WHO RESPONDS WELL TO “SALES” PRESSURE?

Consider this: people who do a Google search for [YOUR SERVICES] and submit requests to be contacted are undoubtedly in a heightened emotional state of mind. They want help, but they don’t want to be “sold” to, right? No one likes being rushed or pressured into making decisions about anything—even when they asked for help!

It’s weird, I know—but true. If you sound like you want something on an initial interaction about anything, you’ll be sending off the exact type of signals that cause your potential clients to tune out and run away.

So, having a team that reaches out first but purposefully doesn’t sell anything is a counterintuitive and strategic approach that caters to the heightened-emotional mindsets of your potential customers. Employing the art of being “purposefully vague” on initial interactions, Team 1 shouldn’t:

  • provide in-depth explanations for how anything works
  • diagnose issues or prescribe recommendations, or
  • provide quotes or estimates

Interaction 1 should be strategically brief to give the leads a reason to look forward to (and set up) the next step in the process (kinda like how a really good opening band plays a quick set before the headliner goes on and gets the crowd pumped).

I’ve said this many times in training sessions:

“I’m not concerned with what a lead KNOWS when they get off the phone after the initial interaction … I’m concerned with how they FEEL.”

221-WORD INTRODUCTION:

Open the book and this is how it starts …

221-WORD INTRODUCTION:

When the other person answers the phone (or opens the door) for the first time, you just lit a fuse. In :30 seconds from right now, the bomb is either going to blow up—or you’re going to diffuse it—and this book lays out the framework for how to diffuse it every single time.

It doesn’t mean you’ll automatically close the deal, but if that bomb blows up? It doesn’t matter how much of an expert you actually are, you’re done!

So you have to realize that by the time your potential clients reach the demo part of your sales process, they already instinctively have either a good feeling—or a bad feeling—about whether or not they’re going to do business with you.

This instinctive feeling is based on how the opening of the Initial Interaction went because in less than :30 seconds, you can almost always tell if the person you’re speaking with can actually help you or not.

This (good or bad) instinctive feeling will be set regardless of how much knowledge you actually have or even how good the information you present in the proposal is, so let me ask:

What do you think will happen when you know how to purposefully set it in your favor pretty much every time you speak with someone new?

 

A Call Breakdown for someone who cold-called me to sell Lead Gen Services

This blows me away: the service this guy was pitching was Lead Generation, where his team would cold call potential clients for my company and set appointments for our sales reps.

I would NEVER want my potential clients to have this type of experience for their first interaction with someone who represents my organization!

 

BEFORE WE GET STARTED

When sales teams get to a certain size, there comes a point where it becomes pretty much necessary to implement a 2-Stage Sales Operation where you have SDRs handling the top of the funnel activities which frees the Account Execs up to focus on the middle to bottom of the funnel activities.

You know this already, so here’s the BIG PROBLEM that I help organizations solve:

Old school sales tactics are out—especially with the rise of digital marketing. With how much information we all have access to, potential clients can actually research and familiarize themselves with your company’s products and services BEFORE they ever make (or agree to take) a call.

And of course they can also look up your competitors and your online reviews, so realistically, a good portion of their buying journey is completed before they ever actually speak with you—and we all know how no one likes being “sold,” but everyone loves to buy—especially when it comes to things that they actually need.

Humans just have this internal desire to feel like the decisions they make come from within with no external pressure—especially from sales people—so everyone seems to go into Initial Interactions in heightened, emotional states of mind where they’re overly skeptical and hyper-critical, which means they’re actively looking for reasons to not trust you.

They talk a little tougher because it’s easy to hide behind screens and phones, and old school sales tactics send off the exact type of signals that cause them to flee the encounter and explore options elsewhere—and that’s just one side of the coin for this problem.

The other side is how the humans from the solution provider actually communicate, so realistically, you could be applying zero sales pressure yet still cause potential clients to go dark by communicating poorly.

I mean, think about it: how do you feel when you need help with something so bad that you’re doing Google searches and filling out requests to be contacted and then you get on the phone with someone who sounds like a novice? You quickly check out and seek options elsewhere. On the other hand, get on the phone with someone who sounds like an expert and you’ll happily move to the next step of their process.

So realistically, Initial Interactions are in fact, high-stakes encounters, and if you know how to systematically OPEN the sale in a way that puts the organization in the leadership position, you won’t have to rely on traditional sales tactics when it comes time to close, and this book lays out the framework for how to do it every time.

Do it just right and it sets your account execs up for massive success; do it wrong and it chops their legs out from under them before they have even a chance to step out onto the field, and realistically:

IT’S ONE OR THE OTHER

 

 

the Reasoning for my “Hybrid” SDR Incentive Plan

Most Incentive Plans that I’ve seen for SDRs typically promote quantity over quality (and manipulation).

