Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Brynne Tillman @BusDevU. Brynne is the President and COO of Business Development University and President of Linked User Group on LinkedIn. She has over 20 years in business development and sales training. She has created and taught lead generation and client acquisition programs for many companies, including Dun and Bradstreet, Progress Leasing, Kinko’s and Vantage Point Bank. Her primary focus is coaching sales teams, and working with non-selling professionals who are responsible for client acquisition. Her favorite thing is developing sales and networking plans, linkedin strategies, implementation and measuring the sales process. For more information http://www.businessdevelopmentuniversity.com/
SMALLBIZLADY: How can a sales person really become a successful in today’s environment?
BRYNNE TILLMAN: Obviously that is a broad question with many answers, but there are a few things that you can do that can make an immediate impact on your performance as a sales person. First, evaluate where your primary business has come from in the past, what activities have you done that has borne fruit and focus on doing more of that. Sounds simple, but so many sale professionals spend too much time doing activity that brings them little business. Next, be prepared, do your due diligence on everyone you meet with. Use LinkedIn to learn about their schools, previous jobs, shared groups or connections with you and so on. Building rapport is a big piece in getting the business. If the prospect’s choice on who wins the deal is apples to apples, it comes down to whom they like more. And the next and most important piece in my mind is – leverage your warm market. Cold calling just doesn’t work, no matter how many calls you make. One way is networking with Strategic Alliances, folks that work with your prospect in a non competitive nature. You can help them and they can help you with warm introductions into your respective warm markets. And the last piece I want to mention today is do a really good job at understanding your prospects wants and needs. Don’t present prematurely, get a clear picture on their reason they want to work with you and when you do offer a solution — be sure to align your message with what they told you.
SMALLBIZLADY: How do sales people overcome the “budget” objection?
BRYNNE TILLMAN: By far, in this environment, this is the objection our clients seem to be hearing the most. Believe it or not, overcoming this objection has to come pretty early in the game. When we are uncovering our client’s needs, it is critical that we understand the financial impact of the problem we are looking to solve. Even if there are no clear metrics around the problem, build it out with them. For example if you are a website designer, talk about how much more traffic the new site would bring to their business and ask them — “If we could triple the number of qualified visitors to your website, and collect their contact information for follow up, how many of those new contacts could turn into clients?” Then ask, “Approximately what is your average client worth?” Get a number on the breakeven of your solution and the amount they will bring in because they worked with you. Now, when presenting your price, present it in context with their gain. Present it as an investment not an expense. If done right, there is no reason for them not to move forward.
SMALLBIZLADY: We all know that referrals are the most powerful way to prospect, how can sales professionals get more referrals from their clients?
BRYNNE TILLMAN: Getting referrals from clients is the best ways to prospect. Typically asking your client, “Glad you like working with us, do you happen to know of anyone else that could benefit from our products and services?” and if we are lucky they introduce us to one or two — maybe. I suggest that before you go to that next client meeting or phone call, connect on LinkedIn and review their connections. Pick out a few that are good leads and when you meet you can now say, “Glad you like working with us, when we connected on LinkedIn I noticed you were connected to a few folks that I would love an introduction to, would you mind if I ran them by you?” Game changer right?
SMALLBIZLADY: So many of us attend chamber events, business card exchanges and referral groups, but how can we get more out of these networking events?
BRYNNE TILLMAN: The number one thing you have to day is change your mind set. Don’t go to these meetings looking for you next big client, everyone in the room is doing that. Attend these meetings with the intention of meeting new referral sources. Find good networkers that want to meet with you for coffee and review who you can introduce each other to. We call this fishing with net rather than fishing with a pole. When you fish with a pole, you have one pole, one string, one hook, one worm and if you are lucky you can catch one fish — but it takes a while for them to bite. When you fish with a net, meaning getting many introductions from one meeting, you are meeting your prospects in a relatively short period of time.
SMALLBIZLADY: I understand how important warm market prospecting is but how can a sales person penetrate a company that I have no connection to?
BRYNNE TILLMAN: This is a fun question; I always love the challenge of breaking into companies and getting to the right decision maker. Obviously, I will exhaust all warm market avenues including my LinkedIn connections but when I am sure that there is no other way in…I reach out to their best sales person. I introduce myself, explain how I work with referral sources to grow our respective businesses and invite them for coffee. I don’t necessarily ask for an introduction into their company right away, but once I have made some valuable connections for them — it typically happens naturally.
