Honing Your Telecom Sales Strategy

Are successful salespersons born or made? Whichever it is, most can agree on one thing: selling in the managed services department is tough, and it is toughest when there is no doable sales strategy in place.

Most business owners realize the impact that technology has on their businesses, but they are just too busy to manage all the details. This is an opportune time for telecom agents to reevaluate their roles, especially considering the rapidly shifting technology options that customers have in regards to managed services.

The traditional strategy of generating leads, qualifying prospects, and closing sales is replete with old practices and attitudes that lag behind the modern demands of customers. Customers don’t want to be “sold”; they need an advocate who can offer solutions to their needs.

Telecom agent have an opportunity here to rethink their position and prove their value to customers. Agents will be well-served by thinking through answers to the following points.

What is your value proposition?

Agents are advocates for customers and can best illustrate this to them by highlighting the benefits that they bring to customers. What makes you unique in providing these benefits? You want to be part of the solution to their problems, so you need to know and understand their pain points. You are there not to sell a product; you are there to offer value to their business.

Do you know your sales prospect’s problem?

Instead of squawking a pre-canned sales pitch and flashing presentation slides, telecom agents are better served by asking open-ended questions and doing a lot of listening to start the ball rolling for genuine discussions.

You will discover that a free-wheeling and sincere exchange of ideas can almost automatically make prospects spill their pain points and share their disappointment with current technology systems. In every decision to buy, there is an underlying problem that gives people the reason to try a new product or service.

A word of caution is worth mentioning. Blatantly pointing out a defective equipment or application may hurt your prospect’s ego. A truly wholehearted business discussion is a better way to engage your prospect while naturally teasing out the pain points.

What solution can you offer?

After discovering your prospect’s problem, never immediately force discussion of an outright solution. In practical terms, explain the benefits of your offering and how it can solve your prospect’s problem.

Whether it’s a hardware breakdown or a software crash, discuss how you can work together now and in the future to eliminate the problem. Offer a comprehensive implementation support and after-sales monitoring. Propose to manage other related technology issues and questionable vendor dealings to minimize risks and control costs. This could be the start of repeat sales and increased revenues for you.

Can you sustain a long-term relationship?

Staying in touch with your customers–even when they are not buying–is a great way to be at the forefront of their minds and build solid relationships. Touch base electronically or physically on a regular basis; offer any way to be of help or service. Whether something goes wrong or not, be there for them on multiple levels and treat them not just as a mere number but as a personal and business advocate.

Clearly, a customer-centric sales strategy can make selling easier for telecom agents. The cloud is triggering a shift to the managed services landscape, especially by small and medium businesses. As a telecom agent, why should your prospect care about you and choose you among other comparable options in the industry?

If you have the answer to that question, then you’re on your way to a successful selling career.

The 7 Talents Every Telecom Agent Needs to Succeed

Joe Girard is credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s greatest salesperson. The book lists him for having sold 13,001 cars within the span of a 14-year car-selling career from 1963 to 1977. That means that on the average, he was able to sell a whopping:

  • 3 or 4 cars per day or
  • 77 or more cars per month or
  • 928 or more cars per year.

What is more surprising is that Joe sold these cars one at a time with no fleet or wholesale deals or any sales management background. In fact, he was a high school dropout and did menial jobs as a shoeshine boy, newsboy, and dishwasher before selling cars.

What could have propelled Joe from a poor boy to a sales legend? The world’s best salesperson absolutely has talents–innate raw materials that had been there since he was born. These inherent personal characteristics are not taught or learned but need only to be identified, fostered, and put to good use.

Like Joe Girard, telecom agents need to reflect and rediscover the talents that are shyly hiding and raring to be tapped.

Hard work and diligence

Hard working and diligent sales people exhibit an excellent work ethic. They value the benefits of work because it makes them pursue new skills, and it develops their reliability and initiative. They love working so much that they are willing to take on more responsibility and do their job beyond regular working hours.