I’ve seen:

  • Low base pay with no incentive plan, so nobody cares
  • Low base pay plus $3 per lead, which promotes manipulation
  • Low base pay with ranges, like:
    • 20 – 25 Qualified leads per month = $250
    • 26 – 35 Qualified Leads per month = $500
    • 36+ Qualified Leads per month = $750

These plans were not data-driven and created a hornet’s nest of bad behavior at the top of the organizations’ sales funnels by promoting bad behaviors.

The reps I inherited on this team would get a lead in, send a “Qualifying Email,” wait two days, then call if there was no response. They would get responses to emails, though, and they’d consider them to be “Qualified Leads.”

I remember one of the reps, Rebekah, playing on her iPad all day, watching TV shows, and she’d tell me how she: “Qualified 14 leads today.”

Then the sales managers, like Marcia, told me how: “Your team sends us all these Leads and they never even answer the phone, so what’s the point of even having this team?!”

Christine told me how: “We have a great product and closing rates are fantastic when we get it in front of the right people, but the breakdown has always been actually getting in front of them to present.”

(We was talking about converting website visitors into actual sales opportunities).

We fixed it with this incentive plan. I got rid of the reps I inherited, completely broke down and revamped the top of the funnel strategy, hired new team members and provided the training and guidance, and I rewrote the incentive plan so that it promotes and incentivizes the best top of the funnel Stage 1 behaviors for the organization.

I know it’s aggressive as far as potential dollar amount per lead, but it’s data-driven, so it makes it possible for leadership to run a report like this:

There have been 1204 Qualified Leads that my team has processed so far this year, but if you wanted to check on them, where would you even begin?

I would start with:

  • A+ Leads (500+ Clients) = 157 of them.
  • A grade Leads (200 – 499 Clients) = 156 of them.
  • B Grade (10 – 199) = 764 of them.
  • Out of 157 A+ Leads, how many were NBO versus EXP / REN?
    • 123 NBO
    • 34 EXP / REN
  • How many Successful Handoffs have we had all across the board?
  • 381 / 1204 = 31.6% (WHAT THE FFF, right?!)

I introduced “Lead Grading” to [COMPANY], and having access to these insights (even though not fully-grasped onto across the board yet, it seems), is what data-driven sales organizations are doing. Data tracking like this is a gold mine when used right. We can make decisions based on fact and not solely on gut-feelings.

This also makes it possible for us to “put our finger on the pulse” and see how the business unit is operating across Stage 1 / Stage 2 (Pre-sale Relationship).

Stage 1 is locked in here, but Stage 2 is still a bit of black hole.

When locked in all across the board, the organization will have a higher level of accountability and alignment not just from top-down but from side-to-side, too. It all starts with Stage 1, though, which is where I’ve seen a lot of organizations “miss the mark.”

This incentive plan “gamifies” it for my team.

By putting a higher potential value on leads, it motivates them to not let anything slip through the cracks, which is why our Website Visitor > MQL conversion rates are outstanding (32% in July).

They don’t know a Lead’s Grade until they get them on the phone and ask the right questions, and they have to follow and execute on our communication strategies. If they don’t? Then I can take away the Quality Bonus. 99.9% of the time though, they understand the reasoning of our frameworks and execute flawlessly.

The amount available to earn for incentive per month is higher than normal, but it’s minimal compared to what the organization is making on the returns by having a team like this in place.

It also heads off the normal behavioral-type issues you see with SDR-type teams because they have the opportunity to earn enough to at least take their jobs seriously. If the original incentive plan was still in place, I wouldn’t be able to retain quality employees because they’d just work here and go through the motions while proactively looking for employment elsewhere.

A Certain Level of … Confidence

I think there’s a certain level of confidence that can only be achieved by being as prepared as possible. Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference, says:

“In times of crisis, we don’t rise to the occasion … we fall to our highest level of preparation.”

That’s quite profound (and quote-worthy). Think about how when we’re put on the spot about anything, we get nervous; we can’t help it. When you’re put on the spot, even with something that you’re a subject matter expert on, but find yourself struggling to come up with the right words for the moment? You SOUND like you’re struggling to come up with the words, and this UNDERMINES your credibility.

Nervousness in your voice registers subconsciously in the Dog part of the person that you’re communicating with’s brain and it sets off alarms, like:

This person is nervous … therefore something must be wrong …”

I think that a key to success when it comes to effectively communicating about anything is to reduce as many variables as possible (like the pegs on the Plinko board). Think about the confidence, and fearlessness, that comes across when you don’t have to think about what you’re going to say next, especially when you’re calling out to a potential client for the first time.

If they answer and you’re not prepared to speak? You stumble through your intro, trying to come up with something intelligent to say, and it undermines your efforts from that point forward because you allowed that :30 second bomb to detonate. Jordan Belfort takes it a step further and says that you have FOUR SECONDS to come across as these three crucial things:

  • You’re SHARP
  • ENTHUSIASTIC
  • and an EXPERT

FOUR SECONDS!” he says. “That’s it! If you don’t come across as these three things in the first four seconds? You’re done!”

