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Monday, July 18, 2016

Why Telesales 3.0™ Is NOW, Are You READY?


Over the last 16 years, we have always stayed a step ahead of trends affecting enterprise sales teams. We do that by taking the whole sales engagement into account of what we do, not just "calling them" and engaging. When companies understand the need to have the same level of peer level fluency at all stages, then they see results.

Another reason is because the foundational behavior of people hasn't changed. Social Selling is applying the same principles great sales teams have always used, understanding their prospects...it's just doing it virtually now instead of in their office.

Being able to factor in buyer behavior, sales management modeling, technology shifts, current roadmaps for organizations and the resulting changes to how decisions are made to acquire enterprise platforms is what is needed for real sales development effectiveness.

You can't look at sales processes in silos of "marketing does this" and "SDR's do that" and the "direct reps do this.." What can result from not having someone that understands the big picture is a lot of disjointed activity that causes attrition as prospects move to each stage. Each stage sees less and less prospects, and some of ones that were lost those were closable deals. 

What's happened?  It isn't just one thing, it is many things that create breaks in the prospect relationship along the way. 

Just a few of those are:
  • Now engaging when the prospect want to engage and is making choices--this is often where you see BANT and out dated qualification methods in play.
  • Reps making decisions about how to handle prospects without understanding the big picture--today's buyers require precision with engagement, not just a "follow up" but a CORRECT follow up for the situation.
  • Neglect--one of the biggest problems I still see is sales teams don't do what it takes holding onto old-school tactics of 2 emails 2 calls and assuming prospects aren't interested. Sirius Decisions, Forrester, DGR, and many other respected industry sources, including the 1M+ engagements we have done ourselves, prove that to be wrong.
We have worked with organizational psychologists and many professionals to arrive at the design of our solution, this is why it gets results. Are you stepping up your team to align with real-world requirements? 

Doing so much work to help companies succeed with sales development is why cold calling works for their programs. I have said many times that people DO take calls, they just don't take bad calls.

Are YOU stepping up to the 3.0 world?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Cold Calls or "Business Calls"....What Type Should Your Company Make?


