Call or Email? 4 Tips to Determine When to Use Which in Sales


The method of outreach sales reps use for a first connect makes a significant difference in response rates. Rather than deciding whether to call a new prospect or send an email based on personal preference, use the method your prospect will be most responsive to.

Which leads me to the question: Phone or email? While there are a few tips that can help you decide, sales reps should know that in the grand scheme of a sales engagement, it’s phone and email. However, I’m specifically addressing the first touch in this article, and since you shouldn’t issue an identical email and voicemail, you have to make a choice.

When deciding between trying a prospect by phone or sending an email, let the following four factors be your guide.

1) Time and Day of the Week

First, consult a calendar and a clock. Statistically, phone connect rates rise as the day progresses, and as the week progresses. In other words, a person is more likely to answer their phone later in the workday and the workweek.

That said, I like to reserve 3 p.m. and later of the prospect’s local time as my prime calling hours. Same goes for Thursdays and Fridays — I block out large chunks of time on these days for cold calling.

But what if a prospect doesn’t pick up their phone in these timeframes? Leave a voicemail. Response rates to voicemails also increase later in the day since checking phone messages is something people often do before heading home for the evening. Calling late is a win-win.

On the other hand, the ideal timespan in which to send email is shorter but more frequent. While I draft connect emails throughout the day, I am careful to send them either 10 minutes before the hour or 10 minutes after the hour. These brief windows correspond with people leaving or going to meetings. What do they do with the few minutes they have to kill? Scroll through email on their smartphones. If you synch your email to be sent with the time your buyer is most likely to check their inbox, your message will pop up on top instead of being buried beneath others. 

2) The Ask

What’s your objective for this first outreach? To set up a meeting? Get some more information? Receive a referral? Figuring out your ask and categorizing it as “weak” or “strong” will help you determine whether to call or email.

Strong asks require commitment from the prospect to do something. I would label requests for meetings, conference calls, or product trials as strong closes. Weak asks seek straightforward information from the buyer — think a prompt for feedback or a referral.

Once you know your close and have determined if it’s strong or weak, it’s easy to choose between a call or an email. If you’re putting forth a strong close, pick up the phone. Because these asks require more from the prospect, salespeople need to employ their closing skills to secure a “yes.” And it’s far easier to persuade on a phone call, when a rep can respond to and smooth over objections in real time. 

But if the ask is weak, draft an email. Don’t take up the prospect’s time on the phone unnecessarily if your request can be fulfilled with a few short lines of text.

It’s interesting to note that most salespeople take the opposite approach — they ask buyers for meetings through emails and reserve simple questions for calls. Why? Because they’re afraid of being rejected on a strong ask over the phone.

Don’t let fear block your way to connecting with a buyer. Reverse this equation and watch your response rates climb.

3) The Level of the Prospect

Do individual contributors have assistants? Not usually. But do C-level executives? Almost always.

That’s why the higher up your prospect is in an organization, the more likely you are to reach a live person when you call. Since a live conversation with anyone — regardless of whether they’re the person you were trying to reach or not — trumps an email exchange, lean on the phone with buyers at the management level or above. Also, higher-level prospects are generally more comfortable on the phone, and less intimidated by sales calls.

But if individual contributors don’t answer their phones, no one else is going to pick up — and they’re not likely to return a call from an unknown number. In addition, lower-level professionals are often away from their desks — traveling, working in groups, participating in meetings, and so on. Therefore, a rep is much more likely to connect with a prospect at this level through an asynchronous channel such as email.

4) The Buyer Persona

Some buyer personas favor a different communication style than others. Their preference depends on multiple factors: Their age, the nature of their job, their industry, and more.

In general, millennials like communicating by email more than over phone. If you’re reaching out to a younger buyer, take this into account.

You might find professionals in customer-facing roles are more amenable to talking on the phone — because that’s what they’re used to. Those in internal jobs, however, may be more comfortable sending emails.

Lastly, those in more traditional industries are typically accustomed to phone calls.

Following Up

These four criteria make it much easier to choose between an email and a phone call for your first outreach. But what about subsequent touch points?

In my opinion, the beginning and the end of each sales engagement should be phone-heavy, since that’s where the strongest asks are — starting a relationship, and closing a deal. In between, reps should opt for email as a rule of thumb.

Want more sales tips? Check out my blog

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness. 

HubSpot CRM


7 Seemingly Harmless (But Secretly Deadly) Sales Phrases


How much of what you say do you think other people receive and interpret correctly? Seventy-five perent? Ninety?

The truth is, we miscommunicate just as often — if not more — than we communicate accurately. While that’s a scary thought for any professional, it’s especially relevant to sales. After all, reps spend the majority of their time making phone calls, sending emails, and meeting prospects. In other words, talking to people.

We’d give you the ability to read minds (and thus avoid communication errors) if we could. But technology isn’t quite there yet, so in lieu of that, we’re providing you with seven seemingly harmless — yet secretly deadly — phrases. If you want to send the right message, cut these from your lexicon.

7 Terrible Sales Phrases to Drop From Your Vocabulary Right Now

1) “Interesting.”

People love to call things “interesting.” New data? Interesting. Surprising suggestion? Interesting. Counterintuitive fact? Interesting.


Up until a few weeks ago, I was a card-carrying member of the “interesting” camp. But here’s the thing: Since we use “interesting” to describe pretty much everything, the word has lost all its meaning. You can contribute far more to a conversation by actually describing what you think.

Let’s say the prospect reveals her company is in a unique position. Rather than saying, “That’s interesting,” you could say, “Thanks for sharing that information — most companies in your space experience the opposite. With that in mind … ”

Or if she proposes an unexpected idea, you might reply, “Nice, I hadn’t thought about it from that angle! What if we …”

As you can see, cutting out the “interesting” crutch forces you to be more specific — and that’s always a good thing.

2) “I trust you’re doing well.”

If “I hope you’re well” scores a five on the spectrum of meaningless cliches, “I trust you’re doing well” is a solid 10.

At least the former suggests some concern for the person’s well-being. The latter, on the other hand, is like saying, “I have no idea how you’re doing, and I’m not going to ask, but let’s just assume everything’s swell.”


Plus, it sounds stiff and overly formal, like it’s the 1800s and you’re penning a letter to your mother-in-law. Not exactly the effect you’re going for.

Switch out this phrase with a reference to something that recently happened in the prospect’s world. For example, if their department just hired two new employees (which you can easily find on LinkedIn or their company blog), you could say, “Congratulations on the new marketing hires.” Or if the prospect just had a work anniversary, say, “Saw you just hit three years at ScaleVid — way to go!”

Now it’s clear you know they’re doing well, because you’ve done your research. No “hope” or “trust” required.

3) “Don’t worry.”

It’s easy to respond to your prospect’s concerns with a breezy, “Don’t worry!” But telling someone not to be anxious isn’t just ineffective — it’s patronizing.

And ironically, consciously trying to suppress a specific thought or emotion brings it to the front of your mind. That means your well-meaning reply will actually make the prospect more anxious.


You’ll get much better results by acknowledging how they feel, then proposing a solution.

Imagine your prospect says, “A new coffee shop opened across the street, and they’ve definitely drawn customers away from our cafe.”

Using the two-part framework, you’d respond, “That can be tough. In fact, I had a customer last year in a similar situation — a sandwich chain bought the space next to their subs joint. To help them stay competitive, I … ”

Showing the prospect that you’re on their side and giving them a potential fix is far more soothing than a cliche.

4) “I know how you feel.”

Expressing empathy is always a good idea. However, reps should steer clear of saying, “I know how you feel” — after all, unless you’ve coincidentally experienced the exact same thing as the other person, you don’t know how they feel. And the more extreme the situation, the more aggravating this statement becomes.


You can convey the same idea (without sounding presumptuous) with a couple simple swaps.

