How Good is the Perfect Email if the Prospect Never Reads It?

Lately there has been a trend to focus really hard on writing the perfect email.

It’s not a trend that’s being promoted by sales leaders, mind you. It’s a trend that’s developing from the reps.

I’ve run into a few of these reps and not a single one of them was crushing their numbers and opening tons of new opportunities. Top performers never put all their eggs in one prospecting basket. They know it takes more than a perfect subject line or hook in an email to effectively develop the accounts in their territory.

Are emails still important? Yes. They’re crucial. Except when you spend too much time on each one. Because that strategy doesn’t work. Let’s dig into why.

First off, odds are the prospect won’t read your email.

This is a tough one to embrace if you love sending emails. Here’s why odds are your email will never get read.

Prospects get tons of unsolicited emails every single day. We’re already balancing our calendars, priorities, and projects. Our days can get turned upside down if an employee or our boss or the CEO adds something we weren’t expecting. Reading emails from prospects is the last thing on our minds.

Yes, this is true even if you crush every tip in the book. It’s not because you’re sending bad emails, it’s not because of your subject line, and it’s not because you’re doing a lousy job.

It’s because prospects have a job to do and it’s unlikely your email is going to make that job any easier right this second.

Unless what you’re offering is something the prospect is looking for right now, your well researched email is never going to be opened. Even if your email is exactly what they’re looking for right now, odds are it will never be opened if the only thing you do is send an email.

Ask yourself, what on earth are you expecting to dig up researching a prospect that will give you a huge advantage?

Reps spend tons of time researching before sending emails. Which is great, except most of that research is overkill.

Here’s what you need to figure out: what has recently happened or changed in that organization to make the prospect more likely to want to talk to you?

I care if we have a mutual connection. I care if you know that I’m evaluating services like yours because you spoke to one of my colleagues and she sent you my way. I care if you’ve picked up on an important change in my business and somehow your product is obviously going to help me out.

Yet so many reps are looking for personal triggers.

There is one personal trigger I would use. If you see specific language a prospect uses, whether it’s in an interview or on their LinkedIn page or in a blog post, I’d consider using that if it ties directly to what your product does.

Anything else is complete BS, and we can smell it a mile away.

Don’t bother trying to figure out if your prospect loves orange juice. Focus on providing something valuable to the prospect and deliver that message to as many prospects as you can without spamming them. Sending enough emails is more important than sending high quality emails.

The most successful reps know that an email strategy needs to be scalable.

This is where things often go wrong. Instead of creating a set of strong email templates that are easy to tweak and fine tune, the rep starts practically from scratch each time. The rep will take ten or fifteen minutes to write or rewrite each email, too.

If it takes ten to fifteen minutes to write an email and you spend half your day writing emails, how many will you send?

Twenty, on average. Twenty emails, that’s it.

What happens next is even worse. The rep will take time away from calling and researching to write more emails so they can cast their net further.

Yet we already know most of those emails won’t be opened.

Smart reps have a set of templates for the most common emails they use. They’ll even put in blank spaces that they know they need to fill in every single time to customize them. How long does it take this rep to send an email?

Three minutes or less.

I’m not knocking research, mind you. I’m not saying customization is bad. What I’m saying is that you’re not a craftsman writing emails, you’re trying to develop a sales territory. That’s your goal. If your emails aren’t getting opened (they aren’t) then why put in a ton of extra effort into the content of your email?

If you spend a ton of time customizing each email then the only way you’re successful is if you make sure that email is opened.

Think about it for a second before I ask my question again.

What is the point of doing all this research and customization if no one ever reads the email in the first place?

You have to do more than maximize the odds you’ll engage a prospect if they open the email, you have to maximize the odds the prospect will open the email.

If you were ever wondering why your manager wanted you to make more phone calls and leave messages, this is it. Your emails are wasted unless they’re noticed. You need to do something to get them noticed, otherwise you literally cannot win. The most direct and effective way to do that is to pair your emails with a phone call and, since the prospect is extremely unlikely to pick up, leave a strong voicemail.

I can hear it now. “JV, no one picks up the phone! Why bother making phone calls?”

Fun question to ask yourself. Which is higher, your connect rate or your email reply rate (only measuring prospecting emails)?

The best emails I’ve ever seen for B2B prospecting have reply rates slightly higher than the connect rate over the phone. Most are far worse.

Here’s the best part. You can actually test voicemails to see how many people open your email. You can try calling prospects after they open your email. There are tons of cool prospecting strategies you can try out when you’re willing to pick up the phone and get into an account.

If you only send emails you’re selling yourself short.

One closing thought I need to add. Everyone has their opinions on what emails work and everyone is wrong.

Including me.

I know what works for me personally. I know what has worked for my teams, backed up by rigorous testing.

Not once have I seen a team crush it by sending emails all day without some kind of scalable strategic approach. The best reps always took some time to place phone calls and leave voicemails. They had run the numbers and come up with the smartest way to mix in the phone.

None of the top performers who have worked for me spent their days writing custom email templates.

That’s right, zero.

And if that was the game plan? I suspect the company would wise up and hire content writers to customize emails for their sales team all day.

What mix of email and phone calls have you seen work?

Dear people in your 20s and 30s, you won’t be anywhere near retiring at 50

This is a topic that’s been on my mind lately and I was thrilled to see Len’s take on it.

First off, I tip my hat to Len for taking the initiative to make recommendations instead of simply listing the problems he sees in the world. A big mistake I’ve seen (and made myself) is identifying problems and thinking you’ve done the world a great service by pointing them out. Figuring out the problem is only the first step. It’s the easiest step, anyone can do it. The real challenge is in assessing the problem and coming up with good potential solutions.

Len’s analysis and recommendations are fantastic, too. I don’t agree with all of it (nor did he expect everyone to), so this is my take on how I view things and what advice I’d give, including to myself.

Technology isn’t going to destroy the job market. If anything it’s going to make it even better.

Yes, the future of jobs is only going to be better.

Digging into historical data and trends leads me to believe that the economic conditions we’re creating with new technology will be no different from the world we were born into. Think about it for a minute. Have we seen massive shifts in the job market over the past few decades? You betcha. Both globalization and new technology have changed what jobs people do and don’t do.

So should you be worried about that shift? No, not if you simply want to have a job, and yes, if you think you’re going to be doing the same work decades from now.

The two big takeaways I see are that (a) we’ve steadily gained jobs over the long-term and (b) new technology is going to create opportunities for new jobs instead of eliminating jobs.

We’re losing jobs slower than you might think, and more jobs are being created than we’re losing.

Let’s start with the job creation and elimination trends since 1994. This snapshot that shows we’re actually eliminating fewer jobs than we were 20 years ago. We’re also creating fewer jobs than we were. The overall rate of job creation and elimination is SLOWING.

We’ve steadily increased the number of jobs in the USA since 1939. Think about that. Nearly 80 years of job growth.