For years there's been books, blogs, and articles circulated around the topic of "Cold Calling is Dead." Every week articles are flying around on Cold Calling's lack of ROI. I can't help but voice my complete disagreement with this when I see it, not only is it not dead but the effectiveness of it has increased over the years as it is the fastest way to find an opportunity.
One customer study showed 80% of large deals (>400K) closed from a tactical cold calling programs. An accident? No 
Why the opposing claims? Because what is being lumped into the definition of a "cold call" is actually more accurately defined as a "bad call."  And with the poor hiring profiles and technical fluency of many (both outsourced and FTE's) that operate in the "telemarketing" space, there is a high concentration of "bad calls" going on.  Those have always been a waste of time.
What is a "bad call?"  I'll give you a perfect example....not too long ago, I got a call from Suzy or Sally or someone I have no recollection of her name. She called my cell, and said she was with an F500 tech firm and I had downloaded a whitepaper on something-maybe I did, maybe I didn't. It didn't sound like something I did but "go on..." She then asks me my title, I asked if she had it already...she did, she said CEO. I asked her why she asked if she had it? She said CEO's don't normally answer their phone. I said this is my cell, so there is a good possibility I would answer. I asked if she had internet access and she did, so I asked if she does a quick search on people that have C-level or VP titles before she calls, she said no. Then she asked if I can send her to someone that does our networking and security management. I said "wouldn't you want to talk to me directly since it's my company?" Her response was a broad sweeping statement she read to me about security planning and network management this or that...and if I want a meeting. I said what you just said could represent about 100 different things. I asked if she wanted a tip for her next call--I said "we have spent the last 6 minutes talking about how I couldn't possibly be a CEO because I answered my phone, then when we established I'm the CEO you want to talk to someone else, the thing you want to talk about is such a broad sweeping statement that it could mean 100 different things and now I have to go. So you had a CEO on the phone you could have spoken to, and it has turned into nothing for your customer (they were an outsourced firm, I asked.) Next time, I would search who you are calling first, have something crisp to say that would be interesting based on their role, and when you have the person that's writing the check on the phone--don't make the first thing you ask for how to get to someone else." THAT is an example of a bad call.  I get them all the time, and rarely is one something I would pursue a further dialog with.
Companies that outsource/hire often look for the economy option because the stakeholder personally doesn't like getting calls, so they don't want to invest a lot in their call campaign, which actually  ensures they have bad calls made on their behalf.
Often, front-lines are staffed with people without any critical thinking skills, they are unable to real-time navigate and map what prospects say to engage and uncover opportunities. They are not adding value but can actually do damage to your pipeline.  This applies for FTE or outsourced resources, putting very junior people with very under-developed communication skills is going to cost you deals you could have had with a better front-line engagement model.
A customer of ours once said "I could never make cold calls..." I asked if they call people they don't know...they said they do all the time. I said that's what we do, we make business calls.  A business call is normal, people in business expect and welcomes them when they add value. There is tacit permission given to make a business call as an executive because part of their role is "doing business." If they weren't open to solve their challenges, they would not be doing their job. 
All the gobbledygook out there around cold calling, ROI, metrics, and activity measurement are often mapped to the results of efforts like the bad calls above--but did those ever work?  What is likely the cause of the appearance of a drop of ROI in bad calls is really the ability to have more accurate and granular measurement. Also, today's prospects are much more empowered to cut people off faster, and the sheer volume of poorly skilled front-line business development outreach going on in B2B has created a scenario where prospects are harder to reach. Often workflow is broken and applying methods from 1996 to today's unavailable buyers, so it gives the appearance the entire "medium" of calling isn't working.  
Measuring the results of actual business callsmade by people that know what they are talking about still show it is the #1 highest resulting activity companies can do.
Bottom line, if your first touch is someone that isn't a peer-match in conversation, understanding specific problems prospects face, and can think on their feet....it will impact results poorly. 
What is the fix?
  • Better hiring--make sure you aren't putting inexperienced people in the position to be the first experience prospects have. You want people that can uncover opportunities in a very short window of time, speak fluently with senior level stakeholders, and understand the environment they are calling into. I can recommend some staffing consultants that help with hiring, ping me if you need to connect with any.
  • Understand the purpose of cold calls. Cold calling uncovers opportunities, it tee's up engagements for the direct teams, it cuts through the noise of emails and SEO and all the things that drive prospects to the conversation. If you are uncovering millions of dollars of pipeline in your outbound effort and are not seeing it close, the problem could likely be downstream and sales operations needs to uncover the issue. Is it a sales execution issue? Product issue? Nurturing issue? Whatever it is, follow the breadcrumbs to see where the breakdowns occur and deals are lost. 
  • Have a process. Many times outbound calls are based on a list that wasn't vetted, reviewed, scrubbed. Calling into prospects that wouldn't be viable under the best of circumstances isn't going to get the results that a structured effort delivers. Have a model of data vetting that narrows your focus to viable prospects before you even pick up the phone.
  • Training. Many internal ISR's are trained on products, problems as marketing departments see them, features, etc. They are not trained on the psychology of buyers and how to engage with people with the same effectiveness as a face-to-face meeting. Understanding the undercurrents going on during a call goes a very long way to better connect and progress deals in the pipeline.
What are a few of the characteristics of a "business call?"
  • Peer level. The person doing the calling needs to engage as a peer, not talk up to, or talk down to, the prospect.  They should have command of the discussion and be able to articulate at the same level (or better) than the prospects. They should not have any confidence issues speaking with senior executives.
  • Agile. The person calling needs to be able to real-time map what the prospect says to a meaningful discussion that uncovers opportunities. They are not locked into a script, or an objective, i.e., if there isn't a meeting we don't want it. Having it all about a meeting, disables the discussion to turn into something meaningful. If the purpose of cold calls is narrow and activity based, the workflow and business development processes will be broken. 
  • Rich. A business call builds excitement for prospects, not create sales resistance. A business call is about "business value." It's about how problems are solved, provides a vision for the solution, allows a prospect to build a mental framework for how this can work...and in turn, they want to know more.  
  • Informed. Many cold calls are made by people that have very under-developed critical thinking and problem solving skills. Ask interviewees if they have a system for educating themselves? What are the last 3 business books they read? How to they educate themselves in a new space? What are some examples? How do they discover account information? How do they use what is in the public domain to leverage entry to an account? Many times, a high sales performer in B2C is completely unable to reinvent themselves into a B2B sale. Make sure the hire can sell in your space, your sales landscape, to your buyers. It doesn't have to be a 1 to 1 match of products, but a sales environment selling printers in volume to a commodity buyer in procurement is very different than selling a supply chain platform to an IT organization. Make sure their success maps in theory to yours. 
These are just a few of the elements to consider.  Investing the time to build the model that works for your company isn't easy, but it pays off and delivers a measurable impact to revenue.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Are Your Prospects Apologizing? They Should Be....

