Kevin Carlow's Personal Blog

Author: kevincarlow (Page 1 of 4)

Why Sales Reps Should Deliver Bad News to Clients

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? 

When asked this question, most people choose the bad news first, so they can get it out of the way and end on a good note. However, most people with the good and bad news to deliver prefer to offer the good news first, so they can soften the blow of the bad news by easing into it with something positive. (Ref: “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel Pink)

Sales reps love delivering good news. They are eager to share, and for good reason. Good news makes clients happy. The good news is seldom shared without being followed by written or verbal exclamation points.

“Your campaign over-delivered by 78%!”

“We were able to include 14 bonus ads for you at no charge!”

“I was able to get a discount for you approved by management!”

As in all client-oriented businesses, there inevitably comes a time when something goes wrong. An instruction falls through the cracks. Start dates are delayed. A click-thru URL was entered incorrectly. Between technical quirks and human error, it’s a miracle anything does run the way it’s supposed to. And when this bad news arises, sales reps fear it. Frantic thoughts enter the rep’s mind. Maybe the client won’t notice? If I can sandwich this bad news within a pile of good news, maybe it won’t seem so bad? If we get it fixed now, maybe we can just pretend like it never happened?

It’s easy to see the potential pitfalls of brushing some bad news under the rug. Not to mention the wear and tear on one’s integrity and conscience. 

If you want to move beyond “vendor” status with your client to get into the coveted “partnership” relationship zone, one of the best ways to become a trusted partner is to give your clients bad news, head on. 

Think about one of your closest friends. Now say you are planning a birthday party for yourself (because you’re an adult and that’s what adults do). Unbeknownst to you, this close friend of yours cannot make it. They have a conflict. They haven’t told you about this conflict. As the day draws nearer, you are getting all excited as the plans are coming together for your epic birthday bash.

In this instance, what would you rather your friend do? Would you rather they tell you they can’t make it as soon as possible, or would you prefer they hold off until the day before to break the bad news? Or perhaps you’d prefer they no-show and later offer an alibi or excuse?

Most people would rather be hit with the bad news head on, as early as possible. 

Business works the same way. If you have clients, and you’ve discovered some bad news about their account… just tell them. 

Why? For two main reasons. 1) The client will trust you more because you had the integrity to give it to them straight. Any newbie off the street can deliver good news, but only a trusted partner acts as if client and vendor are on the same team, taking the good with the bad. 2) Giving the bad news right away gives the most amount of time for problem-solving. Waiting to give the bad news at a later date only means that’s more time the problem hasn’t gotten better. 

I recently had an experience with my largest advertising client (responsible for about 20% of my annual income) where a problem was discovered with their ad campaign. The ads had all been running as intended, but our reporting technology had a breakdown. We place tracking pixels on client sites to link their ad campaigns to website visits from people who’ve seen the ads. The problem? Over two months ago, the tracking pixel had “fallen off” their website. (That was how my IT team put it. Did the pixel walk off a cliff? How does a piece of software code fall, exactly?) This meant that for two months of their annual campaign, we would not be able to deliver the reporting metrics the client had grown accustomed to. 

Upon hearing this news from my team, I was left at a crossroads. I knew I had to tell the client, because eventually they would find out anyway when it came time to review their April report and nothing was there. But how to explain? Over the phone? In an email? And when? Right away? Wait until we have a few other topics to discuss and then drop this reporting blunder bomb into the mix? 

I was dreading delivering this bad news because they are my biggest client, and I didn’t want to give them any reason to question their investment with my company.

In the end, I decided to call her up the day I found out the news and give it to her straight. Here’s how the conversation went. 

Me: “Hi client, how’s your day going? Oh I’m so glad to hear that. Say, you know how in all great partnerships, there’s a lot of good news, but every once in a while, there’s some not-so-great news? Well, I’ve got some not-so-great news for you, and I don’t want to beat around the bush, so here it is. Your tracking pixel stopped working on April 2. This means your April and May reports will not be available. The reason we didn’t find this out until now is because, while the pixel had fallen off most of your website, the pixel was still active on one page, so our system was not alerted. I have confirmed with my team that we now have new safeguards in place so that we’ll get an alert earlier next time. What we need to do now is get it reinstalled on your site, and I’ve just emailed you the pixel and installation instructions.” 

