Well, I am a great fan of emails. After the invention of wheels, I consider email application as the greatest invention. Even after whatsapp, messenger, skype etc, email still holds its place in this era of instant communication.
But do we really know how to write an email?
That sparks interest in the reader’s mind to know more about you, your company, your products etc.
I received an interesting email today from someone trying to sell me something. This was her second email. The first email from her was received by me on the 19th of last month. I am not letting you know who that is. That’s not important.
In the first email she had said that my company [with name] has been shortlisted as the “most powerful company in XYZ domain” and will be featured in their magazine and she had stated the benefits of getting published in their magazine. Then she had asked me to revert so that she can share the quote. Wow! From “Cold Call” stage to “Quotation” stage in a snap. I wish I can do that as well. Not really.
I replied to her then, asking her to remove my email id from her mailing list since it didn’t interest me. Neither did I subscribe to anything nor did I express interest on any of their services.
After a month, today I received the second email in spite of me asking her to remove my email Id. What’s more. This time it was more stronger in language.
Excerpts [if the language is not right, please excuse me, it is published here exactly as I received]:
In the rare opportunities, I have to work on client acquisition, I have not had much success reconnecting with you. It might just be that you don’t have any interest in talking with me — and that’s okay. I just need to know whether or not to keep trying.
So, to make this nice and easy for you, you can reply with a simple keystroke. Just reply with either A, B, C, D, or E and I’ll know what to do, but please do reply so that I can stop emailing you if you’re not interested.
A. Stop emailing me with attempts to connect but continue to send invites for future opportunities.
B. Don’t send me anything, remove me from your list. We don’t currently and won’t ever need your opportunity.
C. I want to talk, we need some help, but the timing isn’t right. Keep trying.
D. I would like to schedule a time to talk. We need some help. Please send your calendar link.
E. I forgot who you are. What’s this about?
The funny part is this: “to make this nice and easy for you…..”. In fact she wants me to make it easy for her. You can’t do prospecting over cold email and also automate it. It is so naive, unprofessional, bossy, accusing, all rolled into one.
Instead, the sender should have used a professional email marketing tool with “unsubscribe” buttons and sent an intro email with few lines and asking for permission to continue writing without any demands. Forget business.
Clients are not waiting in queue with the cheque to handover to you. Stop dreaming.
Serve without any expectation.
Pick up the phone and ask for an appointment.
See if they have any problems that you can solve.
Where is this sales person right now, in this process? She hasn’t even started yet. But thanks to her for teaching us how not to write emails.
Got up early today at 5 am. Then, the usual morning routine continued. Quickly, started my digital assistant ‘Google Now’ to tell me where I should focus my time today. First off, what’s the news today? How is the weather? Traffic in the route that I am likely to take today?
Can you give me a snapshot of people I am likely to meet today and also let me know what their political affiliations are? What are their food preferences? What are their priorities at work? What characteristics do they expect in a vendor? Why did they fire the last vendor they had? What are our chances of winning this deal? How should I tweak the proposal to make sure that I get the deal?
What should I eat today? I have taken too much protein this week till now. So it is essential to consult Google Now what I should eat to get a balanced diet for the week. Can you build up my menu for the day? And can you ask Roger [robot] to pick them up from the stock in kitchen and refrigerator and set my breakfast at 7:08 am at my work table at home office?
How many hours of work have I put in this week and how am I doing against my goals for the week? What are the pending tasks? Can you prepare a spreadsheet and line them up all? I have no time you see. Send it to my mobile phone when I go out for a walk.
The clock showed 6:23 am by then. Went out for a walk. Google Now sent me the report as requested. I viewed it. Took some action on it during my morning walk. Sent out mails to customers that were pending. In fact Google Now assembled the mails and asked for my approval to send out those mails. Just had to swipe and the emails were sent.
6:43 am: Returned home. Took bath. And it was 6:48 am then. Time to pray. Took 23 seconds and looked at my tablet and recited a prayer. Took a deep breath.
Asked Google Now, what dress I shall wear for the meeting. Asked, how shall my handshake be? Is there something I should carry with me for the meeting? Is the customer I am meeting this morning at 8:12 am, business like or friendly or ethical? [Mutually exclusive.:)]
Took my digital assistant’s help and got the deck ready. Checked out if the customer I am meeting is on his way to office.
7:08 am: Roger brought the breakfast to my work table. Thanked him. Quickly finished the grub and saw google now updating my weekly calorie intake and it said what I need to take still so that I can get the balanced diet for the week. It searched online for organic food vendors and it went about ordering my food for the rest of the week, of-course only after taking my approval. It was by then 7:31 am.
7:33 am: Cab arrived. Took the self driving cab to the metro station. 7:37 am. Waited for 60 secs. Took the 7:38 am train to MG Road.
Prepared for the meeting by going through the decks assembled by Google Now. Spoke to a colleague for some information.