A common topic among B2B sales teams is how difficult it can be to reach prospects. My team often makes (8-10+) attempts to reach prospects (more in some cases,) which is a reflection of the fact that people are extra busy in today's B2B environments. It takes a very coordinated effort of skill, expertise, and persistence to reach prospects and is much more than a "numbers game" as so many people believe. Rather, not only do you need to know how to sell, but also the psychology of engagement, and preparation to maximize the moments you do get.
What could you be doing right when prospects are apologizing?
 Even though there is a requirement for a much higher level of persistence in today's B2B selling landscape, old habits die hard and the habit of '3 strikes and you're out' is still very alive on the sales side (2 is even common, 2 emails and 2 calls.....) What that means is a typical effort to reach a prospect is a couple of voicemails and an email, and if the prospect hasn't responded by then, the rep moves on thinking they weren't interested after all. I have heard reps say things like "if they were interested they would have called back" or "I don't have time to chase them" to "I'm not going to waste time leaving voicemails, I sent an email--if they don't respond they aren't interested." Right when a follow up engagement is starting to get on a prospects' radar, many reps gives up and it's two ships that passed in the night. Sound familiar?
Recently, I was talking with a client of ours who gave me an example of how he had to call one prospect more than 5 times. It was someone that initially was very interested but went quiet. My client said he felt sure there was something there and persisted, and to his surprise the prospect was very interested and nothing had changed, he was just busy. We agreed most sales reps would have given up by then. I asked "did your prospect apologize when you connected with him finally?" He said YES, and how did I know? We have that happen all the time, it's an indicator of doing something right.
What does this mean to you when your prospect apologizes? It means they did get your messages, they had good intentions, and appreciate your persistence (This whole article is assuming this is happening with a professional peer-level outreach and not being a pest--which my other articles have mentioned.)
A few things to keep in mind:
  • Typically it takes around 3 discussions before relationships with prospects becomes reciprocal, which means those first 2 discussions may take extra effort to connect.
  • What is often interpreted as no-interest is really just "real life." It is important to put yourself in your prospect's shoes to understand what is really happening and not take it personal.
While reps give up trying to reach their prospects thinking they aren't interested, what really happens is maybe they were out of town, they were out sick, or things like their client called them ranting about a problem and they had to put out a fire, one of their staff had to leave on a family emergency, they had a key team member quit, because they get 300 emails and 15 vendor calls a day and there is a lot of competition for their attention, or because an enterprise platform they just bought crashed, or they have 200 sites offline right now because the network went down....the reasons are countless...but bottom line, the deal is still there and they are still interested.
The National Sales Executive Association had released some statistics a couple of years ago from a study that stated:
  • 2% of sales are closed from a single attempt,
  • 3% from two attempts,
  • 5% after 3 attempts,
  • 10% after 4 attempts,
but here is the whopper--
  • 80% of deals closed after making from 5-12 attempts.
Companies often do a "Did They Buy" Study on past leads that typically reveal that from 50%-70% of your prospects ended up buying something, but did they buy it from you?
Prospects tend to take the path of least resistance—so if you are making it easy for them to buy from you by being available and persistent, then you have increased your chances of closing the deal.
If you hear a lot of apologies from your prospects and progressing deals, it isn't a bad thing. If you aren't, then take a look at your process for follow up and ask if you might be giving up too early?
One thing you never want to do is start communicating in a punitive manner, mentioning they haven't responded or it is their fault you haven't connected. It can turn a warm prospect into a cold one.  Let them off the hook when you reconnect and remove any tension in a conversation, not add to it reminding them they haven't responded. First, you have no idea what is happening on their end. For all you know, they could have had a tragedy in their family or some other extreme circumstance. At a minimum they are so slammed they haven't been able to respond, and they may not enjoy their workload either....so reminding them they aren't responsive isn't helping build a rapport for the future.  
When was the last time a prospect told you they were sorry they didn't call you back sooner?
I'll look forward to hearing your comments!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Are You Still Using BANT? You Are Losing Deals If You Are

















