Posted Wednesday, February 2, 2005
I can remember the first time that I had to get new customers from a cold start. I was a sales rep at IBM. I had only been selling for a short while since graduating from college, and I didn't really know what to do.
When I started working for IBM, I was given extensive sales training. My sales training period took me 9 months, which you may be surprised to learn was considered fast back in 1987! IBM wanted its salespeople to be well prepared to sell any of its products to any business that wanted them.
So you'd think that I would've been well prepared for sales prospecting with all that sales training.
Our sales training did not give me any advice on sales prospecting or lead generation.
IBM's sales training was very good, but I started out being groomed for large account sales. After my first year of working on a large account, I was moved into IBM's new business group. Even though I was excited about this new challenge, it was not what I had been trained for.
Fortunately, I had a great sales manager who new how to create new business. One of the things he suggested was that I get my year off to a quick start by running a seminar for the medical groups and hospitals in my territory.
If he had not suggested this to me, I might have gotten intimidated or frustrated at the idea of making cold calls to generate all of my new business.
I ran the seminar, and it turned out to be a big success generating many sales leads. My year was off to a fast start, and I was feeling pretty confident about my sales abilities.
I tell you this story, because sales confidence is in many ways a fragile thing. Success builds on itself. Too many salespeople are thrown out there with a sink or swim attitude by their management. If I hadn't had the help of a great team of people around me at IBM, I probably would have been frustrated and hated cold calling and prospecting. And, I most likely wouldn't have had the stellar year that 1989 turned out to be for me.
Confidence is often created through positive experiences. However, what do you do when you have little experience in something like generating new business or making cold calls?
You find confidence, by looking for a way to do something that you personally believe you can actually do. The key is belief. You must believe that you personally can actually do it.
One of my clients who wants to grow his business recently felt unwilling or unable to make cold calls. Why? Because he hates being the target of cold calls himself. You know the kind. The telephone rings, and after a long pause, some telemarketer asks for you by mispronouncing your name. And then they try to keep you on the line forever at dinner time.
The thought of making such a call on a business was very demeaning to my client, as I am sure it is to many of us.
Bad selling by masses of poorly trained telemarketers makes it difficult for many of us to sell well. When we experience cold calls such as these we don't want to appear like this ourselves. It makes us ashamed to be in sales, even fearful of making cold calls.
As a result, many people hate the thought of making cold calls. It doesn't fit into their self-image as professionals. A loathing starts to creep in at the thought of making a cold call. It builds to the point where one can't, or won't, make the call.
So how do you get past the fear to a state of confidence without any experience?
Follow these steps:
1. Find a technique that you believe you can perform. One where you will feel respected, helpful, useful, valuable, whatever.
2. Find examples of people, preferably like yourself, who are using the new technique successfully. Recognize that you can succeed precisely because someone else is already doing this successfully.
In my client's case, I explained that true cold calls are the ones made to people who have never heard of you or been exposed to your message before in anyway. Not only are these kinds of calls difficult, they are not very productive precisely because they have never heard your message.
So I made the simple recommendation that he warm-up these calls by preparing a direct mail sales letter to send to his target market first. Now my client found something that he believed that he could do. The prospects would receive a letter in advance written by a professional copywriter. Not only will he get some hot leads calling him out of this effort, but he feels confident about making calls to the remaining warmed up prospects.
What's important here?
Make sure you plan for success. Choose a strategy that is proven to work by others. By doing this, you can have the confidence to persist in the strategy if at first it does not work as perfectly as you had hoped.
When you are stuck, get into action by finding a method that someone else is using successfully. Notice the challenges they overcame and how they did this.
Sometimes it's the small steps that matter most on the way to greater sales success.
© 1999-2004 Shamus Brown, All Rights Reserved.
About the Author
Shamus Brown is a Professional Sales Coach and former high-tech sales pro who began his career selling for IBM. Shamus has written more than 50 articles on selling and is the creator of the popular Persuasive Selling Skills CD Audio Program. You can read more of Shamus Brown's sales tips at (http://Sales-Tips.industrialEGO.com/) and you can learn more about his persuasive sales skills training at (http://www.Persuasive-Sales-Skills.com/)