Try one of these alternatives:

  • “That sounds difficult.”
  • “I can imagine that would be hard.”
  • “That must be challenging.”
  • “That situation seems like it would require [patience, grit, creativity].”

And as you can see from the last example, bringing up a former client who faced something similar is also smart. Not only do you prove that you’re familiar with the issue, but you get to weave in a case study. Win-win.

5) “No problem.”

When it comes to apologies, “No problem” is a perfectly good response. You’re telling the other person no harm, no foul, and you’re ready to move on.


But when someone thanks you, it’s a different story. Saying “no problem” doesn’t just minimize your actions, it implies the prospect’s request was, well, a problem. You’ll immediately lose some of the goodwill you just scored.

Fortunately, the fix is simple: Say “You’re welcome” instead. If you want to switch it up, use “I’m happy to help,” “Glad I could help,” or even “My pleasure.”

6) “As I said before …”

People typically use this phrase as a reminder that they’ve talked about a particular point during an earlier conversation. Unfortunately, the prospect hears, “You’re clearly not smart enough to remember I’ve already covered this, so I guess I have to go over it again.”


To avoid seeming passive-aggressive, skip the qualifier and launch straight into your comment. Here’s an example:

Before:As I said, our basic package is best for teams with less than four people … ”

After: “Our basic package is best for teams with less than four people … ”

Worried about needlessly repeating yourself? Tell the prospect, “Stop me anytime if we’ve covered this to your satisfaction.”

7) Obviously

Salespeople often unthinkingly use this word to point out something that’s crystal-clear to them. But if that fact or detail isn’t evident to the buyer, the rep seems condescending.

For example, if she’s discussing her product’s capabilities, she might say, “Obviously, it can’t do X or Y, but … ”


Her prospect will wonder, Wait, why can’t the product do X and Y? Are those functionalities not developed yet? Am I supposed to know about this?”

Use your expertise to deepen your prospect’s trust in you, not make them feel stupid or ignorant. Rather than inserting “obviously” into your statements, simply deliver them. The buyer will feel more comfortable asking questions, and you’ll avoid coming across as patronizing.

Dropping these phrases from your speech will definitely improve communication with your prospect. However, you’ll also need to pay close attention to their body language, tone of voice, and responses — so if your message is taken the wrong way, you’ll know in time to do some damage control.

Which phrases do you always see being misinterpreted? Let us know in the comments!

HubSpot CRM


The Mathematical Formula to Doubling Your Sales Without Working More


When most salespeople try to double their sales, they wing the math and work as hard as they possibly can. This leads to burnout — and extremely disappointing results.

That’s why I’ve created a mathematical formula that can help all salespeople double their sales, without working more: I call it the 2X Formula.

This formula enables you to work smarter, not harder. It doubles your sales without doubling your effort. There will be a little bit of math involved, but I promise it’s not complicated.

Follow this through to the end, and this strategy will help you dominate your competition in sales.

The 3 Components of the 2X Formula

There are a few general ways you can increase your sales. You can increase your number of customers, your average sale size, or your frequency of purchase rates for existing customers. One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is attempting to double their sales by trying to double any one of those three markers. This is extremely difficult to do, and it’s an unrealistic goal.

My 2X Formula grows each of these markers by just 26%. Let me show you what I mean. Here are the three components of the 2X Formula:

  • 1.26(customers)
  • 1.26(average sale size)
  • 1.26(frequency of purchase)

By increasing your number of customers, average sale size, and frequency of purchase by 26% each, you’ll double your overall sales. This is a much more attainable goal than doubling any one measure. Here’s the formula:

1.26(customers) x 1.26(average sale size) x 1.26(frequency of purchase)
= 2X total increase in sales

There you have it: The exact formula to double your sales while working less than you do now. Check out the video below to learn more about this game-changing formula.

The 2X Formula at Work

As an example, let’s look at my client Denise. Denise runs a marketing business with around 1,000 customers. Her average sale is $1,000, and her average customer makes one purchase from her a year. We can multiply those three measures together to determine her annual revenue:

1,000 x $1,000 x 1 = $1 million dollars

Denise does $1 million dollars in revenue each year. Remember, these aren’t her profits. She’s getting by, but she could certainly be doing better. Now, Denise could try doubling her sales by doubling her customers to 2,000, doubling her average sale to $2,000, or doubling her frequency of purchase to twice per year — but that would be a lot of work. Instead, let’s see what happens when she uses the 2X formula:

1.26(1,000) x 1.26(1,000) x 1.26(1)

When she increases each of these measures by 26%, we find that she needs to grow to 1,260 customers, $1,260 in average sales size, and a frequency of purchase of 1.26. This last number translates to one purchase every 9.5 months. Together, Denise and I put some packages and programs in place to encourage those more frequent purchases, and we used some of my other techniques to grow her customer base and average sale size. Now, let’s do the math:

1.26(1000) x 1.26(1000) x 1.26(1)

1260 x 1260 x 1.26 = $2,000,367

Denise’s new revenues are $2,000,367 — that’s more than double. And she did it by making a simple 26% increase to just three different numbers.

Instead of getting overwhelmed by doubling any one measure of your sales success, focus on increasing your customers, purchasing frequency, and average sale size by just 26%. This is a very attainable goal and, when you do it, you’ll double your sales without working any harder.

How can you apply this formula to your own business? Share your plans in the comments below. For more game-changing sales tips, check out this free Special Report on 3 Closing Questions You MUST Ask.

HubSpot CRM


11 Things Every Top-Performing Salesperson Knows Before They Take a New Sales Job


Picking the right company is a crucial component of your individual success. Every product needs the same foundation: A great customer service team that shares a common goal for excellence, an adequate budget to finance growth, and a management team with the experience and vision to ensure opportunities are utilized. Understanding whether these mechanisms are in place before joining a company requires extensive research.

The following points will help provide a comprehensive overview of potential employers, how their products are viewed by customers, and the competence of the management team. In this example, I discuss researching a company that supplies a technology-based product, but the process can be adapted to any situation.

1) Product-Based Research

Do not attend an interview without having downloaded your prospective employer’s free software. View the product from the customer’s perspective and make notes about the functionality and how you feel. Does it hook clients and offer an obvious progression into a premium subscription? If so, why? Could it be improved? Take these notes to the first interview. Differentiate yourself with an informed opinion.

Then, if it goes well, ask for a login to the premium service to understand more before the next interview.

If you get the job, learn the product before stepping foot in the building. That way, you are ready to produce revenue on day one.

Call the company’s help desk to understand the customer experience. Good customer service is the pillar of repeat business.

Contrive a problem, or simply call in and ask for help with the free software. Was the support team responsive and knowledgeable, did they value your call, and did they conduct themselves professionally? Form your own opinion. Then, call the competitors and do the same. Why not? Know what you’re up against. I never hesitated to do this throughout my sales career, and it served me well.

Call the sales team to enquire about pricing and unique selling points. Don’t lie about being a customer — just ask about the service. Do you feel pressured? Is the process complicated? What is the process of getting a quote? This says a lot about what the company expects from its salespeople. This is another chance to get the customer experience.

2) Customer-Based Research

The most valuable feedback about your potential employer is from their customers. Find a way to contact them, explain that you’re thinking of joining, and ask their opinion of the company and its products. If you try hard enough, you will make this discussion happen. Existing customers will also offer their perspective of competitors and what differentiates products. This provides a roadmap to selling your product from the only person who matters — the person buying it.

3) Company-Based Research

Think strategically. Don’t just research the company — seek to understand the industry too. Is your prospective employer an industry leader or a lean startup, and who are their biggest competitors? What are the company’s competitive advantages or disadvantages in the market? Where does your potential new product fit into the grand scheme of things? These questions help you formulate an effective sales process. Is the company developing new technologies, and is there an opportunity to progress into this? This pre-interview research shows your potential employer you are a serious, professional candidate.