What’s happened in that time? Manufacturing was sent overseas. We started making, or having everything made, in every corner of the globe for us to buy at lower prices.

Then we sent professional jobs overseas, everything from accounting to programming to customer service.

We’ve shifted so much work overseas that I swear every company I’ve spoken to in the past year has an outsourced research team in Pakistan or the Phillippines. No, I’m not making this up.

Our job market has gone through massive shifts. Many of today’s jobs are significantly different from what we were doing for work back in 1994 and it’s been going on for far longer than that (hold that thought a moment). Yet job growth here in the USA has continued to go up, up, up!

What does that mean? There’s less innovation and disruption than we really think there is. That’s both good and not so good.

The best news of all is that it’s not really news, it’s more like Groundhog Day. New technology leads to more new jobs.

I mentioned that massive shifts in our economy have gone on for a far longer time than the past few decades. In fact, this whole notion of “So many jobs are going to be eliminated!” has been going on for centuries.

It’s called the Luddite Fallacy. Essentially as we create new technology as humans we assume we’re going to eliminate more jobs than we create. What we fail to come up with is how each new technology will actually create new jobs that didn’t exist any more.

Heck, the term ‘Luddite’ comes from the factory workers who protested the technological advancements that came to the textile industry because they firmed believed they, and the entire working class, would be put out of work by these new machines.

When did this happen? 200 years ago. (1811 – 1816)

It sounds an awful lot like economic changes we’ve been going through and will continue to see, doesn’t it?

This kind of thinking has been going on for centuries. It’s human nature. We’ve yet to create technology that eliminates much of the job market and it’s unlikely we’re about to do that.

Instead of preparing to get crushed in your 50’s, focus on what you can do in the next job market. You can take advantage of these new jobs and industries if you want to take on work outside of selling domains or driving an Uber. You don’t have to “retire” at 50.

Taking actions to make sure you can shift your career to put yourself in a great position ahead of the changes we’re going to see if the most important thing you can do.

I spoke with someone who works for a state funded group that helps people find jobs, and he had a lot to say about the challenges people face when their industry or line of work disappears. The biggest challenge these people face? Accepting the fact that the world changed, their line of work is gone, and they have to learn the technologies and skills other people have learned over the past few decades to get a new job.

It’s a sobering picture. These people aren’t out of work because they did a poor job, whether they were a button pusher at a factory or were a Director at McDonald’s. They’re out of work because those jobs disappeared and the new jobs require different skills.

I heard two polar opposite stories from him about how people were handling this.

One was a saleswoman who said she was facing blatant ageism. She couldn’t believe no one would hire her with such a strong background of quota achievement. Turns out she had one issue. She didn’t know how to use Microsoft Office… and refused to learn it.

The other was an older man who’d been a programmer, a project manager, and even run engineering departments. He had spent the last 20 years learning new languages and development methodologies. While he faced some clear cases of ageism, he had a far more current skill set and never came close to taking a job as a barista.

I’ve spoken with a number of people who’ve transformed their careers in their 50’s and 60’s. It’s more than possible, it’s completely doable.

Your job might feel more secure because there’s less disruption, but the future of our economy may be in trouble if we continue to innovate less.

That’s the core fear I have with less disruption. The less disruption we face, the most likely it is we’re facing an overly fragile situation, one that will fall to pieces when change finally hits.

It’s no different than the day you walk into work and find out your job has been eliminated, except the trend of less disruption could have a much wider impact on our economy and whether or not there are jobs to be had. I’d rather face an evolving job market than one that could be crushed.

So, what should you do?

1. Rely on more than your 401k. Len nailed this one as the most important point. You need to have a mixture of “retirement” savings as well as cash on hand. If your industry or career path disappears then cash will be your friend. Cash gives you options. You don’t have to necessarily go back to school to develop new skills, however you might need to take a lateral move in your career to land in something that’s advancing. That lateral move might be backwards, too. Backwards would mean a pay cut. Better to take a pay cut and survive than fight back in the name of a dying industry.

2. Live within your means. The reality we all face is one where our peak earning years may be our 30’s, before we have to reinvent ourselves. It’s too easy to get caught up in buying a bigger house, a nicer car, and splurging on lavish European vacations when you’re making more than you used to. Don’t go all in. If you’re going to spend big on something, spend big on something you absolutely love and cut your budget for everything else. Make sure you’ll be able to get by if you have to take a step back in your career.

3. Take care of yourself before you put aside a penny for college for your children. There are a number of ways to afford a college education. Most of it can be dealt with around the time your kids go to college. If they go to college. But saving a nest egg and socking away money in your 401k and IRA? You get so much more out of your investments putting money away early than later in life.

4. Spend 5+ hours every week developing new skills or a side hustle. I think 2 hours a week is too few to tackle anything significant in a reasonable amount of time, but if 5 hours sounds too daunting then simply find 1 hour per week to start. Better to put in 1 hour a week than nothing. This is going to be the foundation so you’ll be able to find enough work to pay the bills, whether it’s a job or consulting work or running your own business.

5. Figure out what’s new and exciting to you, and find a way to put yourself in the middle of it. Here’s the shortcut: go look at job reports and see what jobs will be growing the most and which will be shrinking. Is there anything in the growing sectors that interest you? That’s where you put your efforts. Go meet people, learn new things, and set yourself up to shift into that job market. You don’t have to make the jump, of course. You will be far better off having the option to make a move than hoping you’re on the winning side of your industry’s inevitable shift.

6. Determine how you can make a living on your own. There has been a surge in hiring contractors, consultants, freelancers, and temporary workers. Your job and industry might have a huge shift in that direction, and where will that leave you? If you’re spending time building your own thing you’ll be far better prepared to take control of the next phase of your career. Plus freelance work can be a great way to land a full-time job with one of your clients.

7. Be cautious making long-term financial plans and commitments. This includes getting an advanced degree or buying a house. Think them through before taking a leap. If you buy a house near where you work and the industry you’re in collapsed, where could you work? How much would your house be worth? It’s a frightening thought, yet if the entire local economy is dependent on one core industry then you should figure out if you’re willing to lose your job, your career prospects, and your house all at once.

8. Live life so you never have to retire. One of the biggest life changes people make is literally retiring from work. Many workers spend so many years not taking care of their health and well being that when they retire it all catches up at once. That’s why you hear people say, “Everyone dies within 2 years of retiring.” It’s not the lack of job that kills you, it’s that your body no longer feels the stress of work to keep you pushing through the poor health you’ve taken for granted. Maybe you would have lived a little longer if you stayed working. Maybe working would have done you in. Get your health in order so you can continue working as long as you want to and so you’ll be able to enjoy those years if you do retire.

Again – these are my thoughts on the topic. If you agree, disagree, or feel a strong reaction to them, remember that’s within you and something you should think about. That’s what I did with the original post. In no way do I think Len is wrong, I think he had an interesting point of view and I hope his post and others on the topic get a lot of people thinking and acting on their careers.

