About a year ago we needed to get a pro salesman for our company. Up to that point the management team ran sales and it went pretty well, but as with everything, it was time to get someone dedicated and professional for this role.
I think up to this point I’ve interviewed more than a 100 people for different positions. Now usually I’m very forgiving with everything that has to do with the interview itself. Interviews are stressful, it’s quite obvious. The thing is with a salesman is that the interview itself is a big part of his or her required skill-set. They are pretty much selling themselves to your company during the interview. We had the candidates prepare and present a deck about how they would build a sales strategy for our company and execute on it. We’ve interviewed a bunch. During one of the interviews after the candidate was done presenting, he looked at me, I looked at him, he did OK - but we both knew it was not good enough. He then asked this question “How does a typical call with a prospect look?” I replied and he went on to describe from his experience what could have been done better (see the last paragraph on this post). That was great, we have found our guy. We knew he was a “closer”.
Use the phone
The first thing our salesman did was to ask for our leads that did not convert. Big portion of these leads were from trade-shows. So he asked for the business cards we collected. I remember asking myself “Why the hell would he need the cards for”. He was looking for phone numbers, it turns out a prospect that did not answer to 30 emails will answer the phone and might even be a pretty easy sale. Yes, phone is intrusive, it’s bold and maybe the other side does not expect it but it works big time.
Use small talk
So I would sit next to him and listen to him making phone calls, usually more than once to the same person and it always started with a talk about football or the weather or something from the news. I remember sitting next to him, hearing him say “So how is little Bryan doing?”. I asked him after what it was about and he told me this dude’s kid was sick this week. Why would I care? Why would our salesman care? Why this dude on the other side would like to share this with us? I don’t know why, but I assume that’s just the way it is. You can’t get to the point right away, everyone wants a little dance first.
Kids are a great ice breaker
Another thing for the paragraph above: kids are a great ice breaker. As a parent I know how it is. I think my kid is awesome and I would like to go into details with anyone who care to listen. I can see why this is working.
Always use names, use the other side name to get their attention, use their CEO name when giving an example and ask for their kids names and write it down. It will get the attention needed and it will make people feel close to you when they are just starting to know you.
Use your intonation
This one is a killer. I tried to use the trick with the phone but I got the “Not interested” right away every time. I could barely get past the “Hello”. I was wondering why and asked our salesman to probe my calls. He knew it right away. While my call started like “Hello, Mr. Anderson?” pitching my voice towards the end, his calls sounded more like “Hey Craig, it’s Ori, how are you?” with a solid voice. As if he was talking to a childhood friend. While I was apologetic in my voice, he was making them feel really bad for not remembering him all throughout the conversation.
Always end the conversation with something concrete
So this may sound obvious but what I’ve learned is that what I was considering concrete wasn’t really anything. “We’ll check on our end”, “We’ll get back to you” and “I believe we can make this work” are all just manners. Concrete is knowing what are the next steps on the other end before we can consider this deal closed. Concrete is “Let’s start with an experiment”, “We’ll just need the approval of John from our R&D” or even “Let’s talk on Monday and add Jack to the conversation”. I’d never really mastered this part but basically you should always have in mind what is the next step and how your next interaction will bring you closer to it.