Cold CallingA topic of discussion in many an interview I’ve had with senior B2B sales professionals is ‘lead generation’ and ‘cold calling’ and their willingness to pick up the phone to generate a new business opportunity.  Many well established career sales people I’ve met feel as though they have moved past cold calling and no longer should have to do it, or they are not willing to do it.  “I’m past the stage of working in a role that requires cold calling.  I’m looking for a more ‘senior’ sales position”.

This begs the following questions:

  1. Is cold calling only necessary in junior sales roles or transactional sales environments?
  2. Is there value in cold calling in a strategic solution sales environment, where there are long sales cycles, large deal sizes and complex solutions being offered to enterprise clientele?
  3. Should you not have to make cold calls as a senior ‘new business’ sales professional?

My thoughts?  The highest paid and most successful B2B sales people I’ve ever met are more than willing to pick up the phone to a prospect they or their company has never spoken to before.  They are targeted in who they approach and have good reason for their approach.  Where their own referral network or marketing efforts do not give them access to the customers they wish to do business with, they will source the key decision maker or a key influencer’s name, pick up the phone, introduce themselves and ask for a meeting.  I believe cold calling should never be your exclusive or your major business development strategy.  As we all know, qualified referrals and inbound marketing leads have much higher conversion rates.  But to exclude it as part of an overall strategy is limiting to almost any business’s growth in my opinion.  There will almost always be key target prospects that can only be accessed in this way.  You may choose to send them a letter or an email, or invite them to an event first.  If this is ignored, you still have a cold call to make if you want to have any chance of securing the client. Situational & Behavioral Interviewing for the Sales Profession

Coming back to my original statement about established sales people who are not prepared to cold call and feel they have moved past it; I believe this to be a career limiting outlook and one that will also limit your earnings and success capacity in almost any new business focused sales position.  Social media and inbound marketing leads are hot topics at the moment.  Our aim is that these campaigns will lead us to getting on the phone and in turn, face to face with the customer without having to cold call them.  But when these campaigns and all other avenues fail to get a particular key prospect engaged in a discussion with your company, you don’t understand their needs and you’re likely to miss out on many key profitable clients; Clients that your competition is engaging with as a result of having picked up the phone to have a real conversation.

Long live the phone I say.  I’m not saying cold calling is the single most effective way to generate leads, as it’s often not efficient use of a sales person’s time.  But there will always be situations that call for you to pick up the phone, or miss out.  Especially in niche markets where there are a small few selected and named prospective clients.  I do however believe the phone will always remain the most effective piece of technology to engage and communicate with your prospective customers.  When it comes to having meaningful business conversations with prospective clients, perhaps not even the i-phone 12, with hologram capability will challenge the all mighty phone.

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What a year 2010 has been for the sales profession and for business throughout Australia. 

‘Twas the year when the reins of businesses were passed back from the Financial Controllers and CFO’s; the brave defenders of our businesses throughout the GFC, and returned to the entrepreneurs, visionaries and drivers of innovation and business growth as the economic outlook has improved.  As we’ve started to reinvest in our businesses, sales and marketing has returned to its rightful place as the ultimate driver of business success. 

It’s also been the year we began this blog and the Australian HG Network of sales and marketing experts on Linkedin.  We’re up to almost 900 members now by the way.  It’s been great to have a place where we can speak about local topics and share relevant ideas with local Australian sales and marketing professionals.  Thank you all for your participation this year. 

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank all our valued clients we’ve worked with throughout the year.  Thank you for your business and our valued relationship.  On behalf of the Harlow Group team, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe and relaxing break.  Our offices will be closed on Friday the 24th of December, re-opening on Tuesday the 4th of January.  In the meantime, let’s enjoy some well earned time off with our families and friends and try not to think about work for a bit.  See you all in the New Year.  As momentum builds in our economy, it’s bound to be an even bigger one.

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I Love My JobA talented young sales executive I know keeps talking to me about this company she has joined.  She’s overtly passionate about this place and can’t stop bragging about how much she loves her job.  It’s rare to find someone who genuinely ‘loves’ what they do.  I’m not sure I’ve seen this level of passion in anyone else before who doesn’t actually own the business they work within.  So I’ve been asking her, “What’s so special about this company and this job that makes you so passionate about it?”  I’ll try to summarise her response for you below as a case study on how to create an engaged sales force.  But before I do, the additional part of this story is that she has just been promoted to a higher level strategic sales position and her position is now available!  Click here to see the details and apply.

So why does she love working there so much?

She is empowered to manage her own territory in an autonomous fashion and she is robustly supported in every facet of her role.  She keeps ‘banging on’ to me about the professional development opportunities she has been given; she just keeps on learning.  She recently went on a trip to the US for a global annual conference the company has.  She is being vigorously trained in strategic solution selling skills that have taken her professional selling ability to heights she didn’t realise were possible.  She tells me the culture is a mature, flexible culture that allows their valued staff to achieve a work life balance, however she does work hard.  But she loves the work because she is winning.  She is also recognised; she recently won a top sales accolade within the company.  The overwhelming message I get from her is that she is always learning and being challenged.  Just as she felt she was mastering her role, she has been promoted and given a new challenge.  The new role is a more senior sales position selling to larger clientele.  She also tells me she could never imagine leaving and those around her say the same.

It sounds to me like this company is doing a lot of things right.  The sales managers and directors I work with often tell me how difficult it can be to retain top sales talent, so I though I would share my friends story about this company with you all and throw in a cheap plug for her position as Harlow Group have been engaged to source her replacement.

So, do your sales staff say this about your organisation?  If not, here are a few questions worth asking yourself:

  • Are your sales people still learning? 
  • Are they engaged in the company’s mission and goals and do they understand their role in achieving those outcomes? 
  • Are you supporting them in becoming successful; providing leads, getting out on sales calls with them and coaching them?
  • Are you recognising all the successes your people achieve along the journey?  Do your people feel recognised?
  • Can you tell your sales people what is next for them once they conquer the position they are in?
  • Do you actually educate and mentor your sales people on a documented, proven sales methodology that you and the company are passionate about?
  • Do you take time out to get the team together outside of work and is it special and memorable?
  • Do you allow your team to work autonomously within boundaries, without hounding them about their KPI’s each day?
  • Do you provide a working environment that attracts and retains experienced professionals who are seeking a work life balance and some flexibility?
  • Are your sales people supported by marketing initiatives that are strongly aligned with the sales team?  Are you able to provide the occasional warm lead to your sales people as a result?

These are the things that my friend’s employer does to keep her and the rest of the sales team engaged.  And apparently it’s working!  OR, are you falling into some common traps I often see?  The things that I hear from outgoing staff that have driven them out of an organisation.  Such as:

  • Are you measuring and talking about activity expectations and focusing on reminding those people that are not meeting their KPI’s that they need to pick up their game?  OK, but are you ‘truly’ supporting them to overcome the challenges they are facing in achieving your expectations?
  • Are you showing people how ‘you’ sell, but not working from a proven, documented selling methodology.  Do your staff feel they are being professionally educated to build their overall sales skill-sets and career?  Do they feel they are being invested in?
  • Are you neglecting your top performers?  Is your time being drawn by the underperformers in your team?  Are you hoping that the top performers will look after themselves and stick around because they are making good commission?

There are plenty of other traps; we could be here all day.  It’s great to hear a real world scenario of an engaged sales force as a case study for how to achieve this highly sought after environment.

If you’re interested in learning more about my friend’s  job, the company and potentially applying for the position, click here.  They are a NASDAQ listed global software vendor.

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