Break Open the Voicemail Clamshell

Posted May 11, 2010 by Joe Cooper
Categories: Uncategorized

Here is another interesting article I came across.

May 11, 2010

Being effective at prospecting requires that you maintain a steady pace with your sales calls. That’s how you ensure your sales funnel remains large enough so that you meet your sales targets year after year (and remember, that funnel has to be three times the value of your targets). In making those calls to new leads and prospects, sales people often complain to me that when they are intercepted by someone’s voicemail, it too often becomes a black hole. No matter what you put into it, your efforts never see the light of day ever again—prospects don’t return your calls and you spend more time than you think you can afford being on the phone leaving message after message.

It doesn’t have to be that way! The key to mastering voicemail is to recognize its true character…and to use that knowledge to your advantage so you can sell more to more customers in less time.

Facing up to the facts about voicemail

Let’s face it: nobody really likes voicemail. It’s slower to use than other communications tools and yet we’ve all learned to accept it as a necessary part of our busy lives. To understand how you can leverage this imperfect technology to your advantage, exercise those empathy muscles that all successful sales professionals possess.

If you think its tough being the calling party having to deal with that robotic message taker, put yourself in the shoes of the called party for a moment. While most will admit reluctantly that voicemail can help avoid calls they didn’t really want to answer, it’s still a major nuisance that taxes their time as much as it does those who are trying to leave the messages in the first place.

Recognize that not everyone leaves short, purposeful messages. In fact, too often it’s left to the called party to trudge through each message to determine which ones require some kind action on their part. That’s why, in the end, both the caller and the called party wind up feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. It has even prompted Michael Arrington of the widely read Silicon Valley-based blog TechCrunch to plead publically “think before you voicemail.”

Here’s another important fact to bear in mind. In sales, no matter how successful you become, you will always have to deal with voicemail. Finding ways to master it so that it helps you reach the goals that matter to you—that’s what will set you apart from the other eighty percent of sales people in any organization. Treat it well and it can be a highly effective selling tool that helps you make a positive first impression on prospects. Treat it poorly and it will be a clamshell that will snap shut on you.

Three-step strategy to break open the voicemail clamshell

Over the course of more than a decade as a sales person as well as a sales trainer and coach, I’ve noticed that the most successful sales professionals out there have some common habits in how they use this particular technology to their advantage. Based on that, I’ve developed a three-step voicemail strategy that you can apply to your own business and start getting the results you’re looking for today.

Step one: leave a short, purposeful message that requires no action by the person you are calling. Here’s an example of what that message might sound like. “Hello, Janet, it’s Colleen from Engage Selling. Sorry, I missed you. I’m calling because Chris at the Gizmo Corporation asked me to speak with you about the work we are doing to improve his sales results. I promise to call you back Wednesday at 2:00PM.”

Notice that the message does not include leaving your phone number. There’s a reason for that. Your first message must not require any kind of task or action on the part of the called party. You’re the one who makes the commitment to call back at a specific date and time. Also, if the call is a referral, be sure to include that person’s name in your message. Doing so helps to establish that you’re not some stranger at the other end of the line. You’re a known quantity who has something that is useful to offer to the person you are calling. This gives the called party an added incentive to talk to you.

Step two: leave a short, purposeful follow-up that fully meets the commitment you made earlier. True to your word, when 2:00PM rolls around on Wednesday, pick up the phone and make that follow-up call. If you’re intercepted by voicemail again, leave a friendly message that sounds something like this: “Hi Janet, its Colleen at Engage Selling calling, as I promised, to try and reach you today. Sorry, I missed you. Chris at the Gizmo Corporation thought you’d be interested to learn more about how we are able to reduce your sales cycle by three months I promise to try you again Thursday at 10:00AM.”

