Sales and Sales Management Blog

May 28, 2007

Paul McCord publishes new study of the mega-producers

Filed under: prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 5:03 pm

Paul McCord has released a new study of the characteristics about 4 dozen true million dollars a year income sales superstars have in common.  Just released, this study is available in an e-book format for only $17.95 on McCord’s website

Based on the interviews McCord conducted for his best-selling, ground breaking work on referral generation, Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals, the new study refutes many myths about what the make up of a top producer is and relates the 16 characteristics these top producers have in common. 

Although based on a small sample of 47 million dollar a year income producers, the analysis is based on a sizable percentage of the million dollars a year income population.  The producers came from a number of industries including financial services, real estate, retail, entertainment, high tech, and others.  They also include both direct to consumer and business-to-business salespeople. 

McCord cautions that this was not a formal statistical study, but rather conversations with and compilation of the information gathered from these mega-producers.  “This isn’t the gospel of mega-producers characteristics,” McCord says, “but it is the only study I’m aware of that takes into consideration only the common characteristics of producers in this income category.  Equally important to the characteristics these men and women have in common are the characteristics they don’t have in common.  The analysis gives salespeople, professionals, managers and business owners an opportunity to evaluate themselves and their organizations in light of what these men and women have in common that have made them so successful.” 

May 24, 2007

Does Cold Calling Work?

Filed under: prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:17 pm

I’ve recently received a number of emails asking my opinion of cold calling as a prospecting tool.  The current debate over the value–or lack of value–of cold calling is interesting, but in the end, meaningless.  That isn’t to say that debate doesn’t have value.  Rather, it is to say that in the end, the only rational conclusion is that cold calling does work–but there are better, more efficient ways of prospecting. 

 For most new salespeople who need immediate sales, no matter how small, cold calling is virtually a necessity.  It is the quickest way, other than hitting up family and friends, to generate immediate sales for most new salespeople.  Most other forms of prospecting are either less efficient or take a longer time to establish and produce results. 

In addition, there are a few people who either through a great deal of practice or via natural ability, just seem to be good at cold calling.  Certainly for those people, if they are good at it and enjoy it, I wouldn’t discourage them from using it. 

However, for most salespeople, no matter their experience level–or their skill at cold calling–learning and implementing more time effective prospecting methods should be a priority.  Many who oppose cold calling oppose it not because it doesn’t work, but because there are more effective ways to generate prospects and clients that don’t waste as much time. 

For most salespeople, marketing and sales is a numbers game, not a skill game.  For many, participating in a marketing format that can be effective without a great deal of skill, but with a great deal of time invested is their primary focus.  Of course, if you have real cold calling skills, that increases the likelihood that your cold calling will be effective.  But even if you don’t have real skill, if you make enough dials, you’re eventually going to make sales.  Same with many other methods–stick enough fliers in windshields, you’ll eventually make a sale.  Blast enough emails, you’ll eventually make a sale.  The more skillful you are, the more effective those methods will be, but they can keep a salesperson afloat without much skill.  And even if you are highly skilled, the time investment never goes away–you still have to make the dials, you still have to stick the fliers on the windshield or hang the door hangers on the doors. 

Other prospecting methods take real skill to generate anything.  Direct mail, referral generation, creating an expert reputation and image, writing articles, public speaking, networking through organizations and other methods take skill in order to be effective.  These skills must be developed over time and with a great deal of practice.  Like the methods above, do them enough, you’ll get a sale or two.  But to be effective, they take much more practice and study to develop, but much less time and generate much higher returns once the skills have been developed. 

Of course cold calling works.  Human nature hasn’t changed.  There are and always will be people who will respond to a cold call.  So, the question isn’t does it work.  The question is how is one going to spend their time to generate clients.  Those heavily time consuming methods limit how much a salesperson can make simply because there are only so many hours in a year–so you can only contact so many people–period. 

