“I’d call my prospect, but I don’t have their phone number.”

Let’s say that you agree with my last two articles (If They Aren’t Available, Should I Leave a Voicemail? & Have You Heard of the Telephone?), and that you’re willing to reach out via telephone, but for whatever reason you don’t know your prospect’s telephone number. Maybe you have their company’s main number, or perhaps you even have their email address, but you don’t have a direct number.

I’m a firm believer that calling the gatekeeper is often a recipe for disaster, so it’s best to get a direct number (even a mobile number) whenever possible. But that’s not always easy.

What to do?

1. LinkedIn. If you’re connected to your prospect, there’s a button just below their headline and photo on their LinkedIn Profile labeled “Contact Info.” Click it. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a phone number. That button will appear for 2nd and 3rd degree connections as well.

If you’re not so lucky, you can always call your mutual connection and ask them for your prospect’s number.

2. Facebook. This may be a shot in the dark 80% of the time or more, but when it works it’s amazing. And it only takes 30 seconds. Find your prospect on Facebook and click “About” under their picture. The next page has a section called “Contact Info.” Often, you’ll find a personal email address listed there. I’ve found a phone number about 20% of the time.

3. Jigsaw.com or Data.com. Perhaps the greatest contact info site ever, and your best chance for finding a phone number for your prospect. I’ve listed it third because unlike LinkedIn and Facebook, there’s a membership requirement and/or small charge for the service if you’re not subscribed in some way already. I’ve been using Jigsaw for over five years – it’s amazing. About two years ago Jigsaw sold to Salesforce.com, who renamed the service Data.com. So, if your company uses Salesforce, you may already have an integrated account. If not, go to Jigsaw.com and sign up. You can read more about how the service works in the week’s edition of fRickun Cool.

Jigsaw.com is a socially powered B2B database with over 30 million contacts (email, phone, and address). If you can’t find the specific prospect you’re hunting for, you will get darn close. Big hint: if your prospect isn’t in the database, you’ll likely find their boss. Call the boss – they’ll be happy to send you in the right direction. The higher up the totem pole you reach, the easier it is to make the sale.

4. Google. I’ve found phone numbers in the least expected places on the web. Once it was on a PTA website. Another time it was on a softball team list. Pretending your prospect’s name is “Bill Jones” try Googling phrases like:

Bill Jones phone
Bill Jones telephone
Bill Jones number
Bill Jones contact
Bill Jones office
Call Bill Jones

Note: If your prospect’s name actually is Bill Jones, it’s going to be a lot tougher to find his number on Google. You’ll probably want to add the city he works in, or the name of his company, or his job title. A more unique name (like mine, Noah Rickun) will be MUCH easier.

5. Call the wrong number on purpose. This one is not for everybody. It’s not necessarily professional and it’s a little slimy. But it works. Here’s how: you call anyone else in the company or department (but not the receptionist) on their phone line and pretend you dialed them by accident. You can try changing the last digit or two of the main number and you’ll probably get right through. Or just ask for anyone in sales – sales people love to talk and they love to help.

Let’s say your prospect is named George. You call Lisa instead (because you don’t know George’s number). When Lisa answers the phone, in your most confused or flustered voice possible, “Oh! Lisa…I’m so sorry. I thought I was calling George. I must have written his number down wrong.” Often, Lisa will offer up the correct number right away. Other times you’ll have to ask her for it. Either way, you win.

To be great at sales you have to be willing to dig a bit deeper than the next guy, you have to be willing to be a little more creative than the next guy, and you have to be willing to think and act like a detective sometimes. The strategies above will get you started, but they aren’t the only ways to get a prospect’s phone number. Your creativity, combined with your willingness to take risks, will determine your success.

PS I’ve probably missed a few other methods. I’d love to learn about yours. So would your fellow readers. Share your best tips in the comments below!

