Claude Whitacre is a sales expert, speaker at industry conventions and trade shows, and author of multiple top selling books on sales prospecting, cold calling, small business advertising, and more.
He has been in sales for nearly 40 years, and has broken company sales records. Claude also speaks to groups of business owners about online and offline local advertising. For the record, Claude speaks from experience. He has his own retail store (The Sweeper Store) which dominates the local search listings in his category.
Q&A With Claude Whitacre – Sales Call Tips
Q1: I read about your first sales job, where you kept notes after every presentation to find out what worked and what didn’t. No sales in the first 3 months, but then you broke records and even clocked up 22 sales – selling to every home on a single street. What did you learn from this first foray into sales, and how has it helped you in your sales career?
A: Mostly, it was learning that people really buy, and I learned that “No” doesn’t necessarily mean No. I also got over my fear of asking people to buy. I’m always amazed at how hard that is for some salespeople…even the most experienced ones.
Q2: I’m going to ask you about your books. Let’s start with “One Call Closing: The Ultimate Guide To Closing Any Sale In Just One Sales Call.” We’re recommending to our readers that they should buy this book. But can you just briefly explain one thing – how to position yourself as a trusted adviser instead of a salesperson?
A: There are two times that this can be done, before they meet you and while you are talking with them. The way you approach them matters. Referrals help position you as a trusted authority. Speaking at events in the niche that you are prospecting automatically puts you in the Trusted Authority position. But even cold calling, as soon as you meet them, you ask questions that a trusted authority would ask. Think of going to a doctor. They ask questions, and show with every question that they are completely thinking about your welfare. And then they give you a prescription…and almost always, you simply follow it. Trusted advisors don’t lead with a prescription/solution like many salespeople do. They lead with discovery questions, then talk about options, then make a recommendation. In fact, the language is different. When I’m selling, I ask “May I make a recommendation?” Who makes recommendations? Authorities…experts.
Q&A With Claude Whitacre – Sales Prospecting Techniques
Q3: Now about Sales Prospecting, which is another one of your most popular books. Again, solid gold for anyone in sales prospecting. If you’d care to share this one nugget – Please tell us how do you get sales appointments, without actually asking for an appointment?
A: When I was cold calling, and calling small business owners, I would simply say “I’m not calling to make an appointment. I just wanted to stop by and meet you, ask you a couple questions, and see if an appointment in the future would make sense. Will you be there tomorrow at 3PM?” I would schedule these quick meetings every 15 minutes, and cold call businesses that were close to each other…maybe 5 or 10 minutes apart. It was simply easier for them to say yes than try to think of a reason to say no. The idea was to give them nothing to say No to.
About half of the people would really be there and see me, but I had planned for half of them to not be there. And of course, once I’m in front of them and ask a few questions, they will either not be a good prospect, or they will be….and I’m already there. So I really seldom make another appointment, the visit just turns into a presentation or it doesn’t. And I could fill an afternoon with these kind of quasi-appointments, with an hour on the phone cold calling.
Q&A With Claude Whitacre – Selling Tips
Q4: One more question about your books. This one is about “Selling Essentials: Your First 90 Days In Selling.” Sales managers reading this should buy the book to find out what you can do to make your new sales reps more successful. Can you give us 3 of the most important things a sales manager should be doing to help new sales reps?
A: In my experience, the most important thing for a new rep to see is sales actually being made. The new rep has to have the mindset that buying happens often, and that they should expect to make sales. If the job is selling over the phone, a new salesperson should listen in to sales being made by an experienced rep. The new rep also has to see that people not buying isn’t a personal rejection. So it helps to see experience people not make sales. And work ethic is established very early on. If the new person sees other rep being busy, making calls…that’s what they are learning. If they start out by listening to the gossip and complaints of the nonproductive reps…then they will learn that. The manager needs to keep the new person away from the non producers, and needs to show the new rep that selling is a natural thing to do, and buying is a natural response from prospects.
Q5: A question about lead response, if you don’t mind. Lucep is an instant response callback tool, so we evangelize a lot on the benefits of responding quickly to sales leads.I’d like to know your strategy for responding to leads, and do you find that you are able to close more sales when you are able to respond quickly?
A: No matter how you get your leads speed is essential. Interest cools, and if you don’t respond quickly the prospect will go elsewhere. Once a lead cools it’s nearly impossible to fan that fire of interest again. And the customers sees how fast you respond. They see your response as an indication of how you’ll take care of them in the future.
Q6: Any more tips, advice or suggestions for people in Sales? Something that will be helpful to everyone in Sales?
A: My suggestion is to learn from the best in your field, and then learn from great reps in different fields. I used to spend a day with top reps in other industries, and they would spend a day with me. We would both learn quite a lot. Most of what I learned in selling, I learned from people in industries outside my own.
Visit claudewhitacre.com to learn more about sales calls, prospecting and selling from Claude Whitacre.