When I stopped to take a breath, here was her reply.

Client: “Thank you for telling me. And you know what? That timeline makes perfect sense. We did a large website update right around that time, so I bet our update is what caused the pixel to stop working. I never thought to mention this website update to you. I guess this is a learning moment for us that we need to communicate better to our marketing partners when we make updates to our website.” 

Could that have gone any better? I think not. 

A sign of any strong relationship is that both parties are comfortable and trusting enough to take the bad with the good, knowing that it will make the relationship stronger on the other side. 

Lessons From “Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer

After finishing Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild, I immediately took to my journal to write down my top lessons and takeaways from the stories of Chris McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp and the other adventurers noted in the book. 

I’m sharing this journal entry as-written to retain the essence of how I was feeling immediately after finishing the book. 

  1. Call your parents. They always want to hear from you.
  2. Life with less can be more fulfilling. 
  3. Convention is the enemy.
  4. We are prisoners of society, of civilization.
  5. Experiences are best when shared. Chris comes to this realization toward the end of his life after spending several months in isolation in Alaska. At first this expedition made him feel more alive than anything else. But after a time, he concludes experiences are better when shared with others. 
  6. Relationships and love matter. 
  7. Document your own life with pictures and journals. 
  8. Surround yourself with writings that move you. 
  9. Don’t wait to start living out your beliefs. Now is the time. 
  10. You can get by with much less than you think. 
  11. Chris McCandless blindly trusted so many strangers: for a ride, for shelter, for employment. To these people unknown to him, he showed courtesy, honesty, and hard work. In response, they all helped him. What would happen if we all gave people we don’t know the benefit of the doubt? Gave them compassion, love, and respect as the default? 
  12. Your limits are much farther than you think they are. Pushing those limits can be thrilling and exhilarating. 
  13. When embarking on a new endeavor, take time to learn from experts who have walked the path before you. 
  14. Be prepared. 

Raising the bar… and then lowering it

Last week I turned 36. One year before that, on my 35th birthday, I started the day with the goal of running ten miles – the farthest I’d ever run. On mile nine of that run I was feeling good; my spirits were up and my body was performing well. Somewhere in the that ninth mile I spontaneously decided to try to go for a half marathon distance, which I successfully completed. Miles 11, 12, and 13 were tough. It was a mental battle. I remember telling myself, “You can do it. Raise the bar. Don’t worry about how slow you’re running. Just don’t quit and eventually you will get there.” I mentally repeated the mantra I learned from Jocko Willink on Tim Ferriss’ blog/podcast: “Not dead. Can’t quit.”

I still remember the feeling immediately after that run; it was a rush, a feeling of pride, excitement, and illumination. Illuminating to me that us humans can push our bodies much farther than we think we can, if only we can muster the mental willpower to push us beyond our preconceived limits. 

In the weeks leading up to my 36th birthday, I had the goal of repeating the “half marathon birthday run” and making a tradition out of it. This year I started running a whole month earlier than 2020 and had clocked about 60 miles more on the road than the same time the previous year; however, I was also taken out by a cold for six days in late April and another six days in early May, causing a large dent in my training plan. 

So when the day came, May 16 2021, I did the opposite of the year before. I didn’t raise my bar. I lowered it. As I got ready for the morning run, I set my goal down from 13.1 miles to 10. In the midst of that run, I lowered the bar again and stopped at 9 miles. And you know what? I couldn’t be happier. 

Why? Because there’s more to last year’s story. After pushing myself to complete that impromptu half marathon, I paid a price. Right away I felt exhilarated, euphoric, alive. But, I couldn’t run for a week after that. I was sore in new places. I needed longer to recover. My body wasn’t sufficiently trained for that distance. 

This year, I ran nine miles (still my longest of the year), didn’t feel much strain, and felt great after. One day later, I was up at 5:45am for an early morning jaunt around the neighborhood lake, breathing in the fresh spring air and waking up to the day with the birds, bunnies, deer, and sun. 