Ask to meet the sales team before joining. Meeting your colleagues prior to joining helps give a sense of how collegial, supportive, and competent they are. Ask them what it’s like to work there. In my experience, there is always a cynic on the team who is only too happy to have a good moan. Find them and ask what they are unhappy about. If it’s an issue, such as constant in-fighting, then you know there is a managerial issue.

What is your new boss’s history? Look at the success and legacy of your new bosses and who is implementing the overall strategy of the company. Can you rely on them to drive the business in the right direction? Can they clearly articulate how you will hit your targets? Ask the Sales Director how their existing customers would describe the product. Does this align with your research? You might be surprised by what you hear. However, you are the salesperson and own the target — do the research and decide how it’s getting done, before joining.

4) Align everything to your personal goals

The best salespeople view their customers as equals and maintain this power-dynamic at every point of contact. It’s the same mindset when talking to a prospective employer. The process shouldn’t be viewed as an opportunity to beg for a job. In addition, don’t automatically take for granted the content you read on the company website. It all looks good; every word has been carefully chosen to seduce the reader. Take ownership of this process, through rigorous preparation develop an informed opinion, and understand every aspect of what the job involves and how it fits with your personal goals.

This includes:

Crunching the sales revenue numbers. If the sales-cycle doesn’t match the annual target expectations, you will fail. This is particularly important in the first year when ramping-up your sales activity. For example, if your sales cycle is three months long, then deals pitched in months 10 through 12 won’t close in the first year. Also, you are unlikely to close substantial business in the first quarter since joining. Has the company accounted for this when setting your annual target? Have you accounted for this in your sales plan? These oversights do not sort themselves out. The best salespeople identify discrepancies and plan accordingly.

Understanding your territory and how you will make your numbers. Not all territories are created equal. Research your territory, and understand any nuances required to sell into it. Map out potential revenue by account and create a plan to win this business. Reverse-engineer every step and share this with your potential employer to check they agree.

Knowing the product’s longevity. A logical, well-researched, metric-backed understanding of your new product’s longevity will help you predict future changes in your salary structure. If the product becomes widely accepted and customers become enterprise accounts, will you be paid more, less or replaced? Is there progression within the company beyond this point?

Having a backup plan if it goes wrong. Some companies are actively working towards automation and replacing their salespeople. The world is changing fast, so adopt a similar mindset. Consider what to do if the company isn’t what they claim to be, ditches your division, alters commission plans, or is a bad fit.
This is the point where a salesperson must assess the impact they can have on an industry.
Are you able to build a strong enough network and personal brand to future-proof yourself against decisions out of your control? 

View new opportunities from this perspective, and it will serve you. This is a tactic normally reserved by only the best salespeople, but you just read it, so no excuses.

Continue to network with potential new employers, even after you accept your position. Let them know you’re beginning a new position, but want to stay in touch. This way, you won’t be starting over from scratch if things go wrong.

Genuine company culture, management styles, or plans for the business aren’t found on the website. Also, day-to-day expectations are often poorly represented in job descriptions. If you do the above, you are giving the process of finding a new company and product to sell the respect it deserves. Use the interview phase to fill in the gaps, demonstrate your expertise, and show how you can add value to the company and your customers.

I hope this was helpful. Please feel free to connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Lee Bartlett’s blog and has been republished here with permission.

HubSpot CRM


A Primer on Persuasion: 21 Strategies to Convince Prospects to Buy


For a salesperson, persuasion is the ultimate superpower.

How often do you get a call from a prospect you’ve never spoken to before who says, “I love your service and it’s the perfect fit for my business. Where do I sign?”

Probably not that often.That’s where persuasion comes in. Some deals are easier to close than others, but all sales conversations will involve some degree of persuasion — even if both salesperson and buyer know your offering is the best choice.

It’s not easy — if persuasion were simple, far more than one-third of all salespeople would make quota. But adopting the techniques below can make you more convincing, and influence prospects to buy.

This guide is divided into four sections. Use the table of contents below to quickly navigate to each:

1) Quick Tips

2) Conversational Pointers

3) Timeless Advice

4) Psychological Hacks

Important note: Salespeople should not sell prospects unless they’re confident the product or service will benefit them. Persuading someone to reach a mutually beneficial goal is one thing. Lying is another. Don’t cross the line.

Quick Tips: Persuasion Hacks

These four tips provide quick and easy ways to immediately boost your self-confidence and perceived authority.

1) Make the right amount of eye contact.

They say that eyes are the “windows to the soul” for a reason. Eye contact engenders a subconscious sense of connection. In a Cornell University study, researchers altered the eyes of the Trix cartoon rabbit on several boxes and then asked adults to choose one. Participants most frequently chose the box where the rabbit was looking directly at them.

How much eye contact is enough? According to body language expert Carol Kinsey Gorman, you should aim to make direct eye contact for 30% to 60% of your conversation.

2) Smile and dial. 

You won’t always be able to meet prospects in person. So it’s a good thing we are remarkably sensitive to vocal intonation even when we can’t see the speaker’s face. One study even showed that we’re able to identify different types of smiles based on audio alone

With this in mind, you’ll come across as more engaged and helpful if you smile during a conversation, and your prospects will be happier to talk to you.

Fun fact: Nestlé actually places a mirror at each salesperson’s station as a reminder to reps to smile while they dial.

Smiling can help your own state of mind as well. Research shows that even a forced smile decreases stress levels and makes you happier. So smile! It’s good for you, and people will respond positively to your enthusiasm and upbeat mood. 

3) Use “power poses” to increase your confidence.

“Fake it ’til you make it” is oft-given advice, but does faking it actually help you achieve your goals?

According to psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED talk “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” it does. Cuddy conducted a study where she asked participants to stand in poses associated with high-power and low-power positions for two minutes.

Saliva tests revealed that the high-power group saw a 20% increase in testosterone levels, a hormone associated with confidence, and a 25% decrease in cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress. The low-power group experienced a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol.

When you’re confident, you inspire confidence in others. Your prospects don’t want to listen to a meandering, uncertain salesperson — they’re looking for an authoritative guide who can lead them through a confusing purchasing process.

So the next time you want to instill trust, strike a pose. High-power poses include standing up straight with your hands on your hips, leaning back in your chair with your feet on your desk, or sitting with your legs and arms spread. Low-power poses include sitting hunched over or shrinking in your chair.

You can see more high-power and low-power poses in the recording of Cuddy’s TED talk on the subject, starting at 10:40.

4) Nod at your prospect.

Like smiling, the physical act of nodding is so associated with agreement that it has measurable effects on opinion. Research shows that people who nodded while listening to a radio broadcast agreed with the broadcast’s content more than people who shook their heads or made no head movements while listening.

Because humans naturally mimic each other, your nods will likely be contagious and prime your prospect to say yes.

5) Use your hands.

If you’re meeting with the buyer face-to-face or over a web conferencing platform like Skype, use hand gestures. 

“Emblematic gestures, such as the OK sign or extending two fingers to signal two, are particularly helpful in aiding memory,” writes Richard O. Young, author of Persuasive Communication: How Audiences Decide.

One study found audience members remembered 34% of a message when the presenter used emblematic gestures, compared to just 5% when they didn’t use any gestures.

Conversational Tips: What to Say and How to Say It

The number of words you say in a sales conversation represents the number of opportunities you have to win that deal, so make every word count. Use these tactics to make sure you’re communicating the right way.

6) Use your prospect’s name.

Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language. -Dale Carnegie

You should know all your prospects’ names and the names of their businesses. If you don’t, learn them. (Memory not your strong suit? Try out HubSpot’s free CRM to help keep track of all the prospects and deals you’re currently working.)

Not only is remembering (and using) your prospect’s name common courtesy, it also subtly reinforces your relationship and demonstrates that you respect them as a person, separate from your business dealings. It’s the reason a personalized “Hi, [recipient’s name here]” is becoming near ubiquitous in email marketing.

