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Sales Prospecting Perspectives

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What Your Inside Sales Team Knows Might Hurt Them!

Sales Prospecting Perspectives is pleased to bring you yet another encore guest post from Chris Lang, AG's Sales Director.  Chris lives and breathes sales and sales prospecting, and we are very happy to have the opportunity to share this entry from him with our readers.  Thanks again Chris!  

I talk to a lot of people that manage their own inside qualification teams. They shoot me down on occasion. "I have a great team here and don't need help", "you couldn't possibly know enough about our solution to help", "I'm way too stubborn to listen to you and only took the call because my boss made me". The last one I may have taken a little creative liberty on to make me feel better when they shoot me down. Keeping those rejections in mind, I got to wondering if they had a valid point as to whether or not my team could build forecast for their solution. It raised two major questions. First, How much does an inside rep need to know to pass a qualified lead and second, is it possible that their inside reps know too much?

When I was an inside rep I had an unbelievable thirst to know the solution back to front, up to down, inside and out. I was always afraid of sounding stupid on the phone. I wanted to have an answer for any possible question that may come up. If I got a question I couldn't answer (or BS my way around) I would immediately go to my product specialists and sales team and fire questions at them. I may not know an answer once, but I would never allow myself to get stumped on the same question twice.

It was a tough sell if you didn't know your stuff. The solution was geared towards the North American auto makers and after market parts manufacturers to make them run "lean". The value in using it was that it would allow these manufacturers a way to create their products faster, using less money and with a much higher quality. (How are those books looking now NA auto market? I told you to listen to me.....I'm not bitter at all) I knew nothing about cars, less about how they are made and even less about how they could be manufactured in a "lean" environment. I was a kid from Boston with a wicked bad accent trying to talk shop with plant managers in Alabama and VP's in Detroit. I thought I was going to fail miserably, but in my first months on the job I found myself averaging 12 opportunities per month leading to a little under a million dollars a month in forecast. (Own horn = tooted) I thought I was doing pretty well and my superiors were pleased.

Then a funny thing happened. As time went on my lead numbers began to drop. I had more people saying "no" to me which lead me to study more about the solution to handle the objections and hopefully pass more leads. By the next quarter I knew everything there was to know about lean manufacturing, the comparison to TPS (Toyota Production Systems), supply replenishment, change over time, integration with major ERP systems, etc... but my lead number dropped again and this time drastically. I had a manager sit in on calls with me. I had a number of great conversations and I handled the objections well, but couldn't find any leads. I thought for sure my manager would tell me that it wasn't my fault, I was awesome, handsome, and that there is obviously something wrong with the marketplace. What she said next surprised me. "Dumb it down Lang, keep it simple and stop trying to sell the product. We pay sales executives a lot of money to close business. I want prospects to say ‘no' to them, not you".

I was a little (ok very) angry with that manager, but I thought about what she had said and looked at my script from month one. That first script was simple. It was right to the point and easy to deliver:

  1. This is what we do
  2. Here is how it can help you save money, make money, mitigate risk
  3. Do you want to hear more about it
  4. Can you answer a few questions
  5. I'll have my sales rep call you Tuesday at 4pm

I had to handle some of the initial objections, but other than that I passed the lead as soon as it hit my qualification requirements. I had become so concerned with being knowledgeable, that I was getting myself into rat holes that I couldn't get back out of. I dumbed the script down a bit and voila, the leads began flowing again.

A lot of companies train their reps for months on product. They teach the rep about this bell and this whistle and "oh look it lights up when you push that button!" The rep, if he or she has any ambition, will gladly soak it all up and try to use it to pass more leads. The problem is that they end up loaded with all of this information about product, but they forget how to get past the nasty administrative assistant that screens the VP's calls. They try to sell the admin on the solution based on features and functions and get killed. Try to talk to an admin about the benefits of using lean principles to shorten change over and eliminate down time, just keep a glass of whiskey close by, you may need it.

Train your reps on how to qualify, not sell. An inside rep should have the information needed to deliver a value forward pitch, handle top objections, pass the lead if it is qualified and know when it is time to transition an opportunity. Let the sales executives and product specialists handle the rest. Your inside rep will be happy with their output and the sales person, who is trained to turn a "no" into a "yes" will land more deals.


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