I still believe we are capable of more greatness than we think we are, and it’s usually just our own mental blocks that are in the way. But I now also see the value in knowing your limits, listening to and being in tune with your body, and being in it for the long game. 

Grit gets you places you didn’t think you could reach. 

Wisdom is knowing when to unleash your inner grit. 

The 5 Biggest Takeaways from John McPhee’s “Draft No. 4”

There are writers, there are great writers, and then there’s John McPhee. 

Having not read much about writing and the writing process ever in my life, and then reading Draft No. 4, it feels as if I endeavored to learn Spanish by plopping myself down in The Zócalo in the heart Mexico City. 

It would take a lifetime to get on McPhee’s level of creative nonfiction writing, but there are five key takeaways in the book that anyone who writes anything (even emails) can extract and implement today to level up their writing. 

The Significance of Draft No. 4

The first draft is the hardest. Putting words to a blank page is every writer’s plight. 

If you lack confidence in setting one word after another and sense that you are stuck in a place from which you will never be set free, if you feel sure that you will never make it and were not cut out to do this, if your prose seems stillborn and you completely lack confidence, you must be a writer. 

 

McPhee says to expect a 4:1 ratio of time between the first draft and the second, third, and fourth drafts combined. If the first draft takes a month, then you should be able to produce drafts two, three, and four within a week. 

The way to do a piece of writing is three or four times over, never once. For me, the hardest part comes first, getting something – anything – out in front of me. Sometimes in a nervous frenzy I just fling words as if I were flinging mud at a wall. Blurt out, heave out, babble out something – anything – as a first draft. With that, you have achieved a sort of nucleus. Then, as you work it over and alter it, you begin to shape sentences that score higher with the ear and eye. Edit it again – top to bottom. The chances are that about now you’ll be seeing something that you are sort of eager for others to see. And all that takes time.

 

McPhee goes on to remark about “the interstitial time,” the downtime in between writing and editing where even though you aren’t putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, your brain is still at work. 

What I have left out is the interstitial time. You finish that first awful blurting, and then you put the thing aside. You get in your car and drive home. On the way, your mind is still knitting at the words. You think of a better way to say something, a good phrase to correct a certain problem. Without the drafted version – if it did not exist – you obviously would not be thinking of things that would improve it. In short, you may be actually writing only two or three hours a day, but your mind… is working on it twenty-four hours a day, but only if some sort of draft or earlier version already exists. Until it exists, writing has not really begun. 

 

The essence of writing is revision. This understanding takes a huge weight off the first draft. There’s no pressure. The first draft is not going to be good. Masters like John McPhee don’t expect it to be good. Know the bar is extremely low on a first draft. Are there words on the page? Your first draft is a success! 

 

Revision

McPhee has encountered many expert editors throughout his career from who he has gleaned several revision processes that work. 

One of these is, when reviewing an early draft, to read it top to bottom and simply circle or highlight any word that seems like it could be improved. Then revisit each of these highlighted words and work out better ones. 

Use a dictionary, not a thesaurus. 

You draw a box not only around any word that does not seem quite right but also around words that fulfill their assignment but seem to present an opportunity. While the word inside the box may be perfectly O.K., there is likely to be an even better word for this situation, a word right smack on the button, and why don’t you try to find such a word? If none occurs, don’t linger; keep reading and drawing boxes, and later revisit them one by one. If there’s a box around “sensitive,” because it seems pretentious in the context, try “susceptible.” Why “susceptible”? Because you looked up “sensitive” in the dictionary and it said “highly susceptible.” With dictionaries, I spend a great deal more time looking up words I know than words I have never heard of—at least ninety-nine to one. The dictionary definitions of words you are trying to replace are far more likely to help you out than a scattershot wad from a thesaurus. If you use the dictionary after the thesaurus, the thesaurus will not hurt you. So draw a box around “wad.” Webster: “The cotton or silk obtained from the Syrian swallowwort, formerly cultivated in Egypt and imported to Europe.” Oh. But read on: “A little mass, tuft, or bundle . . . a small, compact heap.” Stet that one.