 

photo credit: beowulf sheehan

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Jigsaw

I’ve been using Jigsaw.com for years. I haven’t shared it with you until now because, well, honestly, it’s been my little secret. I have used Jigsaw’s socially powered B2B contact database to:

a. Identify prospects
b. Get direct phone numbers and email addresses
c. Find the REAL decision maker in large organizations
d. Connect with a human being rather than a toll-free call center
e. Find just about anyone who’s anybody in the business world

In Jigsaw’s own words (don’t be confused by the reference to Data.com…Jigsaw operates under both names since their sale to Salesforce.com): “Data.com Contacts is the world’s largest database of up-to-date, downloadable, and complete contact and company information. With a directory of more than 30 million business contacts and over 40,000 contacts added and edited daily by a dedicated user base of over one million, the quality, content, and scope of the contact directory is unrivaled. Every Data.com Contacts business contact is complete with a phone number, position, company, mailing address, and business email address. Data.com Contacts also offers free tools for researching companies as well as a user generated company research wiki pages.

Data.com Contacts’ unique Wikipedia-style crowd-sourcing model delivers the world’s most complete, accurate and up-to-date business contact and company data. By harnessing the power of many, Data.com Contacts is broader and deeper than any other data source. By setting up a free account, community members can access the database, and can accumulate points through helping to maintain data quality. These points may be redeemed for access to additional records.”

If you’re in sales, you need Jigsaw. Sign up now. Like right now.

If They Aren’t Available, Should I Leave a Voicemail?

I hear that leaving a voicemail for a prospect is a waste of time. I’m told that it’s much better to hang up and call back later in hopes of actually reaching your prospect. The argument is that nobody listens to voicemail anymore. Or, if they start listening, they delete it the moment they realize it’s a sales call. Or, if you leave a message, you’re probably annoying your prospect. Worst of all, they never call you back anyway.

Wake up, sales guy. Voicemail is not the problem. You are.

Or, I should say, your inability to use voicemail effectively is the problem.

Let’s look at why your voicemails don’t get returned:

  1. You’re not prepared to leave a voicemail, so you wing it each time.
  2. You don’t leave any detail about why you’re calling or what’s in it for them if they call you back.
  3. You sound like a cold-caller rather than someone with relevant and personal information and ideas.
  4. You’re not offering anything of value in your message.
  5. You don’t include a compelling call to action.

The reality is that you can learn to use voicemail to your advantage, and to leverage it as a valuable sales tool. The key is to have fun. Be creative. Take risks. Do something different. Every time you leave a voicemail, you have an opportunity and a choice: do you blend in with every other voicemail by being “professional” and “normal,” or do you leave a friendly, fun, and value-based message that helps you to stand out and to get your call returned?

Personally, I inject as much fun, humor, and value as I possibly can into every message I leave. My goal is two-fold: either I want my prospect to call me back, or I want my prospect to remember me and to be more likely to take my call the next time.

The trick is that you have to be prepared before you call. Before you dial the phone you have to have a plan for what you’re going to say if you reach your prospect, and for what you’re going to say if you reach their voicemail.

Here are a few reasons why you should leave a voicemail each time you call:

  1. Odds are they know you’re calling even if you don’t leave a voicemail. Some people review their caller ID frequently. And, if you happen to hang up after their voicemail greeting plays, their system tells them who called anyway. So you might as well leave a message.
  2. Your prospect likely receives far fewer voicemail messages than email messages. So if you’re thinking that you’ll hang up and send an email instead, think again. Pressing delete in Outlook is even easier and it’s very possible your email will get lost in the mix for a few days, wind up in junk mail for a week, or not read at all. I’m all for a two-pronged approach, though, in which you both leave a message and send an email. Stay tuned for more info on how to do that best.
  3. Sometimes your prospect wants to do business with you but just happens to be extremely busy. You may not be priority number one at the moment, but the more contact you make, the higher up the list you will become. The difference between an annoying salesperson and an appreciated salesperson is that the appreciated salesperson is following up because they know its best for the prospect. They call with new ideas or additional information each time. Don’t call “just to follow-up” or “just to check in.”

