Transcript: That Telephone Sales Episode

The Telephone Assassin, Anthony Stears, shares his proven approach to selling, and explains how Marketing Automation can support your Sales team by lining up warm leads.

Listen to the full conversation here.

For your particular approach to tele-sales to work, what are the essential things that A marketing team needs to be providing their sales team with, in terms of data?

Okay, so marketing and sales do need to work closer together. And in a lot of companies, they seem to be on separate teams or seem to be talking different languages. So there’s a few things that they can do to help each other. Obviously, your clients, they’re generating quite a lot of actual leads or inquiries or people that are reacting to some form of message, which is exactly the sort of warming up that the sales guys appreciate and can then crack on to rather than just having a database of cold leads to go and warm up themselves. But the things that they can kind of do to help each other out is from a sales perspective, you need to really see the client through to the very end and when I say the very end of the project, I don’t mean just them signing the paperwork and you delivering the goods or the service. It’s about gathering that testimonial and building a little case study weeks, months afterwards, that you can then pass back to marketing. Because marketing then have access to all of the databases and new prospects. And they can go and share those success stories with people who might be able to resonate with it. And that in itself will create a new batch of people that will engage with an email or a post on social media, or some form of marketing, which shows that they’re technically warm, and therefore worth giving to sales and for sales to try and follow up and push through our sales journey. So it is vital that sales and marketing really work together.

One of the lovely things that happened off the back of GatorCon; one of the people that was in the audience that I spoke to afterwards, she went back to her office and did start making some phone calls to the surprise of her sales team. But what she found out was actually what was in the CRM system wasn’t being updated properly. And that in itself creates a much bigger challenge to be able to forecast and analyse what’s in your pipeline, because if people aren’t updating the CRM system properly, you’re pretty much setting traps for the next time you speak to them. Because if you have, you try and have the same conversation with somebody twice, they might remember it and you’re gonna look stupid. And as I talked about on stage information is ammunition; the more notes you can have on your system and that you can use, the easier it is to keep the subject focused on them because they are their favourite topic. So yeah, that’s how I think sales and marketing should really sort of gel together. Because you both want the same outcomes.


Obviously, having the correct information is very, very important to have those effective sales conversations. Do you think that the information gathering stage of the cycle rests, especially with sales or marketing or is there an even split between both of them?

Oh, that’s a good question. I suppose that marketing tend to do more profiling and testing marketing messages out to see what kind of reactions you’re getting. Usually it’s the salespeople who try and go and engage and have a conversation with that prospect. And so technically, I would say that the onus is down to them to know enough about the person that they’re going to be approaching, to be able to spark up a conversation, to know some things about them and things that would be relevant to them, so that they are prepared for that call. And when I say prepared for that call that is in a couple of respects. One is that they have some success stories up their sleeve, that they’re ready to share with that person who’s in a similar industry or perhaps suffers with a similar type of issue that they might be suffering with. So you’re sharing that kind of success story.

But then from a preparation perspective, you should understand their industry and their market. If you if you’ve worked in that in that area before and potentially have a test drive up your sleeve, something that you could do that would show them the value you can give them, because that’s the way we create urgency by offering this test drive. So if you can think ahead to what easy steps might I be able to offer them to move forwards and experience what it’s like to work with us? It’s great to have that. But if you don’t do your research first, it’s really hard to know what might float their boat, what success stories might resonate with them. So, I suppose the real onus comes down to the salespeople because information is ammunition. And if you want to close more sales, you need as much ammo as you can get. However, any research that can be done, I think, by marketing, as long as it’s appreciated by sales, I’m sure will prove very useful.


Is it maybe reasonable to say that industry or company level research sits with marketing, but then research about the individual that you’re trying to sell to is more sales this domain? Is that a fair way of splitting the workload?

Yeah, yes. But yeah, I think that’s right. Marketing can potentially have the time to look at what other articles are out there on a particular topic or what articles have been put out there by a particular company. That is great insight to give to the salesperson. But the salesperson is going to be dealing with a human being. And the more they know about that human being, the easier it will be to engage them into a conversation to be able to understand what their values might be like to say what would be likely an easy next step for them to take subject to the conversation going, how are you hope it’s going to go?


In regards to a very personal approach to sales, how can marketing automation and that mass marketing process support the way that you teach people to sell?

Okay? So, the reason people go out and do cold calling is because they don’t have enough leads. Okay, so if you if your marketing is working well and you’re generating leads or inbound inquiries, that gives the salespeople something specific to work on. Technically, if that person’s responded to your marketing, they’ve technically walked into your shop. It’s down to you to serve them and to help them to buy. So, if marketing can look at or talk to sales about their dream customers and what they might look like. It’s much easier than for marketing to go off and do a mass campaign to lots of people in that space. Because if you send 1000 emails and you can get 500 people to open it, then Fingers crossed, you’ll get 10%, 50 people following a link and hitting an article on your website. And if you can get 50 people to your website, hopefully, if it’s doing its job properly, you get at least a couple of people that will either pick up the phone, or perhaps fill out a contact form. And marketing can really generate that top end of the funnel to try and do some of the legwork, identify some quick wins or some low hanging fruit, people who timing-wise they’ve got the message at just the right time. It is a topic that they want to talk about and therefore are ready to engage. It’s much easier for them to do the legwork digitally, rather than obviously cold calling individuals randomly and just hoping that you eventually get lucky


In your GatorCon presentation, one of the techniques you talked about was leading with one Big objection to make it safe ground to talk about do you think that’s a sensible step for marketing comms to take to lead with an objection? Or does it only work in a face-to face or telephone concept?

