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someone elses loyal customer

Yesterday I made a cold call to a prospect and the receptionist told me that they have had the same vender for 30 years and are loyal to them. How do I get them to listen to my pitch or to even think about change? - by daran
What was the purpose of your call? Did you conduct any research on the prospective client prior to persuing? In an age when people are busy and customer loyalty is supreme it is vital for you to offer differentiation from others that might call even current vendors.

Call preparation is the single most imperative idea about cold calling. Before you make a call, you should understand the client, the industry, and perhaps any competitive issues. Never call a client without premise. Doing so is as foolish as selling those gadgets and gizmos through television infomercials. Those foolhardy programs are concerned about inventory, where your motive is to establish relationship. In fact, one myth about cold calling is to validate that you call to introduce a possible relationship not to sell anything. Your mission is simply to get the prospective client to continue conversation.

Since your mission is to establish a relationship, you need to consider whom you will call and your call motive. Names of those to call can be purchased through database management systems, or obtained through referrals or reading industry periodicals. However, a name is a good as the paper. You need to determine your topical approach, to develop this gain ideas from reading industry newsletters, reading the regional paper, look at customer relationship systems such as ... In addition, consider reading The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post of The New York Times to discover company, economic and industry issues.

This is one of nine steps required for cold calling success. However without proper preparation 87% of cold calls will fail.

Drew Stevens
Author of Split Second Selling - by Drew Stevens
Hello Daran. Tough situation.

The best advice I have been given is to use a cold call to get in front of a decision maker (to get a meeting) rather than to discuss who you are, what you have to sell, and why they should be interested.

When you give your pitch as the reason to meet with you, you get responses like, "we're happy with what we have." When you ask for a meeting rather than give your pitch you generally get questions like "what is this about?"

That is a question that says, 'you can have the meeting if it is worth our time'

I suggest creating curiosity (but not solving it!!) to get the meeting. "I would like to set some time with 'Jeff' to talk about a trend I've started to notice in _________. It's relevant to him because customer retention is relevant to him." When they say, "what is the trend?" respond with "I'll cover that more in the meeting, right now I'm just calling to set the meeting up. Does he have 15-20 minutes later next week?"

The topic above may not make you [Daran] curious so find one that does; one you know will make them [the prospect] curious. And use it to set the meeting. But remember, the minute you solve the curiosity you've lost your grip. Don't give away the details on the cold call.

Curiosity will get you a meeting with someone no matter how loyal they are with their current provider. This technique will get you in. Once you're in, though, its up to you to exercise the sales skills you need to turn them into a customer.

Good luck! - by Matthew Lampros
Why are you having extensive conversations with the receptionist? The only person you want to have an extensive conversation with is the prospect.

My recommendation is to stop giving gatekeepers so much information that they (instead of your prospect) make the decision that your services are not needed.

Ask for your prospect by name. If a gatekeeper says, "What is this in reference to?" it is perfectly fine (and actually quite effective) to simply say, "This is something I need to discuss with (prospect's name). Is s/he available?"

If you've sent a letter or email you can also say, "We've had correspondence..."

There are many ways to get past the gatekeepers without spilling your guts. My program, "Getting Past the Palace Guard" which is available at www.wendyweiss.com gives you scripts for this. - by Wendy Weiss
daran

This will be a long process and if you really want to put forth th effort here is what I would do: Don't be a pest but get your name in front of the prospect as often as possible but when you do make sure you have something to offer. In other words, don't just go to try and get in to see him and sell him but take him something. Better than that use the mail or fax. Do some research on his industry print it off incude a hand written note and mail it to him. Send him a fax telling him what you can do for his business but make it short and sweet. It will take you touching someone at least seven times before they even realize you are trying to meet with them. But if you are quietly persistent you will get a chance to tell you story to the prospect. Another good thing to do is get to know the employees, listen to them and more often than not they have a wealth of information about the prospect and if they like you they will help you get into to see him.

These are some of the things I would do in your situation but I am interested to hear what some of the real pros on the forum have to say.

MPrince - by MPrince
I think Miss Wendy Weiss summed it up: get around the gatekeeper. - by mcaldwell
Daran,

You have been given a lot of great advice in previous posts of things to try.

Be aware that there are many companies who are happy with their current supplier, however, statistics show that about 20% will change on a yearly basis. This particular prospect may not be ready yet.

Stay in touch with them on regular basis with a follow up program so you're there when they want to make a change. - by Jim Klein
I think you are suffering from anxiety and worry far too much about making the cold call and from the language used in your post APATHY is apparent.

I've had this in previous roles, my advice is real world and simple. Keep your head down, and blitz through prospecting lists, dont worry about companies such as the one your referring to above. Just keep an eye on call backs and research the companies, look for different decision makes and be AMBIGUOUS, i'm sorry but a receptionist isnt a decision maker so dont allow yourself to get into her frame and be flexbile in your approach.

One of the greatest tools to aid cold calling is utilising the internet, web services 2.0. Get your email marketing up to speed write individualistic letters whilst not assuming anything about the prospects environment, buying patterns and decision makers. Also if you can use google analytics script on ever page of your website and track the visitors, very useful so you will know exactly who visited and what they viewed and for how long. One last tip in every cold call USE WHAT THEY GIVE YOU!! pm me if you need to talk more. - by mine99
Daren,

In the future it would be helpful for us to know what Product or Service you are Selling and in what Industry.

[1] I encourage you to replace "pitch" with "presentation" since Carnival workers and Con artists make "Pitches" and Professional Sales Pros make "Presentations".

[2] When the Receptionist said that they have had the same Vendor for 30 years and they are loyal to them you could have used this as your reason for speaking with the Prospect by saying; "That's exactly why I needed to speak briefly with (prospect's name). Since I'm rather new in this Industry I want to develop that same dedication and loyalty with my Customers and I'm sure that (he/she) would be willing to give me a few quick pointers. Is (he/she) available to take my call now?" Remember that your primary goal is to get to speak with the Prospect even if it's to learn how to do your Job better by picking up some valuable tips.