BANT has been around for years, we still hear from companies that are looking for programs that deliver BANT qualified leads. We agree that qualifying criteria is important when it comes to ranking opportunities, for a number of reasons. A couple of those are:

  1. Having defined criteria surfaces the short-term opportunities so you are in the right place at the right time with the right resources
  2. Avoid wasted effort and resources being deployed on wrong prospects at the wrong time
Something to be careful of though is downgrading something that would be a strategic entry into an account or dismissing access to stakeholders and influencers in key accounts early in a buy-cycle because other aspects of the deal aren't fully baked yet. 

More often than not, vendor preferences are established well before the budget or timing is clear, and to miss that early window of engagement, which is also a window of influence, could mean missing the deal altogether. 

I have known of situations where a prospect's willingness to talk to a vendor wasn't pursued because it didn't meet BANT criteria (BUDGET - AUTHORITY - NEED - TIMELINE) and later when the account was revisited thinking everything would be aligned by then,  discovered another vendor got the business. What happened? Many times it was because the investment wasn't made in the relationship at an earlier stage, and when the deal materialized another vendor was well established in the account.

So before using BANT to determine your actions in an account, first look at your prospects and clients and determine what makes the most sense for YOUR actual sales cycle and sales environment.  


Ask yourself:

  • How long is our sales cycle?
  • When we engage at a later stage, are other vendors already influencing an outcome?
  • If we were in there earlier, would the outcome have been different?
  • WHEN do my prospects want to engage? Do we get gets calls and inquiries early in their planning cycle?
  • Is there generally a lot of white space between the time we know a deal is brewing, and when we start taking action to get it because of BANT?
Looking at the dynamics of the deals you close, will help you better position yourself both in effort and timing to make sure you have the highest possible chance of influencing early preferences and later decisions. 


Use BANT to help understand a prospect, but don't let it downgrade an opportunity unnecessarily and especially to a point of not engaging. Early engagement is highly valuable in today's market; examining multiple areas of your buyers' behavior will help you make intelligent decisions on how to build your pipeline. 


Happy Selling!!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Picking Channel Partners Based on Sales Environments, Not Just Industry Category