7) Sequence your questions strategically.

The best way to get somebody to agree with your argument is to make them think they thought of the idea first. That means understanding your prospect’s strengths and weaknesses as well as or better than they do, and asking questions designed to guide them to your proposed solution.

To do this, start with questions you know will be answered with a “yes.” This strengthens your prospect’s faith that you understand where they’re coming from, and gets them in the habit of agreeing with you. It also helps you build your case piece by piece, instead of having to stop and handle objections every five minutes.

Word your questions in a way that reinforces your product as the best choice. Instead of asking, “What’s the best way for you to improve [X part of your business]?”, emphasize the value of your product: “If you were to perform [X action enabled by your product] and it created [Y positive business result], would that be valuable for your team?”

A tip from the lawyers’ playbook: Once you’re past the initial discovery and solution-building stage of the sales process, avoid asking questions you don’t know the answers to. Instead, do enough upfront work so you know everything you need to know in order to anticipate and mitigate objections.

8) Mirror your prospect.

We naturally pick up the mannerisms and speech patterns of the people we spend a lot of time with. Why? It makes us more likable.

In one study, people were more likely to report positive feelings toward those who mirrored them. In addition, once a participant had been mirrored, they acted more favorably to people in general — even those who hadn’t been involved in the initial conversation.

While you should stop short of blatant imitation, be attuned to your prospect’s behavior, and calibrate yours accordingly. If they seem timid, don’t overwhelm them with exuberance, and vice versa.

9) Affirm your prospect’s concerns and questions.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question. When your prospect raises objections or asks for clarification, use language like, “I see where you’re coming from,” and “That’s a great question” to reassure them that they’re being heard and respected. 

10) Avoid putting prospects on the defensive with the Ransberger Pivot.

If a prospect misrepresents information you’ve provided or objects to one of your points, you have two options. You can respond with, “You’re wrong,” and put them on the defensive, or you can use the Ransberger Pivot to bring them around.

(Hint: go with the pivot.) 

Developed in 1982 by Ray Ransberger and Marshall Fritz, the Pivot is a three-step technique designed to positively address disagreement:

  1. Listen to your prospect’s objections.
  2. Understand your prospect’s objections, or ask questions until you do.
  3. Find a common goal in your prospect’s objections and convince them that your solution is the best way to achieve those goals.

For example, if your prospect raises concerns about your lengthy onboarding process because they want to hit the ground running, acknowledge their desire to see results as soon as possible. Then point out that while you’re fully supportive of their goals, they’ll be able to better achieve the desired outcomes if they spend the initial time upfront to learn every facet of your product.

11) Avoid filler words.

According to a study from call analytics platform TalkIQ, steering clear of filler words like “um” and “like” can lead to longer sales calls. 

“There was 30% less use of these words in longer calls than shorter calls,” explains TalkIQ CEO and cofounder Yon Nuta. 

Filler words make you sound less confident and credible. They’re also distracting, especially if you use them so often the buyer starts anticipating when you’ll say one next. 

Luckily, there’s a simple fix. Replace filler words with short pauses. Not only will you sound more self-assured, you’ll also give your prospect more time to digest your message.

Timeless Advice: How to Win Deals and Influence Prospects

In 1938, Dale Carnegie penned the now classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People. In this section, we’ve taken some of Carnegie’s best tips and given them a sales-focused spin.

12) Appeal to the nobler motives.

Maybe your prospect wants to make enough money to hire an additional employee so they can get a raise, or look good to their boss. And your offering can help them do just that.

But framing the entire sale as a salary or promotion play won’t get you very far. Even if you win over your contact, they certainly won’t be able to secure buy-in from decision makers by emphasizing how this purchase will help their individual position.

“A person usually has two reasons for doing a thing: one that sounds good and a real one,” Carnegie writes. “All of us, being idealists at heart, like to think of motives that sound good. So, in order to change people, appeal to the nobler motives.”

With this in mind, figure out your prospect’s real motivations for buying (or not), and repackage these intentions into a loftier cause.

13) Dramatize your ideas.

At its core, a closed-won deal is an exchange of money for a product or service.

Described this way, it sounds like one of the least interesting things in the world. But you know that a sale is more than that — it’s the promise of better outcomes for both you and your customer, and describing it this way is far more inspiring. 

At some point you’re going to have to make a business case, but your conversations shouldn’t exclusively focus on dollars and cents. Show your prospect what their business could be, and how your product will take them there.

14) Arouse an eager want.

A crucial part of winning people over, according to Carnegie, is to always appeal to what they want. Placing yourself at the center of a purchasing decision is the wrong strategy. 

Instead, step into your customer’s world and tap into their motivations. If you do this right, you hand your prospect a sense of empowerment.

As Carnegie put it, “Customers like to feel that they are buying, not being sold.”

Psychological Hacks: Using Science to Your Advantage

Inspired by this infographic from Everreach, the following tactics use psychology to persuade.

15) Scratch your prospects’ back.

Why? Because they’ll be more likely to scratch yours.

One study found that when waiters gave customers a complimentary mint, their tip increased 3%. Giving two mints saw a 14% increase. When the waiter left one mint, then turned around and said, “But for you nice people, here’s another mint,” his tip increased by 23%.

This is known as reciprocity. Going above and beyond for your prospects — especially with a bit of theater — will make them want to help you if they can.

16) Ramp up the urgency. 

People want things that are scarce. If you’re offering a discount or something else that your company provides on a limited basis, let your prospect know. Also make sure they’re aware of what they stand to lose if they don’t act soon.

17) Establish yourself as an expert.

It’s simple — people trust people who know what they’re talking about. Signal to your prospects that either you or your company (ideally both) are highly knowledgeable in their industry.

18) Ask for a small initial commitment.

People who have said “yes” once are likely to say “yes” again. It’s why so many technology companies offer free trials. Laying the groundwork with small asks also moves prospects closer to the ultimate “yes” — a signed contract. 

According to Everreach, people hoping to persuade would be wise to first seek “voluntary, active, and public commitments in writing.” In this way, you hook your prospects little by little, which makes the big decision at the end seem like a natural and foregone conclusion.

19) Make your prospects like you.

Nobody likes helping people they dislike. In one study, two groups of MBA students were asked to come to a mock business agreement. One group was told to skip all pleasantries, while the other was asked to identify one similarity each student shared with their negotiating partner. Fifty-five percent of the group that got straight down to business came to an agreeable solution, but 90% of the group that took time to find common ground were able to do so.

Remember — we’re all human. Establish a relationship with your prospect outside of the sale and your deal will likely be easier to close.

20) Use consensus to your advantage.

It’s not that we’re lemmings … but we’re kind of lemmings. People look to others’ behaviors to determine what’s socially acceptable and how they should act.

You can leverage this by using testimonials and case studies from happy clients in your sales collateral. You can also reference your total number of customers or following on social media to emphasize your company’s wide reach. 

But what if you only have one customer? Lean on reviews or assessments from industry experts. If you don’t have impressive numbers as of yet, it’s best to avoid them altogether.

21) Limit the number of choices you give your prospect.

It’s far harder for humans to make choices if we’re presented with too many options — a study by Columbia Business School professor Sheena Iyengar found that while more variety draws us in, it fails to convert interest into purchases. 

So be careful not to overwhelm your prospect. Even if your product comes in 37 colors or variations, start narrowing down that pool from the first conversation so you can present your prospect a much smaller, more manageable set of options.

Persuasion is a tricky skill to master. Changing someone’s mind isn’t an easy thing. But the right mix of the tactics above will get you at least one step (and hopefully many steps) closer to convincing your prospects you’re the sales rep they want to sign with.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

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The Ultimate Guide to Outside Sales


Before the advent of web conferencing tools, “sales” and “outside sales” were synonymous. These days, reps can easily talk to prospects on the other side of the state, country, and even world.

But does that mean field sales has lost all value?