[3] When you do speak with the Prospect be sincere in trying to learn as much as you can about why (he/she) is so loyal and what the other Sales Pro does to continually earn that trust.

[4] Towards the end of the conversation you now know what the Prospect likes best about their Vendor and then you can ask what's the one thing (he/she) would change if they had a Magic Wand. Now you've earned the right to ask; "If I could do all of the things you like and wouldn't do any of the things you didn't like, would you at least provide me the opportunity to compete for a small amount of your future needs?" Remember that the more you listen, the more someone likes you and if they like you enough at this point you just might have earned an "in".

[5] Even if you don't earn the right for any of this Propsect's business the odds are now great that you can at least get several Referrals from (him/her) so you've made this contact Profitable.

[6] If all else fails please remember; "SW, SW, WC, WN" which of course stands for Some Will, Some Won't, Who Cares, Who's Next. In other words, we can't sell everyone.

Make it a "FANTA$TIC" 2009 !
Stan Billue, CSP - by Stan Billue
Call back. Ask for a department, any department, sales, billing, shipping, doesn't matter. Get the name of whoever answers. Ask whoever answers who's in charge of (whatever your selling). When they give you the name thank them and ask them for that person's extension. Then ask them transfer you. If they don't know and want to send you back to the receptionist ask them to transfer you to another department. Again , it doesn't matter what dept. If they do send you back to the receptionist hang up and call back. Ask for another dept. Keep doing this over and over until you get the name. - by deleatme
A good process how to replace the incumbent agent is described in:

How to Get Your Competition Fired
(without Saying Anything Bad about Them)
by Randy Schwantz

or (IMO better) in his previous work

The Wedge
How to Stop Selling and Start Winning
(by the same author) - by Alexander
Yesterday I made a cold call to a prospect and the receptionist told me that they have had the same vender for 30 years and are loyal to them. How do I get them to listen to my pitch or to even think about change?
Duran,

Fear not, the glass is half-full.

Here's what I'd say "That's fantastic. It is wonderful to hear that somebody else out there cares about their clients the way I do; and is intentional about delivering long-term, top notch service. If I may, I'd like the opportunity to put a little information in your hands; that way you know a little about me and my product. From there, if there is ever a reason to change - inside or outside of your control; you'll know how to get a hold of me... Fair enough?"

If this is said enthusiastically & invitingly, I am confident you'll get a "yes".

Once you get the information into their hand, your follow-up and relationship-building skills will really come into play. Think about it: they have already said "Treat us right, by giving us the service we deserve & a good product we need; and you will earn yourself a loyal client for years to come."

From there, I'd say "By the way, who is your current vendor... I like to personally commend him for his level of service to you."

Then invite this person out to lunch... and listen. I'd imagine if he knows how keep clients loyal for that long; it would be a wise investment in your career. He may retire in the future, and need somebody to handle his accounts afterwards.

Would it be nice to develop a relationship with both of these people? You bet.

Keep in mind, there is more to every encounter than just "the sale of the day". Do what this person has done, and look at prospects as "opportunities to earn a client for life". By doing so, you'll easily spot these opportunities.

Warm regards,

Tobias

aka "FollowUpMaster" - by FollowUpMaster
Sorry, Tobias, I don't agree. But it's open for opinions. That approach is way too salesy, way too optimistic, and the salesperson is still talking to the wrong person.

I agree that you should call the prospects Customer Service dept, or elsewhere, to get the name and extension, then hang up and call back. Also, gatekeepers/receptionists generally work from 8am-4:30pm, so call outside those times to bypass them and get to the person you need to. - by PuffyMac1970
Daran,

Let me be blunt. Nearly all the answers you've gotten here just won't work, and you know it. Talking to the receptionist, getting great questions, it's just more of the same.

Let me make two assumptions, and then give you three answers. The assumptions are:
a. you believe the receptionist, and
b. the receptionist is telling you the truth.

Answer 1. Leave it, go away, find another account to call on, because there is no way you're going to unseat a 30-year relationship with a cold call. if you were the customer, would you dump a 30-year relationship because of some tactic someone picked up on a sales bulletin board?

Answer 2. Find the name of the 30-year vendor and tell them you want to buy them dinner at the best steak restaurant in town, because you absolutely want to find out how someone can get and keep a 30-year relationship. That is absolutely rare, and worth finding out. And do it to find out the secret--not as some backdoor tactic to get in to the account. Seriously: that person knows something most people do not know, and you need to learn it.

Answer 3. The only hope you have of getting in , and it's not much of a shot, is to sincerely (like, really, for real, no fake, sincerely) tell answer #2 to the receptionist, and say, "I would really really be indebted to you if you could have someone take 5 minutes to explain to me how your vendor has achieved that status, because it really is special. If I can learn to do what that vendor has done, then it'll be the best 5 minutes of my life, because perhaps I can take that learning and apply it elsewhere."

And maybe the receptionist will let you in, in which case maybe you'll learn something. And maybe the receptionist won't let you in, in which case you revert to answer #1 above--walk away.

That's some truth. - by Charles H. Green
I agree that it's an uphill battle, and likely not worth fighting, IF the info you received is correct.

However, such things can be overcome, and are at times. But....