Organizational Prowess

An organized person is more likely to be well-prepared and more accurate. He meticulously plans, schedules, and coordinates his sales activities by proficiently managing his time in order to meet his deadlines. Joe built his prospect and customer list, not only every day but every minute whenever he had the chance and resources. He strived to be always organized for success.

Convincing Power

The art of persuasion starts with the most important commodity – yourself. Standing in front of everyone with professionalism and taking the lead to telling the truth can open the door to people’s minds. Now a popular sales guru, Joe emphasizes simple things like how you look, talk, listen, and smile as important components of a winning edge. Once you’ve projected a positive impression, you’re better able to drive the sale in the direction you want and convince people to buy.

Analytical and Optimistic Mindset

As strategic thinkers, great salespersons dig deep into people’s businesses and analyze the information they get to identify their true needs and offer solutions. They also exude a positive attitude where challenges become opportunities, turning every objection, threat, or risk into a fighting chance or even outright sale.

In Touch with Customers

Excellent salespersons have their feet on the ground and keep in touch with their customers without seeming obvious. Joe Girard always had a card or token for every birthday, wedding, or other special occasions for his customers and prospects, including their families.

Inner Drive

Successful salespersons have an inner drive to excel. This attitude makes them never satisfied with just meeting expectations but always strive to sell more and exceed beyond expectations. For Joe, motivation is as important as attitude.

Love of Winning

The goal of any sales game is to close a sale, but the ambition of a great salesperson is to always win, be the best, and be number one. By hook or by crook, Joe wanted to sell a car on his first day at work – and he did.

With these seven talents, skill, craftsmanship, proficiency, experience, and all the right stuff will follow.

Win More Telecom Sales with an Indirect Strategy

Traditionally, telecom agents needed only the facts about their products to be able to start the selling cycle. After gathering facts, they would go to the potential buyer, make their sales pitch, and try to close the sale. This direct sales strategy has been used for decades, but, now, it is fast losing appeal because of the changing needs and buying habits of buyers.

Reasons for the changes might be constantly advancing technology, massive information overload, and mobility. Despite, buyers now have more complicated and sophisticated requirements as well as a deluge of options from which to choose.

The information age has transformed business-to-business selling and buying forever. Buyer resistance is now more blatant and competition has become tighter–sometimes even cut-throat. A new approach is imperative: agents need to pursue indirect sales strategies.

What are the components of an effective indirect strategy?

The Human Factor

Remember that you’re selling to humans, and people have social needs such as friendship. In fact, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ranks friendship as the third most important need of any person. While nurturing a relationship, you are better able to understand, predict, and influence the buying decision pattern of your prospect. It is likewise an accepted norm that people buy from people they like and trust.

The Early Bird Advantage

Being first, right from the lead-nurturing stage, is always an advantage. This gives you the chance to get to know the buyer up close and to set the tone and foundation of the selling process ahead of the competition. Being an early bird gives you the lead and the edge to thwart any lurking competitor. From the start and throughout the sales cycle, you must be able to win and preserve the trust of your prospect to protect your turf.

“More Than a Gut Feeling”

In the B2B industry, selling is neither a guessing game nor a trial-and-error stunt. Planning is still the cornerstone of any successful selling strategy. For telecom agents, a thorough knowledge of the product and its benefits is a given, but they must also prepare for the unexpected. When planning, try to anticipate every out-of-this-world question and objection. Prepare an acceptable answer to each and every question. The popular corporate training video in the 1990s titled “More Than a Gut Feel” asserts that making decisions based on gut feeling is disastrous. Agents are well-served to plan ahead and not rely solely on gut instinct.

Internal Politics

When you are selling a solution, you need a complete profile of the decision makers to get a glimpse of the workings of internal politics in the organization. Power play is a normal occurrence in the corporate world; a determined telecom agent must be resourceful enough to penetrate their ranks. It would be good to befriend a “spy”– someone who has direct access to the big bosses, especially those involved in the selection process. Business partners and clients of the company can also provide valuable information to aid you in your selling effort.