We do programs for channel organizations all the time, everything from identifying new partners to delivering MDF sponsored programs for channel partners directly. Regardless of the industry, there's common challenges within channel organizations I have seen over and over;  one of them is early on-boarding and adding partners that are truly going to generate revenue.  Successful partnering requires initial matching that goes beyond basic industry categories and also needs to actually identify sales environment synergies to accurately evaluate the potential.  When channel execs consider a potential partner from the vantage point of similar sales environments, it ensures introducing your product as a natural fit versus something that will derail a sales cycle and both sides lose.
The complexity comes in because your channel is both an extended sales team and a customer in a sense, you are serving them as a customer with support, information, training, time, access, etc.  Their "customer experience" with you impacts their level of success. As a sales team, they also increase your reach and visibility to gain greater market share and can quickly make a positive impact--but that depends on how they are supported as a "customer" in many cases. 
A way to think about it is just as you hire an internal rep based on experience and understanding of your selling landscape, the same principles apply to channel partners. An example is a rep may have achieved Presidents Club selling servers or network hardware, but may struggle in a professional services sales environment. Why?  Hardware and services are a completely different selling experience, not to say a rep can't move from one to the other successfully, but there are huge differences and some reps find it hard to make that leap. Channel partners multiply that challenge as they are generally running on tight margins, and can't afford a significant learning curve on a new selling landscape in addition to a new solution/product that impacts their existing productivity. They are only successful when additions to their portfolio fit in with the conversations they are already having and enhances their current solution, not distracts from it.
An example of this is in the IoT space; many equipment and device providers seek out complementary firms as partners but the sales environments can be totally different in every aspect, i.e. the stakeholders are different, the budget allocation is different, the sales cycle is different, and the investment is different. Not to mention many IoT OEM's go far up-chain and look at engineering or services firms as partners. In some cases it may work, but if their current sales process and environment is radically different, it will be tough to add your product into the mix successfully as their current sales domain is not .  
Another dimension of that to consider is your channel managers and are they able to transform a sales team of a different product set to sell yours when the partner's selling landscape today is very different.  
The complexities can be many, but the best way to eliminate a challenge preemptively is to match sales environments (or at least know what you are dealing with) up front as a first level of vetting.
As the OEM,  enabling a new channel partner requires a lot, some of those things being: 
  •  Ongoing training and supporting their sales team to close business
  •  Incentivize  the partner to sell and promote your products--that can be in the form of leads and marketing incentives; if the partner is working in a different sales environment throwing leads over the fence just to be neglected and mismanaged is leaving revenue on the table.
  • Staying in tight communication about new products, new releases, new features, etc. And having transparency into any challenges the sales team has in promoting those.
  • Participating in sales calls, contract negotiations, etc.
As the channel partner,  there is also a big commitment. Some of which includes:
  • Training your sales team which often requires going off-line for a bit to learn about a new product and company.  
  • Engaging your OEM and involving them in the process. A new topic of discussion can invigorate a sales team, and create new opportunities.
  • Helping your team understand WHY this is a good fit, and WHY this expands their footprint in accounts.  Assuming everyone "gets it" can leave huge gaps in execution.
We work with many channel organizations, and when companies are able to fine-tune these areas, they can make a huge impact for both parties. 
I'll look forward to your comments on how you have modified your partner selection!

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Train Your Team To "Listen," Not Just Wait Their Turn To Talk


"People don’t listen, they just wait for their turn to talk."
That is a saying many of us have heard before; many of us have also seen it in action when we are conversing and then the other party responds with something totally out of line with what you said and you think "you didn't listen to anything I said...!!"  
This happens all the time in sales.  You wouldn't immediately think it, but the culture within a sales organization contributes to the lack of listening skills. Many teams are pressed into results and are forced to quickly qualify or dump prospects in order to build their pipeline. Good relationship building and conversation skills aren't rewarded, revenue is.  Unfortunately, the thing that happens is the rush to qualify also misses many revenue opportunities because prospects aren't going to open up when they are being "sold" or told to come back later when they have money.
Here's an example....a company (the prospect) has a major problem collaborating with their partners and distributers, they have looked at a variety of options and they all weren't a fit. If someone can present something they will move on it as this is a critical need for their business. They haven't budgeted for it yet because they don't know what they need--is it technology? Process? A consultant? All of the above? They need something to get their head around the "How will we do it?"  The company talks to a senior level biz dev expert at a firm, and they love the approach and the creativity to make suggestions and create a vision for them of how to solve this...they want to talk more. The next call a rep is on the call....within 5 minutes the rep is asking if they have a budget...the rep loses interest when the VP says they need to figure it out first, and then the rep says once they are further along with their planning and know what they want to do, they can reconnect and talk about it. All the creative ideas, all the solutions options, all the helping them to envision working with them has been reduced to "if you have no money up front to tell me this is worth my time, I am not interested."  End of call, end of interest.
This happens all the time...it isn't isolated incidents. It boils down to 2 things, 1) the mindset of the rep, and 2) what is reinforced as a culture. If the culture of a company is to discourage spending time with prospects before they have a clear budget, wait till they are "old-school BANT "qualified,  then they are only going to focus on later stage deals.   It is a punitive way to respond to prospects that want to engage at the time they are planning and choosing options.
It's a complex problem because there are some fantastic reps out there that intuitively know to spend time to help their prospects come to a decision. They invest in their relationships and genuinely care about what they do--you don't have to train them to listen because they do it anyway. There are also very selfish reps that really don't care about their prospects at all, and much of what they do that displays genuine concern for their prospects evaporates as soon as they don't see anything in it for them--you cannot transform them into people that  care. Unfortunately many buyers have experienced the latter and this is what has contributed to the initial pushback ALL reps get in the beginning. 
How can this be solved?
"Listening must become part of the sales cycle"
  1. Coaching your team to have a deeper discussion and truly understand the requirements..."this is what an early discussion needs to look like."
  2. Understand your buyer persona. Do they engage early? Do you know if this buyer profile generally will explore options, chose a vendor(s), and have a more developed plan before they have their budget defined?  Answer this honestly, not in the perfect world of everyone that calls has their budget and will buy within 60 days. If your buyers typically are early engagers, you need to have more invested in early discussions. 
  3. Hire people that understand this. It may change your interviewing model to more of a character vs. skills search. Ask them questions about their views of prospects, ask what is important in early conversations, ask how they go above and beyond for their customers, etc.
  4. Help your team(s) have a conversation template. Sometimes conversations aren't had because the reps don't know how to have them. Give them a list of questions, and a B List of questions if the prospects are chatty.
  5. Help the team understand the importance of documentation. Even if you listen and have the greatest conversation in the world; if no one documents it, you will backtrack over topics already covered every time.
The good thing is more and more companies understand this and are doing something about it. I'm interested to learn what you have done to modify your approach to implement better listening and early engagement best-practices!