SMALLBIZLADY: So many sales people leave voice mails that never get returned, what makes an effective voice mails?
BRYNNE TILLMAN: Voice mails are a tough one. The delete button is often too easy. The best advice I have to give my clients is keep it very brief, do not give them a pitch, but if you can give them a small value proposition that means something to them — it can be effective. For example: “Hello Ms. Smith, my name is Brynne Tillman with Business Development University. We have been working with the sales teams in Software companies just like ABC Company to help them build their pipeline through LinkedIn. They are working smarter not harder and getting a lot more appointments. If you think your team could benefit from more appoints, please call me back at 215.499.0499.” Again, voice mail is tough, so take a multi-prong approach, and reach out to them in various ways — phone, email, LinkedIn etc. It will increase your chances of getting connected.
SMALLBIZLADY: Many times sales people are meeting at the wrong level, how they get to the decision maker?
BRYNNE TILLMAN: First thing is you have to know who the right decision maker is. If you are prospecting in a company, and there is no clear org chart, you have to ask — “Who other than yourself will be involved in making this decision.” Never ask are you the decision maker — it is just too insulting! Once you have uncovered who you need to be in front of, you conversation should revolve around that it might make sense for us all to meet — so if they have any questions I can answer them. If the push back is, well I can be the go between, you can respond, “I appreciate that, but typically we have seen that having someone like yourself have to retell everything we presented to you takes more time and energy in the long run, a ½ hour meeting with all of us really is more efficient.”
SMALLBIZLADY: It is important to know your competition, how can you find out who you are up against?
BRYNNE TILLMAN: Ask. This is so simple, yet many sales people are uncomfortable with this question. “May I ask, Mr. Prospect, who other than us are you talking to about this solution? And the cherry on the sundae — what criteria do you and your team plan on using when making your decision? This is critical information for you when you are proposing, so make sure you are gathering this information in your first prospect investigation meeting.
SMALLBIZLADY: I know BDU doesn’t teach cold calling, but if we had to, is there a good way?
BRYNNE TILLMAN: We are not advocates of called calling in general, but there is always something somewhere that comes up where there is no warm connection and it is a prime opportunity. It is important to warm it up just a tad. Do some research, find press releases, articles or even blogs or LinkedIn or twitter posts by that person and reach out to them based on what you read. People that blog want to be read, so if you have a positive comment about them, particularly if you share it with your network, you come in with a slight edge.
SMALLBIZLADY: Is there any specifics that can help leverage our strategic alliances?
BRYNNE TILLMAN: We talked about aligning ourselves with referral sources, but this question is really how do we leverage that relationship? This is when LinkedIn really comes into play. LinkedIn allows us to export our connections into an excel spreadsheet. I have my clients skinny the list down to name, title and company — share it in an email with their referral sources, and they do the same. Each do their due diligence, highlight who they would like to meet, and send the list back with a paragraph of how they would like to get introduced. If you would do this once a week or even once a month with a new source and get 10-20 warm introductions into their market, what would that do for your business?
SMALLBIZLADY: How can a sales person brand themselves as an expert in their field?
BRYNNE TILLMAN: There are quite a few ways to brand yourself as an expert in your field. The easiest way today is to blog and share it in social media. But, if you don’t have content or the time and energy to write, find other’s that are doing it for you. Share it on LinkedIn and Twitter and add your opinion. Two things to watch out for here, don’t promote competition, and only comment if it can help build your reputation. You can always just say, “I found this interesting blog and would love to get your feedback”. The key to branding is consistently getting in your message out there.
SMALLBIZLADY: How can busy sales people make the most of the limited prospecting hours they have?
BRYNNE TILLMAN: This is important for everyone, it seems that responsibilities grow and so do revenue expectations. Having a good activities plan in place is the keystone to successful time management. When we work with our clients, we make sure that their goals are in SMART format (Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Realistic and Timed) and that they are the most productive activities that they can be doing. Scheduling prospecting in your calendar is effective as well — I always say treat it as if you were sitting in front of a client, you wouldn’t answer emails or the phone — take it seriously for the time allotted and you will see the fruits of your labor. Next, keep a check on your time and territory management. If you have a client meeting 30 miles from your office, set up prospecting meetings around it.
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Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine recently named her one of the Top 20 women for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)