Menemsha Group knows and believes that when an IT staffing firm sends an IT consultant to their client for a three month java development project or a six month database design project that the consultant in some shape or form is helping the end client reduce costs, increase revenue and/or better utilize assets. This is your value proposition. We provide the methodology for how to develop and deliver the story that articulates your value proposition. While our value proposition methodology is common-place and the standard for selling products and services in most other industries, the staffing industry (including our fellow staffing industry sales training competitors) have never been able to connect these dots and therefore have never trained staffing sales professionals how to have business conversations, to sell business value or the ROI of their solution. Instead most staffing companies pitch the same thing today as they did 10, 20, 30 and 40+ years ago (we have the best candidates, best price, we’re local, etc.).
As the CEO, sales leader, sales manager or sales rep of a staffing firm, how satisfied are you with the results from these efforts? We don’t claim to be the trailblazers when it comes to teaching sales reps to sell the ROI of a solution (others have done this long before Menemsha Group). What we do claim however is that we are the trailblazers to teach and apply this methodology for staffing industry professionals. Based on client feedback we are also the trailblazers for how we teach it. Sales professionals who go through other staffing industry specific sales training don’t learn that staffing, providing IT consultants or temporary employees is in fact a business solution. They don’t teach sales reps how to position their offering as a business solution. Instead they teach sales reps
“Pitch the candidates skills”
“Pitch the candidates availability”
“Pitch the lowest or most competitive rate”
“Pitch your great customer service”
Imagine for a second you’re a hiring manager and you have just received two sales calls from two different
staffing firms. Read below to hear the two different pitches.
If you’re a hiring manager, which sales rep are you most likely to engage in a conversation and why? If you’re a CEO, sales leader or sales manager for a staffing firm, which approach do you prefer your sales reps apply? If you’re a sales rep, which approach do you think will put you in the best position to be successful? The message from the traditional staffing sales rep is the message that IT hiring managers are tired of hearing. This is also the message that IT staffing sales professionals are tired of pitching. Why? Because they know it
doesn’t work. The Menemsha Group sales rep however can’t make that pitch without first defining his or her target market, scoring their leads and creating an impactful value proposition. Hopefully you are now starting to see how the Menemsha Group sales methodology and training provides a more strategic and methodical approach to cold calling, prospecting and filling the top of the sales funnel. For additional details on how to build out your value proposition you can also download our value proposition playbook.
Creating a Sales Call Plan
Since launching Menemsha Group in July 2008, I have worked with thousands of sales reps and over three hundred different IT staffing firms and I have yet to run into an IT staffing firm including both sales manager and sales reps who complete sales call plans prior to making their sales calls. Further supporting my findings is research that was conducted by the Corporate Executive Board. They researched thousands of sales reps, sales managers, sales leaders and corporate buyers and discovered that only 36% of sales reps are prepared for sales calls. No wonder prospecting and “cold calling” is so inefficient! Only the select few-the top performers- are taking the time to properly prepare. At Menemsha Group our philosophy and methodology is real simple. If your goal is to have more customer face time, more productive and meaningful sales conversations and to build the top of your sales funnel with
qualified opportunities then IT staffing sales professionals must complete sales call plans and sales managers must track and measure the completion of those call plans. Below are a few of the data elements we incorporate into our sales call plans that sales reps are required to complete before calling a prospect or client:
Ideas and Insights to Share. Today’s buyer expect to learn something new from time spent with a sales rep. Our sales call plan prompts sales reps to plan ahead what ideas, insights or best practices they will share with each of their customers/prospects before they call them. We also provide the methodology for sales reps to follow in order to come up with relevant ideas and insights to share with their prospects based on buyer persona type.
Open Ended probing Discovery Questions. Asking open-ended probing or discovery questions are crucial for sales professionals to understand the details of a prospect’s current situation and their desired future state including their goals and objectives. Use of open-ended probing questions is also a key component to engaging in consultative sales dialog. Not only do we teach when and how to ask open ended questions but we provide examples of open ended probing questions for sales reps to use in their sales call plan. Sales reps must have open ended questions prepared and documented on their call plan prior to making any sales call
Call Objective. Sales reps are taught via their sales call plan to create a sales call objective. We believe the call objective should always be centered on the following question: “What is the next reasonable step I can ask and expect my client to commit to in their purchasing process?
Objections and Rebuttals. Our sales call plan methodology teaches and encourages sales reps to anticipate objections (based on call plan type and objective). Our call plan also provides sales rep with the platform for preparing their rebuttals before they pick up the phone.
These are a few examples of the attributes that make up a Menemsha Group sales call plan. There is of course one other critical component to consider when it comes to call plans and that is measuring call plan completeness. Sales managers must track and measure the number of call plans a sales rep completes in a given day or week and the sales manager needs to periodically review the sales reps call plans for quality. Fortunately for sales managers, sales leaders and CEO’s, Menemsha Group has an entire methodology dedicated to sales performance metrics that highlights how many call plans a sales rep should complete in a given year based on their book of business, tenure and experience. For more details on that you can feel free to contact us directly.