That’s the most important part.

What are your thoughts on the evolving job market?

How Conversational Should I Be On A Sales Call?

One of my least favorite pieces of sales advice is to chat a prospect up to build rapport. Specifically to open up a prospecting call or a first demo.

Why? As a sales rep I never saw success doing it. Not because I was bad at it, because it didn’t warm anyone up, period. Now I get calls as a prospect, and it truly annoys me when a sales rep I don’t know wants to chit-chat about trivial things.

Yet if you do a little digging around you’ll find tons of advice like these nuggets:

“Find a personal connection to break the ice!”

“Asking a question like, ‘How was your weekend?’ opens up the conversation!”

“See what’s the big topic where the prospect lives – sports team, new restaurant – and find out their opinion!”

All of this is great advice… if you already have some kind of relationship and you know it’s a smart topic to bring up with this particular person.

Early on? Not so much. You can get lucky using this approach every once in a while if a chatty prospect picks up the phone. Most of the time it’s going to be a huge turnoff.

The dilemma is that you do need to build rapport to have any shot at the next step and eventually closing the deal.

What kind of rapport do I need to build?

There’s the old saying, “If the prospect likes you and trusts you, he’s more likely to buy from you.” Which is true. It’s in the wrong order, though.

Developing trust is more important than being liked any day of the week in sales.

Many of the best sales reps I’ve known in my career are miles away from being the lovable schmoozers people tend to associate with sales. Having this innate charisma works great to a point. Buying decisions are being made with more people involved than ever. More involvement means one person’s affinity for a particular sales rep becomes a moot point when everyone gets together to discuss who they’re doing to buy from.

When a decision is made it’s often the vendor who everyone believes will actually deliver on their promises once the contract is signed.

It’s better to be great at steadily building trust across an organization than it is to butter prospects up. Personally I’d rather be trusted and liked well enough. It’s better than being loved yet somewhat unreliable.

Even though trust matters the most, being liked is still important.

One thing to keep in mind is that the opposite of likable isn’t unlikable. In fact if people think you’re unlikable you can gain an advantage in specific instances. Someone who seems unlikable is controversial, and being controversial means you’re going to have loyal supporters backing you up against your sworn enemies.

The opposite of likable isn’t unlikable, it’s being boring.

Boring kills sales calls.

At the heart of every decision is emotion. Yes, including rational decisions. What we’re doing is weighing the consequences of saying “yes” and “no” by projecting how we’ll feel after we’ve made a choice.

It’s so easy to say no to boring, which is why it’s the polar opposite to likable. One is a strong emotion and the other is devoid of emotion.

This is why being unlikable to some, or even many, is far more desirable than being boring. You’re basically invisible if you’re boring.

Being likable is more about acting similarly than it is about sharing common interests.

Because let’s face it, are you really going to narrow your target audience down to people who share the same interests as you? Would you stop talking to a prospect who’s into fly fishing or quilting because you don’t have a common connection around a hobby?


So don’t get hung up on someone’s LinkedIn profile. Pay less attention to their alma mater and where they volunteer. Pay more attention to their tone of voice, their body language, their mannerisms, and the words they use.

Building rapport is more about developing a sense that the two of you are similar people than it is about small talk.

If you can find a way to slip in their alma mater or make a quilting reference then you should do it, assuming it fits the conversation. It’s good reinforcement. Making that reference won’t change anything if you struggle to establish a baseline common thread between the two of you as human beings.

Personal details are far more important the longer you have a relationship with someone. Having that casual chat is a sign that you’re comfortable with one another.

Wait, if having a casual chat is a sign we’re comfortable with one another, shouldn’t I have a casual chat with the prospect?

Think about it for a moment. Think about a time someone walked up to you and acted like you two knew each other. How did you feel in that moment? Confused, a little out of touch, struggling to come up with who this other person is.

Then the ball dropped: you realized you didn’t know this person and it was all a ruse.

Now turn that from an in-person conversation into a cold phone call and what do you get? The prospect hanging up at the other end of the line.

We have casual conversations with people we’ve become comfortable with.

I’m sure you can think of someone who you’d be happy to shoot the breeze with yet you wonder how much of what comes out of his mouth is hot air. If he tries to sell you something you’re not going to listen. Casual conversation is entertainment, not a sign of a strong relationship.

A strong relationship is built on trust first, then some form of likability. That’s what you need to be in the running for the deal.

How have you built rapport with prospects in a meaningful way?

The 2 Closing Questions You Need to Ask Every Time

Last week I didn’t close someone the way I normally do and it’s haunting me right now.

Do I have a good reason for skipping over my normal close? No, I really don’t. The situation felt different and I skipped the first question, which means the second question never came up.

Now I have to wait and wonder, “what are they going to do?”

Have you ever wondered gotten off a call and wondered which way the prospect was leaning? How did it make you feel?

I know how it makes me feel. The feeling I have right now is awful, simply awful. I absolutely hate being in this situation and it’s my own fault this time.

It’s not about having an answer, either. I’d feel much better if I had a sliver of a clue.

It’s my punishment for not closing correctly.

Closing is a natural part of the sales process and asking for the next step should feel like ticking off a checkbox. That’s how I’d describe closing. It’s not heaving a half court shot with one second left on the clock, it’s like finishing a grocery list and realizing it’s time to check out. Yes, you might get to the end and realize you can’t buy that last item because they’re out of stock. Not everything will move forward. It’s still a checklist, one that you completed.

If you’ve done your job correctly leading up to the close, you typically have a really good idea as to how that last question is going to go. That’s why I have two questions. I don’t want to get stuck if the answer isn’t the one I’m anticipating.

It feels just as bad when you get an answer you weren’t expecting and then stumble with a, “OK, well then, yeah, why don’t you let me know when that’s fixed and we can talk more?”

It won’t get fixed and you won’t get a call. You blew it.

The first question you need to ask is, “If we’re in agreement on these points, can we move to the next step?”

You might be nodding your head thinking you got this. If not, don’t worry. You’re probably not going to use those words literally, so let’s dig into how to use that phrase to close any step of the sales process.

When you close someone on the next step you’ve typically had a conversation and at this point you see a compelling reason to move to the next stage of the sales process. Time to ask for that next step.

There are two steps to close this way. They are:

Step one: state why you believe it’s time to recommend moving to the next step.

Step two: close with “If you agree with me, will you take that next step?”

If you’re closing out a prospecting call and you’ve established some reason the prospect would be interested in a deeper conversation you’d say something like:

“Based on what I know at this point, that you’re running into some challenges using reports to evaluate your Sales team, I recommend we set up a time to go over how we’ve helped Sales leaders like yourself quickly and effectively make adjustments using our analytics. If that makes sense for you too, would you have time Thursday or Friday morning to reconnect for thirty minutes?”