1. I think we can all agree the recept. is NOT the person to be talking to.

2. You need to talk to the DM (decision maker). If you get the "we're happy with XYZ" - fine, it sets up your next move, which is, as conversationally as you can do it - " no company is perfect, we're not perfect, but tell me what you'd like to see XYZ improve on, when it comes to your relationship". Note - I used to use a softer "is there anything you'd like to see improvement on", but this is a no-no in our world, as it's a Y/N question, and we should rarely use those. What I'm doing is a) building rapport, admitting we're not infallible, b) only after building rapport, getting something I can work with (pain, unhappiness, need for improvement). I can slowly explore their answer to the improvement question, "how's that affect your business, why is that a problem" and the ALMIGHTY - "when you mentioned to XYZ that this was a problem, what did they say" i.e. driving the wedge, as mentioned here previously. Done well, this really can work, but nothing's a slam dunk.

MLM - by PuffyMac1970
I think spending time with the "Gatekeeper" is often not a bad thing. Get to know them, listen to what they have to say. They will have a lot of information that you may need. - by MPrince
thanks all of you for the great advice being new to sales I cant learn enough and Im willing learn thanks again. - by daran
Wow! You got some great advice.

Please take the time to read this -- your creative juices might kick in and it has a twist. (Wish we knew your product or service and I'd get creative for you.)


When I was a legal assistant at a prestigious law firm, we had a vendor who copied our large litigation projects. They did a good job. A new prospective vendor got my name from the receptionist and came into the office. I was called to the lobby and he personally introduced himself and gave his pitch. I was busy and professionally gave him the "we are happy with our current vendor." The prospective vendor came back once a week for two weeks and again I was courtesy and didn't pay attention. The third week, he came in with fresh baked cinnamon rolls. Holy smokes! It was like he gave us a million dollars. From that point on the new guy got all our business and lots of it. So. . . sometimes people keep the same vendor because it's convenient and they remember the phone number, but loyalties can be bought! - by Connie Kadansky
Yesterday I made a cold call to a prospect and the receptionist told me that they have had the same vender for 30 years and are loyal to them. How do I get them to listen to my pitch or to even think about change?
Do you have any unique value? If you are certain that your products or services have additional value for the prospect, be persistent. Do some research to identify important decision influencers. Approach different people. Keep changing your approach until you get a hearing. One persons perspective may not be representative of all the decision influencers. Emphasise any complementary aspects of your product our service. Look for a niche where you have a unique advantage.

Alternatively, find prospects with lower resistence.

Regards
Clive - by Clive Miller
Why are you having extensive conversations with the receptionist? The only person you want to have an extensive conversation with is the prospect.
Ding, ding, ding, DING!

Cold Calling - the art of telephone prospecting, it is the toughest of all sales skills. And one of the rules of engagement is you simply do not talk to the receptionist and certainly not the personal assistant (PA). NEVER!

Your job, if you should choose to take it (aka Mission Impossible), is to get past these people. This is done several ways; (A) with creativity, or; (B) by waiting till they are on lunch, or; (C) calling early in the morning, or: (D) calling after hours, hoping the buyer is still there after the assistant is gone.

The sharpest is (A).

It takes a full seminar to teach the basics of telephone appointment setting - phone prospecting. Then it takes a few years to go from a professional to a master. So there is no benefit from me taking this further in a post in a forum, not really, not unless you know the basics first and are applying them, which it is clear you are not (through no fault of your own).

What happened on your call was the assistant asked what you do, you told them. We are taught by many that we must be honest, that it is dishonest not to be truthful but the real truth is that it is immature to think that we should sell the PA and, naive to think that the it is the PA's job to help us, it is not.

The PA is taught to get rid of you. Heeelllloooooo?

This is not the secret; "don't be a pest but get your name in front of the prospect as often as you can!" Why? Because the PA told you that they were not interested, you already blew it. Any letter or whatever else you send isn't even going to get forwarded on to the decision maker ... end of ball game before the game even started.

The FAX won't get through. The LETTER won't ...

You do not need QUIET PERSISTENCE, you need to learn how to start right. In other words, to master telephone prospecting.

After you have, you still won't get by the GATE KEEPER every time but you will on a consistant basis and that will increase sales dramatically.

By the way, they don't have to have had a 30 year relationship for you to get put off. The PA who is a GATE KEEPER may also have said just this; "He/She is not interested in that!"

End of ball game - why? Because you were naeve.

I have stated to the GATE KEEPER when asked "What is the nature of your call?" ... "I need to speak with MR./MS. Decision Maker directly, is he/she in?" Very similar to Wendy's script ...

This may lead to "What does your company do?" Here is where you will loose 99% of GATE KEEPERS ... anyone guess what is next?

... you have to hear this to understand. There are elements of scripting that are not what you say but how you say it.

Creativity on the phone is what you need, not a letter ... in fact, the sharpest PA's will say "I read your correspondence, Mr./Ms. Buyer is not interested, good day!"

Mail will get business but we NEVERmail and call. Mail people you do not intend to call.

Best of luck. - by Gold Calling
I'll agree with 99% of that. However, it can't be argued that mail and call does work, as it can warm up that cold call, bring brand recognition, and they think they remember hearing something about your company recently but aren't sure. My mailings to such people are regular and consistent, 1x/week with no calls until week 7 or until they call me. All my mailing are is postcards (that we've designed and address issues our prospects are likely to have, in about 15 words) or testimonials from our customers we have put on our letterhead. In my opinion, it just sets up the initial call to go better if they either a) call me first, which happens, or b) recognize my name and/or company when I call.

I've had great success with this.

Mark - by PuffyMac1970
.. it can't be argued that mail and call does work, as it can warm up that cold call ...
Anything can be argued on both sides.

Mail and call does not refer to mail and they call you. It refers to mail and then f/up that mail piece with a call. You post seems to suggest that mailing 7 weeks in a row causes a call, which it will in a certain percentage of cases - but this is not what I was referring to.

While straightening out things that are out of context or misleading (albeit unintentionally); (A) brand recognition is not useful in all types of sales; (B) mailing works fine - there are several tricks to the direct marketing industry (which I ran a successful-million dollar business in for 9 years); (C) mail and call CAN WORK .... that is not my point and never will be.

