They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s not always true, especially when it applies to the skillsets used for sales. Techniques that once had great success not too long ago may not work today. So how does your chest of sales tools look? Is there anything in there that may need some sharpening, or even throwing away? Are you applying the best sales techniques to get the results you want?

In this episode of INSIDE Inside Sales, Darryl is joined by renowned Sales Leader and owner of Engage Selling Solutions, Colleen Francis. Darryl and Colleen go over some great steps to help turn your cold calls warm, as well as offer up tips on using your social selling platform to deliver value to your community. They also discuss strategies such as winning over the staff below the C-Suite, and exactly who you should be targeting for referrals. Get some great tool sharpening advice on this episode of INSIDE Inside Sales!






Host: Darryl PraillVanillaSoft

Guest: Colleen Francis, Engage Selling Solutions


5 Unprofitable Skills to Avoid

Darryl Praill: Its another episode, guys and gals, how are you? Just to be clear on this, when I say it’s another episode, you do know it’s the INSIDE Inside Sales Show you’re listening to right now. I just wanna make sure that. The first clue was the rocking music and then the voiceover for the announcer saying “It’s the INSIDE Inside Sales Show.” You ever do that? You ever like watch a show or listen to something and you stop and you go, what is it I’m listening to again? I don’t have any recollection.

Darryl Praill: Or is it just me and I’m a moron? It’s very possible I’m a moron. I’m sitting here as I record this, and of course these are always recorded in a few weeks in advance often of the show going live, and I’m here in wonderful Canada. And we’re getting dumped on. 25 centimeters of snow as we speak. Now 25 centimeters for those who are of the imperial units, that’s roughly 12 inches, one foot, give or take.

Darryl Praill: So it’s, well I actually guess it’s not, it’s probably more like was nine, maybe more nine inches. So there we go my math is bad. But you get the idea. It’s a lot, it’s a lot, it’s a lot. School buses are canceled, it’s crazy. And and today I have four productions I’m recording is a production heavy day. It’s a busy day. We all have busy days. But I needed to be in the studio ’cause I want to come and talk to you guys.

Darryl Praill: And one of the things I was thinking about on the drive in which was long, I got an extra early, I thought the traffic the roads are brutal. Yes, I’m whining a lot just humor me, okay. It’s an early, early morning. And I was thinking about ’cause I had a conversation with one of my staffers the other day, and we were just talking about skills, skills that you develop. It was this particular staffer is almost 24 years old.

Darryl Praill: I won’t name names and and they’re hungry. They wanna have a really kick ass career. And at times in their task they find themselves a little bored, they don’t work directly for me, they work for somebody else in the organization. I say that because it will make sense when I talk about their laments, which is sometimes they’re bored. Sometimes they don’t feel like they’re being utilized to their full potential.

Darryl Praill: And they’re seeking advice. And I was sharing with them about how in the end, you can’t look to your boss to be the individual who’s gonna take control of your career. Yes, they can influence your career. Yes, they can help you with your career. But you are the one who has to own the career. And and if you want to achieve a certain goal in mind, then you need to hustle. You need actually go for it.

Darryl Praill: And there’s lots of ways you can do this. You do this respectfully. You can get people to work with you, your boss or other stakeholders in your company, whom you respect, who are talented, and it’s all about the message. And that got me to think, I was sharing with them about some of my personal stories when I was younger and some of the mistakes I made and under the premise of don’t make these mistakes.

Darryl Praill: Don’t make these mistakes. ‘Cause they were saying, “Well, I’ve gone to my boss,” and I said, “Hey, I can do this initiative “this will be really cool. “This would help the team.” And they said, “Yeah, that’s interesting.” And she was like, “Where do I go from here? “‘Cause she didn’t say anything,” my boss didn’t say, do it or don’t do it. And I said, “Just do it. “Just do it, and show it to them.” I said, “What’s the worst,” I said “if you got time, just do it. “Take the initiative.” “I said, “Your boss may not understand “truly what you’re saying, then they try to humor you “they maybe distracted with other things going on. “You don’t know what’s going on their life.” It’s not personal. It’s always about you, just do it.

Darryl Praill: Take the initiative, show them and then maybe when they see it, they go, “Wow, I get it.” A took the initiative. B it worked, boom, mind blown. I love you. What else kind of give you? That’s how it works. And I said, “Look at me, I’ll use me as an example.” I said, “I made so many mistakes over my life that were just absolutely dumb.” So one of the main things is always have, I was a take charge. I want to get this done.

Darryl Praill: And I would go and I would perhaps be a bull in a china shop. And maybe I always sometimes offend people in my aggressive, get it done attitude. To me, I thought I was just making shit happen. Excuse the language. I was just getting it done, everybody else is slacking. And my boss would say to me a time Darryl “You know you can’t do that.” And I would say “I’m not doing it.” “Yes, you are.” “No, I’m not.” “Yes, you are.” “No, I’m not.” God bless my boss, because he was very patient with me.