7:59 am: Reached MG Road. Cab sent me a message that it is waiting. Took the cab to reach the client’s office. On the way went through the info sent by colleague and assembled by Google Now. Went through the report it prepared about the client and their project. Reached client’s office at 8:06 am. Too early for the meeting. All set for the meeting at 8:12 am.
8:12 am: Client side manager arrived. Shook hands as suggested by Google Now. Talked to him as suggested by Google Now. Shared docs as suggested. Spent a long time with the client. Exactly 6 minutes and 15 seconds. Had black coffee in between. Promised the client to start the project once we get an agreement. He promised to talk to his boss and send the confirmation around 10:08 am.
10:09 am: Received the order confirmation. Informed Google Now. It was the first to know this. It celebrated the order by ordering [?] a cake online for me. I asked it to deliver it at my office. And asked it to inform my team members and get ready to start working on the project.
10:30 am: Reached my office. Team members were ready to start the project. Google Now had sent me a rough draft of roles and resp of each team member. I approved it and they received it. They all agreed. 10:45 am: Project work started.
10:50 am: I took my digital assistant’s help to scout for new customers. Saw what my competitors are up to. Where are they focusing their energies? What is their road map? Where are they likely to be in 5 months? Have they recruited and expanded their team or not?
12:42 pm: Got back home for lunch. Finished lunch at 1:05 pm. Decided to work from home post lunch. Did prospecting. Lined up prospects for meetings and demos the following week. Kept google now informed. It celebrated the appointments and cheered me to do more. It sent me a nice book written by Chet Holmes. I decided to call it a day by 2:00 pm.
What a hectic day it was.
Accomplished much. Planned even more for the coming week. Will do as planned.
How was your week? What are your plans for the next week?
Let us get this straight. Sales is Tough. Right? If it was easy, they wouldn’t need you. The reality is also that YOU are tougher. Else you wouldn’t have chosen Sales as your career. Well done. Now, some pointers for you to keep up the momentum and truly embrace what drives you:
Do you stand for something? What’s that?
What should customers remember when they think of you?
What is that one thing that makes you forget everything else?
What is more important to you than money?
What makes you feel really accomplished? An order? An appreciation from a customer? What?
How often do you make a To-do list and how often do you tick everything in it?
What’s your Dream? Is your work today in that direction?
What if you are the CEO of your company? What will you change today?
Don’t forget the last time you were in the trenches and how you bounced back to life.
“Face the brutes”: When you stop running and start facing, the hardships of life fall back. They are no match to you and your strengths.
Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-Payoff, popularly known as SPIN
Keeping it Simple, being iNvaluable, Aligning your activities with your Customer’s priorities or SNAP
Conceptual / Solution Selling
Do you have a proven Sales process ?
The steps right from leads / cold calling / known universe to various sales stages till closure including but not limited to Prospecting, Validating, Needs assessment, Budgeting, Mapping Customers Org Structure, Demonstrating, Proposing, Closing, Following-up is a Sales Process. The question is to ask is: Is your Sales Process proven? Has it delivered the desired results quarter after quarter?
Do you need a CRM [Customer Relationship Management] Software? Why?
What problems are you trying to solve using a CRM ?
How are you currently handling sales ?
Where and how do you find your clients ?
Why should customers buy from you ?
What implication will CRM have on your organizational goals ?
Why is it important for your Organization to think like your customers ?
Do you know the things you should keep in mind while implementing a CRM ?
Why is CRM Adoption more important than anything else ?
Do you know that a CRM can be used for Field Service, Channel or Partner Management or even for Product Management ?
And it can be used for Banking and Financial Services Sales ? Have you heard of Vertical CRMs ?
Do you understand the power of CRM Analytics or in other words Customer Analytics?
Why do you think CRM Analytics important ?
Lead stage to Close – how much time did the Prospect spend at each sales stage
Activities Vs Deal size – is your salesforce spending time and effort on high value deals
Weighted Vs Goal, Balanced Vs Goal, Pipeline Overview & Other snapshots
Forecasting, Forecasting Vs Actuals
Is 20% of your prospects giving you 80% of your revenue and vice-versa ?
Have you invested on Customer Analytics ?
How Dashboard Creation can help you and your Top management ?
What is the purpose of Campaign Analysis & Customer Segmentation ?
Why should anyone undertake Trend, What-if & Pipeline Analysis ?
Are you getting actionable insights from your customer data ?
Sales Training and Motivation:
When was the last time your Sales Force attended a Training program?
How often do you train your Sales Force?
Are they equipped to take your company to the next level?
Are they motivated enough?
Who fixes the compensation for your Sales Force?
What incentives do you give them?
Do you recognize your best sales persons?
What plans do you have to continuously educate your Sales Force?
Is your back end team [Product Management, Delivery Teams] taking regular feedback from your Sales Force?
Are you occasionally involving your Product / Delivery people to meet prospects and customers along with your Sales Force?