Step three: leave one final, purposeful message that takes ownership of why that person hasn’t called back yet. Again, meeting your commitment to call, you pick up the phone on Thursday at 10:00AM. If voicemail greets you one more time, leave one final message like this: “Hi Janet. It’s Colleen at Engage Selling. I promised I would reach you today at 10:00AM. Sorry I missed you. I noticed you’ve been hard to reach this week and I’m wondering if that’s because you’re busy with your sales team talking about training,  maybe you’ve already engaged another sales trainer or I’ve simply been picking at the wrong time to find you at your desk.”  Why don’t you give me a call at 111-1111 and if I don’t hear from you, I will try again on x Date

You must take 100% ownership for why that person might not be returning your calls. Not only does this ensure you maintain a friendly, professional tone, it also says to the called party that there are no hard feelings for the lack of callbacks (and there could be plenty of good reasons for this that have no bearing on you whatsoever). Also of note in that third and final message, be sure to include your phone number so that the called party can call you back. That way, you leave the door open rather than slamming it shut.

One more thing to keep in mind about this three-step strategy to prying open the voicemail clamshell. Its field tested—that means that when it’s implemented consistently, it yields some really impressive results. Clients who have incorporated it as part of their everyday sales calling strategy have reported back to me that their callback ratios have improved by as much as 80 percent.

So embrace voicemail. Treat it right. And be prepared for truly amazing results that influence your bottom line!

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions ( Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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10 Tips to get past the gatekeeper

Posted May 11, 2010 by Joe Cooper
Categories: Uncategorized

Top 10 Tips for Getting Past a Gatekeeper

May 11, 2010

  1. Give the gatekeeper the benefit of the doubt. Most salespeople assume that the assistant doesn’t have the time, judgment, or influence to help them, and therefore ask immediately for the decision-maker. Huge mistake! Treat every assistant with the courtesy and respect of a CEO. Doors will magically open for you.
  2. Treat the assistant like a human being. This is obvious, but most assistants don’t aspire to be assistants forever.  Google their name.  See if they blog or tweet.  What’s their web presence?  Find something that they are genuinely interested in and run with it.
  3. Use your arsenal. Make a joke.  Play good cop/bad cop.  Talk about the weather.  Mention a tidbit you saw in the news.  Ask about their company’s latest release.  Ask if they’re running the company yet.  Whatever your style, get the assistant on your side.  After all, they’re controlling your access to the company.  There’s no need to make them enemy #1.
  4. Write down the assistant’s name. Refer to them by name, every time.  Be friendly, polite, and direct.  Remember that you are not yet their highest priority, and being impatient, self-righteous, and vague is never going to get you there.
  5. Be honest and forthright about your solution. Value the assistant’s time – it’s just as important as the decision maker’s.  Explain to them up front what you are calling about and why you think it will add value.  Don’t hang up and try again if your target is unavailable – it’s disruptive and dismissive.  Worse, you’ve wasted an opportunity.
  6. Ask for help. The more you can engage the gatekeeper in the process, the better.  Ask the assistant about the best time to call, the easiest way to get in touch, direct numbers, cell phone numbers, etc.  Ask if it’s better to leave a voicemail, leave a message, or just to call back.  But before you do that…
  7. Assume the assistant is a decision maker. Believe it or not, the assistant’s job isn’t to keep you at bay.  Rather, their job is to discern potential value for their executive and/or their company.  By that logic, you should involve the assistant’s judgment as much as possible. Gatekeepers have an ear to the ground about every aspect of the business.  Ask them about their pain points.  Where would they see the most value added?  What’s most important this quarter?  Next quarter?  Next year?  What’s their growth strategy and what are their bottlenecks?  What’s their biggest frustration?  Assistants offer unique insights that can help you refine your pitch.
  8. Ask who else is involved. Gatekeepers have the ear of everyone that will be involved in your sale.  They know who you should be talking to.  Ask if you are targeting the right person.  Do they know anyone that might be of assistance?  Who should you talk to first and why?  Who is the ultimate decision maker?  Let the assistant paint the relationship structure for you and guide you up the ladder.
  9. Alleviate their burden. Assistants are responsible for sourcing and evaluating vendors.  If you’ve called them at the right time, you’ve eliminated their legwork.  Let them be responsible for walking your sale through the company.  Don’t blow it by presuming that they won’t be involved in the process.
  10. Let the gatekeeper advocate. If you’ve effectively engaged the gatekeeper, they will be your advocate throughout the entire sales cycle.   Let them make introductions on your behalf.  Ask about the best ways to engage various decision makers.  Ask their opinion on what’s most important to each decision maker.  Use them as a strategic sounding board as your deal goes through the pipe.  The more they are engaged in the value, the more value they add to you.

