The Secret Method of Cold Calling

Even though I am a seasoned sales rep, I don’t care for cold calling.  It can be a disruption to the buyer, it can annoy those you are wishing to sell, and it does not often give sales people the information they need to understand the needs of their potential buyer.

Actually, what we need is a filtering method for our cold calls.  Knowing what people are interested in talking with you or not can be screened through this method.

Sales Gravy recently posted an article called, Cold Calling According to Mom by Laura Posey.

Here is “Mom’s” cold calling method:

She never tries to convince anyone to set an appointment when she calls…

You see, she views calling as a survey. The purpose of the call is to sort people into three lists:

  • People who are curious about what you are selling
  • People are not ready to talk about what you are selling
  • People who are too dumb to be curious about what you are selling

… Instead of wasting your time trying to hammer the wrong people into meeting with you, why not just call enough people and find the ones who are interested now?

Recognize that the ones who say “no” are really just saying “not now”. You can always call them back at a later time when they might be in the “yes” pile.

If you’re skeptical about how this would work, imagine this scenario.

I give you a list of 100 people to call. Your job is ask them 1) if they like chocolate ice cream and 2) if they would like a free sample if they do.

That’s it. I’ll pay you $100 to do the survey and give me the tally sheet of results….

A survey is so simple to do because you don’t care about the outcome. You aren’t trying to convince people to like chocolate ice cream; you are just seeing who does and who doesn’t. And you only offer the free sample to people you know want it.

That is all that cold calling is – a survey. Your job is to dial enough numbers to fill in your ‘’yes” column with quality appointments.

That’s it.

“Mom’ goes on to explain how to set up a sheet with four columns, based on the response you receive — enabling you, as the sales person, to follow-up appropriately at a later time.

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Are Customer Testimonials Important?

Customer testimonials listed on your website and shared on social media validate your product and services!!

According to the Arts Business Institute

Testimonials are a form of “social proof” that is an important source of referrals. Today, people are far more interested in what others have to say about a business or a product than they are in advertising. And they are far more likely to believe testimonials.

A testimonial is a statement about the value of your product, the experience of the customer, and their satisfaction level. It recommends your handmade work and endorses you. And, because testimonials are freely given, it makes them even more powerful.

If you have a website, including customer testimonials aid in the success of your business.Are Customer Testimonials Important?

Think of it this way:  Julie consumer is looking for Widget A and decides to search the web.  Website X features the product she is looking for, but she is unable to tell is it is durable enough for her needs.  Julie scrolls down the page, looking for more information, but there is none.

Now, Website Z,who offers a similar product, lists some stories from satisfied customers.  Which website do you think she will buy from?  Of course, the one with the consumer feedback.

Amazon features and encourages testimonies from their customers.  Every time I buy a book, a week or so later, I receive an email asking me what I thought of the book and would I post my comments.  Since Amazon is one of the leading sellers on the internet, whatever works for them would be a technique I would use on my website.

But how about face-to-face sales?

Fair booth owners frequently share with potential customers what other consumers have said about their products. This is the perfect opportunity to share ideas with potential consumers while they are deciding on a purchase.  For example:  “Most people who buy Widget A really like how Widget B works in combination with it.”  Just a sales technique using a third person testimonial.

When I was a traveling road rep, store buyers frequently asked me about this product vs. that product.  Which is the best-selling huckleberry jam, for example, was a common question.  Of course, this is just another form of a testimonial as I shared what I had learned from previous store buyers!

Can you see the value of testimonials to add to your website and share with your potential buyers?

If you want to find out how to solicited testimonials, check out the Arts Business Institute’s article: The Power of Customer Testimonials.

 

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What Problem Does Your Product Solve?

You may have the most wonderful line of products everyone will love (at least that is what you think), but what problem does your product solve?

When I was first starting my sales rep business, I was selling ads in a printed Trivia/Tidbits newsletter on the upcoming Lewis & Clark (L&C) Commemoration.  Since we lived right on the trail (just off Hwy 12 which, loosely, is the original trail), it was pretty easy to sell ads to the business along the rWhat Problem Does Your Product Solve?oute.

When I started getting questions about where to find Lewis & Clark Souvenirs, we saw an opportunity to expand in a niche market where they was a problem to solve:  Where can I find L&C souvenirs to sell in my store?

Lewis & Clark Trivia & Gifts (my business name back then) became one of the leading sales rep business specializing in this niche.  Although I visited stores from Montana to the ocean, I received calls from as far away as St. Louis from buyers looking for my products and from producers wanting to sell their specialized L&C products across different sections of the trail.

Near the end of the commemoration, I knew I would need to change my focus and began asking and listening to my buyers  for an unanswered problem or need in their stores.  Not wanting to travel so many miles anymore, I began to see that selling Idaho products to Idaho stores was a real niche that did not have a good answer in the marketplace.