Thursday, November 05, 2015

Would You Take a Call From YOU?



"What are the tricks you use to get people to talk to you?"
I get asked this question a lot; people struggle to find the answer on how they can engage and get people to talk to them. There must be a well-kept secret people are using that are successful at this.
"The secret to success in cold calling is actually the most well-known, transparent fact about sales there is. Prospects don't like to take sales calls....but they are constantly on business calls"
How is THAT a secret of success?
Because executives DO take business calls. That being the case, sales reps need to steer clear of the many things that people think of when they hear the term "sales rep." That means no tricks, no manipulating, no untruths, no forcing people to commit, no strong-arming, no word switcho-chango tactics, no insincere flattery, no cheesy gimmicks to get people to talk, etc. (the list goes on....)  That isn't executive behavior, that isn't "business call" behavior. 
Can you imagine the CFO of a F500 company calling the CFO of another F500 company and saying "I know you're very busy, I promise I won't waste your time, if you like what you hear in the next 20 seconds, can you give me 60 more seconds?"  Needless to say the one receiving the call would be like "Who the heck is this??? Weirdo..."
One of our clients recently said they could never cold call. I asked if they call people they don't know and have a business discussion...they said "of course, all the time."  That IS the quintessential cold call!  
It can be surprising because when you think of a "sales call," it conjures up scenarios of rejection, push back, getting screened, refusals, trying to get the appointment, barriers, and many other negative experiences associated with having to break through many obstacles to get to a "decision maker." There is a system of screening to block sales calls, but the screening is not designed to block normal business calls.
Executives call executives and have substantial conversations all the time without any trepidation. The key is to distance your methods from the typical "tricks of the trade."
When I am training teams, I often ask them to think about what they do as part of their engagement, and ask... "Would you talk to YOU if you called? Would you listen to a voicemail from YOU? Would you respond to the questions YOU ask?"
The answers are surprising after some reflection. And having them listen to their voicemails often surfaces they sound more "sales" than they think.  This includes being impatient. People are very difficult to reach in general, and often the difficulty in reaching people is interpreted as no interest or they need to turn up the volume to press their prospects into action, which comes across as pressure and makes them withdraw even more.
An example of what not to do, is recently I received an email from a rep I have known for years from a company I have worked with for almost 15 years. I already said we will renew closer to the renewal date. But a couple of weeks before that time, I get this:
"If it isn’t your intent to renew please let me know and I will stand down and direct my attentions elsewhere."
Of course this annoyed me a great deal and I said I didn't appreciated that, especially after so many years and especially after I already said I would renew. They realized how bad it sounded and apologized, all is good now (for a sales relationship.) But many people wouldn't have pushed back, they would have went away. There are many options for this solution today and companies need to be awesome at every stage to retain their customers.
More and more we have been working with companies on the process breakdowns around relationship management because it is the reason so many deals and long-time customer relationships fall apart. It is poor communication, taking customers for granted, trying to "sell" when really you need to "talk." 
"Relationships with customers and prospects fall apart from poor communication, taking customers for granted, trying to "sell" when really you need to "talk." 
I'm interested to hear how you have addressed continuous improvement with your teams!