If you cold call and it works for you–keep doing it, but consider learning and implementing some more sophisticated prospecting methods at the same time.  If you have to cold call and it isn’t working very well, consider getting professional help from someone like Wendy Weiss, the Queen of Cold Calling.  And then begin to implement others methods to eventually get you out of cold calling. 

May 21, 2007

What’s Your Niche?

Filed under: prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 8:15 am

Are you a salesperson, professional or business owner who is trying to market to anyone and everyone in your market that might even remotely have a use or need for your product or service?  If you are, why?

Why would you try to do something that most salespeople and professionals can’t possibly do well?  Marketing on a general scale is expensive—just ask Coke, Microsoft, Old Navy, Sears, State Farm, UBS, or any other major company.  They spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year trying to do what you’re trying to do on a shoestring. 

But, you say, you’re only working in a very limited area?  Fine, do you have the budget of a major, local auto dealership, or major, local furniture store, or any other major, local business that is trying to do what you’re trying to do?

But, again, you say that you’re not marketing to the general consumer but to a specific industry.  OK.  Do you have the budget your major competitors have to do direct mail, sponsor association events, advertise in industry specific publications, and all the other things your big competitors do?

No, you say, but you don’t need the sales volume they do in order to support all of those things or the massive staff they have.  Good, now we’re getting somewhere.

You don’t need the sales volume they need, you don’t have the budget they have, and you don’t have the staff they have.  So, why are you trying to capture the same general market they’re trying to capture?  You don’t need it and you can’t afford it.

Rather than spreading your time, effort and marketing budget so thin, why not focus on one or two very specific segments of the market where you can become a real player?  Instead of trying to spread your marketing budget over say, 40,000 people, why not focus on a small, but highly focused segment of maybe 5,000 people?  Instead of trying to get to 11,000 companies, why not focus on 2,000 companies that fit within your ideal prospect template?  Better yet, why not focus on 800 companies that are perfect fits to your ideal prospect?  5,000, 2,000, or 800 is still a large number. 

By defining your ideal prospect in as detailed terms as you possibly can and then focusing only on that group, you increase your likelihood of selling each prospect, you are more capable of making inroads with each since you can focus your message to that group specifically, and you maximize your marketing dollars.  You also can become the expert to really understand and resolve their issues and problems.

Finding and exploiting one or two niches is a far more effective marketing format for most salespeople, professionals and small businesses.  Unless you have the time and money to compete with the big boys, you’re better served to do what they can’t—concentrate on and become the expert in a highly focused segment of the market.

Why don’t more salespeople, professionals and business owners focus on niche markets?  Fear.  Fear of possibly losing a sale.  Fear that the niche may not be big enough to find enough clients to stay in business.  Fear that they won’t be able to penetrate the niche.  Fear that they’re leaving money on the table. 

These fears are unfounded for the most part.  Becoming a niche player does take time.  It takes effort.  It takes discipline.  However, there is a lot of money to be made being a big fish in a very small pond—and no money to be made being a dead fish in a very large lake.

May 18, 2007

Why are My Leads So Crappy?

Filed under: prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 11:21 am

Donna Hinds from Florida asked me to help her understand why the leads she gets are so lousy.  This is actually a fairly common question and one that almost always leads back to a lack of understanding on the salesperson’s (or company’s, if from corporate lead generation) lack of focus on who is a real prospect.

Salespeople often mistakenly view their product or service as being applicable to a broader audience than it really is.  Seldom is the issue that the salesperson isn’t thinking broadly enough.  Rather, the issue typically comes down to the salesperson’s, or company’s, thinking isn’t focused.  They haven’t defined who their market is.  Consequently, they end up with a lead generation program that brings in more “trash” than anything else does. 

In order to generate a large number of high quality leads–no matter your lead generation method–you must be able to concentrate your efforts on the areas where you’re most likely to find quality prospects and then use methods that will effectively reach that target audience.  Coming out trying to reach too broad an audience dilutes your efforts; and using methods that are ineffective for your target will simply prove to waste your time, effort and investment. 

Let me give a couple of examples.  