Nine Perfect Sales Conversation Helpers

Posted May 16, 2008 by Joe Cooper
Categories: 1

Here is an article that I came across on BNET sales machine blog

Nine Perfect Sales Conversation Helpers

May 15th, 2008 @ 4:33 am

To move a sale forward during the initial conversations, you must keep the prospect engaged. As I pointed out in a previous post (”Better Questions=Faster Selling“), the best way to do this is to ask an open-ended question that moves the conversation forward and also builds rapport. The easiest way to do this is to assume that the prospect has something uniquely interesting to say.

A couple of weeks ago, I was discussing this concept with Barry Rhein, who is probably the top sales trainer in the high tech world. He pointed out that there are nine archetypal ways to say “tell me more about that” using a question. Here they are:

1. Why is that?

2. What are your ideas (opinions, thoughts) on _________?

3. What did you mean when you said __________?

4. Why is that important (essential, relevant)?

5. How does that look (feel, seem) to you?

6. What are some examples of _________?

7. What’s your definition of __________?

8. Can you elaborate on _________?

9. What does _________ mean for you?

As with most conversational sales skills, delivery is all-important. There are three keys to using these questions effectively:

1. Be really curious. I mean, really. If these questions are going to build rapport, you’ve got to be able to communicate (non-verbally and verbally) that you are truly interested in the prospect. If you really do care, the prospect will sense this and (being human) feel flattered.

2. Do your research. I hate to keep harping on this point, but every sales conversation needs to come from a place of knowledge and authority. Without research, you’ll end up asking a question about something obvious and end up looking ill-informed or foolish.

3. Use a cue card. Unless you’re some kind of sales savant, you’re not going to be able to remember all nine questions. Post a copy of them by your telephone and in your day-minder. Flip to the list when you’re in the meeting. Use different questions at different times during the conversation.


Posted September 25, 2007 by Joe Cooper
Categories: Blogroll, Business, CRM, gatekeepers, Marketing, Promotions, Sales, Selling

Corrine Edwards commented on my last post on Avoiding the  Biggest Sales Mistakes.  Corrine use to be a sales trainer and is now a life coach.  On her blog she tells a great story about her son and how once he started loving his customers (in a good way) he started having success with his sales career.  Here is a link to her blog as well as the article.

My son Paul got a job with a large chain of guitar stores.  He had never worked in a retail organization before. The pay was based on a small salary plus commission.  They put him through an extensive sales training.  It was the usual stuff on how to approach a customer, present the product and mostly of course, close the deal and make the sale!  It was almost like a car dealer’s pitch, “Do you want the red car or the white?”He wasn’t doing well.  To make matters worse, they had an embarrassing gimmick.  A photographer was based in the parking lot and instructed to take a picture of every customer who exited without a package.These photos were posted on what they called “The Be Back” board in the employees lounge.  Many of the “I’ll be back” customers were his.Paul dropped by for coffee one morning.He said, “Mom, you used to be a sales trainer.  What am I doing wrong?  What’s the key?”I answered him, “The key is that you have to love those people you are selling.  Never count the commission in your mind.  Do what is best for them if they are just buying some strings or an expensive guitar.”I went on –“I believe that 99% of communication is mental.  People sense if you are coming to them with a loving attitude or as a desperate salesman looking to close them.”He said he’d try it.His sales started coming in.  Then they really escalated.  He became the top salesman in the store. And his salary reflected it.  (One of his buddies tipped him off that the management was so surprised that they started to watch him carefully to make sure he was not giving merchandise away)In six months, he was one of the top ten salesman in the entire chain out of 400 around the country.This company gives an extravagant party once a year to honor their top ten salespeople.  Limos, deluxe hotel, elegant dinner – the works.  Paul was of course included.  After the dinner, the president of the company approached him.He said, “Paul, how did you do this?  You came up out of nowhere.”Paul answered, “I don’t want to tell you.  You won’t believe me.”“Of course I’ll believe you. Tell me.”Paul gulped.  “I started loving the people who come in.”The big boss replied, “Okay Paul, now tell me how you really did it!”