A few ideas to get you started:

  • Write out your message (a few bullet points are fine) in advance and practice it before you call.
  • Change the format of your message to sound more like a radio ad than a voicemail. In other words, don’t start with “Hi, this Jenny Salesgirl from XYZ Corp. I’m just calling to…” Instead start with an engaging question that captures their attention and draws them in. Announce yourself near the end of the message and save your phone number for the very last thing you say.
  • Keep it brief. Your message should be just long enough to work, and short enough that you don’t run the risk of being cut off by your prospect’s voicemail system. A minute at the longest is a good rule of thumb.
  • Try leaving a message letting them know you’ll be sending an email with more detail. This is a great way to improve your chances of getting through. Say, “Hi Bob, I have a few ideas that will help you to become more profitable, more efficient, and more successful and rather than leaving you a ten minute voicemail, I’ll send you an email shortly with one idea, my contact info, and an appointment request to discuss the rest. If you want to save yourself from having to read the email, you can simply call me back directly at 212-555-1212.”
  • Leave them one value message from a series of messages you will continue to deliver over time. For instance, the first time you get their voicemail you say, “Hi, it’s Bob from XYZ Company. There are 6 things you probably don’t know about the best way to use our product. Here’s the first:” – and then you share something cool and valuable. Do that a few days in a row and then the next time you call, say “I’ve left you the first four ways – if you want the rest, you’re going to have to call me back.” If your ideas are any good, they will.
  • Think about the voicemail you receive. Which ones do you delete? Which ones do you return? Why? Use the best messages you receive as a template for yours.
  • Inject some sense of urgency by including a deadline if you can. Maybe your company is offering a special promotion that requires the contract signed within the next few days. Maybe you’re calling to invite your prospect to an event that is taking place next week. Maybe you have two tickets to the ballgame tomorrow night. Maybe there are external influences that dictate when it’s best to buy from you (fiscal year, end of quarter, or even legal sunset dates). The urgency has to be on their part rather than on yours. I once had a salesperson call and tell me that his quarter was ending and he’d really appreciate if I could meet with him before that so he could try to squeeze in our sale. I could have cared less about his quarter ending and it became apparent to me that he cared more about his commission check than he cared about helping my business.
  • Practice by calling your colleagues and trying out new things. Ask them for honest feedback. If that makes you nervous, first practice by calling yourself. You can call your office phone from your cell phone, or your cell phone from your home phone. Think: would you call you back?

That’s just a start. You’ll find your own voice, style, and method over time. It takes practice. It takes doing it. If you put the hard work in, you’ll become a master in a few weeks or months and you’ll be in the small category of salespeople who get their calls returned.

So, should you leave a voicemail? Only if you want to make more sales! What are you waiting for? Reach out and sell something.

photo credit: flying colours ltd

A fRickun Cool Phone

It’s fitting that this week my fRickun Cool discovery is a pay phone, considering this week’s edition of The Ark of Sales includes the second article in a series focused on phone skills.

Here’s the background: my daughters, who are 6 and 8 years old, know pretty much every pop song in the top 100. A few weeks ago I heard them singing “Payphone” by Maroon 5 and I asked, “Do you girls know what a pay phone is?” They both tried their hardest to come up with a coherent answer but failed miserably. I realized that they had probably never even seen, let alone used, a pay phone. Talk about a harsh dose of reality – I felt like a dinosaur.

I then proceeded to explain, with a nostalgic slant, what a pay phone is and why on earth I would have ever had the need to use one. They listened with great interest and then said, “Can we try one?”

So for several weeks every time I was with my girls I was on the lookout for a pay phone. Guess what? We could not find a single one! That is, until we were walking around at an outdoor art festival that also happened to have a small antique section. As technological evolution would have it, the only pay phone my daughters have ever seen was being sold as a collectible for $275.

Interesting to think how far we’ve come in such a short time, no?