While inside sales is growing at a far faster rate than outside sales, there is still a true need in some industries for good old-fashioned face-to-face selling.

To help you navigate the world of outside sales, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide covering:

Outside sales definition

Outside sales (a.k.a. field sales) is a type of selling strategy where reps meet prospects face-to-face. Field salespeople typically spend a lot of time traveling within their given sales territory.

What is an outside sales rep?

A field salesperson manages new and existing customer relationships within her territory. Unlike an inside sales rep, she meets with her prospects and clients in person — usually at their offices, but occasionally at trade shows, conferences, and other industry events.

Outside sales representative salary

According to PayScale, the median take-home salary for outside sales reps is approximately $53,000. Commissions make up 25% of those earnings.

Outside sales skills

PayScale surveyed outside salespeople and found the most common skills include customer relations, new business development, account management, and account sales.
Having technical sales knowledge can increase a field sales rep’s salary by 24%, while new business development and strategic selling skills translate to a 10-24% earnings boost.

Outside sales vs. inside sales

Inside salespeople usually sell products with shorter sales cycles. Their deals are higher volume and more transactional. Outside reps tend to have longer and more complex sales processes.

Inside reps rely on phone, email, and virtual meetings to communicate with buyers and customers, whereas outside reps use phone and email to set up appointments and in-person meetings to qualify, identify needs, present value, and negotiate.

An inside salesperson has a fairly set, predictable schedule. Each day, they must drive a certain level of activity — dials, meetings booked, proposals sent, and so on.

An outside salesperson, on the other hand, has a flexible, varied schedule. Because they travel often, their days are anything but regular. Outside reps typically have more autonomy (not to mention, their manager might see them as infrequently as once a quarter).

How to choose an inside or outside sales strategy

Making the call on inside sales versus outside depends on a few factors.

First, does your offering require a physical demo? Some products, like medical equipment or industrial machinery, can’t be demoed remotely. But that doesn’t mean outside sales is automatically the right fit — it might be possible to use other resources, such as product specs, videos, and customer testimonials, to present your solution to the buyer without physically bringing it to them.

Outside sales is inherently more expensive. You must pay for your reps’ travel, food, and lodging on the road. In addition, outside sales reps usually have higher base salaries. According to SalesLoft, they earn 12-18% more than inside reps. Keep in mind that outside salespeople also usually have more experience — which unsurprisingly boosts their earnings.

Although video conferencing tools and sales and marketing automation platforms have made it far easier to sell to prospects from hundreds or thousands of miles away, outside sales is more effective on the whole. Some studies have found field reps have a 22% higher win rate than inside reps. Again, it’s difficult to entirely separate this statistic from other variables. Taking a face-to-face meeting signals much higher buying intent than a virtual one, so it may be that field reps are working with more committed prospects and can therefore close deals at a greater rate.

One of the most important aspects of this decision is your buyer personas. Some prospects, like college professors and physicians, are accustomed to field salespeople. If you try to change their buying process, they might opt for your competitor. Use your influence on selling your product, not changing how they evaluate and make purchasing decisions.

Some prospects are extremely comfortable with buying products remotely — in fact, using a field sales approach might make your company seem out-of-touch. Startups tend to be in this category.

And with an increasing number of people avoiding all direct contact with a rep (preferring to buy things by themselves or using chat to ask questions rather than a phone call), inside sales will probably become the optimal approach for more and more industries.

Inside and outside sales working together

Inside sales and outside sales aren’t mutually exclusive. Many companies are taking a mixed approach: A team of inside reps will prospect and qualify, then hand off good-fit prospects to outside reps who will take the deal over the finish line.

Alternatively, some salespeople handle the first part of the sales process from their office and then travel for opportunities in the middle or end of the funnel. This allows them to focus their energy and attention on the deals likeliest to close.

Whatever you choose, keep an eye on the ROI of your sales team. Measure average revenue per salesperson and average cost per salesperson (including travel, other expenses, and total salary).

You should also compare your cost-of-sales to other companies in your space to get a sense of how productive your sales team is.

Finally, monitor your reps’ conversion rates through every stage of the sales process. Identifying where prospects tend to fall out of the funnel helps you decide where to use an inside versus outside strategy. For instance, if 98% of initial meetings are generating follow-up appointments, your reps are probably over-qualifying — and leaving money on the table.
To make sure you’re not ignoring potentially valuable opportunities, you could hire inside reps to prospect. This hiring investment will drastically drive up the number of meetings your salespeople can book. Your conversion rate will go down, but your overall revenue should climb.

Hiring outside sales reps

Finding a skilled outside salesperson isn’t always easy. Use these resources to build a top-performing field sales team.

Outside sales rep job description

[Company name] is looking for an outside salesperson [in X location, to serve Y territory]. The ideal candidate will have a combination of these skills:

  • Use X channels to connect with [prospect job title]
  • Qualify leads based on [company’s] strategy and qualification framework
  • Book approximately X [meetings, demos, presentations] per month
  • Travel [X percentage of the time, Y days per week, around Z region on a daily basis]
  • Identify customer needs and tailor our product’s value to those needs
  • Promote [company] brand by offering unexpected insights and thought leadership
  • Conduct in-depth research on prospects using [LinkedIn, Datanyze, Mattermark, etc.]
  • Forecast revenue and proactively course-correct what’s not working or double down on what is
  • Maintain existing relationships and identify opportunities to grow named accounts


You don’t need to fit every bullet on this list to apply. But succeeding in this role typically requires [X%, a majority of] these qualifications.

  • Bachelor’s degree from accredited university
  • Familiarity with a CRM
  • [X years] of sales experience — especially if you have previously worked [in X field, with Y market, in Z location]
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to work autonomously, prioritize, and manage your time
  • Proven ability to meet quota
  • Negotiation skills

Outside sales interview questions

Use this checklist to identify the best candidates — from their performance and hard skills to problem-solving approach and work style.

Sales performance interview questions

1) Which techniques or strategies did you use to show your product’s value?

2) Describe a competitive situation you ultimately won. What accounted for your success?

3) Have you dealt with a territory shift in a former sales job? How did you handle it?

4) Tell me about a hard-to-convince prospect and how you managed to win them over.

5) How many times have you beat your quota? What did those months or quarters have in common?

6) What’s the length of your current sales cycle?

7) What are the most common reasons you lose deals?

Sales skills interview questions

8) How do you typically build rapport with prospects?

9) What are your favorite prospecting channels?

10) Would you rather call or email prospects? Why?

11) What role does social media play in your sales process?

12) Which questions do you like to use to qualify prospects?

13) What’s your negotiation style?

14) What’s your average close rate?

15) How closely do you work with the other members of your sales team?

16) How do you deal with rejection?

17) How do you prioritize your time?

18) Do you follow any selling methodologies (the Challenger Sale, SPIN Selling, etc.)

19) How do you stay up-to-date on the industry? Which blogs, websites, publications, and/or newsletters do you read?

20) Which part of the sales process are you most comfortable with? Least comfortable with?

21) How do you prepare for meetings with new prospects?

22) When do you decide to walk away from a buyer?

23) Which technologies and tools are you familiar with? Which ones do you use on a daily basis?

24) How do you use them?

25) Have you experienced a sales slump? How were you able to overcome it?

Personality fit interview questions

26) What drives you to succeed?

27) In an ideal world, how frequently would you collaborate with your team members?

28) What would you like to achieve in the next three to five years?

29) How do you prefer to work with your sales manager?

30) How much feedback and direction do you currently receive from your sales manager? Would you prefer more or less autonomy? Why?

31) Describe your optimal sales environment.

32) What are you looking forward to in this role?

Outside sales interview questions

33) Are you comfortable traveling [X% of the time]?

34) Describe your ability to sell in a face-to-face setting.

35) What makes you nervous about a field sales job, if anything?

36) What do you anticipate will be the main challenges of a field sales role?

