The Voicemail Vortex

9 08 2010

I was looking through the CRM tool at my new company today and picked up a prospect account – we’ll call it Bob’s Construction and Leasing.  While reviewing the notes for Bob’s, I realized that this account had been repeatedly called on by 4 different reps for the past year and a half – none of which had gotten a single call back.  There were no alternate forms of contact (email etc).  Right then and there I saw this for what it really was – a Voicemail Vortex. 

You may be familiar with the term, or you may not.  But you are certainly familiar with the little “delete” key on your own phone.  It’s the one you keep your finger on when entering into your voicemail box so you can listen to as little of the message as possible and get on with being productive.  Voicemails are like an intrusion on your day.  And guess what – the people you are cold calling feel the exact same way. 

So back to my situation.  After careful pondering, I decided to give it the old college try and dialed the number.  Of course – voicemail.  I left a brief, polite message and went back to the drawing boards.  If this guy won’t answer his voicemail, what can I do to get his attention? 

I decided a brief, cheeky email may be the solution to my problem: 

Hey Mike,

I hope your Monday is going great.  I wanted to shoot you a quick and candid email to follow-up on the voicemail that I just left you.  I know you have been left messages by Cogent reps before, and I also know that you have not had your interest piqued to the point that you would return those calls.  

Look, I know it is not your first priority to respond to cold calls.  They aren’t very fun on either end of the line to be honest.  But what I have to offer you could drastically improve the efficiency of your wide area network.  Cogent specializes in increasing our clients’ bandwidth while decreasing the overall cost of the network. 

Could we possibly schedule a call in the next week to determine how Cogent could be of value to Bob’s Construction and Leasing?

Take Care, 

Tara Wagner

Within 5 minutes I had his response in my inbox as well as 2 other contacts from his company that I should be talking to.   Moral of the story – don’t waste your time leaving voicemails when you know the client won’t listen to them.

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Don’t Be A Debbie Downer

5 05 2010

It’s 6:30 am and your alarm clock is blaring that awful beep that seems to reverberate through your skull and give you an instant headache.  It’s time to get ready for work.  And you are NOT happy about it.  You worked a long day yesterday, and the day before, and it looks like your weekend is once again going to be spent (you guessed it) at work.  You aren’t the only one feeling the strain of this grueling pace – everyone at work seems to be in a slump.  Negativity is hovering like a cloud over each and every desk – it seems like all anyone can do is grumble about their jobs as they half-heartedly plod away at the ever-expanding pile of work on their desk. 

Sound familiar?

The US Bureau of Labor found that US companies lose $3 billion a year because of negative attitudes and behaviors in the workplace.  $3 BILLION!  That’s a lot of missed sales commission.  Now, there are all sorts of resources out there for handling negativity for managers, but what is out there for us salespeople?  Not only are we dealing with Debbie Downers in our own work places, but we put ourselves up for rejection from multiple other workplaces daily.  Here are a few simple steps that I have taken to try to rev up my positivity and try to keep it alive in others.

Check Your Own Attitude

All salespeople all have down days.  It’s just the nature of our jobs!  The important thing is that you don’t let it slow you down or infect those around you.  When I feel like just quitting life I have a few go-to coping methods:

  • Zoloft.  No wait just kidding!
  • Make a list of goals that you can accomplish quickly and cross off the list.  This helps keep you moving and gives a great feeling of “getting it done.”
  • Spend a few hours working remotely from a local from a local coffee shop with a calming atmosphere.  Not only will this calm you and keep you from bringing coworkers down, but I have gotten several clients just from striking up conversations at my favorite spot –The Coffee Exchange!
  • Call your favorite client – just to “check in.”  They will undoubtably be glad to hear from you and express appreciation for your courtesy call.
  • Keep a file of the thank you letters and letters of recommendation you have gotten from clients along the way.  I love looking at these to remind me why I enjoy my job and that I am good at it.