Next you have a strong demo. Some key reasons come up for the prospect to move forward with a proof of concept, so you’d close with:

“To wrap up, you said your biggest concerns are that your team is only able to run major analyses on a monthly basis, and even with those monthly updates you can’t be sure any changes you’ve made are having an impact until at least the next monthly review, if not longer. That’s something we come across all the time. To get a better sense of how we could help you with that I recommend a two week proof of concept, which I mentioned earlier. If that sounds like a great way to evaluate how this would benefit you, what would we need to do in order to set up a proper evaluation on your end?”

Then you have the proposal. The prospect and her team all seem in agreement. Could they be ready to sign on the dotted line? Time to find out if they’re going to buy:

“It sounds like we’re all in agreement that our solution would not only get you the analysis you’re looking for, it would provide you with the ability to see what’s happening and how your adjustments are working pretty much in real time. If you have no further questions, when can we move forward to roll this out to you and your team?”


I’ve walked you through each step and you’ve probably visualized a first demo meeting… a great demo… a promising proof of concept… a proposal that has them itching to buy… and a signed contract.

You’ve also probably visualized the last call that didn’t go that way. Which happens pretty much every single day.

What do you do when you don’t get a strong “yes” to move things along? Two more steps to take:

Step one: determine what’s preventing you from moving forward.

Step two: once you’ve determined that, handle the objections appropriately.

You might be wondering, what does this look like?

Let’s run through the first scenario, scheduling a demo. The prospect might say, “Well I don’t have any budget and this sounds expensive, I don’t think taking a demo is going to be a good use of time honestly.”

The two step approach to handling this would be:

“Prospect, other than budget, are there any other reasons you have for not scheduling a demo?”

Then when you have that great demo and go to close for the proof of concept you get pushback again. “This looks great, but I don’t think my team will want to use something besides Excel to run these reports.”

To handle this you’d say:

“Prospect, I understand. Besides being concerned that your team would not buy into using something other than Excel for these analyses, are there any other reasons you have for not setting up a proof of concept?”

Everything goes smoothly through the proposal, you have agreement in sight, and then you get pushback you never saw coming. “It’s too expensive!”

The way you’d handle this is:

“Prospect, other than price, do you have any other reasons holding you back from signing on?”

It’s crucial to know how many objections you have to handle before handling any of them.

If you handle the price objection, give them a discount, and then find out they know they need you to do extra services work to set things up, how are you going to backpedal on your agreed upon price?

This can (and will) happen at every step of the process. It’s most challenging at the end when you’re negotiating terms.

You need to make sure you know everything you’re going to need to negotiate to get a signed deal before you start making concessions.

I had this happen to me with two prospects in my first sales role. Both were ready to sign on the dotted line… if I could make one minor change to them. Except that change was a deal breaker for us. Our entire business model was based on bulk deliveries and both wanted us to pre-package much smaller containers.

I went through the entire negotiation to have them ask for that one teeny tiny concession with the agreement already written up and ready to go.

If I had done my job better I would have never put a contract on the table, because there were no terms we’d be able to deliver on. I just assumed they knew from the get go that we were bulk and that was it. I was wrong.

I did the same thing last week and now I have to wonder whether or not I’m going to get that next step.

Next time I won’t get sloppy. I’m going to ask those two questions.

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The Danger Prospecting Using Only One Approach

The biggest mistake I made in my first sales role nearly killed my sales career in my first six months on the job.

Mind you, when I started out it didn’t seem like I was making a mistake. I landed my first deal in my first month. The next month I hit my quota. I felt like I was off to the races, especially when I closed out my first quarter by landing my first BIG deal.

Two months later I wondered if I was going to sell anything at all.

That big deal had bought me some time, but I started to worry. What if I don’t sell any new business for an entire month? Would they fire me? If I was fired would anyone else hire me?

Most nights I went home so stressed that I’d get angry making dinner if the littlest thing went wrong. I’d curse out my undercooked rice and tell my chewy chicken where it could shove it. Whatever “it” was.

The toughest part was that I hadn’t listened to my boss, and he was right. I hoped he saw that I had changed my ways and everything would be okay.

Part of that was hoping he’d see the change, and part of me was praying things really would be okay.

What was my boss right about that I had ignored?

He told me to prospect into my accounts in multiple ways and never depend on one method at the only way to get my foot in the door.

The worst part was that he’d even shown me the resources the company gave us to do this. It wasn’t a lack of training. It was a lack of me doing my job the right way.

I hadn’t really taken every aspect of prospecting as seriously as the one method I was best at. Classic rookie mistake.

I was selling to a lot of blue collar industries where workers would take breaks at specific times. My most effective move was to stop by around break time, chat someone up, eventually lead the conversation to what I was selling, get them excited about it, and then let them lead me straight to their boss at the end of their break.

It worked so well that I once had the boss take a long look at me as he realized I had been walked into the front office through the warehouse by one of his workers before saying, “Smart salesman.”

I thought this was my ticket forever.

What I didn’t take into account were the few hundred accounts my favorite prospecting method produced zero first meetings. I simply thought they’d eventually come around. Boy was I wrong.

Taking multiple prospecting approaches should have been obvious to me, too.

My BIG deal started with a phone call, not with my smoke break chat maneuver. I had also landed a few meetings with great prospects after leaving or sending them some collateral before making my prospecting calls.

There I was, wondering if I’d sell anything, with one hot lead produced because I actually listened to my boss and prospected into the account the way he had told me since day one. I hoped I could close it before he fired me.

You might be in the same boat. I’ve managed so many reps who didn’t listen to me either, and having been THAT rep I totally know why.

Sales reps everywhere are trying to generate all their pipeline using one method, and eventually it’s going to catch up to them.

When you focus on using one prospecting method the only opportunities you’re going to generate are from prospects who respond to that specific method. The problem comes when everyone else who didn’t respond never becomes an opportunity. If a prospect doesn’t respond to a sales rep who only uses one method, whether it’s stopping by in-person or calling or emailing or something else, they’re not going to change the next time you reach out.

You are the one who needs to change.

I get it, it’s hard to change. Especially when one approach feels so much better than all the others.

I’ve met a number of outside sales reps who openly admit they’d rather walk past 100 “No Soliciting” signs to make an in-person cold call than pick up the phone to try and call just 10 prospects. Even if the person you speak with is cold or rude, it feels productive because you spoke with a real human being. You probably got some good info you wouldn’t get over the phone because you can see what’s going on.

It’s the equivalent to busywork. Sure, you’re busy, but you’re not getting anything done.

You have to ask yourself, how long can you do this before you run out of prospects who are willing to engage with you when you stop by unannounced?

For inside sales or SDR teams, I’ve often found they’ll spend most of their prospecting time on emails. Many good reps would become top performers if they simply balanced their prospecting focus better.

Email is cheap, easy, and has replaced the phone as the new way to annoy prospects… IF it’s the only way you reach out.

Let’s look at email from a similar angle so this makes more sense.

