Selling in the next Millennium: As we approach the threshold of the nextmillennium, the changes in American business already in place foretell ofthe changes to come.
Dec 1, 1997 12:00 PM, Ted Tate
Thanks to the invention of the computer chips that power so much in oursociety, new ideas and inventions are coming on line at a dizzying rate. Ibelieve that selling products and services will change because of theseinnovations in communications. Yet, I must disappoint people who naivelybelieve that in order to sell successfully, all we'll need to do is push abutton or add a computer program. People who think like that are notgrounded in reality.
There are some people who fear the rejection that goes with selling. Let'sface it; if you are a successful salesperson who earns a decent living foryour family, then the majority of the people to whom you try to sell willbe rejecting you. Selling is now and always will be a numbers game.
Unfortunately, the people who fear rejection in selling always feel asthough there must be a better way. In order to avoid the discomfort ofcalling on new prospects, they will try all sorts of schemes to obtainbusiness, hoping vast numbers of attempts will save them from actuallymaking sales calls.
A good business friend of mine told of walking in his office at eighto'clock one evening, having left papers needed for an important earlymorning meeting behind. One of his newer salespeople was still in theoffice, sending faxes. My friend inquired as to why he was working so late.
The salesperson explained that he was sending five hundred faxes, and ittook a long time to punch in the numbers. The fax itself was a poorly typedletter addressed to "Mr. Businessman" that explained what they sell andasked for a phone call.
The salesperson said that he'd been doing this for two weeks. "What hasbeen your response?" my friend asked. "Well, not much," answered thesalesperson, "but you know, sometimes it takes time for this to sink inbefore people act. I'm sure it will work, eventually."
When my friend asked about the results of direct sales calls thesalesperson was supposed to be making each business day, the salespersonexplained he hadn't made too many because it usually took him all day toget a phone list together.
The guy was working a twelve-hour day on a scheme to save from working anormal eight hour day making direct sales calls. Apparently, for him, thediscomfort of rejection was so high that he was willing to work longerhours to avoid it.
No matter what the technology becomes in the future, I believe we'll needto continue to ask people to buy and continue to face the possibility ofrejection. That's really what selling is, and it isn't going to change formost of us. What will change is the ways in which we accomplish our dailyjobs.
Let's discuss some of these, and along the way I'm going to also share withyou some effective tips and strategies to be more effective, right now andin the future.
Fax machinesThere isn't much to say about fax machines you probably don't already know.Just about every business and many homes have them. My favorite use is whenI'm collecting past due invoices and some stall artist claims that theynever received your bill. I just love saying, "No problem, what's your faxnumber?"
So far as selling goes, they certainly make getting prospects rushinformation or proposals much easier. I've also had prospects call merequiring a quote on something unusual. Instead of long telephoneexplanations, they can fax me written requests that are often easier tounderstand
As a direct sales tool, such as broadcast faxes, I believe that they aremore of a hindrance than help. Most companies discard such faxes as soon asthey are received. Other than restaurants sending out menus and specials tobusinesses in their marketing area, I know of few success stories. I knowthe people who do this will talk big, but I'm speaking about actuallyhearing a success story directly from the clients.
There's also a goodwill issue here. Many companies really dislike peoplewho clog their fax machine with junk faxes. It's just not the tool of asalesperson.
InternetTo me, this is one of the most overblown money wasters I've ever seen forsmall companies. A web page means nothing unless it makes you money. Tocreate and maintain a web site is not the problem. That just takes moneyand lots of time.
The trick is, how do you get people to look you up? I mean people whoactually have money to spend for what you sell, not the nerds, thrillseekers and hobbyists who are killing time playing on their computer.Trying to sell these people is a total waste.
You must have your site listed with search engines that your prospectswould use. You must be advertising and marketing your web site address inother media. Big companies can do this. For the little guy, however, ittake a substantial commitment of both time and money with absolutely noguarantee of success.
As the Internet matures, I believe that in the next millennium, it will bea valuable marketing tool. As of today, it's still quite haphazard. For asmall business, I'd give very careful consideration before making a seriousinvestment.
E-mailE-mail, just as faxes, can really be quite a time saver for communicatingwith both customers and prospects. It's commonly used now in many businessapplications, and I'm positive that this will increase as we enter the nextmillennium.
Again, what I said about using faxes as a direct selling tool applies toe-mail. Many people deeply resent having to clear their e-mail every day ofunsolicited junk messages. Personally, I think sending out mass e-mailmessages will give you bad publicity, a drawback that outweighs thebenefits of any business you may obtain.
ComputersHere's the big area of change from the twentieth century to thetwenty-first century. I'm old enough to remember a business world where fewif any offices had any kind of computer. I can recall offices usingmechanical adding machines before electronic calculators were available. Ihave only one comment, thank God for computers.
What a difference, what a wonderful difference the computer has made tobusiness, medicine and the world in general. I'm always amazed at how whatwas considered science fiction when I was a kid is now an everyday reality.
Salespeople are already using this great tool, and in the next millenniumtheir use will increase greatly. What only the larger companies do withcomputers now will become commonplace with small businesses also. Here's afew of many ways companies now and in the future will take advantage ofcomputer technology.