 

Structure

Most stories have a beginning, middle, and end. But that thinking is a little restrictive. Say you’re writing a business story following the life of a high-performing B2B Sales Executive, and in the day you are shadowing the subject, nothing overly exciting happens until 4:45 P.M., when the Sales Exec finally reaches the C-level buyer at one of his biggest prospects on the phone. A meeting is set, the phone call ends, and the Sales Exec packs it in for the day. Will the reader be most engaged if you write this story chronologically, making the reader slog through 80% of the piece before they get to the best part? Perhaps a different structure, one that’s not a straight line, would be best? Maybe you line up an interview with the C-level buyer, and get their perspective from that fateful day. Then you could have parallel stories from each subject’s point of view, ultimately arriving at the moment of truth – the phone call. Now we’ve got something worth reading! 

One of McPhee’s examples about how he used structure to tell the best story involved a bear. Malcolm Harris from The New Republic sums it up well. 

Inspired by the preponderance of natural cycles in the Arctic, McPhee shapes a story about Alaska around a circle. The first half of the arc will take place linearly, progressing from the beginning in the straightforward humanly experienced direction of time. Halfway through, the narrative flashes back to an earlier point, which we follow to the end, which is also the beginning. McPhee’s concern is less a desire to ape the movement of the moon, and more that the trip’s most dramatic event (a grizzly bear encounter) occurs earlier than it would ideally, which is “about three-fifths of the way along, a natural place for a high moment in any dramatic structure.” McPhee makes even the limited power of narrative sound awesome: “You’re a nonfiction writer. You can’t move that bear around like a king’s pawn or a queen’s bishop. But you can, to an important and effective extent, arrange a structure that is completely faithful to fact.” You can’t move bears, but you can move time, and that’s just as good.

 

It Takes As Long As It Takes

Giving yourself deadlines for a good piece of writing has adverse affects on the quality of the writing. This is especially important if the piece requires research, interviews, and observations out in the world.

Say you’re writing a piece about successful Chief Marketing Officers and the daily habits they attribute their success to. You seek out to collect data, making phone calls and lining up interviews with your dream list of subject matter experts. Having read enough similar books and essays, you know you will need at least five CMO’s thoughts to have enough substance for the piece. After many hours of phone calls and attempts, you’ve only been able to interview two people. You told yourself you wanted to get this project done in two weeks, and now one week has already come and gone. Do you press on with just the two sources and hope it will be enough? One path – change the deadline. It takes as long as it takes. Don’t change your vision and plan because of a deadline.

 

Keep an Open Mind to the True Story

Continuing the above example, perhaps one of your two interviewees was particularly colorful, open, illuminating. The interview was supposed to be thirty minutes; it went for two and a half hours. Perhaps she was ultra dialed in to her daily regimen with a laser focus on how each minute of her days are spent. Perhaps, then, the best path forward is to alter the plan for the piece entirely, and write a personal profile on this one CMO. 

The story is what the story is. Your job as the writer is to have eyes open enough to see it. 

 


 

What’s your biggest takeaway from John McPhee’s “Draft No. 4”? What other sources of writing inspiration and knowledge have you found particularly useful? Let me know in the Comments! 

The Easiest Way to Add Captions and Subtitles to any Video for FREE – Use YouTube

Have you been scouring the internet looking for free, easy, quick ways to get captions or subtitles into your videos? Look no further!

This post will show you how to get subtitles into any video, for free, using YouTube. After doing this method, you can then upload your video natively to any other platform like Instagram or LinkedIn and it will have its captions (not just copying or embedding the YouTube video).

The biggest thing you are looking for is creating an SRT file, otherwise known as a SubRip Subtitle file. It’s a text file formatted a special way for subtitles. Once you have the SRT file for your video, you can upload your video and the SRT file to other platforms to get your subtitles/captions into your videos.

The only tool you need to make this SRT file is YouTube, and it’s FREE! I’ll show you how to do it below. Eventually you’ll end up with a video that has subtitles like this one.

Step 1 – Upload your video to YouTube. 