Think about how you develop a relationship with a coworker. A good relationship. Do you stop by their desk every other day, tell them something interesting, then walk away if they don’t ask you to keep talking? No, of course not.

So why do you do that to your prospects?

If all you do is send along things you think are going to be interesting, if you do absolutely nothing meaningful beyond typing in a few sentences before hitting ‘send’, do you truly expect them to want to engage in a conversation with you?

I know, some will. Most won’t – now or ever.

Putting in an effort to show the prospect you might actually give a damn about them is worth more than a thousand well-worded, deeply researched emails.

Seriously, you did all that research and crafted an amazing targeted value proposition, and you can’t pick up the phone to make one call? Because that tells me you don’t believe in all the work you put it.

No way I think you want to meet me. All you did was sit behind your keyboard all day, hoping someone reads your six sentences filled with the things you read off of my company’s website and/or LinkedIn profile as if that was the best way to get to know me.

You want it to be easy. I know this, that’s why I didn’t pick up the phone unless I felt I absolutely had to.

Reaching out besides an email or an in-person visit can be done really easily.

Here’s what I want you to do today. Just one thing.

Pick ONE prospect you’ve left collateral for or emailed some killer content. If you can pick someone you’ve reached out to multiple times without making a single phone call. Just one prospect.

Call them up and point them in the direction of all the good stuff you’ve given them.

Don’t know what to say if it goes to voicemail?

“Hi Prospect, I sent you this really interesting thing other (title, industry) found useful because of (your favorite part). There’s some other great ideas in there as well. If you’re looking for it let me help – my name is (your name) and my company is (company). Take a look, and if it’s interesting I’m going to reach back out again soon, hopefully we could talk about it. Thanks!”

Think one prospect is too few? Don’t worry, it’s not. Just call one, have a conversation if you’re lucky enough to hear a “Hello” at the other end of the line, and leave a voicemail if you’re not.

You can always make more calls, of course. Just make sure you do that at least once per day.

Did you call a prospect you haven’t been reaching out to by phone? If so, leave me a comment on how it felt to make that call, I’d love to hear about it!

I Hope Every Graduate Entering Sales Will Do This

For those of you graduating and entering the workforce I want to say congratulations!

I wanted to begin with the kindest words because odds are you’re about to get punched in the face by the real world. It doesn’t matter if you graduated with your high school diploma or a PhD.

Life as you knew it is over: shit’s about to get real.

It’s been over a decade since I graduated from college, and I can still remember my first job out of school like I just left it. I was fortunate in a few ways. I found a company that was willing to hire a college graduate to take over an entire sales territory. I worked for a boss who held me to a high standard because he knew if he didn’t I was guaranteed to fail.

And in hindsight I realize I was fortunate to be somewhat prepared and (barely) good enough to succeed in my first sales job, because a lot of people don’t make it.

If you’re entering a career in sales, interviewing for sales roles, or even considering it, please read this. As someone who survived his first sales role by the skin of his teeth and has hired entry-level sales reps for nearly a decade now I want you to know what you’re getting into. I want you to survive when things are tough and thrive when you have some momentum. Both will happen, trust me.

Let me start by saying that sales is a fantastic place to begin your career, and now is an even better time to jump into it.

You know why it’s awesome, now more than ever? Buyers have more power than ever. This means a sales rep’s role is to help the buyer in their purchasing journey, and the best guides will win. It’s collaborative, it’s healthy, and everyone wins when the deal is made.

Yes, you still have to convince people to take action. You still have to know how to twist someone’s arm. Don’t worry, that’s a great thing.

Today’s sales professional knows the prospect is better off learning more, taking that next step, and making an informed decision.

Now wait, you might be wondering, how the heck do you pull off a win-win deal if you still have to twist arms? That sounds like an ethical/moral dilemma. It sounds like snake-oil manipulation.

I assure you, it’s win-win.

Here’s the real dilemma. What is a prospect’s natural response to a salesperson? “NO!”

Someday you will hit the right person at the right time and you’ll wish it was always that easy. Sorry, that’s not sales. Sales is not about taking action only when the prospect is 100% willing. Remember what I said before, great sales professionals are guides on the buyer’s journey. That journey needs to start somewhere, and the best help nudge prospects in the right way so they start the journey.

Does it sound hard? It is. Sales is really hard, especially in the beginning. Be prepared to put in a lot of hard work.

You might be one of the reps who is already talented enough to make that first sales job successful. Everything seems to come naturally. The simple truth is that you’ve done things in your life that have helped you develop skills and talents that are great to have as a salesperson.

If you find it’s a struggle in the beginning, that’s okay. Focus on getting a little bit better every day. Try new things. Steal from your colleagues. Have a learning mindset, because it’s a profession that everyone can always get better at.

The best sales professionals are always focused on getting better, too. Even if you start out by crushing it you still have a lot to learn.

Do you want to be doing the same thing at the same level in a year? How about in 3 years? I didn’t think so. Put in the time to get better.

What does that mean, putting in the time?

You have a golden opportunity to constantly improve right now. Golden. Odds are you don’t have a spouse, you don’t have kids, you don’t have a mortgage for hundreds of thousands of dollars looming over you. This is your time to put in extra hours outside of your working hours to get better.

You can bounce back so much easier right now, so take calculated risks while you still can.

This is the very reason I did a startup when I was 25. I had 2+ years of real world sales experience under my belt and no major obligations. If I lost all of my money? No big deal, I had time to recover.

By the way, when the startup folded I had lost all my money and had thousands in credit card debt for the first time in my life. One year after that startup ended I had zero credit card debt and money in the bank again.

Someday it won’t be as easy. It won’t be as easy to go to that seminar, to spend your nights reading books, honing your craft. It won’t be as easy to spend weekends building an online brand to showcase what you’re doing.

Plus, think about how much farther along you’ll be if you put in the time now.

Focus on getting better and not bitching about how hitting your quota is hard. Hitting your quota is supposed to be hard. Yes, people around you should be able to do it, but not on day 1 and not by coasting and not by doing whatever you want instead of what your manager teaches you that’s proven and repeatable.

I talk to so many college graduates who want to work for 12 months and then go travel the world. Why? You’re basically starting all over if you do it.

Go do something awesome for a few years, save up the money, then do it. If you did it right your company will be dying to take you right back with open arms when you return months and months later. Most people do the opposite, they travel and say “I had the opportunity to do it!” while their peers who came in and fought hard every day and learned something are way ahead of them.

I’m thrilled looking back at my early career, knowing that even though I felt highest of highs (closing my first huge deal only 4 months in) and crushing lows (broke and lost) I kept my eyes on always clawing at getting better.

It’s painful in the moment. It’s hard and it’s challenging. It’s totally worth it.

And I look back, see how many people gave up years ago, and realize that’s part of the reason I’ve been able to do what I’ve done in my career. Without it I wouldn’t have experienced so many things I’ve taken for granted at this point. I’m thankful I did it. I wasn’t perfect and it didn’t always feel like it was working.