Value Creation

Some salespeople simply rattle off the facts and features of their great solutions and act like talking brochures. In the process, they fail to address what their customers need – a solution to their problems. Propositioning your product as a solution to their problems will create value in the eyes of the customers. Once they perceive the unique value, price will never be an issue.

In sales, closing is everything. However, the sales process is never the same for each customer. The variables are as many as there are prospects. An indirect strategy is the best option for customers with differing situations and varying degrees of tolerance for change.

How Agents Can Turn Objections Into Sales Opportunities

The telecom market has massively grown to the point of overcrowding and unprecedented competition. It is no place to “close” a sale. The biggest reason for telecom agents to “close” a sale is objections.

In the normal sales cycle, closing the sale is the last and most critical phase. At this point and even after the proposal presentation, objections can still persist because buyers want to make sure that they are getting value for their money.

Turn objections into opportunities

Objections are a normal component of the sales process, but they can be turned into opportunities when properly managed. Objections happen right from the appointment setting to the actual closing of the sale. The stated objection or objections rarely reflect the true picture, and, often, they are mere alibis.

Some common objections are these:

  • We’re not interested.
  • We have no budget.
  • Now is not the right time.
  • We don’t have a need for your product.
  • The price is too high.
  • We have a better offer.

If you take an objection at face value, this could shut you down and lead you to a dead end. However, if you dig deeper and isolate the real objections from the alibis, you may gain important knowledge that will help you advance the sales process. A legitimate objection is a good talking point to build upon, and if managed skillfully, it can give you an idea into where your prospect is headed.

Objecting to objections?

This is the biggest blunder telecom agents can ever commit in their career–except for extremely unreasonable prospects. Then again, good agents qualify their prospects so that the extreme case scenarios almost never happen. It is always best never to escalate an objection to a boxing match because it will most likely end in disaster.

So instead of objecting to objections, agents will be well on their way if they acknowledge the objection and empathize with the prospect’s situation. But it should not stop there. Ask probing questions to get the conversation going in order elicit more information to find out the prospect’s real needs, wants, and demands. Clarifying questions are also key to forming the basis of the right responses.

Closing the sale – the real one

The sales cycle is not a one-shot deal where you should close a sale in one sitting. You may have to go back to the prospect a few more times and watch out for any buying signal. After overcoming objections early in the sales sessions, expect more objections of more complicated nature to come even at the verge of closing the sale.

Questions and more probing questions are still your best weapon to keep your hold on your prospect. You are now at the crossroad of the sales process where a “no” could leave you with little or no opportunity for a second chance.

The ultimate goal of objection management is to discover opportunities and pave the way for the closure of that much awaited sale. This can be achieved through the effective use of questions, listening, grasping information, and giving the right responses so that agents need not “close” a sale.

A Mutually Beneficial Relationship: How Agents Can Strengthen Relationships with VARs

Competition is a natural consequence of progress. For a time, telecom agents and VARs were on opposite sides of the fence. They had their own individual turfs, and they needed to protect them in order to compete. Now, the two formerly opposing sides are converging. The impact of cloud computing and other emerging technologies has shifted directions, and the best way to compete is to forge partnerships.

Agent-VAR partnership is not a new concept, but initial efforts to achieve it have been wanting of real initiatives to strengthen the relationships. Harnessing the power of a fortified combined agent and VAR presence could open the floodgates to new opportunities and markets in the telecom landscape. Leveraging each other’s strengths could add value to each other’s businesses as well as to clients. The process could go both ways.

Agents must share with VARs their ability to communicate and provide support.

The cloud and other emerging technologies have triggered a pivotal change in business needs. Both agents and VARs are looking for solutions that add value to their businesses; both want to survive the competition.

Agents are trained to make independent research and assessment of businesses and, hence, are adept at providing unbiased recommendations. More importantly, they are able to communicate well what they know about carriers, your business, how you make decisions, and your business needs. This is an area where VARs need improvement, but they will stand to benefit by partnering with telecom agents.