Step 2 – Find your video by clicking your icon in the top-right corner and clicking “My Channel.” Once your video is open, click the “Edit Video” button. 

Edit Video

Step 3 – On the left navigation, choose the tab “Transcriptions”

Step 4 – On the far right under the column “Subtitles,” hit the button for your language.

Transcriptions

Step 5 – Now you should be on a screen that looks like this (except my subtitles are already entered in, yours will be blank). This is where you can easily enter all of your subtitles. YouTube makes it pretty intuitive. I found it’s easiest and quickest to just manually enter them the exact way you want. When finished, hit the “Publish edits” button.

Subtitle Editing

Step 6 – Now that all your subtitles are entered in and you’ve published the edits, get back to the Transcription screen for your video and click the “Actions” drop-down in the top-left of the screen. Choose “Download .srt”

Step 7 – Congratulations, your YouTube video now has subtitles! If you are curious to see what an SRT file looks like, open up the file you just created with any word processor program, like Notepad. It should look something like this.

SRT File Example
.SRT File Example

Step 8 – Now you want to get this video onto another platform with its subtitles, like LinkedIn, but you don’t want to just copy and paste the YouTube video, you want to upload directly to LinkedIn. Here’s how. Go to your LinkedIn Home screen and click the Video button at the top.

Step 9 – Find your video file and upload it. Now you’re brought to a screen where you can edit your post. Hover over the video and click the Pencil icon to edit the video.

Step 10 – Find your SRT file and upload it.

Step 11– Finish up your post by writing a brief comment about your video and BOOM – you’re done! Now your video is on LinkedIn, with subtitles, for free.


Did you get any value from this article? Let me know if something tripped you up or if this was a saving grace. I’d love to hear your feedback! 

How to Discover Meaning and Purpose in Your Life

Having just finished Viktor Frankl’s A Man’s Search For Meaning, I’m on an existential meaning-of-life high right now! 

Frankl’s notion of Logotherapy states that the primary motivational force in humans is to find meaning in life.

The basic principles are:

  • Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most horrific ones.
  • Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life. 
  • We have the freedom to find meaning in what we do, or in what we experience, when faced with any situation, including unavoidable suffering. 

 

He states we can find meaning in three different ways: 

  1. By creating a work or doing a deed
  2. By experiencing something or encountering someone
  3. By the attitude we choose to take in any circumstance

 

Two other principles in the book particularly struck me – not striving for happiness and the multitude of meaning.

 

Happiness is not something one should strive for; rather, if one seeks and finds meaning, happiness will naturally appear. So, if you are feeling down and try to mentally will yourself to be happy, it will be a challenge. But if you instead find meaning by, say, creating something, your spirits will inevitably take a turn for the better. 

There is no one “meaning of life.” Meaning varies from person to person, from day to day, and from moment to moment. What is important to you may not be to another. What was meaningful to you this morning may not be meaningful to you tomorrow, or even a minute later. Asking someone, “What is the meaning of life?” is equivalent to asking a Chess Grandmaster, “What is the best chess move in the world?” There isn’t an answer to that question; it all depends on the situation. This is an incredibly uplifting view on finding meaning in your life, because there is no “right answer,” which means there is no wrong answer. The answer is right in front of you in this very moment, and the only person that can know it is you. It’s also a useful mental framework when serving and helping others, to know whatever gives you meaning will not be the same for them. 

 

This book helped me realize that if I’m ever feeling stuck, overwhelmed, unfocused, anxious, or depressed, I can ask myself the following questions:

  • Am I creating something right now? 
  • Am I doing a deed right now? 
  • Am I having an interesting experience right now? 
  • Am I encountering another person and having an interaction with them right now? 
  • Is there a better attitude I can choose to take in this moment? 

If I answer ‘no’ to the first four questions, then maybe I should stop doing whatever it is I’m doing and start doing one of those four activities because it will be sure to be a meaningful endeavor. 

If I answer ‘yes’ to the last question, then the next step, while not always easy, is simple – improve your ‘tude, dude!