That’s what I want for you, though, I want you to go for it without the ego and the expectations of glory, I want you to put in the hours and come out ahead in a few years when you finally look up to see what’s going on. Good luck!

How to handle an objection before it ever comes up

One of the most frustrating things in the world is getting shot down by the same objection over and over, no matter what you say in response.

It’s not that you haven’t tried to figure out how to handle it. You’ve gone back over your training materials. Your manager ran a mock call with you to go through how to handle the objection. Heck, you probably stole the best reply you’ve heard one of your colleagues use.

Yet it feels like every time someone brings up that objection you’re going to get shot down. Then you get shot down. It’s a living nightmare, one that temporarily ends when the prospect hangs up the phone.

The nightmare lurks in the background on every call as you pray your prospect says “yes” before it comes back.

Fortunately, many common objections can be handled before they ever come up. How can that be?

The best reps make sure they brush aside their most challenging objections in their pitch.

One of my best reps hated the objection, “Why are you calling me?” It always seemed to shut her down, even though we were targeting specific prospects in specific industries. This rep had even worked on the marketing team that identified good prospects before moving into a cold calling role. She could handle any other common objection easily.

None of that mattered. If the prospect asked her that one specific question she would get shot down.

She would get so frustrated every time she ran into that objection, too. I remember a few times where she had to take a walk before getting back on the phones.

Instead of praying she didn’t run into that objection she put a new line in her pitch to combat it.

“The reason I’m reaching out to your company is because my colleague in marketing determined we have similar clients we’re seeing success with….”

One change in her pitch and she stopped running into that objection.

You can handle many objections by tailoring your pitch to prevent them. Let’s walk through a few more common ones and how you can change your pitch to handle them.

Objection: “We already have someone for this.”

Many reps run into this objection because they open themselves up to it. How? It’s not enough to tell the prospect why your product is great. You should be summarizing the key reasons prospects switch from what they’re currently doing to your solution.

If you change how you talk about your benefits from what you provide to why clients become your customers, you’ll be speaking to the prospect’s world.

In my first sales role I ran into this all the time. I was the new vendor in the territory and the only way I was going to succeed was to take business from my competitors. Instead of simply listing our benefits I reframed them as a reason to change.

“Our customers chose us because we could provide a product that worked as well, if not better, for the same price or better, as what they were using, and on top of that we handle the hassle of maintaining equipment and paying attention to when you need to place an order.”

Focus on the reasons customers switched and you’ll have better chance of connecting with the prospect early on.

Objection: “We don’t have budget for something like this.”

One of the biggest challenges selling a new solution to an old problem is budget. This is extremely common in SaaS, because you’re often selling software that does the tasks people still do manually. It’s tough to carve out a line in the budget for “unexpected software vendor that proves they can free up a lot of time,” especially when you can think of a few dozen things you’d like to buy or pay for if you only had that extra budget.

For many SaaS companies the goal is to have that initial conversation with a prospect to achieve three key things:

1) Introduce the concept that yes, software can do that for you.

2) See if there’s enough interest to get considered in the next budget cycle.

3) Find out when the next budget cycle is.

Unfortunately, if you’re stumped by the budget objection you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle with most of your prospects. They’ll always think, “Oh, we don’t have the money for that!”

If this objection is extremely common when you’re prospecting, address is before it comes up.

“Many of our customers took an initial look at this and realized it would more than pay for itself with the time it freed up, along with the security knowing the information was entered and calculated correctly every time, which allowed them to easily add it to their budget.”

By handling budget early on you’re able to have a better conversation around how your solution can help your prospects as opposed to praying they’re open minded enough to talk to a vendor without a line item already in their plans.

Does this work for every objection? No.

Even if you write the greatest pitch ever you’re still going to encounter plenty of prospects who push back with “Send me an email” or “Not interested” or “This isn’t a good time”.

It’s extremely hard, if not impossible, to write a great 30 second pitch that covers every common objection that you’re expecting.

The goal here is to first ask yourself, “Is there an objection that always gets me?”

If there is an objection you can never seem to handle well, consider changing part of your pitch instead of hoping the prospect doesn’t go there. You will run into that objection again and again. Do everything you can to get it out of the way before the prospect drops it on you.

Have you changed your pitch to better handle an objection? Let me know if you have in the comments!

The Simplest Way to Handle Getting Hung Up On

A lot of early career reps are afraid of getting hung up on. I know I was afraid of it in my first sales job.

I was sent to regional sales training after my first few months on the job. The trainer taught me some of the techniques I still use to this day. At that time I wasn’t thinking about all the amazing ideas, strategies, and techniques this trainer had shown me from his 20 years as a sales rep plus another decade of testing his methodology with current reps.

No, at that time I was focused on making better cold calls. I thought I was awful at them.

I didn’t mind it when someone objected to me because I could handle objections. Actually, I kinda welcomed them. At least if you gave me a half-hearted reason why you weren’t interested I could act (fake) like you were no longer a prospect while getting a little more info, which would sometimes lead to a next step or even a meeting.

I simply hated getting hung up on.

You might feel the same way.

If you think about it, getting hung up on is totally different than getting a tough objection.

Early on in my sales career I welcome tough objections. You know why? I knew when I had an awesome product in my corner, and I was confident that if this prospect didn’t want to talk to me the next one would.

A prospect would shoot me down with their best “we’re all set with that” and I’d get them talking. I can’t do that if the prospect hangs up.

When a prospect hangs up on me the call is over, and I felt awful. I realized it was because when someone I personally know hangs up on me, we were having a shitty conversation that ended harshly.

The other end of the line is suddenly dead. How does it make you feel when the people you care about hang up on you?

Not good. Not good at all.

The problem is we project this feeling onto our sales calls.

When someone hangs up on you during a sales call, it’s not personal. It’s nothing like someone close to you hanging up on you, except the call ends abruptly. I’ll get to that difference in a moment.

It took me a couple years to get over that fear. I wish I could have happened overnight. What I can tell you is that I know precisely why I stopped being afraid of prospects hanging up on me.

A few years later I cofounded a startup. What that really means is that two investors put money into a man’s promising small business and they found a young sales rep to build up a customer base and run the company while they focused on fundraising. I was the young sales rep they brought on board.

On day two my boss picked up the phone, cold called a prospect using my name, and then handed me the phone to make the next call. Talk about pressure. He listened to me talk to my first prospect and when I hung up he looked at me and said, “Well, now I know you don’t suck at this!”

Small steps, one at a time, right?

Even with most of the business riding on my back I quickly became a more relaxed, focused, and unfazed sales rep than I ever had been before.

When a prospect hung up on me I moved to the next one.

When someone shot me down and I kept the conversation going I did everything I could to learn more about his situation, because it might help me on my next call.

I knew no matter how good or how frustrating each day was that I’d either sell more or figure out a way to sell more tomorrow. I was in the zone.