Outside sales tips

The fundamentals of selling don’t change: Add value with every interaction; tailor your product’s benefits to their situation, pain points, and opportunities; adapt your sales strategy to their buying process; qualify them properly; establish urgency; and so on.

However, there are a few unique aspects of outside sales that reps should be aware of.

First, be extremely diligent about logging your notes and activity in your CRM. This is tough when you’re always on-the-go — but if you try to keep everything in your head, rather than in the system, you’ll forget crucial details and let tasks slip through the cracks.

Look for a CRM with an easy-to-use, full-feature mobile app. The easier it is to pull out your phone after a meeting with a prospect and update the opportunity, the likelier you are to do it.

Second, replace face-to-face meetings with virtual ones when you can. If you’re taking a risk on a buyer, suggest speaking over Skype or Zoom before you invest precious time and resources into flying to meet them. You’ll find many prospects would rather have an online meeting, anyway.

Once you’ve qualified a buyer and are ready to move the sales conversation forward, schedule an in-person appointment.

Third, proactively get help from your sales manager. Because you’re rarely — if ever — in the same place, spontaneous coaching opportunities are a lot harder to come by. You’ll need to take the initiative. Your manager can make a huge positive impact on your career: Not only can she give you tips and share best practices, she can also influence your results via territory and lead assignments.

Rather than waiting for her to set up a check-in or ask how you’re doing, take control. Schedule call and pipeline reviews yourself, and go to her when you’re facing a significant obstacle.

Fourth, pay attention to your in-person impression. In field sales, appearances matter. Are you consistently on-time, polite (to everyone in the office, not just the decision makers), and appropriately dressed? Different offices have different dress codes, so look at the company’s website to figure out how formal your outfit should be. You can also ask the office manager for help — call or email them and say, “I’m visiting [prospect] on [date] and was wondering what the general dress code is.”

Fifth, use technology to optimize your route. If you’re visiting more than one company in a trip, consider using a route planning app. This tool will let you minimize driving or flying distance, prioritize your prospects, and manage your appointments. Some even connect to your CRM for painless follow-up.

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7 Signs You Should Walk Away From a Prospect


Walking away is hard. It’s especially hard when you’re walking away from a potential deal — after all, you’ve spent time, energy, and resources building a relationship, and giving up means you’ll have nothing to show for it.

But in the long run, knowing when to walk away and disqualify a lead will make you far more effective. Every minute spent chasing an impossible or low-value deal is a minute you could spend closing a likely or high-value one. Even if you do convince a poor fit to buy, you’ll be setting yourself up for unhappy customers and a poor reputation.

To avoid the pitfalls of bad-fit prospects, look out for the seven signs you should give up on a deal.

1) The Prospect Can’t Answer These Three Questions

Sales requires some detective skills. You need to uncover your prospect’s pain, figure out what she means (versus what she says), and tailor your messaging to her priorities.

Yet you can’t do all the work. According to Colleen Francis, author of “Nonstop Sales Boom,” sales reps should walk away from prospects who can’t answer these three questions:

  • What does success look like with this project?
  • Who else will be involved in this decision?
  • When do you need to have this project done by?

If the prospect says, “I don’t know,” that tells you that either she’s not serious, or she’s not a decision maker. And if it’s the latter? Well, somewhere during the approval process, the real decision maker will ask her those same questions. Without a satisfactory response, the deal won’t move forward.

Before you give up, try saying, “I’m worried that unless we can figure out what you’re hoping to accomplish — and by when — this might not be the best investment of your time. Should we table this conversation?”

2) They (Really) Don’t Have the Budget

Sales reps are used to hearing “We don’t have the budget,” and “I can’t afford that price.” And that shouldn’t be your cue to give up — many prospects use price as a convenient excuse to get off the phone.

However, some companies really won’t be able to afford your product. Here’s where you should do a bit more discovery: What’s your prospect’s company’s revenue? Is accessing cash a matter of proving the purchase’s value to higher-ups or hoping that a new round of funding comes in? If you changed billing terms or offered a slight discount, would that change things? Do you typically sell to companies of this size with this approximate revenue? If your prospect’s answers are completely misaligned with what you’re able to provide, you’re probably out of this prospect’s price range.

Rather than abandoning the deal with no warning, let your prospect down gently by saying, “Given what you’ve told me about your budget, I don’t believe our product is the right fit for you.”

Score some sales karma by adding, “I’d recommend [Company A] or [Company B]; either should be able to meet your needs within the budget you’ve outlined.”

Now you’ve created some goodwill — so it’s a great time to request a referral. Say, “Do you know anyone who’s looking for a more robust solution?”

3) You’re Competing With 3+ Other Vendors

Given your line of work, you probably enjoy a little competition. But as sales expert Jeff Hoffman explains, pursuing a sale when there’s three or more other vendors in the mix isn’t usually worth it.

Not only do your chances of closing decrease with every direct competitor, Hoffman says, the fact that you’re facing so many other vendors suggests the deal’s still in early stages. You’ll likely be working with a lower-level employee, rather than the decision maker.

And even if you turn down an RFP, that doesn’t mean the opportunity is lost.

“If your company was a serious contender, the manager will tell the researcher to go back to your company and ask again,” Hoffman notes. “If you receive a second request, you will know the prospect is truly interested, and you aren’t wasting your time by getting involved.”

4) They Go Dark

Out of nowhere, your prospect fell off the face of the planet. She won’t return your calls, answer your emails, or respond to your LinkedIn messages. Eventually, you turned to your last-resort re-engagement techniques — and still, zilch.

It’s probably time to stop trying. Sure, there’s a chance she’ll respond to that tenth email or eleventh voicemail, but let’s be real, it’s a very slim chance. Plus, when you refuse to recognize prospects who aren’t interested, you end up with a cluttered pipeline and inaccurate sales forecasts.

You shouldn’t end a relationship by going dark yourself, however. Wrap the relationship professionally by sending a breakup email. Bryan Kreuzberger, founder of Breakthrough Email, says sending a “permission to close your file” email gives reps a chance to learn from the sale. (Check out the template he uses that gets a 76% response rate!)

5) You’re Working With a Coach, Not a Champion

The prospect is picking up the phone and putting your meetings on his calendar, so life is good, right? Not necessarily. Simply talking to you isn’t enough — the prospect needs to be able to move the deal forward.

If a prospect is unable to introduce you to other stakeholders, talk about his budget, share his decision criteria, or answer your questions about his needs, desires, and pain points, he’s likely a coach — someone who can be valuable in providing context around his company’s internal politics and decision making processes, but lacks the authority or influence to impact a deal.

In these situations, you don’t need to abandon the account. You just need to find a champion — someone with access to the decision maker who will sell your product internally. You don’t want to burn bridges with your coach, so don’t insinuate that they’re not useful to you. Instead, keep things positive and ask your point of contact who besides them should be involved in the conversations. They’ll point you to the people who can actually ink a deal.

6) They Don’t See Your Value

It’s the salesperson’s responsibility to educate the buyer on their solution’s value. If your prospect is struggling to understand why they need your product and how it will help them achieve their goals, reframe your value proposition, show them customer case studies, send them testimonials from your happiest clients, and so on.

But if you’ve repeatedly attempted and failed to convince them of your offering’s ROI, it’s time to call it quits. Some buyers will never grasp the message — and you’ll simply waste your  breath if you keep trying.

While they might end up buying, you’ll have a difficult (if not impossible) time negotating a fair price. After all, they see your product as a commodity. 

7) It’s Not a Good Fit

If your product won’t help the prospect, you’re obligated to walk away. At the end of the day, your mission shouldn’t be closing: It should be delivering the best solution to your customers.

Imagine you sell online reputation management services to restaurants. Because your product isn’t really cost-effective for smaller organizations, you target dining establishments with 20 or more locations. You get an inbound lead for a restaurant with only two locations; after following up, you realize this business will get minimal ROI from your services — if any.