This thread is NOT about "someone's loyal customer" (even though the poster thought it was) it is about SCREENING - The Gate Keeper - The Palace Guard ... whatever you want to call them. And how to deal with this phenomena of business, the person whose job it is - incredibly - to turn business away because many callers are unwanted (this is in fact what they do).

There is no doubt that all organizations that employ call screening are loosing good business as well as loosing unwanted nuisance calls. There is also no doubt that most sales people will never master how to get past these people. That is why there is a resurgence in mail and now email.

My point is very simple; in B2B high level sales, if you want to be most effective at getting beyond this road block, this Personal Assistant, you best not give them anything - the less the better.

Mail is certainly something, what you say is another clue and, as with the law, "what you say can and will be used against you". In other words, anything in writing and said out loud will be used against you by this road block to sales - people who have been directed to eliminate nuisance calls, often taking this too far. You literally insure you don't get through to the only person who can actually decide if you have good reason to receive an appointment in the first place, all because you said too much or wrote a letter!

Give your head a shake (this is to everyone) - if you have a master prospector calling, someone like us or "The cold calling queen" you don't mail first, it is literally a waste of a stamp and worse, you may actually have stopped yourself getting to the buyer/decision maker.

My clients mail. If that was enough they would not also hire us - to this I should be able to say case closed. I might add; I just signed the largest contract of my career (today) ... and there will be no mail sent in advance of us for very, very good reasons!

Before rapping this post up, I must add that in the great majority of industries or "products and services" in serious B2B selling, referrals and all forms of advertising/direct marketing (mail - except to existing clients), for the purpose of new business generation are simply not as effective as picking up the dreaded 500 pound phone receiver and making calls.

When you boil this down, what matters in the rules of engagement of master sales professionals is not what works some of the time, it is what works most effectively on average. And, without doubt, as I proved yet again today in renewal of yet another contract (along with the new one I signed), whereby the client is NOT getting enough meetings to grow or even keep his people busy, the most effective way to build business is in fact what so many will tell you "no longer works".

Yes, mail will get clients. Yes, mail and call works sometimes but, when you are a master prospector there is no need for a mailed introduction and, in many cases, there certainly is excellent reason why it can hurt (screening). Don't alert them you are coming - this is criminal.

If you want more meetings, learn how to deal with screening not how to master another profession (advertising or direct marketing) ... become a master prospector. This does not mean you do not work for referrals, go on calls from website leads or advertising responses or stop mailing people (7 weekly mailings to a big business CEO would block you from ever getting in - that I can assure you, mailing weekly is not big time B2B sales at all) it means you fill your non-productive sales time with the only thing available; walking into a prospects offices physical or virtually (using a phone and there is no need to mail first).

As I said in the last post "... never mail and call. Mail people you do not intend to call." As you can see, I never said mail didn't work. I am saying that mail is not needed if you are going to call and can actually hurt you (as does speaking to the gate keeper).

Good luck. And, I suggest emailing us if you want learn the mastery of prospecting. - by Gold Calling
again, great stuff from you.

have to take issue with a couple of things, however. Those of us that are trained in the Sandler Method of sales know that even the best cold callers can expect a success rate of less than 10%. Referrals, done in the correct method in which I'm trained, approach 90%. Thus, the quickest way, in b-b sales, to increase income is thru referrals and introductions. I know people that only use referrals at this point.

For sure, there are so many things that you can say, being a "master prospector" that can help you on a cold call, that a less experienced person would not say or do. More than that, you must be trained in the correct mindset and have the appropriate self-esteem and confidence, or it won't matter what your words are - you won't pull it off.

I like your point that weekly might be too much, but at my point in my career, I don't have time to do 50 dials/day, so I want my 20 dials/week to be as productive as possible. My company is on the smaller side, and I've found, thru experience and tracked data, that my cold calls to people on my DM list that have rec'd mailings are more receptive. They know the top 20 players or so that are my competition, they don't know me unless I can make them aware of our name/brand first. Let's not belabor the point, I know it works for me, ymmv. I might go to every 2 weeks, however.

Back to the original poster, you have gotten some good advice here, and some that IMO is not as good. I would only reiterate a) the recept is not your friend, and if you need to gain info use your prospect's website. If you happen to get her on the phone, I could only see asking what's the best way to get ahold of Mr. Prospect, if anything, b) call before 8am or after 4:30pm or 5pm, whenever she/he is not there. Lunch time is another option, but harder to determine.
c) get trained in some method, I like Sandler, but others are good to. Know what you're going to say. Get them talking as soon as possible by relevant questions. DO NOT sound like any other salesperson, keep it conversational, remind yourself before you call that there is no risk in this one call, you don't have them as a client now and will be no worse off if you don't gain them d) relax as you dial the phone, deliberately dial the numbers slowly, this will slow you down e) many others, practice does make mastery, etc. Again, get some training.

MLM - by PuffyMac1970
I must say I am getting tired of my words being taken out of context and/or being "... twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools" <Kipling> ...

Those of us that are trained in the Sandler Method of sales know that even the best cold callers can expect a success rate of less than 10% ...
Wow, that low? And, excuse me, but are you tryign to say that Sandler or the Sandler model is a better sales trainer than I am?

No doubt the people surveyed in that research Sandler uses to make some point that is moot anyway never achieved mastery of telephone prospecting.

I would be only too please to schedule a day, use my teleconference line, have a rotating schedule of people from this forum to listen in to verify what I am doing and prove live that I can achieve more than 30% conversion ... never mind 10.

There is a gauntlet thrown down . I will take on Sandler's numbers LIVE ... any takers for this little bet of mine?

There is a catch, you loose the bet and you take my course for $100 ... there you go, that is more than reasonable, since I charge $495 for it!