Here’s how you find that zone for yourself.

The first thing you need to realize is that talking to someone you know on the phone and making a prospecting call are two entirely different things.

This is often much harder than it sounds. It gets easier with time.

When you call a friend or a family member on the phone you already have an existing relationship with that person. If you get in a heated discussion and someone hangs up the phone? Not good. You have to see that person again. You start wondering if he’s going to tell your friends about it, if she’s going to tell your family, and everyone will hear the other side of it first.

When you call a prospect on the phone you’re starting from zero. Which is a great place to start. See, if the prospect hangs up on you then you’re still at zero. You haven’t moved forwards or backwards.

Now you might wonder, “won’t the prospect remember me next time?”

Honestly, no, it’s really unlikely.

I’ve been on both sides of those calls. As a sales rep I know I’ve called on prospects who hung up on me or said “no” months ago, sometimes only a week or two ago, and that second time around was completely different.

As a prospect I honestly don’t remember who I’ve said “no” to the next day. I am so focused on doing my job and I speak with enough vendors that really, I can’t remember who I said “no” to and who I’m supposed to take a call with.

Let’s go back to my first sales job for a moment.

After I had been in the field for six months I started calling in prospects who had shot me down early on. Not only did a number of them talk to me, some became customers over the next few months.

My boss had told me this is the way things would work. He was right.

It’s why I’m telling you this is the way things will work.

Know that prospects aren’t hanging up on you. They’re hanging up on just one call. Getting shot down hard allows you to focus on other prospects who might be a better fit right now. This leads me to my second strategy.

When someone hangs up on me I immediately say “Next!” as I get ready to call the next person.

I say it because it makes me smile. There are tons of people who could buy from me, why focus on just one of them?

I also know that someday that prospect is going to be the next one I reach out to.

By having a small ritual that helps me move on from the call and get ready for the next one I don’t dwell on the end result. I will take a moment to take notes if anything specific happened that’s worth remembering or thinking about for my next call. Otherwise why bother thinking about it? The call is over, and I’m glad it’s over. Time to get on to the next one.

Now, sometimes the prospect goes for the kill. Just unleashes a brutal reply. Have you ever had a prospect unleash an attitude and get rude to you? It’s like they woke up in a horrible mood and decided to take it out on you.

Well, have you ever thought maybe that’s what really happened? The prospect was in a bad mood and you were the person he took it out on.

When a prospect is particularly rude I hang up and say, “Glad I’m not you today.” And at that moment I feel a little sorry for the prospect.

Odds are they were yelled at by their spouse, or boss, or their project was just ruined in a meeting. There are very few people who are always rude over the phone. Yes, I caught the heat. I get to move on to the next account, but does the prospect get to turn the page as easily as me? Probably not.

Even though it might feel like you’re the one who got kicked hard, in reality you got nicked. The person who’s hurting the most hung up on you.

The biggest thing to remember is to not take it personally. It’s so important to remember that I had to say it again. Not having any relationship with you and not having to see you – your face, your expression, your reaction – makes it so much easier for a prospect to unload on a cold call.

Don’t take it to heart. Breathe, “Next!”, and move on.

What strategies do you use to get over getting hung up on before making your next call?

Stuck in a slump: is it your pipeline… or your attitude?

My first sales slump happened over a decade ago, and yet I can still remember it like it were last month.

Two months before it happened I closed my first truly big deal. I landed a contract that would put our product in every Enterprise Rent-a-Car in the region. With the timing of the rollout this deal meant I would exceed my quota for both Q3 and Q4. Then, in a moment of blissful ignorance, I committed to my office that I’d match the deal in additional new business in Q4.

Talk about a rookie mistake.

All the things I didn’t do in the first six months on the job caught up with me real quick. I was golden at getting in front of decision makers by chatting up employees at companies during their breaks, which led to my first handful of deals right away. This worked for a few months, and as I closed out my October strong I realized that I had little pipeline heading into November.

What happened? I was so good at getting a warm introduction that I spent very little time using the phone to prospect. Most of my untapped territory were the companies I’d need to do more than chat up someone on break or the receptionist at the front door. They were prospects I’d need to call and compel to take a meeting with me.

Thankfully I closed out some business in November, changed my ways, and managed to turn things back around starting in December.

I’m glad I had this experience early on in my career as it taught me a lot about handling the slumps I’d have in sales. There are some crucial questions you need to ask yourself any time you’re in a slump to help you figure out what’s causing it and how to immediately get back on the right track.

First, is the slump a lack of pipeline or a lack of positive attitude?

Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint which of these is the source. When you don’t have enough pipeline it’s easy to feel like the world is conspiring against you. How you feel starts to mess up your focus. Your calls don’t seem to go as well and you can’t tell if it’s all in your head or not.

Even SDRs can confuse pipeline with attitude and vice versa. If it seems like your account list isn’t responding to your calls and emails, or your leads all seem to be gas stations in Asia, it’s easy to blame pipeline. I’ve seen many reps do this only to find out who they’re reaching out to hasn’t changed, the person in the seat is the one who has changed, and not in a good way.

Start by asking yourself, what has changed in the past few weeks or month? It’s so easy to blame everything besides yourself. Sometimes it is everything besides yourself. It’s important to be able to figure out when things are changing so you can adapt.

Sometimes nothing has changed except you. Your perception, your attitude, and your expectations have shifted while reality has stayed the same.

Prospects aren’t going to feel bad for you when you’re slumping, either. They have their own problems to deal with. Who wants to add a salesperson’s woes to their own plate?

Take an real good look at everything. Your leads, your accounts, your approach, how you sound, how you feel, everything. Ask someone who will give you the honest truth as to how you sound on the phone lately. Try to understand how much of this is pipeline and how much of this is you.

If the slump is mainly a lack of pipeline, what was different before your pipeline began drying up?

Pipeline doesn’t simply disappear. It needs to be consistently generated, and without a plan to steadily make sure you have new opportunities it will dry up quick.

In my case I had a wide open territory that I barged in and found all the easy opportunities right away. Without any experience in the field I had no idea that by focusing heavily on only one prospecting method that I was setting myself up for a fall. And I fell hard.

Thankfully it wasn’t hard to quickly right the ship and keep it sailing straight.

I had to adjust, though. Those first few weeks were tough because I knew I had to make a certain number of phone calls at specific times when I was likely to catch people to have any shot at scheduling some quality meetings. There was no easy fix other than putting the effort in every week, consistently.

Take some time to figure out how you can develop your pipeline on a consistent basis. How many meetings do you need each month? How many calls and emails does it take to get a meeting? Are there things you can do to shrink those numbers, such as targeting specific companies or calling at certain times?

Then map out an action plan and hold yourself accountable. Remember, none of your prospects are going to care if you’re crying about a lack of pipeline. That’s on you.

If your slump isn’t pipeline, then the problem is facing you in the mirror.

