An Interview with Steve Schiffman on How to Succeed in Sales

Gryphon Networks sat down with Stephan Schiffman, author, speaker and founder of DEI Sales, to discuss cold calling techniques that DO WORK!  Schiffman touches on the importance of engaging in conversation and why picking up the phone and making calls is still so important today.

According to Schiffman, it is imperative that sales reps record and listen to their own calls to learn and progress.  He notes that successful salespeople internalize the message they want to deliver, anticipate rejection, and learn to reinvent themselves and their process to achieve great results.

Gryphon: In your book “Selling When No One is Buying”, one of the statements that you make is that you have to cold call or you are dead in the water. What would you say to critics that claim that cold calling is dead?

Steve Schiffman: That is the one thing that I hear all the time—that cold calling is dead. But the reality is, no matter who you are, eventually, you have to pick up the phone, and eventually, you have to have a conversation. Whether that conversation is to sell something or to meet somebody, you’ve got to have the conversation. You can try with email, you can try with a letter, you can get on a horse and ride over there—it doesn’t work. You’ve got to pick up the phone eventually. So, it can’t be dead, and it will never be dead.

Why do you think people claim cold calling dead?

Because they don’t want to do it. They don’t know what to do when somebody says to them that they’re not interested. They don’t have the answer for that. Half the battle in cold calling, or in calling and having a conversation in sales, is that you know that you’re going to get an objection. There are three parts of the objection that are crucial—1. It’s anticipated, you know you’re going to get it 2. They’re going to say something back to you that makes sense based on what you said, so it is going to be like a conversation, and finally 3. If you ask a question, it becomes a story. They expand on that. So, therefore, you can handle that if you know what to do. Most sales guys don’t know what to say.

Why do you think that is—that they don’t know what to say?

They’ve never listened to the call. What I did when I started was I recorded every single telephone call I made, and then played them back and listened to them, and I heard the same thing over and over again—not interested, too busy, call me back. And I said to myself—there’s got to be a better answer than “okay”. That’s the biggest single mistake that salespeople make. They use the word “okay”. You say to somebody “okay”—that’s the end of the conversation.

Did you ever look at a group of salespeople in training? They don’t take notes. They don’t work with a script because they’re afraid a script is going to sound scripted. Yes, it’s a script. But you’ve all seen movies that use a script—it doesn’t sound like a script—because the actor has internalized the conversation.

If you do it well—it’s not even the key points. Rather, sales is really finding out what people do, how they do it, where they do it, when they do it, who they do it with, why they’re doing it that way, and then helping them do it better. That’s all it is. If you help somebody do something better, they’ll buy.

In the span of 30 years, are there any substantial changes to how people should be cold calling?

Yes, because of the cell phone, and following up on email and email invites, but basically you still have to pick up the phone. The whole concept of [my] book is pick up the phone and say something!

What about the concept of social selling?

To the right person and the right group, it works! People don’t even ask questions anymore about the person they’re talking to. I’ve seen the mistakes that are so obviously easy to correct.

You need to learn from your mistakes. If you are making 100 calls and you’re not getting through, rethink what you’re saying. If you’re making appointments, and you’re not getting through, then think about what you’re saying. But if I say to a group of people, record your calls and listen to it, they won’t do it.

A salesperson needs to reinvent themselves. If you do the same thing the same way, you get the same results.

Transitioning into sales tools—there are a bunch of them in the market. What do you think of CRM tools, where the sales rep has to input information from the call?

Have you looked at what they write? Have you seen a rep actually use it well? I haven’t! I’ve seen them use it, they put all the junk in there, but they never go back to it.

What are the metrics that you think sales managers ought to have in order to be good at coaching reps?

A manager gets a chart that says, “Joe went on X appointments this week, but he didn’t get any sales.” He needs to know the bottom line.  He needs to be able to truly understand what he is looking at.

Managers don’t speak the same language as the sales rep does. For example, what’s a good meeting? You ask a sales rep and you ask a manager, and they’ll have two different answers.  A good meeting to me is getting to the next step. In other words, to the next meeting.

We talked a little bit about what salespeople should be doing better. Would you be able to tell me the top traits of a good salesperson?

It comes down to a couple of things. 1— They are obsessed with the job. But, obsession without the discipline results in chaos. So as obsessed as you are, as determined as you are to be successful, if you don’t have the discipline to do what you need to do and follow through, it’s chaotic. And you see that. You see people running around in circles, going nowhere. 2—They have a vision. They are able to communicate. You need a vision, you need to be able to communicate that vision, and then you need to be able to follow it.

The last thing—they are persistent and consistent. They do it the same way. I am boringly the same. I make my calls I do my emails—why change something that works? It’s all about organizing yourself and having the discipline to follow-up.

Are you working on a new book? What do you have coming on the horizon in 2018?

I have two new books. I have a book on managing millennials—how to manage that group. The cold calling book you asked me about—I wrote 30 years ago. We’ve re-written it seven or eight times and we are doing a next-edition for 2018.

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