Referrals, done in the correct method in which I'm trained, approach 90%. Thus, the quickest way, in b-b sales, to increase income is thru referrals ...
So, referrals produce 90% conversation to appointments? So what? How does that affect the situation where you have none to work???

Every read the book "How to lie with statistics?" I ought to write an ammendment to that; how to misrepresent facts to make it seem like sales practices no longer work!

I know that the trainers really beleived what they were saying. And there in lies the biggest issue in sales training anbd life itself. When you are tryign to decifer the difference between good information and bad, you have to not only decide if the person sharign it is a deciever but themselves decieved - the latter is more dangerous, as they don't know any better!

In other words, I will bet my entire fortune that the trainers who teach that stuff have neever been good on teh phone. They are modest propsectors at best, not cream of the crop. I am only sorry that you got caught up in following the blind ...
Now, if you re-read my stuff carefully I am clear to state that you should not stop using referrals (ever) nor mail for that matter (if you use it, I do not because I have too many clients already, and none of them came from referrals by the way!).

Do you ever make calls? If ther answer is YES we have just proven that you cannot survive on referrals alone (in most industries you can't). And, rightly, instead of sitting twiddling your thumbs you choose to fill idle time with picking up the phone or walking into a suspected prospect's office, duh!

No one should send mail during prime time - 9 to 5 or 8 to 6 or whatever ... or answer emails ... or post on forums ... rather they should seek to increase the number of appointments they have, if acheieveing a higher income is their goal.

Prepare mail on Saturday ... send email at night ... and ignore the forum, it is mostly a waste of time <ouch!> ... but seriously;

If you want better than 10% conversion of COLD prospects, I would be pleased to train you that it can be done, is being done and how to do it at a significantly higher rate.

The problem with comparing 9 out of 10 from referrals to 4 out of ten from calling (or lower for you) is - you can call non stop from a COLD list, whereas you have to have referrals to call warm. This is NOT AN APPLES TO APPLES COMPARISON!

Of course, you want warm calls, to get to that type of prospect you use all kinds of ways to increase odds, like calling customers from another division of your company ... asking the people you know ... asking your clients who their suppliers are ... anything you can but, still, I have NEVER met anyone who was maxed their schedule out with prospects this way. Isn't that why you mail? Why not learn to prospect better too?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I know people that only use referrals at this point.
So do I ... they make this claim like it is a badge of honor too. As if there is a probelm with calling a prospect - sure there is if you are bad at it, not if you are knowing how it is done properly.

I could write an essay on why I think most of the people that claim that is all they do are not the top producers in their industry. And why there are far too many industries where referrals are few and far between. But let me say this instead, as I haven't the time;

Why is it they are so insistent when they say;

"I only work referrals?"

Here's an idea. Let's help you get ot eh botom of this. Why not suggest you pay that person a fee - tell them you are writing an article for a sales training website (you can post it here). That you need to spend a day with people who are referral experts, as research ... then make sure it is a day of your choosing (so they don't pick a loaded one - this is what sales mangers are supposed to do by the way). The FEE is for them to make it worth their while ...

I will bet you that when you boil down what they do each day that they spend less than 5 hours selling every day of their life on average, significantly less.

I have questions these people. They are stock brokers, financial planners ... and if we ask them they do not equate what they do *** sales ... internesting isn't it?

I know a 79 year old man that out performs them!

Look, most training is done by people who are not top performing sales pros, for good reason. Take what you hear with a grain of salt ... know what I mean?

My offers is open to all at this forum. - by Gold Calling
I would explain the following;

"We've worked with several companies who were in similar situations and have found that by meeting with us, there are a few possible outcomes;

1) You will find that your loyalty is justified, and that this vendor is still the best fit for your organization.

2) You will find that your evaluation of alternatives prompts even better service and pricing from your existing partner. We will do everything possible to earn your business if there is a good fit, and your current vendor will do everything possible to keep it.

3) You will find that there may be more value to your organization from another provider and choose to continue conversations with me.

In any case, all outcomes are good for your organization and worth a quick meeting with the stakeholders."

However - I would not spend more than an initial meeting with this prospect unless it looks promising. Our time is too limited to spend convincing people of anything in my opinion.

Justyn - by Justyn
Justyn;

Pretty much everything you stated in your post is correct. However, you have to get the meeting first and, you cannot state the three possible outcomes above to a GATEKEEPER and hope to have a discussion with the one person who would agree with you about the three points you wish to make.

In fact, you ought not to get into the three possible outcomes over the phone even with the decision maker - with them you only key on what possible benefit may be derived from meeting.

This thread is about how to get past the impregnable defense that is set up to protect the Key Decision Maker, and though it is entitled differently, it is not about loyalty at all.

And the one exception to your post that I feel it is important to point out is; you should not take two meetings with any prospect where you are unable to uncover opportunities with them on the first call.

Selling is uncovering needs/pain/hot buttons/opportunities .... that work for both sides in a discussion. It is not a "HOT ONE" unless the prospect is interested too ... !

Yes, yes, yes ... there are reasons to meet with a 25 year relationship and propose switching (probably more than if it is a 12 month relationship as they feel it is too new to review; because the price may be too high - out of line with the current market, etc), but you are dead in the water unless you get the appointment. And telling the gatekeeper why - in other words trying to sell them - is not effective selling strategy, it is the shortest path to an end game there is, one that is not in our favor.

If you want to be the most effective you can be, do not try and sell on the phone to anyone, not the decision maker and certainly not the gatekeeper.