VARs must share with agents their IT competence, expertise, and reputation.

The IT expertise and competence are values VARs can bring to an agent-VAR alliance. They are always on the lookout for emerging technologies and new business models, because these are what they sell to their customers.

VARs have established their own reputation from previous sales to often-satisfied customers. They have their existing customer bases, which the future partnership can leverage for faster business expansion.

Many VARs are disappointed at the loss of their one-time revenues; Telarus, a master agent, advises that recurring revenue streams are better than losing their customer bases if they don’t enter into partnerships with agents.

Communication is key to a strong partnership.

It is extremely difficult to build a solid alliance without clear and open communication to better understand what drives both parties – from their capabilities to their long-term business plans. Wholehearted discussions help solidify bonds and build the needed level of trust for each other. Both agents and VARs need to be assured that their people are not leaking information to their competitors or cooperating with others behind their back.

During the life of the partnership, all the terms and conditions of the alliance need to be continually reviewed and updated. Are the established rules of engagement being followed? Is there an agreement on customer ownership? Is the revenue formula equitable? Overall, is reciprocity working at its best?

The adaptation of partnerships is widely being argued and receiving mixed reactions. Intelisys President Jay Bradley fearlessly forecasts that those who adapt will win, but the long forecast for those who do not adapt will be ominous.

Leveraging the 80/20 Rule to Improve Performance in Teleco Sales

In an ideal world, every member of a sales team would share equal accountability for the performance of the team as a whole. Sadly, however, the reality is this: 20 percent of a company’s sales force produces 80 percent of total sales. The 80/20 rule–a corollary of Pareto’s principle or the law of the vital few– illustrates how a lack of equitable distribution pervades the workforce.

The 80/20 rule is a well-entrenched and accepted principle across most industries and in virtually every phase of life. As it relates to telecom sales team performance, sales managers can learn great lessons from a wise understanding of the rule and sound application of solutions.

What might these solutions look like? Here are some suggestions.

Raise the bar of your hiring standard for your telecom sales team.

The success of any sales team starts with a systematic and aligned approach to hiring the best sales people. A good hiring process prevents companies from committing common hiring mistakes and helps reduce employee turnover.

The elite 20 percent are often the load lifters and are worth emulating. Know what makes them stand out from the rest of the 80 percent. Make their outstanding skills and qualities a requirement for new hires. This reduces the need to fire and hire every so often and improve the quality of your sales force.

Learn from the contentious Superstar Management theory.

Advocates of this theory contend that managers should focus their time in training and managing the 20 percent heavyweights so as to further elevate them to superstardom. More resources should be made available to them because they are sure to contribute 80 percent of production or sales.

Opponents to this management theory point out that helping the 80 percent become better is a wiser use of time and resources than helping the already great become superstars. Besides, the 20 percent are inherently self-motivated, and they will intrinsically find ways to continually improve themselves.

Leverage the 80/20 rule in other directions.

Economist Vilfredo Pareto’s finding that 20 percent of the people in Italy owned 80 percent of the wealth has been transformed to account for many other events. Pareto’s principle, for example, says that 20 percent of the causes account for 80 percent of the effects. Both theories are applicable in many generative directions.

When applied on the customer side, it is an established reality that 20 percent of customers bring in 80 percent of the profits. Telecom sales teams need to identify the customers belonging to this select 20 percent and leverage the 80/20 rule on their side to increase revenues.

The rule can be applied in other directions. For example, many project managers claim that 20 percent of workers consume 80 percent of resources and time. In addition, did you know that 20 percent of inventory often occupies approximately 80 percent of storage space? And consider this: 20 percent of vendors supply 80 percent of inventory line items, and 20 percent of workers cause 80 percent of the problems.

The 80/20 rule is as important to a telecom sales team as it is to all other sales forces across industries. Knowing how to use it wisely can help ensure improved revenues and more robust bottom lines.