This is the hardest one to fix. The good news? There are a few things you can do to help yourself get out of the rut.

1) Start every day with something positive. This could be music, meditation, practicing gratitude, a pep talk – whatever it is, set the tone early and get yourself ready to go. Because you’ll need to be ready.

2) Tackle the hardest thing you have to do today first. Get locked in and get it out of the way. You will feel a lot better about your day knowing you’ve cleared a tough task first thing. Think about it. How are you going to feel if it’s haunting you throughout the day? Will that improve your slump?

3) Warm up before your calls. Go through your pitch or the parts of your presentation you want to nail. Say things out loud. Say them to your Manager or a colleague if it helps. You’re a professional, prepare and act like one. This only needs to be a few minutes, just like any good warmup.

4) Write down victories. And when you pick what you’ll call a victory I say focus on doing what you have to do to be successful, not on the results. I’d rather put in the right amount of effort every day than get lucky from time to time, because I’m going to be around a lot longer when the luck runs out. Remember, this is about consistency.

5) Don’t take it too seriously. Sales it tough. I’ve told people about my “smoke break chat” strategy that I used so successfully in my first job and it horrifies a lot of inside sales reps. I had a blast doing it, and I think that’s a big reason why I was so good at it. Find the aspects of sales you find fun and enjoy them a little more.

6) Make sure this does not happen again. If you hold yourself accountable every single day to do what you need to do each week, which will set you up each month and each quarter, you will never have to do this again.

Am I saying you will never find yourself in a slump again? No, not at all. The slump will be more of a bump, though, because your down times will look a lot better than they used to.

Have you had any strategies to deal with sale slumps? I’d love to hear them!

Feel, Felt, Found is Dead. Or is it?

The most commonly used structure to reply to objections is “Feel, Felt, Found.” I’ve read it in books that were written decades ago and I still run into young reps who were taught the method in their first sales job.

And prospects are sick of hearing it.

How do I know this? The stories I’ve heard. Reps have told me they started to reply with it, and before they finished the prospect cut them off with, “Don’t you feel felt found me!”

If you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s Feel, Felt, Found in all its glory:

“Mr. Prospect, I understand how you feel. Many of our customers felt the same way in your position. After digging deeper and learning more, what they found is this was better/smarter/cheaper than what they were doing.”

You can rewrite this script for any and every objection you will ever encounter. Except you shouldn’t, because “Feel, Felt, Found” is dead.

What killed the most powerful objection script?

Canned replies no longer work well in sales and never will again. The sales process should be renamed the buying process because the buyers own it. Today’s purchasing decisions are made more systematically and logically than ever. Cookie-cutter sales processes don’t fit this buying process.

The power is in the hands of the buyers nowadays. You often find multiple key stakeholders at an organization have already decided they’re going to take a look at a new product before talking to any vendors. They’re rarely initiated by a sales rep digging into an account.

Should you stop prospecting? Hell no. Getting in front of the prospect that first time is crucial.

Sales leaders will tell you that prospects who come back for a second demo are far more likely to buy, which is true. They come back because their company is later in the buying process and ready to seriously consider making a purchase. You want to be in that process when the buyer is ready.

Which brings us back to “Feel, Felt, Found,” since getting that first meeting is often times the hardest meeting to get.

That prospecting call is the one you’re going to get beat up on. You will need to be ready to handle those objections, because they’re coming.

Thankfully, “Feel, Felt, Found” isn’t really dead, it simply got an upgrade.

Every objection can be handled with a variation of “Feel, Felt, Found.” The challenge is that you will have to talk like a normal, knowledgeable, and understanding human being to prospects.

What do I mean by that?

Here’s where I see a lot of sales reps go wrong early in their careers. I certainly made that mistake.

In my first sales role everyone I called was already using a competitor’s product. I got the objection, “We already have someone who supplies us that,” every week. Early on my reply was atrocious:

Me: “I know you’re using someone else’s product, that’s why I’m calling. We’re a full-service company that provides a safer, environmentally friendly, and often less expensive alternative to what you’re buying now. When can I come by to show you the difference?”

Let’s turn this into a “Feel, Felt, Found” reply:

Me: “I understand how you feel having a good relationship with your vendor. A lot of our customers felt the same way when we first spoke to them. What they found was that we offered a higher level of service, a safer way of delivering the product, and a simpler solution than their current vendor at a similar or better price.”

The problem with that reply is it’s clearly a script, and no one wants to be sold to by someone using canned replies. Today’s buyer wants a customized presentation and solution. What you say should feel customized to the prospect, even if it is a script.

Here’s my reply rewritten without those three cursed words:

Me: “I totally understand where you’re coming from, you have a good relationship with your vendor. A lot of our customers said the same thing when we first spoke to them. The reason they took a look at us initially was because they liked the idea of never having to reorder product or deal with fixing equipment because we offer full service to all our customers, plus we can offer the same quality product at the same price or less.”

Can this tweaked method work for any objection? Absolutely.

Let’s walk through another one. I find the most dramatic difference in how this method changes an objection reply is when the prospect brings up budget. First, I’ll walk you through “Feel, Felt, Found”:

Prospect: “We don’t have the budget for something like this.”

Me: “I understand how you feel, budgets are important. A lot of our customers felt the same way when we first talked to them. What they found was that by taking a look they could see how this fit into their future plans so they could decide if it was something they could carve out now or further down the line.”

Honestly, the line that kills “Feel, Felt, Found” is the “Felt” line. It feels (haha, get it?) so generic that it turns prospects off instantly.

Here’s how I would say that same reply now:

Me: “I understand, you have a budget that’s locked in. A lot of our clients were in the same position when they first spoke to us. The reason they took a look initially is because they were interested in learning how we’d gotten results for similar companies, that way if this seemed like a good fit they could factor it into their next budget.”

Rewriting these objection replies is not the hardest thing in the world. It’s much harder to use “Feel, Felt, Found,” trust me.

Here’s how I personally do it:

Sentence 1: I understand.

Most of the time the “Feel” includes those same two words at the beginning. Drop the feel. This is your change to empathize with the prospect in a more genuine way. How do you typically say “I understand” or “I get it” to your friends? There’s the core of your opening sentence.

Sentence 2: I’ve heard this one before….

In reality you’re going to hear the same half-dozen objections for your entire sales career. All of them will be said by someone who becomes a customer before they sign on the dotted line. Let your prospect know that without the corny “Felt” line.

Sentence 3: Here’s why you should take the next step.

This is different from “Found” in a crucial way. “Found” is what your customers discovered. You can go that way, or flip the story on your prospect and explain to them how their world could be different if they continued on the journey. It might sound hokey. Think about it. Do you ever find yourself thinking about your own life’s adventure? Bring the prospect on one. It’s more interesting and exciting.

Whatever you do, drop the “Feel, Felt, Found” out of your vocabulary today. You can come up with better ways of connecting with a prospect than using those words.

What are some of your best objection replies? Let me know in the comments!