Negativity in Coworkers

  • I keep a jar of candy in my desk.  Whenever I hear someone complaining I take it out and ask them if they want a piece.  Not so sly, but it does seem to change the person’s attitude instantly!
  • If you have a close friend at work, have a talk with them about avoiding negativity.  Hold each other accountable and really strive to keep your work area positive.
  • Thank people when they do something to support you.
  • Compliment people on a job well-done.
  • Ask coworkers about NON-work related things like kids, weddings, pets, families etc. to get their mind off of their stress and into a happier place.

Negativity in Clients

  • I try to NEVER open myself up for client negativity, unless it is something serious.  I strive to be the ray of sunshine that pierces their workplace gloom- the person they look forward to seeing.  You can do this any way you want – bring cookies, donuts, flowers, send thank-yous, or even just a genuine interest in the client and you are sure to make your positive mark.
  • A lot of the points for co-worker negativity apply here as well.

Above all, you can really only control yourself in these situations.  Keep yourself positive and avoid situations that will make you feel otherwise!

If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.  ~Mary Engelbreit





Facebook is, Like, Amazing!

27 04 2010

Once a mode of speech reserved only for valley girls and the cast of the hit 90’s movie Clueless, Facebook has taken the term “Like” to a whole new level.  Market researchers everywhere are honing in on the massive amount of “Like” information being made available to them from the over 400 million Facebook users.  If you have yet to, like, get clued in on this amazing new tool for social media promotion you should check out this comprehensive article:

Facebook’s Like a Timebomb

As a sales person, this information can be used to help you identify new prospects, build rapport with new prospects by identifying their interests, and  as a means of promoting your services!  And now – my turn to try to figure out how to add a “Like” button to my blog.





Best “Out Of Office” Response EVER

12 04 2010

We have all seen the generic “I am out of the office until May 12th and will get back with you at my earliest convenience”  out of the office replies.  Yesterday I received an automatic response that made me stop and read it twice thinking Wow – here is a rep who is leveraging her abundant personality with her value proposition even when she is out of town!  I promptly replied to her email telling her that I loved it and that I was going to steal it.  Please read below:  

“I am glad that you contacted me and look forward to speaking with you, but please note that I am currently out of the office and will return April 7th. You are important to me and I DO believe that Western is the best company to assist you, so in my absence… 

For NEW quotes, contact my colleague Vince Navarro at (713) 407.5213 or vnavarro@westernlithograph.com. He has been in the industry for 25+ years, so he can get your project going smoothly until I return. 

For PROJECTS IN PROGRESS, contact my CSR Scott Hill at (713) 407.5267 or shill@westernlithograph.com. He is my “right hand,” so be assured that you are definitely in good company! 

Thank you. 

Stephanie R. Hood” 

Now if that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will.  





Creative Pre-Call Experiment #2 – Be a Pill

4 12 2009

For those of you who saw my very first Creative Pre-Call Experiment from a few weeks back, you know that I am a firm believer in a small element of “cheese” when trying to charm your way in front of a new client.   Everyone is busy and everyone is bombarded by sales people on a daily basis.  That is why YOU need to set yourself apart from the first moment the potential client (aka Target) comes across your name.

You can use these pill bottles to creatively position yourself as the “prescription” to relive the PAIN that your buyers feel.

This Experiment takes a bit more prep then the first one, but is definitely impressive at the end.

Be a Pill

Materials:

  • Actual Pharmacy prescription Pill Bottles
  • Large Bag M&Ms
  • Avery Label Paper (I used Template 5163 2″x4″)
  • Envelopes – your company colors preferred
  • Clear plastic bags (about lunch-bag sized)

Tools:

  • Stapler
  • Gloves

Assembly Instructions:

  1. Obtain prescription Pill Bottles.  After scouring local stores and realizing they aren’t sold anywhere, I begged the Wal-Mart Pharmacist to sell me a few bottles.  I was able to purchase each one for exactly. $0.15 each.
  2. Next, put on a pair of gloves and scoop the M&Ms out of the bag into the bottles.  Be careful to not get your gross germs on your future client’s treat.
  3. Open Microsoft Word.  File>New>Search Template: Avery 5163.  This is the trickiest and most time-consuming part of the process.  You will not find an exact blank label pattern, so you will need to modify one with a plant decal or random ugly font.  I am not the most computer savvy so I am sure there is a faster way, but I had to manually delete and then re-insert the font and spacing that I wanted into each individual label.  Be sure to paste your company’s logo at the top as if the prescription is coming from the “Fittje Brothers Printing Company” Pharmacy. 
  4. Figure out a creative label that revolves around how you will relieve the Target’s pain.  You can see what I wrote below in the photo or here.  Then print 2 sheets so you have 2 copies of each label (you’ll see why in a sec).  Take one sheet and apply all the labels to the already candy-filled bottles.
  5. Next, write a creative introductory letter to the Target to the tune of “I know you are busy so I’m not going to waste your time.  I will call you on X day at X time.” Insert letter into a company-colored envelope with one of your business cards.
  6. Put labeled bottle and envelope into a clear plastic bag – be sure there is enough room left over for you to fold and seal it closed.
  7. Grab your extra label sheet.  The labels are difficult to read when wrapped around the pill bottle so this is how you will ensure that the target appreciates the full extent of your cleverness;
  8. Fold the top of the clear bottle over and hold closed with the extra label you have on your spare sheet.  Ta-Daaa!  You’re done!
  9. Now you just have to run around and drop these babies off.  Be sure that you actually call on the day and time that you indicated in your letter!

Experimental Conclusions:

Mixed.  Of the 12 bottles I put out, 4 were to current clients, 4 were to people I had been trying to call but hadn’t gotten through to, and 4 were to brand new names.  Clients LOVED these little treats and thought I was incredibly clever.  Almost immediately I won a bid with a client that I had lost almost all other bids with.

People I had tried to contact previously didn’t really respond.  I have put in regular calls prior to and after giving them pill bottles, and either way they are less than interested in what I have to offer.

For the new clients, my call was taken 3 of the 4 times.  Of those 3, all said that they were very satisfied with their current printer but left the door open for me to contact them in the intermediary.

Sooo all in all… I think this COULD be a very successful if targeting the right market such as a health care facility or hospital.  I think it was successful in that my creativity made me stand out and EVERY person I spoke to remembered me once I mentioned the pill bottles.  It was a failure in that I didn’t make any new clients, though I did further a relationship with an existing client.  It may be too early to tell… It has only been one month since I dropped these off and I’d like to believe that I planted the seeds for future business.





Making Sure the “Margin of Error” Happens to Someone Else

24 11 2009

Last week a fellow sales rep was complaining about another job of hers had been screwed up in production and wouldn’t deliver on time.  She may lose this client because this is not the first time there have been errors with their account.  I listened and expressed the appropriate amount of concern.  All sales people understand that quality control is one of the most frustrating parts of our job – we literally have no control over the quality of the product that is produced.  Or do we?  

I am not knocking my production staff.  I would NEVER do that.  The guys that I work with are AMAZINGLY meticulous, thoughtful, and detail oriented.  But no matter what industry you are in or how talented your team is, there is a margin of error.  This article will tell you how to make as sure that those errors happen with OTHER people’s jobs, not yours.

So how do you effectively  implement a quality-control program when you actually have nothing to do with the production process?  You become a part of the production process.  Duh.

Now before you get all “but it’s not my job” on me, you need to stop your whining.  If you want to get results you need to change your perspective.

