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Handling Rude Prospects
FROM BULLETPROOF SELLING:
The Prepping for Tough Prospects System
Trigger: When onboarding new salespeople and/or getting existing salespeople spun up in use of call scripts, messaging templates, and campaign systems.
Bulletproof Impact: Training that mirrors and even exceeds the worst conditions ensures that when salespeople do encounter stressful situations, they will be able to execute. Applied to sales, this means salespeople have already faced the worst attitudes, objections, and toughest prospects in role-play before revenue is on the line with actual prospects.
How do we prepare our salespeople for tougher conditions than most prospects will present?
As part of my ‘spin-up’ in preparing to deploy, I accompanied Marine infantry units on pre-deployment training missions. Often these missions would involve sending whole platoons of Marines to facsimiles of Middle Eastern cities erected on military bases. The Marines set to deploy would start by watching a team of experienced instructors enter one of the buildings, clear it of enemy combatants, and exit cleanly. These instructors not only worked together like a well-tuned watch, they were like engineers that build watches.
The Marines in training would then attempt to mimic their instructors’ every step, hand signal, team movement, and vocal cue. Eventually, they would be able to perform the same movements in the same amount of time as they navigated through the buildings. Only then would they be inserted into a building whose layout they didn’t know, and that would require them to improvise based on the scenarios they’d already dealt with. These final scenarios would force them to innovate, basing their behavior on the systems they’d been taught.
This type of ‘forced innovation’ was a regular part of training. How was innovation forced in these scenarios? Instructors would plant mock improvised explosive devices in cabinets, hide in rafters, and even act like hysterical civilians just to get close enough to the Marines to do damage – all tactics they’d seen used again and again on their recent deployments.
How does this type of real-world, progressive training differ from the training most salespeople receive? I’ve actually seen salespeople handed a product manual, a group of ‘leads’ on a card, and sent on their way to sell. Basically, they were just left to their own devices. There’s a better way to train than hoping our salespeople figure it out on their own.
Systemizing Success with Prepping for Tough Prospects
Whether you are training a new salesperson or getting veteran salespeople spun up on Bulletproof selling, walk them through this training regimen:
Review the pipeline and objectives of each vertical
While it would take specific knowledge to explain how to use your particular CRM, it’s imperative that you and your salespeople understand your prospects’ pipeline flow, as well as how to access and launch the campaigns that comprise it. When prepping our clients’ salespeople for success, I take the time to walk salespeople through the structure of their pipeline verticals and what the defining characteristics of prospects are in each vertical.
For instance, salespeople should be able to describe each of the following stages of a prospect’s buying journey when prompted with the deal stage and be able to share what moves a prospect closer to becoming a client:
Cold Outreach: In this stage, we don’t know who the decision makers are. When we find a decision maker, they move to the Decision-Maker Identified vertical.
Decision Maker Identified: Here, we know the DM (decision maker) in these accounts, but they haven’t been qualified for budget, challenges that our product or service solves, or buying timeframe (if that applies). Once we find out their budget qualification, challenges, buying timeframe, and decision-making criteria, we can move them to Pre-select if we can’t drive a sale or meeting today.
Pre-select: These high-value accounts have been qualified for budget, decision maker(s), buying timeframe, decision making criteria, and challenges they’re experiencing that our product or service solves. Basically, we’re waiting for a budget to become available and know when that will likely happen. Prospects leave this vertical either by us driving a meeting or by moving backward to the DM Identified vertical if a prospect becomes unresponsive.
The test: Once salespeople say they understand the structure of the pipeline they’re managing, ensure they can tell you what qualifies an account to be in each vertical and what account activity – or lack of activity – moves them forward or backward in the pipeline.
Walking through each campaign’s steps
As you walk salespeople through each campaign’s outreach cadence, ensure they see you or their trainer execute each campaign task within your CRM and enter a record of the task having occurred. Walking salespeople through a campaign’s steps while they watch means launching each campaign on a ‘test prospect,’ then marking call tasks as complete. It also means locating email templates within your CRM when prompted to send a particular email and accessing, customizing, and sending email and social media messages from within the CRM or transferring those templates to direct messaging platforms on social media.
The test: To ensure salespeople properly manage campaign tasks during this kind of training, I have them ‘fire’ a campaign on an account and walk me through each task as if they were actually performing it. While the cadence of a campaign system may have weeks in between each contact point, I have trainees complete one task, assume the time has passed in the campaign, complete the next task, and so on until the campaign has run its course.
Conducting outreach and using the call script
As part of training client’s sales teams, we have salespeople roleplay phone calls. As the trainer, we play the role of the ‘prospect’ and present objections clients’ salespeople often hear, including expressing annoyance at being interrupted. We do this a half dozen times or until we’re comfortable with salespeople running the script without needing to read its opening questions verbatim. While it’s not necessary for a salesperson to be able to recall all objection responses from memory, it is essential they can show us they know how to access them while on a call using the search function available in any online word document.
The test: In the course of call training, give salespeople an objection you know is addressed in your script. See how well they can locate the objection and respond while maintaining conversational flow, while also using it in a way that doesn’t sound like they’re reading it from the page.
Next, have salespeople listen to you or your senior salespeople make actual calls to prospects while using the call script. Your salespeople, even those with didactic memories, will need to see you use the call script in action to ensure they understand how it works to guide the flow of a conversation as you confirm or discover a decision maker, uncover needs, etc.
The test: Have your salespeople track the questions and micro-objectives you or the senior salesperson used that moved the account forward in your pipeline, verifying with you whether a decision maker was confirmed, buying timeframe uncovered, budget qualified, etc.
At this point in training, salespeople should have a foundational understanding of how to launch campaign systems on a prospect account and execute outreach tasks. Now have some of your senior salespeople play the role of ‘hammerhead’ prospects and throw the toughest objections and personalities at your salesperson-in-training on a mock call.
The test: Can your trainee leverage the script you’ve created even in a stressful conversation? Can they still achieve some micro-objectives on the call even if a sale wasn’t possible? Did they innovate any objection turnarounds on the ‘tough prospect’?
Operate on their own