I am sure these questions will help you frame fresh Sales Strategies, Process and Methodology. Spruce-up is not just desired but mandatory for growth.
The process of identifying prospective or potential new clients for your business is called as Prospecting. It is during this process you qualify prospects [or leads] and see whether there is a fit between what he/she needs and what you have got to offer.
Why should you undertake Prospecting ?
Prospecting is done to identify new customers. It is very important to do Prospecting on a continuous basis. New customers are very important for a business to grow. It is also worthwhile to remember that existing customers have to be retained at any cost since the cost of acquiring new customers is too high compared to the cost of retaining existing customers. But that doesn’t mean we should stop doing prospecting or stop acquiring new clients. The only way to Growth is to acquire new customers at whatever cost.
Sales people normally do cold calls to identify prospects. But traditional Cold-calling, as we know it, is dead. In today’s world, one does a lot of homework before picking up the phone. Whether one is calling a list from a database or calling on the leads that have come in through their website or Ad campaigns, one has to do plenty of homework before connecting with the Prospect.
Let us now take a look at how to do Prospecting.
Step by Step Guide to Prospecting:
The first step is to define your target market. Or your target segment.
Then undertake a study of your target market or target segment.
Understand what is causing them headaches or what goals do they have for their organization this year.
Find the right set of people in Organizations within the target market, those who are most likely to have a need for your products/services.
You may use LinkedIn and/or any other service that gives you access to your target segment including the decision makers direct phone nos.
Understand the Buyers’ Persona.
Make a list.
Run a campaign. Whether yours is a B2B or a B2C. It can be an Email campaign or an Ad campaign on the web or both.
Now, get your Story ready. [Not the pitch.] People like stories. Let the Story be inspiring. Let it make the buyer sit upright and take note of it and let it induce the buyer to take action. The buyer will then help you sell to their organization. It will be his/her baby from then on.
Attend Trade Shows, Road Shows, Industry Conferences, Workshops, Seminars where your target segment is likely to participate. Network. Exchange cards.
Make a refined list. Include those who came through your Campaigns and those whom you networked with recently.
Invite them over to Breakfast meetings on Saturdays. Make Powerful and Inspiring Stories and Tell them these stories. StoryTelling is an art.
Prepare a Qualified List of Prospects, those who are a fit and those who are most likely to buy your products or services in the near future. With this, Prospecting is completed. But the Sales Process continues. Keep doing these steps on a regular basis to have a constant supply of Prospects for your Business.
An open ended question is one that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or a “no”. The person who is answering has to answer in his or her own words. These are questions that begin with a how, when, where, what, why. On the contrary, a closed ended question is one that expects a “Yes” or a “No” as an answer. Also, a set of options to choose from as a response is a closed ended question too.
They say, to start a conversation with a stranger in a railway station is to talk about the weather. “The weather is nice today, isn’t it ?” is a conversation starter. Tried and tested practice. Though it is a closed ended question, it is a conversation starter. So, you start with a closed ended question and gradually move on to open ended ones. That way, you don’t force the respondent to start thinking right at the beginning itself.
In Sales situations, you normally tend to ask: “Before I start, may I know who are the others who will be joining us for this presentation/demo?” That is a closed ended question. But starts the conversation. And eases the situation. It shows the client that you are human too. And then you follow-up with something like this: “Before the others join us, why don’t you tell me how are you currently solving this problem?”
Why open ended questions?
Sales is largely dependent on your questioning capability.
Unless you ask questions, you will never understand what is going on.
Your right questions will lead you to the issues which will lead you to solving those issues which in turn will lead you to business.
Closed ended questions do not reveal much. Some may be answered in the affirmative and some may not be. But the conversation ends with closed ended questions.
To continue with the conversation.
To uncover the mind of the customer.
To qualify your prospect.
To get more information.
Well, I am convinced that I should ask open ended questions early in the sales process. But, how and where do I start?
Good that you have started asking open ended questions already. Now let’s look at what to ask:
Start with something like this: Can you tell me what are some of the key industry trends in your industry?
How do you keep innovating?
What are some of the key challenges that you are facing?
How did you achieve that?
What makes you unique?
What makes your clients stay with you?
What do you do for achieving total customer satisfaction?
What is your process for collecting customer feedback?
What in your view is the biggest client acquisition ever? And why?
Where and how do you find your clients?
Who do you think is your closest Competitor and why?
Where do we go from here?
What are your suggestions for us?
What can we do to help you mitigate those risks?
What is your evaluation criteria?
What is your process in such a scenario?
Why would you want to buy this?
What made you talk to us?
What would make us look even better?
How can we help you?
This is just a sample. Write your own set of open ended questions in your own words. You may want to write one set for each prospect you are meeting since no two sales situations are similar. But remember not to over do it. You have to invest time and energy to do this exercise. It is neither necessary to do this in one sitting nor it is possible to do it in one sitting. You need to get involved, invest time and energy and do this exercise with love.