Improving Sales Prospecting and New Business Development Efficiency and Effectiveness with the Right Metrics
In this last section we will compare and contrast traditional staffing industry metrics and how they have been managed against the Menemsha Group sales metrics methodology. In order for IT staffing firms and sales professionals to improve their prospecting and new business development efficiency and effectiveness they must:
Most likely your ultimate goal with sales prospecting is to net new opportunities from new customers and close those opportunities. But what is the best path to achieving that goal? Over 90% of the IT staffing firms we’ve consulted with use face to face meetings and/or receiving a job order as the primary metrics for determining prospecting success. It’s as if the sales process is cold call, get job order, win deal. If only it were that easy! Not surprisingly, over 85% of the sales reps we have worked with fail to consistently achieve their weekly face to face meeting quota. Part of the reason of course is lack of preparation and not doing the things we have outlined. The other reason is that the “old-school” metric management system is flawed. Here are a few reasons why it is flawed.
If I cold call you today (you’ve never heard of me or Menemsha Group) are you going to meet with me to discuss sales training? Most likely not. So, why would an IT hiring manager meet with a sales rep off of a cold call (It’s not impossible, but unlikely)?
Why do sales managers expect sales reps to get face to face meetings with hiring managers off of a cold call?
These metrics and these expectations are flawed because:
a. This is not how buyers buy or wish to engage sales professionals
b. Prospects are being asked to make an unrealistic commitment far too early in the sales cycle, typically before the rep has earned the right to a meeting
c. Sales reps can’t exert 100% control over achieving this outcome. You can’t manage a number you can’t control.
Unlike most in the staffing industry, we don’t believe a face-to-face meeting warrants a “stage” in the sales process. It shouldn’t be a stage in your sales process because your prospect doesn’t need to meet with you to do business with you. We believe staffing firms that include “face to face meeting” as a stage in their process is a classic case of a sales process not aligning with the buyer’s purchasing process. It’s just not necessary. Instead, we believe that a face to face meetings with a new prospect is simply a lead nurturing strategy, no different (but
potentially more impactful) than a follow up phone call or a lead nurturing email. Finally, if the goal is to get a face to face meeting with the prospect then where does qualifying and lead conversion fit into this business development process and sales management system? The sales rep is supposed to qualify the prospect in the initial face to face meeting you say? To that we ask, what value does the prospect get out of a meeting in which the objective is for the sales rep to qualify the prospect? For sales leaders and CEO’s, do you want your salespeople killing 50% of their day traveling to and from appointments with unqualified prospects or would the company be better served if they focused their prospecting time on converting and qualifying leads over the phone and meeting with high value prospects who have already been qualified? Remember, the goal is to improve sales prospecting and new business development efficiency and effectiveness.
Our sales management and metrics methodology is based on the belief that you can’t manage your “number” such as face to face meetings, quota attainment or a revenue goal or gross profit quota because you can’t exert 100% control over the outcome. You can only track and measure activities that will influence the likelihood of you achieving a business objective or business result. To improve your prospecting effectiveness sales reps and sales managers will need to track and measure the following:
Activities: An activity is something you have 100% control over. Activities are the “causes” that lead to other “effects” including the achievement of a business objective or business result. Below are two prospecting activities that we measure:
Sales objectives: A sales goal or objective can be influenced by managing the preceding activities. The number of activities influences the outcome or success for achieving a sales objective or goal. Examples include:
# of new leads converted and qualified
# of new face to face meetings
To improve your business development and prospecting effectiveness you will also need to measure ratios such as:
Number of dials to connects
Call plans completed to returned phone calls
Number of connects to converted/qualified leads
Number of call plans completed to converted/qualified leads
Number of qualified leads to face to face meetings (with new prospects)
sales reps with sales coaching so that reps can improve their efficiency. For example, if a sales rep is failing to
qualify and convert leads then we know the first thing to look at is the number of dials. If the sales rep is making
enough dials then we know we need to look at the completion of call plans and the quality of those call plans.
This is why understanding the cause and effect relationship between your metrics is so important. You can’t
improve your prospecting effectiveness and efficiency levels without understanding these relationships. But it all
starts with setting up your sales metrics and your sales management system correctly.
Finally, we also suggest sales reps conduct A/B testing. For example, when leaving voice mail messages we
suggest you leave the same message for twenty different prospects. Then leave a new or different voice mail
message for another set of twenty prospects. Track which voice mail messages you get the most returned calls
from. You can apply this to your lead nurturing emails as well.
If you want to improve your new business development and prospecting efficiency and effectiveness and increase market share then following
the steps outlined here for IT staffing sales leaders and sales professionals should absolutely be a priority. In this article we discussed:
Defining your target market
Sales Call Plans
Tracking and Measuring your New Business Development Efficiency and Effectiveness
We also shared with you the importance of being able to speak the language of the buyer. If building and maintaining the top of your sales funnel with quality leads is a priority, and you feel the Menemsha Group sales methodology aligns with your philosophy and company values then Menemsha Group could be an excellent fit. We would be happy to answer any of your questions and discuss how our methodology can be applied to your business and supported by your unique sales process. Menemsha Group is the leader in the IT staffing sales training and consulting space, and has considerable experience helping firms shorten their sales cycle, improve win rates, grow revenue in key accounts, accelerate new hire ramp-up and improve overall quota attainment. To learn more about how we can help you and how our approach differs from the other sales enablement solution providers, click on the image below to contact