So, I changed from the Lewis & Clark sales rep, to the Idaho or huckleberry (Idaho’s state fruit) sales rep — all because I searched out a problem that needed a answer.

I realize that not every producer can make these changes as easily as I did.  It does take time to ask buyer questions (what are you customers looking for that you don’t currently have stocked in your store?) and find a product to fill it.  But at the same time, every crafter, producer, artisan or small manufacture can see what is in the marketplace, watch the trends and listen to what their retail and wholesale customers are telling them.

As a product based business, Rob Fortier suggests the following steps:

… make a list of the problems your customers might have. And as part of taking care of them, I encouraged you to think of resources you could offer.

Now I want you to turn your attention to what you and your business could specifically offer and be someone’s solution. I’m not asking you to suddenly create products or services that are outside the realm of what you do. But I am asking you to look at what you offer and see how you could reframe it so it might make more sense to someone who is unfamiliar with what you do.

What can you do to solve a problem in the marketplace with your products?

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Are You Too Apprehensive to Wholesale?

Are you too afraid or apprehensive to wholesale your products to retail buyers?

Time and time again, I hear horror stories of producers and crafters who are too fearful to approach buyers with their products.

On some level, I understand this fear — and in all reality, most sales reps would be out of business if artisans did not feel this way.

Yet on the other hand, in order to hire a sales, you need to show some sales stats for your products — in other words, you need to have some wholesale accounts already in place!

I love how Indie Retail Academy shares their solution to this problem in their recent article and e-letter.  Here are a couple of their points:

Is this holding you back? …..

“I have no idea what to say to a shopkeeper about my work.”

The good news: Yeah you do. It may not feel like it, and you may feel apprehensive about doing so, but you already know exactly the right words to say.

The bad news: If you let it, this hang-up can keep you stuck for a very long time.

The solution: Forget about wholesale for a while and just get comfortable writing and talking about what you do. Knowing what to say to any kind of buyer comes down to two things: confidence in your work and seeing things from their point of view.

“I’m an artist, not a salesperson. I hate having to do this and I totally suck at it.”

The good news: No-one’s asking you to be a salesperson. You’re an artist. Your potential stockists and customers very much want you to stay that way.

The bad news: You can’t stay in your comfort zone AND build a thriving wholesale business. Sooner or later, you’ll have to tackle things you’re currently uncomfortable with.

The solution: Expand your idea of what an artist does – and accept that not everything you’re called upon to do will come easily. If you really want to make a go of wholesale, you have to go beyond what you’ve done before.

But you know what else? You can do it your way. If you’re an artist, sell like an artist. Learn how. Invent a way that works for you.

And for Pete’s sake, don’t let out-dated ideas about used-car salesmen …. stop you.

Believe it or not, I was afraid and apprehensive the first time I approached a store buyer.  But, you know what? … the buyer did not know I was a newbie!  They were interested in what I had to offer (ironically, I had only ONE line of chocolate bars when I first started my sales rep business!).

Once again, my favorite advice is what got me through those early months of sales repping:

Don’t be apprehensive about talking to store buyers:  they are just friends you haven’t met yet!

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3 Tips to Prepare for a Sales Calls

Most creative producers are challenged and even intimated with selling their products.  I understand the need to spend time working on your craft, but in order to succeed in your business, you need to learn to sell your products.

Sales is a learned skill — no matter how timid or how much you hate selling 3 Tips to Prepare for Sales Calls— you can learn the techniques successful sales people use.

Even with all my years of experience in sales, I still read books and articles from the experts on selling effectively.

One of my favorite blogs on the subject is Sales Gravy.  Following is an excerpt from an article written by Anthony Iannarino, President and Chief Sales officer for SOLUTIONS Staffing:

3 Keys For Designing an Effective Sales Call Plan

Value First – If you want to have a successful sales call, there isn’t a much better place to start than asking yourself what your prospective client needs from you at this stage of their process? What are they going to find most valuable? Listen, you are not successful unless your dream client believes that spending time with you was of greater benefit to them than spending that time with someone else, or working on something else.

Create a Preference – No one… wants to look at this issue, because it is a variable that isn’t easy to control or influence.You are supposed to  be creating a preference for you, your company, and your solution. You are supposed to sell in such a way that people would prefer to work with you over anyone else. You need to be known, liked, and trusted.  … Remember, you are vying for a position on your dream client’s team, and if they don’t choose you, there is a reason. Serving them where they are will give you a good start.

Control the Process – If you want to have an effective sales call, it has to do the work of creating enough value that you earn an absolute right to the next commitment. This means you need to know what commitment you need, and you have to help your dream client understand (the value your product is to their store) ……  trading the value necessary to move forward improves the odds of gaining the next commitment, and it ensures success.

If you are interested in more sales information, you can read the full article or access the many excellent articles posted on the Sales Gravy website.

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