It is now possible to manage salespeople in the field by having them sendin their daily or weekly sales reports via telephone modem direct to thesales manager. Some companies have computer terminals at their largeraccounts that will give them a continuous inventory as well as a record ofslow and fast moving items. In some cases. the computers have replacedsalespeople.
One of the best computer programs for salespeople are the road map CD-ROMsthat will find a location in any community. For salespeople who travel,this is really a great idea. Even better are the computerized car maps thatpick up information from satellites. Not really popular just yet, but restassured as prices drop, they will be very common in the next millennium.
TelephonesCellular phones are very common now, and certainly will continue to be so.New transmission technologies will make them even more efficient in thecoming millennium.
What about sales calls over the telephone? I believe they will continue tobe very important tools for salespeople. Some examples are where the saleis small, the completion a sale and where a personal call is necessary toset appointments.
There is a trend today for companies to use telephone salespeople in placeof route salespeople who would visit customers in person. This isespecially common where the sales from any one client are small. It is muchmore cost effective, and I'm sure this trend will continue.
One thing we will have in the next millennium are telephones with videopictures. There are several technologies around, and in the coming years,one will emerge as the most effective and cost efficient way. Once massproduction becomes possible, prices will drop dramatically, and the averagehome or business will not only be able to speak to someone but also seethat person.
For people who sell, being able to show as well as speak about somethingshould make the telemarketing industry even more viable than it is today.
Good telephone techniquesOne thing I've found over the years is that most people don't really have agood understanding of effective telephone techniques. I'd like to sharewith the timeless rules of telemarketing that not only will help you in thenext millennium, but will also work for you today, right now.
Almost without exception, successful salespeople in all types of salesattribute a great deal of their success to the development of goodtelephone techniques and habits. Here's some important techniques used byall professional telemarketers to remember when you do use the telephone:
Understand that one of the big reasons people dislike receivingtelemarketing calls is that they are often long winded. Another reason isthat telemarketers will disguise what the call is about, such as pretendingto take a survey when they really are making a sales call. Somesalespeople, the ones who fear rejection, delude themselves into thinkingthey have to warm people up or build a rapport before they ask for businessor an appointment. This is nonsense. People will respond much better if yousimply state your best benefit to them and ask what you need to ask.
Telemarketing is not the time to make idle conversation or to express yourpersonal views on anything. To do so is unprofessional. The weather, kids,sports, breaking news stories and any other small talk should be saved foryour friends. Prospects have their own friends to make upon whom they relyfor meaningless conversation. Keep your calls brief and business like. Showrespect for other people's time.
When setting appointments for an in-person sales call, don't ever get intotalking specifics such as quoting prices. Only after a personal sales callcan you bring your prospect to a buying stage for many products andservices. If a prospect asks specific questions, acknowledge them and saythat they will be answered in person. Don't allow your self to be trappedinto giving out your sales talk on the phone.
Use a written script. Have written answers in front of you for commonobjections and expect them. Don't telemarket from memory. Sometimes aprospect will ask an unexpected question or make a unusual remark that youdon't expect. It's easy to forget or fumble your words. Telemarketing goesfast when you have a good prospect on the phone, and you can lose them withjust a few wrong words. Be prepared at all times.
Pause between calls only to make brief notes on your cards, then go to thenext call quickly. Sometimes, a difficult person will make your work just alittle less fun by giving you a hard time. Don't let anyone control yourfeelings. They belong to you and no one else. Don't stop to think about adifficult situation. Go quickly to your next call, and keep clearly in yourmind the goals you plan to achieve by doing this work.
Set aside a regular time each day. Decide in advance how many people youwill talk to before quitting, and don't stop dialing until you reach yourgoal. No answers, lines busy or people not in don't count. You'll besurprised sometimes at how many calls you must make just to speak to a liveprospect. Only the actual prospects you speak with should be counted.
Telemarketing is strictly a numbers game. You can't succeed withoutconstantly working at it. Be mentally prepared for and expect rejection.Understand these rejections are against whatever you are calling about, butthey are not against you as a person. Don't take them personally.
Usually you'll need to spend at least two to four uninterrupted hours persession to generate good results. If you are going to do telemarketing, itwill be ultimately necessary for you to make a short-range commitment todoing it on a regular basis. Making a few random phone calls between otherduties is not telemarketing. It's called fooling yourself.
Have all your prospects' names in front of you before starting. To save ontravel time, group calls by area if you are setting appointments.
Work from a quiet place with all your supplies and information at yourfinger tips. If you are working from your home, don't forget that noise inthe background, such as TV or radios, kids playing and people talking, isdistracting to both you and people you call. They mark you as an amateur.
Smile when you speak. Believe it or not, there's something positive thathappens to the speaking quality of your voice when you smile. A lot ofpeople you call will react much more positively. Try it.
Be positive, expect to get a yes and assume people will be interested. Whenclosing, give prospects a choice to make instead using a question which canbe answered yes or no. "Would Thursday at three o'clock be good, or do youprefer I see you sometime Friday?" Before making calls, have several closeswritten out. You try one, and if the prospect objects, then you answer theobjection and finish with another close. Sometimes you'll go throughseveral. It's important to be persistent, don't hang up until you hear noseveral times.
There you have it. Some thoughts on the future of selling and sometelephone techniques you can not only use in the next millennium but alsotoday. Good luck and good selling.