 


 

Have you read Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning? What other lessons and takeaways did you glean from the book? How have you been applying them in your life? What other similar texts do you recommend? Let me know in the Comments! 

There Are No Rules

Things are as they have been not because that’s how they should be, but because you haven’t made them better yet.

There are no rules that say you can’t go for your boss’ boss’ job. The big boss just wants a system that works. Prove to him or her you’re the best person for taking your team to the next level. 

There are no rules that say a prospective client is too big. No one is “out of your league” if you show them an infallible case of how you can help. 

There are no rules about how to do your job. Know a better way? Do it. Prove it. Results always win.  

There are no rules that dictate how much you are able to do in one day. 

There are no rules saying you have to live life a certain way. 

There are no rules about going to college, getting an entry-level job, moving to the suburbs, and settling down. 

There are no rules preventing you from giving generously at every opportunity.

There are no rules when living out your dreams. 

There are no rules other than your rules. 

There are no rules blocking you from happiness. 

There are no rules. 

Self Improvement vs. Self Acceptance – Can You Do Both? (Hint: Yes.)

In the personal development universe of books and blogs, two overarching schools of thought bubble to the surface as the kingpins, yet they seem to be in direct contrast to one another. 
 
On the one hand, you have “following your passion” and all of its variations. Acting on your true calling, the things that make you feel “expansive versus contracted” (as Marie Forleo puts it). Many experts say acting on your inner calling is the key to unlocking happiness. “If you’re truly passionate about what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,” as they say. 
 
On the other hand, you have gratitude. Acceptance. Some say the key to happiness and inner peace is accepting that what you already have and who you already are is good enough. Dr. Robert Holden says, “No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.” Being authentically happy starts with the realization that you are both the source and the cause of your well-being. 
 
I believe in both of these ideas. But, doesn’t it seem as if they are in competition with one another? I feel pulled to be better, do better, create more things, make a positive dent on the universe, invest more in relationships, and learn more every day. But at the same time, if I meditate or do a gratitude exercise I’m reminded to be thankful for what I already have. 
 
How do you navigate the drive to be better than you were yesterday with acceptance of things as they are? 
 

Self-Acceptance is different from Self-Approval

It’s possible to accept your reality and completely let go of the desire to change your reality, while still not be in approval with yourself about your current trajectory. 
 
Say you have an entry-level job at a company you like just fine, but aren’t head-over-heels in love with. After a few months or years in that role, you may start to yearn for something more or different.
 
You might start thinking things like: 
 
  • “Do I really need this job?”
  • “I don’t believe in my company’s mission with my heart and soul.”
  • “They should have promoted me instead of that other guy.” 
  • “I’m realizing I don’t want my boss’ job.” 
 
These are normal thoughts. You aren’t alone in thinking them.
 
In the case of realizing you don’t want your boss’ job, you are feeling a lack of self-approval of your current trajectoryyou don’t like the idea of where things are going if they play out as-is. This is a great motivator to work on improving this aspect of your life and find a different job and/or employer that better suits your future vision. 
 
But that doesn’t preclude you from also feeling a sense of self-acceptance, focusing your energy on appreciating what you do have. This job you’ve come to not like so much, it’s served you well up until now, hasn’t it? You got your bills paid, forged new relationships, created some happy memories, and learned some things. At the very least, you learned about yourself and uncovered a path you now know you don’t need to go down ever again in your life.
 
There are always things to be grateful for.
 
You made your decisions along the way to the best of your ability with the information you had on-hand at the time. Accept yourself and be confident that your younger self was doing the best it knew how. 
 

Come to Terms With Your Limitations

No one is great at everything; don’t try to be. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and some self-improvers get frustrated when they just don’t seem to be able to make progress on developing a skill. 
 
For example, I am terrible at making any kind of hand-made art. You give me a blank piece of paper to draw something on, and all my brain sees is a blank piece of paper. When I do try to draw something, it looks like a third-grader put in about 40% effort. Now, I could take drawing classes, watch YouTube videos, and practice every day to try to improve this skill, but I have come to accept that this type of creation is just not how my brain and body are wired. It’s not for me. I’m not going to be that kind of artist. I am, however, pretty good with words, so I can work on honing that skill and express myself that way. 
 