I know that “four seconds” can seem a bit extreme, but seriously: what’s the alternative? Let’s say you DON’T come across as those three things in the first four seconds. What happens? You set off alarms, the other person instinctively labels you as a novice, and the bomb blows up and causes the other person to not really listen or take you seriously from that point forward (the bomb is probably a bit more extreme than Jordan’s :04 Seconds, but that’s okay).

 

*Get a copy of this book at:

Two Stage Sales Operation

After a while, when a sales organization’s workload gets high enough, it makes sense to implement a two-stage sales operation. The sales development reps handle the initial interactions (top of the funnel activities) during stage one, and the account executives handle the discovery calls, presenting demos and closing deals (mid to bottom of the funnel activities) during stage two.

This makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons, but it’s not exactly a “quick fix” as it opens a can of worms for an even bigger problem: a two-stage sales operation that doesn’t have alignment from team-to-team with how they communicate (and hand leads off) helps to create the Black Hole of Digital Marketing.

In most cases, no one will intentionally sabotage his organization’s efforts to sell, but here’s a few examples of this bigger problem in action:

  • If the SDR provides in-depth explanations about features and benefits, it’s too much information, and too fast, for this point in the relationship.
  • If the SDR asks all the questions the AE normally would ask and then when the AE speaks with the lead, she runs through the same questions, it’s irritating for the potential clients.
  • If the SDR gathers high-level qualification information, logs it in the CRM but the AE skips over it and opens the discovery call with: “… So, what’s got us on the phone today?” potential clients’ll have to repeat themselves and try to remember what they said already.

Stage two should pick up where stage one left off. If your potential clients have to start all over with explaining themselves, it’s annoying and it sets of threat alarms (like these people aren’t sharp, therefore I better explore some other options).

Years ago, when I was on sales-side receiving leads from an SDR team, there was nothing worse than when I’d get a potential client on the phone, start asking some questions, and then sense the frustration because he was already asked the same types of questions. Now he has to repeat himself and try to remember what he said in the first place because there was no alignment from stage one to stage two.

Or I’d go to start explaining something, and he’s like: “Yeah, the other guy already told me about that …” and then I’d find out that what was said was inaccurate. Now I’m facing the uphill battle of trying to smooth things over, but in a lot of cases, leads in cases like this would just go dark.

It’s very, very important to have a clear communication framework in place for how stage one and stage two should go because this will help your organization to really provide what potential clients really want:

AN AS PAINLESS & HASSLE-FREE-AS-POSSIBLE PURCHASING EXPERIENCE

I was in a meeting a couple weeks ago (with another company), and their SDRs asked me why I don’t care for warm transfers. They told me how if they have a potential client on the phone who wants to speak with a sales rep, then they want to get them over to them ASAP. Of course I heard them out, and I understand the reasoning behind that, but after the meeting, it made me really think about how and why I do things the way I do.

Here are a few big reasons – I believe that:

  • a control measure for communicating effectively is to reduce as many variables from the situation as possible
  • accomplishing any task while using the least amount of force is good for everyone involved
  • well planned-out, orchestrated, optimized experience at the beginning of a potential relationship gives consistency & predictability to how the relationship forms
  • a solid communication framework is something you can train others on and replicate all across the board
  • it’s chaotic to do things differently every time, and the chaos is amplified when there are multiple team members doing things differently

If an organization’s initial interactions with potential clients ARE NOT controlled and well-orchestrated, then it can literally undermine the organization’s efforts to sell. On the other hand, if they ARE controlled and well-orchestrated, then it’s mutually beneficial for everyone involved.

ATTN: Digital Marketing Agency Owners

Alright, so here’s the situation: let’s say you run a digital marketing agency. You have clients from all over the business spectrum, i.e. small businesses, enterprise level and maybe even a few fortune 500 companies. You have a steady book of business and your clients pay you a range of anywhere from a few hundred bucks to thousands per month, and even though they all have different products and services, they all have this one thing in common:

They pay YOU to help them get their websites ranking high enough to be found when people search for unbranded keywords associated with their products and services.

You’re an expert when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and you know what you’re doing. You even specialize a bit in CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization), so you’ve got your clients’ websites dialed in and organized in a way that compels visitors to click through and submit direct requests to be contacted (or even just pick up the phone and call in directly).

Digital Marketing - Human Interaction

At this point, your job is done, but let me run something past you:

For the sake of simplicity, let’s say your clients get 100 direct website inquiries per month because of your expertise. But after several months, they’re only converting 2 or 3 a month into paying customers. How long do you think this will this go on before they pull the plug and jump to a different agency?

In a situation like this, your client isn’t necessarily going to audit their internal sales process—they’re going to blame the source, like:

We pay you all this money every month, but the leads we get from your campaigns convert at such a low percentage that we’re just gonna try working with another agencyso go ahead and cancel our contract.”

Meanwhile, what if they got the same amount of leads from your campaigns, 100 per month, but they’re converting closer to 40 or so into sales on a regular basis?

And to briefly hit on the other side of the same token, I’d still ask the same question if you’re a director or VP of an internal marketing team. We all know how marketing and sales teams are oftentimes at odds with each other …