Now, my premise assumes that this is B2B selling advice. But the same holds true with - by Gold Calling
Hi, good stuff and diverse opinions.
You know I do have some trouble with this "look up the contact on their website or trade journals and ask for them directly". How do you know the website is up-to-date ? I'd imagine many companies are changing staff quite a bit at the moment.
Funny thing about gatekeepers too, many of them turned out to be allies of mine. Even had a few call me when opposition appeared on the scene. Maybe it depends on what you are selling ? When I sold B2B I called and explained to the "gatekeeper" what I was calling for, something like, "we have this product or system that (state benefit), who would be the person to talk to at your company who would know how beneficial this would be...or relevent in your production" (I would ask this even if I thought I knew who I needed to talk to). If the gatekeeper enquired more I'd get a BIT technical about the product and they'd often reply with, "that's beyond me, I'll put you through to..".
THEN, after I'd made the appointment I'd call back the gatekeeper and THANK THEM for helping me get through to the right person. Then, when I went out on the call, meet them personally...
I'm not saying this is THE answer but it worked for me.
Greg - by Greg Woodley
... "look up the contact on their website or trade journals and ask for them directly".
It matters not. If you ask the switchboard operator to tell you who is responsible in a certain area they will direct you to middle management - people who can't make a decision anyway.

"Top down works, bottom up doesn't." Start at the top.

Funny thing about gatekeepers too, many of them turned out to be allies of mine. Even had a few call me when opposition appeared on the scene. Maybe it depends on what you are selling ?
There is a difference between a GATEKEEPER or PALACE GUARD and the person who answers the phone when you dial ZERO.

A person - in medium to large businesses - this is an EXECUTIVE or PERSONAL ASSISTANT (PA)who is also SCREENING CALLS. If you ask a screener for help, you will get no where, if you ask a person who is not screening, you will usually get a fair answer, though quite often you are directed below the level you want - to middle managment.

The above definition does not depend on what you are selling. The question is not whether or not you can get help from some PA's it is HOW TO GO ABOUT REACHING THE HARD TO REACH PROSPECT ... Wendy Weiss calls this "Getting past the Palace Guard" or something similar.

If you want the best odds you cannot ask for their assistance. You must be wily, creative AND firm TO GET "INTO THE PALACE!"

Anyway, sounds to me like your definition of a GATEKEEPER, as seen below, is not mine, you are not referring to a screening employee at all ... ever been screened?

Ever asked and got "we are not interested" with no explanation? Or, why don't you send a letter of introduction? ... which is really a polite way to get rid of you the nuisance.

If you haven't - this comment is to anyone - you have not done much calling and, seriously, you haven't the expereince to add to this topic.


... I called and explained to the "gatekeeper" what I was calling for, something like, "we have this product or system that (state benefit), who would be the person to talk to at your company __________ ... (I would ask this even if I thought I knew who I needed to talk to)
Ask for the President or CEO and work downwards if you want to get the best possible results. This is possible the best advice you could ever be provided with about prospecting.

If the __________ enquired more I'd get a BIT technical about the product and they'd often reply with, "that's beyond me, I'll put you through to ________".
Fill inthe first blank with switchboard operator or PA ... if you asked this of a gatekeeper you would not get what you need.

And realize, even dfrom someone trying to be helpful you very seldom get the person who ultimately makes the decision. This means you get appointments with people you can't sell.

Not my idea of being a top producer.

"Top down works, bottom up does't!" Start at the top, the head of operations, if no such title exists start with the CEO

Or, start the President, let them tell you that "Bob Smith from eNGINEERIng makes the decisions about his department."

Good luck - by Gold Calling
Hey, remember I said, "I'm not saying this is THE answer but it worked for me."
Interesting, I only spoke to CEOs in smaller and medium sized companies.
I very rarely did deals with CEOs in big companies or started by contacting them. With companies like Goodyear, Dunlop, BASF, International Paints, SICPA, Coates Inks, Toyo, and Pirelli I mostly worked with Technical Directors (because my products often needed to be approved technically before a sale could even be discussed BTW we don't use the term Vice-President like you do in the USA), National Production Manager, National Procurement Manager and if my product allowed them to create a new finished product I'd work with the Marketing Director and Sales Director . In fact, I even introduced some anti-counterfeiting measures to be used in Australian currency but never made the opening call to the Australian Treasurer or the Prime Minister.
As you say though, I was probably not dealing with "screeners", companies in Australia generally don't have them, except for the CEO.
Also, interesting that you say people trying to be helpful rarely get you to the right person. My experience is that 65% of the time they got it right first time even if they got it wrong I was usually transfered immediately to the right person. Maybe that's a comment about the headcount of organisations in the USA compared to those in Australia ?
I agree with your comment about working from the top down, infinitely better than bottom up. I just didn't see CEOs as the "go to" people for what I was doing.
Now that I think about it I often spoke to CEOs and the like from companies in the USA that I was setting up buying agreements with (to distribute their products in Australia).
You say, "You must be wily, creative AND firm TO GET "INTO THE PALACE!". That's right, you do what you have to do.
Greg - by Greg Woodley
Greg, I want to be very clear with my response and up front;

I believe at best your reponses are confusing in this thread.

Trying to say that the suggested rule of engagement of TOP DOWN is invalid because you did not call the Australian Prime Minister to get approval to begin discussion in a B2G situation when I was sharing the reasons why in a B2B sale we do one thing or another is clearly comparing Apples and Oranges.

Shall I now similarly make a pooint by suggesting people should call a man's wife to get approval to speak to her husband about life insurance, which is a B2C sale? Come on now, this is stretchign a bit isn't it???

Perhaps you are taking things a little too personally? This is just a suggestion as I don't know you but if we are to try and understand what the highest probability for concluding a B2B sale is beginning with a phone prospecting call, we have to stay on point and ... well ... refrain from making wild comparisons.
what else is confusing in your post? Names in B2B sales ... Managing Director instead of President ... Australia/U.K. vs. North America ... yah, we know. Many of us have called on many a U.K. and Australian companies and know that culture in terms of names is different (I was born in the U.K. and do business there every week), in terms of who makes the final decision about major decisions - it is not.