And, just in case you’re wondering, I did NOT buy the pay phone.

Have You Heard of the Telephone?

The greatest sales tool ever invented is not social media. It’s not LinkedIn. It’s not NLP. It’s not SPIN Selling or some other formal sales process. It’s not Salesforce.com or other CRM software. It’s not the fax machine. It’s not the iPhone. And, it’s certainly not email. Those all are great tools, but they are not the best. No, the greatest sales tool ever invented is the telephone.

If you’re like most people, you’ll do anything you can to avoid making an outbound call. It’s so much easier to send an email. There’s no risk.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked, “Have you talked to so-and-so?” only to hear, “I sent him an email last week.”

Really? That’s the best a salesperson can do? Send an email and wait? What if your email didn’t go through? What if your customer or prospect accidentally deleted it? What if they are on vacation but do not use an out-of-office auto responder? What if they are interested but forgot to reply? What if they have 1,500 emails in their inbox and haven’t seen yours yet?

“OK, you’re right, Noah. I’ll send them another email.”

“Hey, sales guy, have you heard of the telephone?”

Let’s look at why email is so attractive to weak salespeople:

  • It’s non-confrontational
  • You don’t have to think on your feet
  • It’s “non-intrusive”
  • You can send it any time
  • It doesn’t hurt as much when they say no
  • If they don’t reply, you can blame them

And now let’s look at why you may shy away from the phone:

  • Reluctance – You’ve been blown off before, turned down before, and hurt before. You don’t want that feeling again.
  • Fear – What if you blow it? What if you never get a second chance? What if you say something stupid?
  • Procrastination – You’ll get around to calling people when you’ve finished all your paperwork, responded to all your internal company email, and had lunch. Right after you find a few other things to fill your day with.
  • Inconvenience – You don’t want to “bother” them.
  • Timing – It’s the day before the holiday or the day after the holiday. It’s their busy season. It’s their slow season. It’s too early in the morning or too late at night. It’s Monday. It’s Tuesday. It’s Wednesday. It’s Thursday. It’s Friday. You get the point. If you think you’re bothering someone, you’re bothering them. If you have nothing of value to offer, you’re going to bother them no matter when you call.

If you send an email instead of calling you increase your chances of being turned down. The prospect has too many options and too many ways to say no to you. They can choose not respond at all. They can be downright rude to you without fear of having to hear your reaction.  So, the next time you have a lead – pick up the phone and call them.

When’s the best time to follow-up on a lead? Right now. One second after you get the lead. Don’t email them. Call them. Your prospect is the most excited they’ll ever be right now. With every second that passes your prospect loses interest. They have the opportunity to call your competitor. They have time to change their mind. They have time to Google you and your company and uncover negative feedback.

The longer you wait, the harder it gets. It’s harder to sell, it’s harder to overcome the fear of calling, it’s harder to reach them, and it’s harder to impress your prospect with your responsiveness.

To rise to level of master salesperson, you must master the usage of the telephone. Not how to dial it, but how to leverage it as your best method of increasing your sales.

I’ve got good news for you: over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing articles that will help you to overcome your reluctance, discover new ways to use the phone to land appointments and find new customers, differentiate yourself from the competition to become perceived as a value-provider rather than a cold-caller, and uncover a few tips and tricks along the way.

Check out a few titles from this series below:

Outbound Calling is Not Cold Calling

To Leave or Not to Leave a Voicemail

Answer the Phone!

What Your Voicemail Greeting Should Sound Like

How to Get Their Phone Number

How to Get Past the Receptionist

 

Be sure to stay tuned!

 

Yours in Sales,

Noah

photo credit: dave bradley photography

If Apple Made a fRickun Cool Car…

Just after dropping my kids off at school this morning I noticed this fRickun cool car in the parking lot. The owner decided to have a little fun and place a large unlock sticker on the door (a la Apple’s iPhone home screen).

It’s fun, it’s a bit ridiculous, but it’s also an indication of how impactful Apple’s designs have been.