Thank you Corrine for sharing your story with me.

Avoid the Biggest Sales Mistakes

Posted September 24, 2007 by Joe Cooper
Categories: Blogroll, Business, CRM, gatekeepers, Marketing, Promotions, Sales, Selling

It has been a while since I last entered a blog here.  I was looking for some fresh content and I came across another blogger by the name of Scott Bishop.  His blog is called SmartMobile Pro and here is his link  I really liked his article on Avoid the Biggest Sales Mistakes.  Here it is:


 No business can survive without people who sell the company’s product or service, and no salesperson survives long making the same mistakes over and over again.  Here are some of the most common-and most damaging mistakes a sales person can make:

  • Lack of preparation– What do you plan to tell your prospect about your product or service?  Develop a working outline that highlights all the benefits you offer.  Then do some research on the prospect:  Look at the annual reports, check trade journals, research on-line for helpful information.
  • Not listening – Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your job is to talk and the prospect’s role is to site silently and listen to your presentation.  Let the prospect tell you what their needs are, then look for ways that your product/service meet those requirements.
  • Not asking for the sale – Many salespeople forget this simple step.  Nothing is wrong with asking the prospect to take you up on your offer, as long as you’re not too pushy about it.
  • Moving too quickly– Instant rapport is difficult to achieve.  Instead of trying to turn the prospect into a “buddy” right away, concentrate on maintaining a professional attitude.  Let any relationship develop naturally. 
  • Not customizing the presentation to the prospect – A generic presentation isn’t as convincing as one personally tailored to your prospect.  You can streamline this process by creating a master presentation and then removing/adding content to fit your audience.
  • Poor follow-up – Too many salespeople close one deal and go on to the next.  Keep track of your sales, and call prospects back to make sure they’re satisfied-and to see if you can help them with other products or services from your company.

People Decide on Emotion and Justify with Reason

Posted July 20, 2007 by Joe Cooper
Categories: Business, CRM, gatekeepers, Marketing, Promotions, Sales, Selling

I came across another blog written by Shamus Brown.  The blog is called “The Shameless Sales Blog”  Here is the link to the great article on Emotions and reasons.,  Here is the what Shamus wrote:

I read an article yesterday that talked about the power of emotion in making decisions.

The article was a about a author-shrink who has gotten popular among Democratic political activists because he is telling Democratic candidates that they got to “get emotional” if they want to win back the Presidency.

Well duh, we sales people have always known this one, right?

Major decisions are made on an emotional, gut level.

People then justify their decisions with logic, or “reason” as it’s sometimes called.

This is why you can’t just sell features.

Features appeal to logic.

Selling features requires the prospect to think through what meaning and impact of those features are. And that is something few people will take the effort to do.

Selling benefits is only a little bit better. I say only a little bit because selling benefits is like selling with a shotgun – you hope one of little bit of shot you’re your target, but you aren’t really sure which if anyone will do the job.

You see, benefits only matter if they are ones that your prospect cares about.

That’s why the real thing that people decide on – whether it’s a purchase or a voting decision – are their individual pains and wants.