Reaching the wrong person 35% of the time in my line of work is considered a very high failure rate, not a low one. And by this I do not mean you convert that many into appointments, I mean you don't reach teh right person nearly EVERY TIME you get through ... !


This is a confusing statistic at best.

Reaching someone who would listen to you is not really selling. In terms of serious sales propositions you might say the point is that senior executive MUST be involved in the final decision, thus you must interact with them as well as any other party involved in that process, such as engineers. But really, to us, the point is; are we wasting our time ... or;


How is our time best spent?

Knowing that most decisions must be made at a higher level, you can be making a huge mistake with almost all but the most minor decisions by NOT starting out at or near the top. The main reason why is; if you get approval at a lower level, meaning that middle management person has shown a desire to buy, that is all you have, it is not an order!

If this middle management person does not have the ability to convince the senior management of your product's benefits you are unable to go over that person's head without creating animosity and internal political situations.

IN ALMOST EVERY CORPORATE CULTURE IN AUSTRALIA, CANADA, UNITED STATES OR THE U.K. EVERYONE WHO WORKS IN A BUSINESS DOES NOT WANT TO APPEAR STUPID OT TO SEEM TO HAVE MADE A MISTAKE.

I work with an Industrial Consulting firm (one of my clients), they are working in all four countries. The President of that firm and I had a few pints at a pub last week and spent half an hour talking this culture thing out. It is clear that though terms are different people feel the same about themselves.

There are other reasons why you start at the top and work down. But admitting that you deny yourself the ability to sell because you rely on a non sales person to sell for you inside their organization is really the first step in understanding why we don't start where the operator points us.

But you started out discussing a website to get the names of executives. I use them and Hoovers.com ... and can tell you that the use of such information would not prevent screening. As you almost always run into an Executive Assistant at top levels. This person may not be instructed to screen calls but they might and you cannot risk it.

In other words, it matters not where you get the name, what matters is you may incur screening at any level during a call. Thus you need to know as much as you can before the call but, ultimately, this is irrelevant. Totally irrelevant ... if you cannot be creative to get past the person who may or may not end up being a PALACE GUARD then you are dead right there - the party is over before it began.

Listen, mate, listing 50 top companies that bought is not an argument that you should not use the best possible odds to succeed, not at all. It only goes to prove what we have always known in our industry about the law of averages.

I could make this point by saying "I have seen engineers get orders who knew not one thing about sales." But even that, though telling, is not a strong enough argument to win a skeptic over. What does put the nail in the lid of the coffin on this argument is the law of averages itself ... take this example ... the sale sindustry has thoroughly proven that even if you are unable to speak, if you make enough calls, you will get orders!

In case you think this last statement is not in the spirit of this website and forum, think again. I am not kidding. This is how our most popular sales training session begins, seriously!

I am never impressed by who has who as an account. I have a client who has never been taught a thing about selling that got himself into R.I.M. (BlackBerry) last week and I know he is good at his consulting gig but he sure ain't anything in comparison to me as a sales guy.

Trust me or trust research, I could care less. But I tell you now; if you want to succeed beyond your wildest dreams, learn to apporach senior executives and work down, I promise, you will kill everyone else on your sales team except those who do the same.

If you are an order taker, this post and all my posts aren’t for you. I do not specialize in small sales. But if you are a B2B sales rep who is making serious approaches ... to medium to large businesses ... no matter where they are in the English speaking world, use that which has the highest probability of success, which is doing your own selling. Don't rely on middle management to get approvals for you.

Bets of luck always.

- by Gold Calling
Plainly we have difficulty understanding each other. You say, “I believe at best your responses are confusing in this thread…” And while I disagree with little of what you say I find your writing hard to follow. Strange really, seeing as we both make a living communicating?

I think I have erred on the side of being verbose. Hopefully, the following will help.

I wasn’t “Trying to say that the suggested rule of engagement of TOP DOWN is invalid” merely that you don’t ALWAYS have to start at the VERY top. You have to talk to the one who decides the deal will go through.

With the reference to website research I was reacting to the current “find everything on the web” syndrome. Take all information with a grain of salt and be ready to change tack instantly.

I believe a good sales person has to be extremely flexible, hence I have a disdain for scripts and dogmatism.

I once worked briefly for a CEO that thought his way was the only way to sell. We parted company after 6mths because I sold MY WAY (sounds like a Sinatra song?). About 2 years later we were head-to-head chasing a big deal. Guess who got the order? That doesn’t mean I’m a better salesman than him but I think it casts serious doubt about his assertion that there’s only one way to sell.

I agree poor sales people can make sales. Some time back I read they make 1 –2 out of 10. See enough people and hey presto they make the numbers. Until they burn out.

“Gatekeepers” maybe I’m lucky but I’m struggling to remember being blocked by too many in 25 years of selling.

Let’s remember, this all started with Daran’s post which stated, “Yesterday I made a cold call to a prospect and the receptionist told me that they have had the same vender for 30 years and are loyal to them.” My comments were made in relation to how I had dealt with receptionists and meant to add to what had already been written in previous posts. I may have erred in using the term “gatekeeper” in my response.

Sorry about the reference to VPs and titles, it was made in passing to make sure I was being understood.

Have a great day Steven. Good luck Daran. Regards Greg - by Greg Woodley
I believe a good sales person has to be extremely flexible, hence I have a disdain for scripts and dogmatism.
Here, here, I am in full agreement!

Remember, though, from a standpoint of getting sales people who don't know any better to understand the reasons why, we do use "rules of engagement" ... that is not meant to say that flexibility is not one of the rules ... sharing them is an effective way of hammering into their head what works most often and why.

Let’s remember, this all started with Daran’s post which stated, “Yesterday I made a cold call to a prospect and the receptionist told me that they have had the same vender for 30 years and are loyal to them.”
Yes, that is what he stated. And, I am not as certain about this as I could be about anything, I can tell you that this thread pointed out (from various experts) that he got screened and that there is no way to deal with this screening afterward - unless you know how to be more creative BEFORE you encounter it you will fail. Sayi9gn that your career involved dealing with people that were helpful is misleading, as all do that. what bearing does it have on people who are not helpful???