Rather than pushing forward with the sale, you should say, “From what I’ve learned about your restaurant and goals, I don’t believe our product is the best solution. I recommend [alternate product #1] or [alternate product #2] instead, because [reasons A and B].”

This response boosts your reputation as credible and trustworthy — so when the prospect’s restaurant chain gets acquired by a much bigger one, you’ll be the first person she calls. But even if this prospect never becomes a good fit, she’ll likely pass your name along to anyone who is.

Removing a prospect from your pipeline never feels good, even when you know it’s the best thing to do. But there’s a major upside. When you walk away from the prospects who aren’t right for your business, you’ll be able to focus on the prospects who are.

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6 Secrets to Getting a Response From the CEO


Imagine you’re a pilot landing a plane. A long runway is obviously better than a short one since it gives you more wiggle room to adjust your approach. When you are tasked with landing on a short strip of runway, you must be far more meticulous about your movements to bring the plane down safely. I often use this metaphor to describe the difference between reaching out to a manager- or junior-level buyer as opposed to a C-level executive. When a salesperson sends a message to a lower-level prospect, they can afford to try a stronger ask at first, and then tweak it or scale back as necessary. But when you’re pitching to a CEO, you really only have one shot to engage them. Bungle the ask and you miss the runway entirely.

With this in mind, salespeople must be deliberate and thoughtful in how they approach CEOs if they hope to receive any kind of response. Here are six tips that can help your pitch land smoothly with the chief executive officer, and maximize your chances of getting a reply.

How to Get a CEO’s Attention

1) Use a gentle ask.

CEOs are extremely busy, so in my outreach, I’m not going request a meeting or a conference call. Deploying an overly strong ask in the initial email or call will pretty much guarantee never getting a call back. And at this stage, a response is all I’m after — not a signed contract.

CEOs aren’t usually willing or able to give of their limited time. So instead of trying to think of the magical sentence or statistic that will prompt the executive to drop everything and meet with you, I encourage salespeople to consider what CEOs are willing and able to give. In general, CEOs are friendly and outgoing since they’re constantly representing their companies to a variety of audiences. They’re extremely savvy when it comes to social dynamics and credibility.

Take this information and play in their wheelhouse. Rather than a meeting or call request, soften and socialize your close by asking the CEO for a referral or a connection to more information. Not only do these asks require significantly less time and attention, CEOs actually like giving references and information.

For example, an email using this approach might read something like this: “I want to make sure I don’t sound foolish when I call your organization about X issue. Where/from whom can I get the best information on this topic?”

Instead of coming to the CEO as a credible sales rep, you’re now approaching them as a curious student, and you’ll likely find that they’re much more willing to engage on this level. And once they start to engage, you can ramp up the relationship bit by bit.

Another benefit of making it ridiculously easy for the CEO to respond to your message: Getting any sort of response automatically boosts your credibility with others in the organization. Maybe you’re trying to book a meeting with the VP of HR. You think it’s more likely they’ll agree to your call when you say “Well, I got in touch with your CEO last week, and she said X … “? Instant credibility earned.

2) Write emails on your phone.

CEOs are constantly on the go, which means nine times out of 10, they’re reading email on a tablet or smartphone. If an email from an unknown recipient requires them to scroll, it’s not getting read.

Bearing this in mind, write any email intended for a CEO on a smartphone. That way, you see exactly how it will appear to them when they read it. Salespeople often make emails to C-level buyers overly long and complex, because they think they need to sound smart and impressive. But when it comes to getting a response, short and simple is always better.

Don’t sit in front of your desktop computer and fill up the screen with a novel. Get out your phone, type out a few brief sentences, and send.

3) Don’t dismiss the EA.

The common perception among salespeople about executive assistants is that they handle C-level professionals’ calendars and block others’ access to them. End of job description.

Maybe that was the case 20 or 30 years ago. But in 2016, executive assistants are extraordinarily competent in a plethora of areas, and their duties extend far beyond administrative tasks. Beyond keeping their boss’ calendars, EAs also represent their managers at internal and external meetings and sometimes even make decisions on their behalf.

Because of this, I think of the executive assistant as the CEO by proxy. Instead of trying to bypass the EA, work with them to get the information you need and indirectly engage the CEO. Sometimes interacting with and posing your ask to the EA is more beneficial then accessing the CEO. For example, if I was building an ROI calculator to strengthen a presentation and needed data from the CEO to complete it, getting it from the EA is just as good — and much faster. When it comes to any other ask besides signing the contract, I don’t distinguish between the CEO and their EA due to how closely they work together.

It’s also a good idea to call the EA and pick their brain before you reach out to the CEO — after all, they know more than anyone else what works with their boss and what doesn’t. However, EAs are busy people too, and they won’t just give you the information you want simply because you asked for it.

Keeping in mind that EAs get countless calls from salespeople pitching “value and benefits” for the CEO, differentiate yourself from other reps by showing your vulnerability. For example, here’s how you might kick off your call with the EA:

“Hi, Mike. I’m going to be reaching out to Wendy soon, and I don’t want to look stupid … what’s the one thing I definitely shouldn’t say?”

Ah — now you’ve got their attention. The EA can be critical in your campaign to reach the CEO, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by dismissing them.

4) Draw on the college connection.

Salespeople often try to find common contacts, interests, or employers when reaching out to prospects. This is a smart technique, but it can be tailored even further with CEOs.

The most powerful connection you can use with the chief executive isn’t their current company, their former company, or any of their colleagues past or present. It’s their college. In general, CEOs are extremely involved with their alma maters, and if you went to their school or know someone who did, use that as an in. Reminiscing about college days can quickly become talking about current business.

5) Call late.

Common sales wisdom holds that salespeople should call executives early in the day, before they get too busy. But in my experience, connect rate (which I define as a phone call over 60 seconds long) is notoriously low in the morning hours. Why? When a CEO gets to their office, they might not have gotten in the swing of things quite yet, but they’re distracted — thinking about all the tasks they have to get done that day. Not the ideal time to hear from a salesperson.

The end of the day tends to be a better time to call the C-suite — think 5 to 8 p.m. local time. Later in the day, you’ll find that the person on the other end of the line is less distracted, a little tired, and in an overall better mood.

You might be concerned that a late call will be a bother to an executive. But to me, this is a non-issue. If your call comes at a bad time, they simply won’t pick up. Not to mention that what a CEO finds “bothersome” has little to do with your timing and everything to do with your message. If you have a good message, they’ll be interested in what you have to say — even if it’s a bit late.

6) Use a 45-day cadence.

Industry standard is five touches in 30 days. For CEOS, I advise five touches in 45 days.

CEOs’ schedules rarely exist on a monthly cadence. They think about quaters, not months. Most prospects are available sometime within a month. No matter when I reach you, there will be sliver of time in four weeks that you’re available — even if for two of those weeks you’re on vacation, sick, off-site, working on a major proect, and so on.

But many CEOs will disappear for an entire three weeks at a time, depending on what they’re doing.

A CEO can’t stay away from her company for an entire 45 days, which is why I recommend an extended calling schedule.

Want more sales tips? Subscribe to my quarterly newsletter “The Deal Doctor™” to receive my latest tips, techniques, and strategies to achieve greater sales.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

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Why the Best Salespeople Are SNIPERs, Not Spear-Throwers


We all remember the adage: Good sales people are like spear throwers, whilst marketing casts the net.

Spear throwing is so ’90s. It may as well be Neolithic.

In this age of modern technology, I’ve found the machine gun is a more accurate metaphor for most salespeople when they begin.

They lack focus and often pick too many targets — many of which are not the right ones.

This often leads to longer ramp time, countless burnt leads, and a non-structured approach that’s hard to measure and even harder to repeat.

As salespeople gradually mature, I think they become more like rocket launchers.