Let the improver in you play to your natural affinities. 
 
Let the accepter in you be at peace with your weaknesses. 
 

Conclusion

I’d like to say I’ve come to a conclusion on this topic, but it feels like I’m still writing this chapter in my own improvement/acceptance mental framework. 
 
Suffice it to say… you can do both! 
 
The drive to improve is a good instinct. Nurture it. Get after it. And accept that just because you aren’t where you want to be today, doesn’t mean you are in need of anything. 
 
 
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Have you ever struggled with the same mental tug-of-war these two forces play with each other? How else do you make peace with these ideas on your path to self-betterment? It would really help me out to know in the Comments, I could use the tip! 

Getting “Radio Silence” From a Prospect? You Might Be Barking Up the Wrong Tree

“Persistence” may be the most frequently used word across all sales training videos, books, blogs, and seminars. And it’s for good reason; most B2B sales require relentless, tactful persistence in order to get on a prospect’s radar and close a deal. 

But what do you when persistence isn’t paying off? You’ve done your research, identified a high quality prospective client, found the ideal contact within the business, communicated your Valid Business Reason for reaching out, and diligently called, emailed, and messaged over social media (probably LinkedIn)… and all you’re getting is the dreaded proverbial “radio silence.” (Aside: when we will come up with a 2.0 version of this term? Does anyone even know where the phrase “radio silence” comes from anymore? Maybe we should replace “radio silence” with the “loading screen?”) So, what now? 

Do you just wait until you’ve hit that point where you’re ready to cut bait and move on to the next prospect? Or is there another way? 

It may be worth revisiting your assumptions in your initial research and prep work. You thought that person was the ideal contact because of something you read or because their job title matches that of your typical client. But you never know… if you found that person’s information on LinkedIn, maybe they are actually no longer with the company and just haven’t updated their LinkedIn profile in a while. Maybe they are out on an extended vacation or on parental leave. Maybe they’ve switched roles. You never know why someone isn’t returning your messages. Don’t assume. 

A wise sales manager once gave me this advice, and it’s a great sales strategy to live by: 

Always develop at least two relationships with any client. 

You’ll likely have a primary contact and a secondary contact, but investing time in developing a relationship with that secondary contact is crucial to long term success. Say your primary contact takes a new job. Typically you’d be starting over from square one with this client, but since you know Greg the Service Manager or Susie the Receptionist or Michael the Executive Assistant or Lisa the Coordinator… you can maintain the conversation with your client and have a smoother inroad to the new decision-maker. 

This same strategy applies while you’re prospecting, too. 

I once tried, hard, to get a meeting with a Marketing Director of a local credit union. Over the span of two months I sent her nine emails and left her eight voicemails. These were high quality, value-adding touchpoints where I showed detailed research to explain why I was calling and offered up three idea-starters to get a conversation going. Never got a single response. I was about to give up. And then I remembered…

Always develop at least two relationships with any client. 

I went back to the drawing board to search for another contact at the credit union. Maybe it wouldn’t be the ideal decision maker, but I could try to connect with someone that knows my main contact and come at it sideways. 

I sent the very first email I’d send to the primary to my new secondary contact. Forty minutes later I got a reply. Meeting set for the following day. And it turns out he was actually the “primary” contact’s boss

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut in Sales. Don’t give up if one person is giving you the silent treatment. Go impress someone else at the company and success will follow. 


I’d love to know of a time where you used this out in the business world, or if you have another sales hack you use to shake things up when you’re getting radio silence. Tell me about it in the comments!

3 Selling Tips to Improve Your Cold Calling Results

Do you love making cold calls? You do? OK, well, you’re a crazy son-of-a-gun, and I want you on my team. 

For the rest of us, cold calling is the biggest necessary evil in all of Sales. If only we could spend 100% of our time delivering electrifying presentations, chumming it up on the golf course, and treating clients to overpriced sushi. 

Why is making cold calls a necessary evil? Because as a sales rep, you are responsible for creating demand. You have to get there and spark interest with a prospect, connecting your product to their problem. 