Ask yourself this: what have you or your company created that somebody would be willing to put on their car?

Recombobulation is fRickun Cool

I find myself looking for humor in everything. And, while traveling, this is especially true. Thankfully, I don’t have to look far when flying to or from Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Field. The TSA in Milwaukee hung several signs just after the security check points that read “Recombobulation Area.” I smile every time I see it. Maybe that’s because TSA employees aren’t known for their humor. Maybe that’s because I’m often slap happy from exhaustion. Whatever the case, I like it.

And just in case you’re wondering what the heck recombobulation means, you can view the Urban Dictionary official definition.

 

The New Guy

There’s an interesting thing that happens when you hire someone new.

There’s a new guy in the office. And everyone knows him as the new guy.

The new guy asks questions. Hard-hitting questions. He doesn’t know any better.

The new guy pushes buttons. He doesn’t know any better.

The new guy challenges the status quo. He doesn’t know any better.

The new guy comes to the table with how things were at his last job and how he thinks things should be at your company. And, foolishly, you ignore the new guy. You dismiss his suggestions as naivety. Don’t worry, he’ll fall in line soon enough. He’ll quiet down when he realizes you won’t give him the freedom to try new things, to implement new ideas, or to present his plans at your meetings.

Maybe the problem is that you know too much. You know what works, and you know what doesn’t. Maybe your knowledge of what can go wrong is preventing you from getting things right.

Instead of hoping that the new guy gets used to the way things are, work hard to leverage his excitement and ideas – they’re often more creative than anything you’ve thought of.

 

 

photo credit:  getty images, uniquely india

Get fRickun Cool. Get Human.

Airlines. Banks. Phone companies. Hotels. Your doctor’s office, even.

The list of places that we all as customers call for help goes on and on and on….as does the time in which we sit on hold and jump through endless prompts.

What can we do about it? Get Human.

On the web (and your phone), Get Human is a great service that allows you to search for a company by name. The listing gives you the phone number most likely to reach  an actual person, exact steps to get through the phone maze, and a bunch of other time-saving features.

My favorite? I can give Get Human my phone number and it will have the company call me directly. No waiting. No cheesy background music.

So check it out. I think you’ll see for yourself that it’s pretty fRickun cool.

 

Are You an Order Taker or a Salesperson?

There’s an argument going on and it’s time for me to weigh in. For years I’ve heard managers complain that their salespeople are “lazy order takers.” I’ve witnessed teammates jab at one another by delivering the lowest of all low-blow insults: “You’re nothing but an order taker.”

So what’s so wrong with being an order taker?

Better yet, what’s the difference between an order taker and a salesperson?

The difference, in my not-so-humble opinion, lies not in the title but in the attitude, the approach, and the effort of the individual. It’s the difference between being proactive and reactive. Between giving a prospect a quote and giving a prospect a show. It’s a combination of attributes and qualities rather than a scientific definition. Let’s compare:

Order taker
• Reactive.
• Borders on passive.
• “Call me if you decide you want it.”
• Waits for the phone to ring.
• Does what the customer asks.
• Gives great information.
• Can make a decent living.

Salesperson
• Proactive.
• Follows up.
• Asks for the sale…every time.
• Makes the phone ring.
• Does what’s best for the customer.
• Gets great information.
• Can make a fortune.

Perhaps the best way to truly identify the difference between an order taker and a salesperson is to consider the difference between a bartender and a sommelier. A bartender (like an order taker) waits behind the bar for customers, and fulfills requests for drinks on demand. But a sommelier, that’s a different story. A sommelier is more consultative in nature, asking questions of their customers, and making a final recommendation based on their customers’ responses. A sommelier combines their product knowledge with their ability to uncover buying motives.

So which are you?

Bartender or sommelier?

Order taker or salesperson?

Which would you like to be?

Pick your title. Then go earn it in the eyes of your customers.

 

photo credit: Jacobs Photography

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