They become more effective in closing deals, but often there is a certain amount of fall out in every deal. This is visible in:

  • Signs of weakness in the handover to customer success
  • Customers confused about features that were misrepresented or not mentioned during the sales process
  • Some internal stakeholders feeling off put by the conduct of the lead salesperson and potentially reluctant to work with them again
  • Incomplete CRM records, making attribution almost impossible
  • Key points of contact on the customer side who feel the sales person was less experienced or careless, diluting experience and brand equity

At a certain level of expertise, my best sales people evolve into revenue ‘snipers.’

They demonstrate an extraordinarily ability to research, select, and close business in a way that you can rely upon.

For ease of explanation, I’d like to introduce the SNIPER methodology. This acronym is extremely helpful in teaching and practicing the approach:

  • Select
  • Negotiate
  • Individualize
  • Personalize
  • Execute
  • Repeat


A sales rep carefully takes the time to make two key selections.

The first is choosing which account to target based on extensive research (most of which can be done online using public data).

The second and most commonly forgotten step is to conduct a second degree of selection as to which POCs (point of contacts) are most likely to exhibit the problems the salesperson knows their product can solve.

A SNIPER salesperson usually updates the CRM with this information, allowing them to personalize subsequent interactions.


We must not forget that in most situations we seek to avoid conflict. That is why a SNIPER must exhibit supreme skills in negotiation — making the client feel as if they are being heard and that compromises are being made on both sides.


Elite SNIPERs are known for having a trademark; the signs of their involvement are always clearly visible.

I like to use physical touches, such as wearing a cowboy hat and attending meetings with unique clothing. You can also differentiate yourself by your speaking style, professionalism, subject matter knowledge, and punctuality in replies.

The goal: Make yourself memorable and unique from the other 99 sales people who’ll come knocking on the door.


Every effective SNIPER takes the time to tailor a strategy based on the specific characteristics of each target they select.

Although reps consistently use the SNIPER methodology, they tailor their approach to each prospect to create interest and service their unique needs.

Taking time to create one-to-one emails, proactively avoiding common vendor assumptions, and making the effort to meet in person are all signs of SNIPER’s highly personalized strategy.


Execution separates the good from the best. Often the steps above can be followed directly, yet still most people have something missing when it comes to the close.

SNIPERs attempt to complete the mission at all costs. This is justified because they’re only targeting fully qualified opportunities, as predicated by the first step.

In the unlikely event that despite following this method, something occurs dynamically which may stall the deal (such as a merger or acquisition), they are ready to immediately abort and move on to a target with a higher chance of success.


SNIPERs are different from standard performers in that they follow this method time and time again. Stopping only to make minor technique modifications, they generally build further pipeline velocity through the efficiency created.

Additionally, their methodical approach makes them perfect future mentors for new hires and/or sales managers.

Would you rather hold onto the spear, or do you believe that the SNIPER method has a place? Let me know in the comments below.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn and has been republished here with permission.

HubSpot CRM


How to Choose the Right Accounts for ABM (and 3X Your Average Deal)


There’s no doubt that Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is hot right now. According to the SiriusDecisions 2016 State of ABM, 70% of all B2B companies are focused on driving account-based selling programs. That number is up 350% from the previous year’s study.

Research from the ABM Leadership Alliance found B2B marketers saw a 171% lift in their average annual contract value (ACV) when implementing ABM strategies.

But while many are talking about what ABM is and why you should adopt it, few are teaching the tactics.

At Engagio, we’ve set out to create the most clear and complete guide to ABM. In this post, we’re going to dive into the first and most important part of account-based sales: Selecting the right accounts to target.

How to Choose Target Accounts for Account-Based Marketing 

Building an ABM Engine with Data

Using the right data fuels your ABM rocket. Neglecting to use data, or even worse, using the wrong data, can lead to internal combustion and complete system failure.

A study by SiriusDecisions proves better data results in better account selection, which leads to a 35-40% higher average sales selling price (ASP). How much would 35-40% add to your bottom line? Using the right data points allows you to scientifically identify the accounts with the highest likelihood of doing business with you. This data can also tell you which existing customers are likely to expand.

The two key types of data you’ll need to draw better company-level insights are firmographics and technographics. Firmographics are company characteristics that best predict a good fit including company size, industry, number of employees, estimated revenue, estimated growth, and number of locations. Technographics are the technologies your target accounts currently use or are looking to invest in — for example, complementary technologies to yours, technology that rules out your solution or makes it less necessary, or competitive solutions where you know you have a highly win rate.

Get Insights on Contacts to Shorten Sales Cycles

Next, identify the contacts you’ll need to reach out to within your target accounts. Take the time upfront to research the customer stakeholders, their place on the organizational chart, personal goals, and the level of influence they each have. Targeted sales prospecting lets you get to the right people in less time.

The specific details you’re looking for include:

  • Job title
  • Tenure
  • Decision-making hierarchy
  • Account affiliation
  • Activity/engagement history
  • Skills and proficiencies
  • Experience with your category

Once you’ve collected these details, you can build an “influence matrix,” which will give you and your team members more clarity into the buying and decision making processes within the account. This step can decrease your sales cycle by as much as 50%.

Getting Access to Decision Makers with Market Insights

According to 75% of executives surveyed by ITSMA, prospects welcome even unsolicited material when the ideas are relevant to their business. After you’ve found the right accounts and the right contacts, deliver relevant business insights.

To organize your account based plays effectively, you need to know:

  1. The target’s industry and market trends
  2. SWOT analysis of the target account
  3. The relationships inside the account
  4. Your connections to the account

This information will lead you to the content and delivery methods you should use with each account. Providing compelling insights generates credibility, trust, and ultimately more business.

From Idea to Execution: How Engagio Selects and Tiers Accounts

Selecting target account is a rigorous process. We use three funnels:

  • Funnel 1: Target accounts
  • Funnel 2: Qualified but non-target accounts
  • Funnel 3: All other accounts

Target accounts are hand-selected by the individual account executives (AEs) with help from Marketing (which provides firmographic data and a definition of the Ideal Customer Profile).

Funnel 2 represents all the non-target accounts that meet our ICP and have become a Marketing Qualified Account (MQA). MQAs are similar to MQLs; however, when you’re taking an account-based approach, you focus on accounts rather than leads.

Funnel 1 accounts are further broken out into three tiers. Each AE selects roughly five Tier 1 accounts, 45 Tier 2 accounts, and 150 Tier 3 accounts. These tiers are important because they decide how we will treat each account:

  • Tier 1: This is ABM in its truest sense. We use deep research, a customized account plan, personalized content, bespoke campaigns, and one-to-one communication. There’s no automation.
  • Tier 2: These accounts also receive individual research, but they’re limited to a few key points of information for each account. We won’t use completely personalized plays and custom content but will still deliver highly relevant touches based on their industry and persona.
  • Tier 3: This bucket includes all the accounts that you want to target but don’t have the resources for personalization and customization. ITSMA calls this Programmatic ABM. It’s traditional marketing with account-level targeting and customization. The key difference from demand gen is that instead of scoring leads, you track account-level engagement and wait until the account hits a sufficient threshold to label them an MQA.

After you select your target accounts, it’s time to map out the players. Use data and predictive analytics to identify the individuals who represent your key personas inside each target account Once we have the accounts and contacts, we use our own platform (ABM Analytics) to understand key engagement metrics inside each account.

Identify the Right Data with Insight Resources

If you want to be successful with ABM, you need to invest in new resources. The proportionately larger deals you’ll be closing will make this investment worth it.

Here are some of our best tips and lessons we’ve learned around implementing ABM:

  • Insight generation has to be somebody’s job, or it’s nobody’s job.
  • Incentivize your people: Compensate your Sales Development Reps on insight collection metrics, or run a SPIF.
  • Utilize third-party vendors that specialize in collecting insights on companies and people.

This is just the beginning of the ABM process, but it’s the most important piece. Get this wrong, and you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. Get this right and your business will see growth like it’s never seen before.

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