One of my clients, a dentist, spent a good deal of time and lots of money developing a campaign to bring in new clients from the surrounding apartment complexes.  He felt that he was losing lots of potential customers from his local area.  Unfortunately, for him, his office was in a high-end medical complex, while the surrounding apartment communities were working class.  His fees, partly due to his rent, were higher than most of his immediate competition who had offices in much cheaper strip centers about a mile away from his office.  The dentist’s clients were higher income individuals who worked near or visited other medical professionals in his complex.  His focus was completely wrong.  We refocused his marketing to the individuals in the businesses near his office, not the apartment tenants near his office.  He had simply lost focus of the fact that his apartment neighbors were not likely to choose a high-end dentist–but the professionals and local business owners very well might.  The dentist simply saw large numbers of “potential” clients.  He completely missed the much smaller number of, but much more likely client base, professionals and business owners around his office.  

Another client, an insurance agent in Kansas, viewed his prospect base as virtually anyone who could breathe.  But his products were geared for young, new families that really didn’t have the means to invest a great deal of money into their life and health insurance program.  His marketing was primarily focused toward direct mail and networking business owners.  As with the dentist, we refocused his marketing to reflect his product base–he began to concentrate his efforts on the apartment dwellers, more moderately priced neighborhoods and relatively new small business owners.  His business has blossomed simply because he is matching his product to the right audience. 

The more detailed your definition of your ideal prospect, the more focus you can bring to your marketing and lead generation program.  You must make every lead generation dollar and hour you spend work to the maximum.  Using a shotgun may nail a few prospects, but using a rifle can be not only far more cost effective, but help you build your pipeline much faster.  The temptation is to go broad the need is to focus. 

 

May 14, 2007

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Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 5:55 pm

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May 13, 2007

Why Are Client’s Uncomfortable Giving Referrals?

Filed under: Personal Marketing,prospecting,Referral Selling — Paul McCord @ 11:56 am

I receive a lot of emails from salespeople, business owners and professionals about generating referrals, but one of the most common questions is this one emailed to me by Joseph from Seattle:   “Paul, I gave up trying to get referrals along time ago.  I was never comfortable asking and it was obvious that the client wasn’t comfortable with the request.  I hear all this stuff about how great referrals are, but very few salespeople I know actually get very many good referrals.  I admit I haven’t read your book, but I’d be interested in knowing why you think it’s OK to ask for something that clients aren’t comfortable giving and why I should put a client that I’m trying to build a long-term relationship with in that position.” Excellent question. 

First, I certainly don’t advocate putting your client in that position.  As a matter of fact, one of my primary concerns is to get both the salesperson and the client out of the uncomfortable positions the traditional referral training puts them in.  After all, you want to work with your client, not put them in a position where they are only thinking about how to get rid of you. The traditional method of referral training–“do a good job and ask for referrals”–puts both the salesperson and the client in very uncomfortable positions.  The client is in an unwanted and uncomfortable position because the salesperson has sprung an unexpected question–a demand–on them at the very last second, almost as the salesperson is walking out the door.  The client feels like they have been blindsided and they don’t appreciate it.  Then, on top of that, they have no idea of what you want from them (it’s obvious to the salesperson what a good referral for them is, but it isn’t obvious to the client).  Therefore, their response is to try to get rid of the salesperson as fast as they can.  They may say they don’t know anyone or throw out a name and phone number of a person or two they figure won’t talk to the salesperson anyway just to get rid of them. 

The salesperson is uncomfortable in this situation because they know they are blindsiding the client.  They know the client isn’t comfortable and doesn’t appreciate the request.  They know instinctively that somehow or another, this isn’t the right way to do this.  Nevertheless, it’s how they’ve been taught.  It’s what they know.  Therefore, if they ask for referrals at all, this is how they do it. This traditional training causes a great number of problems for both the salesperson and the client.  