Will this help me get what I want?


Will this help me solve my problem?

That’s what people make decisions on.

The article I read pointed out how Democrats have been essentially “feature selling” their candidates to America in the past few elections.

The LA Times said about author-shrink Drew Weston…

He writes that when Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts let a Swift-boat veterans group drag his reputation through the mud (2004), when Al Gore put a nation to sleep with his talk of lockboxes and Medicare actuaries (2000), and when Michael S. Dukakis said he didn’t believe in the death penalty even in the event of his wife’s rape and murder (1988), Democrats were exhibiting their single worst tendency: intellectual dispassion.

The lesson then is don’t be dispassionate when you sell.

Get your prospects worked up about their pains and desires. Get mad, get sad, and get excited *with* them.

Then you can get them to purchase something from you.

Sell with Pride,

Shameless Shamus


Posted May 11, 2007 by Joe Cooper
Categories: Business, CRM, gatekeepers, Marketing, Promotions, Sales, Selling

A coworker of mine, Lee Hadsock sent me this interesting article from Miller Heiman sales tips which I thought was worthy of posting. 

Shot Down by a Gatekeeper?

Why didn’t we see this coming? When a sure-fire sale goes down the drain because a gatekeeper shoots you down, you want to understand why, and your manager wants to know what happened. So, why do gatekeepers say no?Who is the gatekeeper? Gatekeepers are people who can’t say yes, only no – and usually do. Typically, the gatekeeper role is played by the “Technical Buyer”.

  • In every sale, there are buying influences that must be considered, each with a different point of view and a different reason for considering your proposal. The Technical Buyer is one that can frequently derail your deal because the Technical Buyer’s role as gatekeeper is to screen out. 
  • Contrary to popular opinion, Technical Buyers don’t say no because they’re ornery. They throw blocks in your way because that’s their job. It’s their task to limit the field of sellers and to come up with a short list. They don’t decide who wins, but they do decide who can play. 

Technical Buyers make recommendations for how your solution meets specifications. Technical Buyers have various areas of expertise. Their expertise is their knowledge about the measurable and quantifiable aspects of your product, service or solution. Their expertise might be in the area of purchasing, finance, engineering, legal, planning, technology, government requirements, etc. They are concerned with issues such as

    • does it fit the budget, 
    • is it compatible with existing systems 
    • compliant with standards, like ISO 9001
    • does it meet government regulatory guidelines?

Technical buyers make judgments about the measurable and quantifiable aspects of your product or service based on how well it meets a variety of specifications. For example, even when there’s a match between your product or service and the need, a Technical Buyer, such as a purchasing agent, still can throw a wrench into the works by screening you out based on specifications – anything from price and delivery schedules to logistics and references. A personnel manager might block a sale because of a potentially harmful impact on morale. A government contracting officer could screen you out because of regulations. In each of these examples, a Technical Buyer can pull the plug on a sale that everyone else wants. Before they shoot you down
In identifying the gate-keeping Technical Buyers before they shoot you down, you have to know that their principal focus – the reason they’ll recommend you or show you the door – is the solution itself. Therefore, the better you know your solution and understand all the tests it might have to meet, the better your chances of “staying alive”.Tips for working with Technical Buyer gatekeepers
Technical buyers are looking for ways to provide value to their organizations – presenting solutions with heavy discounts, by forcing vendors to compete against each other over price. They’re putting a lot more pressure on salespeople to substantiate ROI claims. The following tips can help you make the cut and move the sale forward.

  • Identify success stories about companies who have successfully used your solutions, and be ready to share them.
  • Be familiar with specifics on how your solution has positively impacted customers.
  • Find an “internal coach” to help think through your position. 
  • Work with the Technical Buyer to define and document the business case supporting your solution. Help them achieve the recognition they’re after, while improving their internal sales effort. 
  • Be cautious of Requests for Proposals (RFPs). Get in early and help develop the business case that supports your solution.