This was my point - and I stand on it.

In other words, it is most likely too late now for Daran's specific prospect, the one mentioned in this thread. And, though he asked about a long term relationship, what he really needs to know is how to deal with screening.

He could call again when that person takes a break, that is a possibility to continue with that specific suspected prospect.

Wendy Weiss stated it very clearly in this thread;

Why are you having extensive conversations with the receptionist? The only person you want to have an extensive conversation with is the prospect.

My recommendation is to stop giving gatekeepers so much information that they (instead of your prospect) make the decision that your services are not needed.

Ask for your prospect by name. If a gatekeeper says, "What is this in reference to?" it is perfectly fine (and actually quite effective) to simply say, "This is something I need to discuss with (prospect's name). Is s/he available?"
No matter what we say about expereinces we have had, times where we have used a personal assistant or receptionist as a tool to learn things, we will run into SCREENING and we have to be ready for it BEFORE it happens.

Wendy is a pro ... that is how it is done. And, even if you do master phone prospecting, you still won't get past all screeners, you will however get though a higher percentage of times than if you simply answer their questions as Daran did. - by Gold Calling
FYI:

If you get past the gatekeeper and get the sale - please don't forget the "Post sale" in this situation.

Mr. Smith, thanks for your order but before I take payment, can we take a second to talk about whats going to happen when Mr.Competition hears about this. What are you going to say to them?

If he/she is a long term client and the competition comes back to whine or yell, and they aren't prepared - watch out dont even cash the check yet.

my .02 - by OneLead Guy
I believe a good sales person has to be extremely flexible, hence I have a disdain for scripts and dogmatism.
Scripts help. Maybe not you, but me, my kids, and many others that do phone calling.

I prepare for everything in my sales day... it is planned and "scripted".

Dogmatism...


One entry found.

Main Entry: dog·ma·tism Pronunciation: \ˈdog-me-ˌti-zem, ˈdag-\ Function: noun Date: 1603 1 : positiveness in assertion of opinion especially when unwarranted or arrogant

2 : a viewpoint or system of ideas based on insufficiently examined premises

I'm not sure I understand your reference to dogmatism when discussing salesmanship.

Salesman need to be thoroughly versed in their products if they are to be successful. Sales folks need to know their competitions products thoroughly as well. Sales folks need to know how the client is using the competitions stuff, or his stuff, or how he is getting along without anyones stuff. If by flexible you mean prepared, then I agree with you, if you mean that YOU wouldn't use a script, that's fine, but if you hold in DISDAIN those of us who do use scripts, then I suspect that some day, you're going to be surprised by someone who does.

Much Aloha.... shds; ;bg - by rattus58
FYI:

If you get past the gatekeeper and get the sale - please don't forget the "Post sale" in this situation.

Mr. Smith, thanks for your order but before I take payment, can we take a second to talk about whats going to happen when Mr.Competition hears about this. What are you going to say to them?

If he/she is a long term client and the competition comes back to whine or yell, and they aren't prepared - watch out dont even cash the check yet.

my .02
That's the second time in the last two days that somebody suggested that the "competition" be inserted into the discussion by the saleperson. The first post had it in the beginning, and you've put it in the button up.

I see no logic for doing that in either case. Until the prospect brings the direct competitor into the conversation, they should be part of the wallpaper. - by Ace Coldiron
Hi Ace.... :)

In Life and Health Insurance, if you are replacing a product, you have to notify the replaced company. This is the first time the client hears from his old agent since they sold him the policy usually and wouldn't happen if they take care of business like old school agents always seem to do.

The advantage of worksite marketing is that you see your accounts and your clients every year, you handle claims, and you offer assistance for all sorts of happenings.

If the competing salesperson finally comes screaming in and then promises or even delivers a lower price, all you can say, is "Mr. I'veworkedhardtobringyouthisvalue, you and I have spent many hours together in developing this plan. It's not that I enjoy doing my competitions work for him, but that is what I've done. It was me who was here with you designing this plan for your employees. It was our conference calls with underwriting that brought you this pre-existing definition that will protect your son when he comes into the business from college. Mr I'veworkedhardtobringyouthisvalue, hiring us is putting us on your payroll. Who do you trust to continue to earn that pay?

Much Aloha... :cool:;bg - by rattus58
Tom, compliance and regulatory issues are, of course, a different matter. My comments had to do with the selling process/conversation. - by Ace Coldiron
Wow Daren,you have been given some valuable advice from the folks who previously responded. My short version; do your homework, know your customer; and by all means...do not make a presentation of any length to the receptionist!
Good Luck! - by The Dynamic Business
Tom, compliance and regulatory issues are, of course, a different matter. My comments had to do with the selling process/conversation.
Ace... :)

I understand that... the point I was making is that when we notify the other company is the time that many agents finally wake up and come running back to the client that they've neglected all these years.

Aloha... Tom shds; ;bg - by rattus58
Hi Ace,

Extreme example:
I have seen an agent, I work with, take a long term customer away from a competing company.

Here is the kicker: The competing agent was the businesses owner's Brother-in-Law!

This is something you HAVE to talk about before you walk out their door - IMHO. Not ran to bank and turn phone off.

"Mr. BizOwner, thanks for the contract.. but what are you going to tell your wife tonight when she flips out over signing with me and not with her own brother? even worse Thanksgiving is a few weeks away?

Are you going to remeber to tell them we got you into an abc123 package that helps cover...yadda yadda"

I would rather ask, and have him reassure you (actaully himself) and practice his story with you - not improntu when getting chewed out on turkey day surrouned by family..

my .02 - by OneLead Guy
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