Let me work with marketing comms. And basically, it’s just addressing the elephant in the room. When you’re prospecting, I think the example I gave on stage is when you’re when you’re prospecting, you’re trying to knock on a door that hasn’t been opened before and you’re trying to possibly replace a incumbent supplier. The most common objection that you typically get is, “that’s great, but we’re not looking for that right now.” And sales is a numbers game, but it’s about good timing. Really, you catch somebody at the right time or when they’re thinking about a particular thing you can get them to take action. Example I usually give is, I’ve worked for quite a few insurance companies and really what they want to know in the early stages is when’s your renewal date? Because if you’ve just renewed your insurance in the last couple of months, they know you don’t want to talk about it for at least another nine months, because it’s not that exciting, okay? And that’s just something that if you can put that on the table early and say to somebody, “Hey there, this is what we do. But I’m assuming you’re not looking for that right now.” It makes it safe for them to talk to you about the fact that they’re not looking for training or whatever the service might be right now, but allows the conversation to continue to move forwards. And it typically opens them up to saying, “Oh, actually, no, we’re not looking at training right now, however,” and then they go on to tell me what training they have got already booked in or when their budgets might be available for them to invest in training, which starts to give me a better idea of what their desired timeframe would be, which then allows me to get it back into my CRM system and nurture that along until they are ready.

I talk about sales being a numbers game, but it’s less about trying to sell or get over objections. It’s more about capitalising on the conversations people are ready to have and helping them to buy. And best way to do that is to make sure that now is a good time, that they are thinking about it because then they’ll fully engage in the conversation. If, in your industry, I don’t know, budget is a particular issue that you tend to come across quite a lot. If you have a payment plan or something along those lines, or you do a subscription type service. That’s something that you might sort of say to people “look, I understand you probably don’t have a budget for this. However, a lot of our clients would choose to go down this payment plan option, which allows them to spread the cost benefits of that to you is that you can start reaping the rewards and the benefit of having our product and our service straight away. And as that starts to help you earn more money or waste less or whatever your return on investment helps cover the cost of it”, for example. So that’s an example of how you might then approach if budget was an issue, for example.


Do you think it’s easy enough to group different conversations into categories that sales can be that back to marketing in a broad or structured way? Or does it have to be very much one-to-one feedback on each conversation that sales are having?

One thing I didn’t really get to kind of go into detail on at GatorCon was how you measure the effectiveness of these conversations that the salespeople are having with prospects and with clients. And the best way to do that and to track it into feedback to marketing or for marketing to be able to see how well it’s going is to map out a customer journey. Or what I would call your sales cycle points, which pretty much maps out each step within the cycle that you’re going to need to take somebody through in order for them to decide that they want to do business with you. So, example that I would usually give is for your first point is for getting the name of the person you think you need to speak to. Your second point might be to look them up on LinkedIn and do a bit of research and find a case study that they might be able to relate to. Your third point, is actually scored when you pick up the phone and talk to them, you actually have to get them on the phone to score your third point. Once you’ve got them on the phone, you need to get permission to speak, which should just be one of your company standards. But you might want to throw that in there as a point. But let’s just say you’ve got them on the phone and you’ve got permission to speak. That’s your fourth point. Your fifth point is purely getting them to agree for you to drop your pizza menu off. And that was the analogy that I gave on stage is prospecting should feel like you’re dropping off a pizza menu and not trying to take an order. I think we’ve all had takeaway menus put through our letterbox on a on a weekly basis. But none of us seem to get them come and knock on our door and just ask to take an order because that would just be rude. So, yeah, from a points perspective, you need to take people through a journey where they have agreed for you to drop off your pizza menu and once the pizza menu has been dropped off, you then need to confirm where you’re going to send it to, so it might be gathering their email address. And then finally, at the end of the call, you need to take final responsibility for the next time you’re going to speak to this person. So you know, up to a point sort of six or seven really, and you’ve just got to the end of a call where somebody has gone “yes, we might be interested in the future, send me a case study.”

So, technically, if you can make sure that you map out every step in your sales cycle, it becomes really quick and easy to identify where the bottlenecks are within the pipeline, or who is suffering with what type of pipeline constipation. Is John in sales getting stuck when it comes to the follow up and is Andy in sales actually getting stuck because he’s not dropping off enough pizza menus and he’s not making enough calls? It becomes quite easy to spot those bottlenecks, which means it’s easy for marketing to react, either to help sales to overcome that step and move somebody through the journey or to bring in somebody like me who can work very specifically on a couple of phrases or things that they could do to either prevent that objection from coming up, or how to get round the objection next time it comes up. So, it should be getting measured. But the best way to do this is to map out the sales cycle. But from a communication perspective, every step of communication that needs to happen between people for things to move forwards.