Unfortunately, thanks to decades of unsolicited and unprofessional telemarketers and robocallers incessantly spamming us with phone calls pitching products we don’t need, asking us to donate to XYZ cause, and addressing us by the wrong name, people have now been trained to shun sales calls. Corporate gatekeepers stand guard as you “Press zero to speak with an Operator.” And assuming you’ve found a way to bypass the gatekeeper and catch a prospect in a moment where they’re at the desk and able to answer their phone (a Herculean feat in itself), before you even speak one word, you are already at a massive disadvantage – the prospect has been trained by years of receiving low quality sales calls to instinctively say “No.”

It doesn’t matter if you have the best product for the lowest price and perfectly suits their business; you are battling against a now-hardwired instinct.

Making a cold call to a prospect is like walking into the kitchen of a Michelin Star restaurant at 7 p.m. (peak dinnertime when the kitchen workers are buzzing a mile-a-minute), strolling right up to the Head Chef in the midst of the culinary chaos, and saying, “Hey there, I know you’re busy, but I’m with National Cable Company and we have a promotion where I can get your business twice the WiFi speed for no extra cost. Are you interested in setting up a meeting to discuss in more detail?” 

You’d be lucky to escape that kitchen without the Head Chef lopping you off at the neck with a cleaver, let alone having any realistic chance of making a sale. 

What can you do to improve your cold calling odds and make the entire process of cold calling better for everyone involved? 

THREE SELLING TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR COLD CALLING RESULTS

1. Communicate your Valid Business Reason for calling before you take your first breath. 

Ever heard the old saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression?” In this situation, your first impression isn’t this initial cold call; your first impression is your first sentence. From the moment you being to speak, you are being judged. Your first 1-2 sentences are the most critical piece of this entire conversation. Plan exactly what you will say before you pick up the phone. 

A good Valid Business Reason for calling will include three components: 

  1. Show that you know something about their business
  2. Give the prospect a reason to meet with you
  3. Give them a reason to meet or take action right now

There’s a great write-up on how to craft an excellent Valid Business Reasons on the Center For Sales Strategy blog.

 

2. Anticipate a minimum of three objections, and know how you will address the concerns and return to the validity and urgency of your Valid Business Reason. 

Remember, the prospect is trained to say “No” to anything you say or offer. Think through the likely objections they will toss out and prepare yourself. 

Some of the most common objections for any cold call are:

  • “Now’s just not a good time.”
  • “We don’t have the budget for that.” 
  • “That decision isn’t up to me.” 
  • “We don’t do ____.” or “We don’t use ____.”

Write down how you would respond to these in a document, and keep that document nearby when making calls. 

 

3. Before you call, define your desired outcome of the conversation.

Hint: it should be one of these three things:

  1. Further qualify the prospect beyond what you could find online
  2. Schedule a business meeting
  3. Close the sale

If you don’t know the exact purpose of your call, how is your prospect supposed to know? Before you start talking, they don’t know if you are trying to get them to buy something on the spot, take a meeting with you, or simply to have a conversation. Your prospect is trying to decide, as quickly as possible, “Is there any reason I should not hang up the phone right now?” Your well-crafted Valid Business Reason gives them a reason to speak with you for a few more minutes, but then you must progress into clearly articulating exactly what you want the prospect to do and what they should expect to get in return for doing it. 

For example, “We’ve established your website is difficult to find for homeowners in your area who are searching for a plumber. What we should do is schedule a time within the next five days for a 30-minute business meeting. In this meeting you can expect to learn the 5-step process my team will take to improve your company’s visibility online, and we’ll discuss the results my team has generated for other businesses with similar situations. At the end of the meeting you will know what we propose to do for you, how we’ll do it, what it will cost, and what your company will get in return. When can we meet?”

 

Conclusion

Taking these three steps will drastically improve your cold calling game:

  1. Communicate your Valid Business Reason before you take a breath
  2. Anticipate at least three objections and prepare your responses
  3. Clearly define your desired outcome, and don’t shy away from telling your prospect exactly what your desired outcome is
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