Investigating, Prospecting & Planning For the Call

There’s a quote originally attributed to Abraham Lincoln that goes something like “If I had an hour to chop down a tree, I’d spend 55 minutes sharpening my ax!”

I’ve always been intrigued by that idea; spend more time planning for a job than actually carrying it out. It gives you all the confidence you need to then attack the project, because you’ve laid the foundation before building the structure.

The same can be applied when making initial contact with the prospect. When you consider everything that’s involved (the type of business they run, the current supplier of their solutions, the style of buyer that will make the decisions), it’s obvious that the investigation work should take the necessary time and effort to lay that firm foundation.

There are basically four people who you need to be aware of within any company you’re going to approach; the gatekeeper, the decision-maker, the end user and the advocate. Many of these will roles will cross over, but you have to be aware of their roles and responsibilities within the business.

When you know who these persons are, you can develop a series of questions that will help you progress in the call.

Here are some of those questions that will sharpen your ax and get you closer to getting the business:

  • Who’s going to be my main competition in getting business with this client?
  • What does my competition do that will impress the client?
  • How does the client buy and use the product they are using currently that I am attempting to replace?
  • What’s the relationship like with their current supplier? What will I be up against?
  • What time frames might I be working in with this client before they make decisions?
  • What will they possibly know about me and my company?
  • Will they have come across my products and services before, or will this be totally new to them?
  • What will be most important to them? Price? Quality? Warranties? Long-term costs? Back up?
  • What buying structure does the company have? How do they go about making decisions?
  • What are the key buying motives that will drive the decision there? Is timing an issue?

The answers to these questions will help you formulate your plan of action and improve your chances of creating a need for your product in the prospect’s mind. If you can get clear on as many of these points as possible, you build confidence in your offering in their mind as well as your own. With that confidence comes a much more determined approach that you are the right supplier of solutions for their business.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

(Image by Stuart Miles at

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How To Build Your Sales Pipeline in 2013

On my first day at work, I was given a list of people to call and a phone. I was told that the more people I called, the more success I would have.

Well, although it was a partly successful , I soon realised this was not the most effective way of getting sales! Simply having a list developed by people who would never actually have to call the people on it wasn’t the best strategy ever devised.

Later in my career I learned that a salesperson has to realise he or she is running their own business, and that business (like every other) has to have a firm foundation laid in a plan that focuses on two main areas: The development of a solid sales pipeline built on a quality database, and a proactive prospecting plan.

Build a Quality Database

Take the time to research your prospect’s business online prior to reaching out. Leverage social-media information that you can find on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. While it is tempting to create as large a database as possible in the hope that high numbers will produce prospects, this is only partly true. Yes, you need lots of prospects, but if they are not a great fit, they will only dilute your focus on the best opportunities.

Linkedin will help you find the right people to contact. Remember, it’s a database for your prospects and doesn’t replace the skills you need to sell effectively. It will, though, give you a list of people who are connected to you in more ways than you will imagine.

Think about whether or not your prospect looks like your ideal customer. Do they look like the last several closed deals? Build a database in your CRM consisting of quality prospects that you know are a fit for your products or services, and be honest about deleting and adding to it every day. This is the pool from which you will find prospects to fuel your pipeline.

Develop a Sales Strategy

Now you are ready to create a well-planned, consistent, proactive, outbound plan to ensure success.

Think of your prospects as a network of professionals to whom you can offer help. Reach out to them with a phone call, a Linkedin message or an email, and if you don’t catch them directly, leave a voicemail followed up by an email introducing yourself and your company. Explain to them why you believe they should take a few minutes to speak with you. You might try a message like this:

  • “Hi Mr/Mrs. Prospect, my name is Jo Seller, calling from Acme Sales. We specialise in developing companies like yours to achieve their goals in new markets. After researching your company, I have some ideas that will help you increase your potential market size. I would be happy to share some of what we have been seeing in the market and determine if we might be able to help you. Do you have five to ten minutes to connect over the phone this week or next?”

Give them a compelling reason to speak with you, not an airy-fairy marketing pitch. These people get calls every day, and if you don’t sound like someone who can add value, they will not take the time to speak with you. You have to stand out, and if you don’t, then you’re just like all the rest.

Always fine-tune your message for each industry segment and job function. Don’t use one boilerplate message on every call. Customise, personalise, individualise, and optimise your calls. Engage interested prospects, and remove those who are not ready to buy, but always keep in mind that it is your job to add value on every call. Don’t be afraid to drop prospects if they don’t help you to achieve your goals

The Result?

Build your database, especially through social media, reach out to your prospect base consistently with a value-add message, set a goal to complete an good amount of quality conversations per day as appropriate for your business, and hit that conversation goal every day. Completing your plan will turn your target-rich pipeline into sales and commission.

Before I sign off, here are some more tips on becoming a great sales person:

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

(Image by Sheela Mohan at

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A Great Way To Keep Your Sales Pipeline Full

You had a great month! You closed a ton of sales, including that big one that you had been working on forever. However, shortly after the euphoria of “Sales Person of the Month” awards and a huge paycheck begin to wear off, a horrible reality sets in.

You look up and realise that your pipeline is completely dry. You have little or no fresh leads, no appointments, and no proposals in the mix, nothing. What happened? You did everything right? Right?

As you work, you must take measures to keep the pipeline traffic flowing and here is a simple way to help you do just that.

Replace Everything
Simply replace every sales item that you use. By sales items, I am referring to sales calls, contacts, appointments, proposal, sales, etc.

For instance, you pick up the telephone and call a cold lead from your database, and make contact with that lead. Now you have one additional “contact with a decision maker (DM)” in your database. However, you also have one LESS cold lead. Replace that lead as soon as possible.

When you set an appointment with a contact, you now have an additional “appointment set” in your funnel, but you also have one LESS raw contact. You need to replace that contact. When you meet with a DM, complete a sales interaction and make a proposal, you now have one LESS “appointment.” Set a new appointment to cover the one you just used. If you close the sale on an active proposal, then your number of “active proposals” just went down. Replace that proposal. Just replace everything.

The Averages
Keep your averages in mind as well. For instance, if you have a 25% closing average, in that it takes you four presentations to close one sale. Then when you close one sale, you are now SHORT four presentations. Replace those immediately.

Some things in professional selling are as simple as your mum always told you. Just put back everything you take!

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat MTD Sales Training

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Your Best Prospects Are Your Current Customers

How many times has your manager told you to go out and prospect? If they are worth their salt, I hope it’s hundreds of times.

And they may even have given you a lead sheet to help you on your way.

Do you know the best source of leads? The people who you will want to call, rather than shy away from?

Well, you may be interested to know you’ve got many HOT prospects who you may be already ignoring.

Of course, it’s your current customers.

Why are they the best people to call for more business?

Well, firstly, they already know you, and, if you’ve done your job right, they already like you.
You’ve already got rapport with them, and they trust you.
They respect you and like your products or services.
They’ve paid you in the past, and, most importantly, you don’t have to sell to them…they will buy.

So how can you get them to buy as much, if not more, than cold customers?

Here are some ideas:

* Sell them an upgrade on what they get at the moment
* Look for other users of your services in different departments
* Give them some help in selling the product to THEIR customers
* Get referrals from them
* Give referrals back to them
* Sell them something new or in a different way

Even if they don’t buy from you today, the fact your name is in front of them continues to builds goodwill and the long-term relationship with them.
And you are always seeking for new opportunities to sell, so why not look within the companies that already love you? You know it makes sense!

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

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