For the client, it gives them no opportunity to get comfortable with the idea of giving referrals; it doesn’t give the client an objective way to determine if the salesperson has earned referrals; it doesn’t give the client any time to think about whom to refer; it doesn’t let the client know what a good referral for the salesperson is; and it doesn’t give the client a reason to give referrals.  In addition, to top it off, since it was a last minute surprise, the client feels imposed upon. In order to treat your client fairly–and to generate a large number of high quality referrals–the subject of referrals and your expectation of referrals must be broached very early in the prospect/salesperson relationship.  With adequate preparation, almost every client will be comfortable giving high quality referrals. 

So, Joseph, I agree that you should never put your client in that position.  Never spring an unwanted surprise on your client.  Never put them in a position where all they really want to do is to get rid of you.  However, that doesn’t mean not asking for referrals.  It simply means learning the correct way to ask.  Learning how to make your client comfortable with the idea of giving referrals; letting them know what a good referral for you is; letting them know exactly how you will earn the referrals; giving them plenty of time to think about who to refer; and making sure they understand why giving you referrals is in their best interests. That’s what the PWWR Referral Generation System is all about.  It’s about working with your client, not blindsiding them.  I would encourage you to read, Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals, since it relates in-detail how to accomplish these things and how to create a referral generating relationship with your clients.  Moreover, once you’ve learned the techniques and strategies in the system, you won’t have any problems being uncomfortable asking for referrals again because it eliminates all the negatives you’re used to in the traditional system with positives that build relationships, not work against them. 

May 4, 2007

Selling as a Profession

Filed under: motivation — Paul McCord @ 9:29 am

Like many of you, I have many roles that I must fill.  I am a sales trainer and coach; I am a sales management consultant; I am a writer and speaker; and I am a salesperson.  As the owner of a sales training and management consulting company, I don’t have the luxury of concentrating on just one function.  And, I’m sure most you don’t either.

But as we look at the various functions we must fill, we must keep in mind what it is that is our primary function.  And no matter what our title—account rep, REALTOR, loan officer, financial planner, producing manager, manager, sales rep, attorney, accountant or whatever, we must be ever mindful that our primary job is selling—keeping the business open and healthy.  We are the production force for our company, whether that company consists of just ourselves or tens of thousands of employees.

Yet, I find that many of the people I work with and speak to want to be anything but salespeople.  They go out of their way to adopt titles that minimize their selling responsibilities.  An examination of their business cards gives no clue as to their primary function.  Speak with them and they never use the words sales, selling or salesperson.  They use euphemisms, they use industry jargon, or they just plain avoid a direct discussion of their role. 

Some, when asked directly, will freely admit that they don’t want to be identified or associated with selling and sales.  They view themselves as professionals in their industry who on occasion must unfortunately act as a salesperson.  But during these most uncomfortable of moments, they still refuse to address their role directly.  They are embarrassed to collect the necessary data to complete an order or have a new client sign a contract. 

Such action is self-defeating.  Without a clear understanding and appreciation for what one’s primary function is, it is difficult to be successful at it.  And very possibly confusing for the client.  The client is well aware that they are in the process of purchasing a product or service.  They know the person in front of them is trying to sell them something.  Yet, when that person gives the impression that they are uncomfortable selling the product or service, what message does that send to the client?

We are participants in an honorable profession, one that has been the backbone of most societies for thousands of years.  We are the ones who feed and clothe the world.  We’re the ones that allow the government to run, who allow the corporations to thrive and to hire all those millions of workers, who allow researchers to find new cures and develop new technologies, and who have allowed the quality of life improvements that have literally changed the way people live.  We are the force that “makes the world go ‘round.”

The next time you feel hesitant about identifying yourself as a sales professional, keep in mind the role you play in the world’s economy.  And keep in mind that your client knows you’re a salesperson whether or not you want to identify yourself as such or not. 

To be effective in your job you must know who you are.  You’re a professional.  You’re the one who allows your family, your neighbor—and that prospect to live the life they live. 

If you’re not comfortable with who you are as a sales professional, why should your prospect be comfortable buying from you?

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