So here is my 5-Step “Oops!” Factor Reduction Process:

  • Never Eat Alone:  Nothing helps you develop a strong relationship with your production team like regularly breaking bread with them.  I recommend spending at least 2 lunches per month with them if not more.  This will help you learn more about them as well as make you available if they have questions about a job of yours they are working on.
  • The “Good Morning” Factor: This one is super simple but I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they appreciate it.  Say “good morning” to people and mean it.
  • Roll Up Dem Sleeves: It’s common sense to walk around the production area to check in on your jobs at least once a day.  But it is NOT common sense to ask if you can help.  Instead of nagging and rolling your eyes about a missed deadline, ask if there is anything you can do.  If they ask you to do something, DO IT and SMILE.  Remember that they wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed.  Be available to pick up, deliver, and in general be of service for your jobs.  If your support team sees that you are engaged on the same level they are, they will care more about your jobs and you will be one of the first to know if there is an issue.
  • Over-Appreciate Overtime: If you know the production guys are working over a weekend or is being burdened with a lot of overtime- you know they are stressed.  Do something to show you care.  Show up unexpectedly (when you are supposed to be off) bearing beer or some baked goodness.  Walk around with the case/plate and tell them how much you appreciate their hard work.  Even if they came in to complete someone elses’ job – you are showing them you notice the extra effor they are putting in to make the whole shop thrive. 
  • Ask For Input: These individuals are most-often experts in their fields.  Our Bindery Manager has been in the industry for 37 years.  That is longer than I have been alive!  When you ask for their opinion on the best way to produce something, you are simultaneously showing them how valuable their endless knowledge is and giving your client the benefit of the years of experience these people have.  I know that my production team has saved my booty MANY times with issues I never even knew existed simply because I asked a question.

Look – I know you can’t get involved in every step of the production process or it will inhibit your sales.  So don’t get involved in every step.  Just get a little bit involved.  A lot of the stuff I have done has been on my free time – deliveries after hours, taking cards home and collating them while I watch TV, and coming in on Saturday to bring my favorite guys a few ice-cold beers as they are finishing up an arduous extra shift.

Maybe this process won’t help you at all, but I will tell you from experience that the jobs I sell are consistently delivered ahead of time and with the highest quality.  I genuinely care about the people who help make me look good to my clients, and in turn they care about the jobs that they produce on my behalf.

THANKS GUYS!!





Always Wear an Undershirt … and Other Lessons Not Found in Sales Books

26 09 2009

Undershirts for $2 at Walmart. No Excuses.

So… I have been doing printing sales for roughly 7 months now.  Along the way I have learned some key lessons that I haven’t come across in any of the

“How To” and “Motivational” sales books I’ve read.  Maybe this list belongs more in the “For Dummies” books, but I’d like to share these pearls of wisdom with the world.  This blog is dedicated to a little wardrobe malfunction that happened on Thursday of this week.

  1. Always wear an undershirt with a blouse… you never know when a button is going to pop at a very inopportune moment, such as during an important client presentation.
  2. Business cards are your currency at a networking event… NEVER underestimate the amount you will need.  Stash your box in your car in case you are more popular than you anticipated.
  3. If someone starts to pull out a “before” and “after” picture of themselves in any form, run.  I don’t care if it is weight loss, botox, cosmetic surgery, or scar removal – they are in the business of selling, not buying.
  4. Never ever NEVER assume anything about the following categories: Gender, Age, Marital Status, Pregnancy, Sexual Orientation, Religion, Natural Hair Color, Political View, etc.
  5. Don’t buy a beer for a client unless you are certain they are not a member of AA.  Really.
  6. If you are sure they are good to go in the alcohol realm, be sure to understand that the “N.A.” designation on the beer bottle is not some new form of beer you’ve never heard of like “IPA”.  It means “Non-Alcoholic.”   People get really mad when they think you are bringing beer and you show up with the N.A. stuff…
  7. Don’t ride a mechanical bull in front of clients, even you are at a Rodeo and they are all chanting your name.  That is unless you enjoy having a bloody lip and walking with a limp.
  8. Iron your clothes even if you think they look swell.  The wrinkles do not add character.
  9. The creator of Dillbert is an absolute genius of insight.
  10. If you are late to a meeting because you hit a parked car, got lost, or forgot you had a meeting… don’t tell your client.  That doesn’t exactly build your credibility.

Now these are just a few gems that I have learned or observed during my short stint in outside sales… I know there are some seasoned vets out there with some awesomely embarrassing lessons.  Please share!