It sounds like the biggest pitfall there is not giving salespeople enough of a structure before they dive into making calls is, is that fair to say? Or is there another big pitfall that we need to think about?

It’s just having a structure and a plan for the conversation and thinking through what questions are they going to ask what concerns are they going to have? What can I do to prove to them that I know what I’m doing and what can I offer them that might entice them to take the next step and look a bit closer. Too many people go into calls I think with a with a script and which is their icebreaker or their elevator pitch and usually they just read it and it doesn’t come across very well. And the reason i’m a i’m not a fan of scripts is the person that you’re phoning hasn’t been sent their copy. So they usually say something that isn’t on the script. And if you try and return back to your script, you end up distorting the flow of the conversation, which tells them something’s wrong and that you’re trying to do something, and therefore, you’re probably in sales.


So probably a bank of questions is a sensible sales resource to have but not a set absolute script, then. 

Absolutely, yeah. There should be some certain questions that you want to ask people. But it will depend on your research as to what it is you’re going to ask. But usually, if we provide most of us provide a product or a service that fixes a problem, or is a solution to something and we usually know what industries suffer with a particular problem that requires our solution. So, you can outright ask, “Is this something that you’ve suffered with?” However, if you’ve got a case study, you say, “Hey there, don’t know if you suffer with this particular problem, but one of your competitors we’ve been working with recently was. and this is what they said about us and how we fixed it if it is something you want to have any issues with or want to look at closer, we’d love to offer you a little test drive or see what we could do next.”


Obviously sales training has to be very much an ongoing process it’s not a listen to one seminar and then you’re set for life and then have you got your you’ve got your own your own book of your own resources out there any other particular resources that you’d recommend sales teams or sales leaders should dive into?

I would say to people “be careful of sales training.” Okay, there’s a lot of old-fashioned sales tactics and more, excuse me, but “American-style” sales that we just aren’t really that comfortable with and just don’t seem to work anymore. If you’re going to look at honing your sales skills, I would look more at things around communication, around emotional Intelligence, around influence and persuasion because that’s how you get people to do stuff as a result of your conversations. Whereas a lot of sales training is tactics designed to make people squirm. So you’ll hear about the you can do alternative closes, or they’ll talk about how there’s techniques that you can use where “he who speaks next loses”, okay? If you’re happy to make somebody so uncomfortable and then sit there for five seconds of silence until they crack because you’ve talked them into it, you’ll probably find that they’ll end up with that buyer’s remorse and won’t do the paperwork or there’ll be a problem later on down the line and you’ll end up spending a lot more time trying to save deals that aren’t really strong and going to go through anyway. Rather than focusing on the ones that are.

People to look out for as well. There’s a few that I keep an eye on that I’ve worked with in the past. So particular favourite one of mine at the moment is a chap called Phil Hesketh, brilliant, talks about influence, persuasion and he’s got 50-something questions he tells people to ask. Really engaging, but got some really useful stuff around how to actually pull somebody into that conversation. Another chap, Phil Jones, Phil M. Jones. He’s got a few books out one I think was called magic words. But again, he uses really subtle word choices that just make people feel comfortable and make you feel genuine and honest and that you care about somebody and that you’re genuinely trying to help them as opposed to convince them.

So there’s  lots of resources out there I go looking all the time. So I think what you were saying about training being that ongoing process, there’s that old adage about the woodsman and having to sharpen his axe. It doesn’t matter how strong he is, if he doesn’t keep sharpening his axe, his work becomes harder and harder and he can cut down less and less trees. And I think that’s just the same thing with sales. What you tend to find in sales is some people think it’s just an art and you’ve either got it or you haven’t, but quite often in sales, you’re engaging with people there is not really necessarily a right and a wrong way of doing it. It’s whether you can take people along the journey or not. That is, is the kind of real case for it. But yeah, like I say, training is something that you should constantly be reminding yourself of, because I think in everyday life, we all cut corners when we can. And I think in sales, we do the same thing. And if we get away with cutting a few corners, then we continue to do it. A lot of people at the end of my sessions go, “Oh, my God, I used to do that”, or, “Oh, wow, I didn’t realise that that thing you talked about had that much of an impact.” And then they start to the penny starts to drop that it’s just these subtle little tweaks. It’s that what will make the boat go faster, just little things that get your conversion rate up, that gets the conversion speed down, gets you selling more to more people and that in sales and marketing is kind of what it’s all about.


I think that’s a really great point to end the podcast on that it is about understanding and journeys rather than that sale. gift. So, marketers don’t need to be afraid of sales or vice versa. We can all understand what each other is doing, if we will do it well. And I will leave it there Anthony thank you very much for being on the podcast today.

Richard, thank you ever so much for inviting me it’s been absolute pleasure.

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