Darryl Praill: And and we would probably come to this conclusion where I would say, “Fine, “you think I’m being this kind of individual, “I disagree with you. “Next time it happens, call me out on it.” So, two weeks goes by and also I’m in the middle of something my boss, in middle, everybody else in the room has no context, turns to me and he goes, “There right now, you’re doing right now.” And all of a sudden and I went, “Oh, my goodness, I get it.”

Darryl Praill: I get how this skill is not a skill, and it’s working against me. I get it, I need to change, I need to adapt. So, by the way, that happened over and over again, in my career still happens, it never happens, no matter how old you get you, you get better. You handle it better. You get more receptive to being humble, shall we say, and growing from it, but there are skills that we’re holding on to guys and gals. You’re holding on to them ’cause you think they’re working for you. And I would contend they’re not. And we’ve never talked about on this show.

Welcome Colleen Francis

Darryl Praill: We’ve never talked about skills that are working against you. And I thought, wow, we’re always talking about stuff you should do. Let’s talk about stuff you shouldn’t do. Now, I was inspired to do this ’cause I saw this blog just a couple weeks ago, posted by Colleen Francis. Do you guys know Colleen? Colleen is gonna be on the main stage at OutBound. All the good ones are and she is a legend. Now here’s the funny part. Colleen hails from where I am live. I’m in Ottawa, she’s in Ottawa. But you know the difference is, she’s smarter than I am, because remember I mentioned the 25 centimeters of snow we’re getting right now. She’s hanging out down south in Florida at her little Florida getaway winter home while I suffer here. Colleen, welcome to the show.

Colleen Francis: Hey, great to be here. Thanks so much for having me and yes, I have escaped snow but it is raining down here today.

Darryl Praill: Yeah, it Colleen try tell me this in the green room where before we went live that out there but it’s raining down here and it’s very not pleasant. And I’m like, haha, 25 centimeters of snow. There we go. All right, so Colleen is president and founder of Engaged Selling Solutions, guys, if you’re at your desktop, go to right now. She has some great content there. If you don’t know her other than this the first time meeting her? There’s a reason she’s at OutBound, she’s an award-winning writer and consultant. She’s a best-selling author.

Darryl Praill: She’s a member of the speaking Hall of Fame. She’s recognized as one of the most foremost thought leaders on the future of selling by leading publications worldwide, including being named, of course, a LinkedIn top voice for sales. So she kinda knows what she’s talking about. So that’s the setup. Now, full disclosure Colleen, when I read this, I saw ’cause of the blog, folks, I actually know what she’s probably gonna cover today in advance.

Darryl Praill: So when I read this, I’m like, okay, so you got five talking points here. Item number two, I’ve had multiple people on my show saying this is a real skill, but you’re gonna go forth here shortly and tell us that it’s not a real skill. I did a recent podcast on item number three saying we should do that. You’re gonna say we probably shouldn’t do that. Item number five, I had a recent guest on the show saying we should use this skill. You’re gonna say we shouldn’t use this skill. Guys and gals, do you see why I’m really excited about this one, she’s gonna be miss contrarian today, and I’m loving it.

Colleen Francis: Darryl improvising

Turn 5 Unprofitable Sales Skills Into the Best Sales Techniques

Darryl Praill: So let me set the stage. What was the catalyst for writing posts around five unprofitable skills that are still floating around?

Colleen Francis: I’m so glad you asked me that, here was the catalyst. I was working with a client of mine and now they’ve been a longtime client. They’re in the leasing the finance world. And they have a really strong inside sales team. They always have they were using video for their sales process far before really video existed, so to speak. And they’re excellent at what they do.

Colleen Francis: And when I first started working with them, maybe 10 or so years ago, we noticed that they were doing things in a very traditional way. And they were getting great results. They were making 30 calls, let’s say and getting one sale and their sales were big, and they were talking to top executives. So fast forward a number of years haven’t worked with them in five or six years. I come back in and do some work. And the guys are burnt out. They’re just tired. They’re like, “Oh man, I’m working like longer hours than ever before,” still hitting top performance. But I’m trying to figure out what’s going on.

Colleen Francis: And what we realized is they have continued to work on the skills that they did 10 years ago, but their ratios have gone from 30 to one, I kid you not on this to 268 to one, and they weren’t paying interest to the metrics. And so they were getting burned out because it was taking them four times, maybe even five times in some cases, the amount of work to get the same number of deals done. They were working at eight o’clock at night and at nine o’clock at night, just trying to get this done, but because they were still having success, they weren’t paying attention to the skills and the decreasing profitability of each of those skills. So that was the catalyst and then we started poking around to see what other top-performing organizations were doing and not doing anymore and hence my list.

Stop Calling Strangers

Darryl Praill: Okay, so if you’re listening to this right now and you can relate to the story Colleen just said, where it used to take me X amount of effort, now it’s a factor of x, 2, 3, 4, 5 times as hard then you specifically should pay attention because what she’s about to say may rock your world despite conventional wisdom. Now if it’s okay with you, I want to go a little bit out of order here. I’m gonna go with your second bullet first because this is I think, is often the most somewhat controversial one.

Darryl Praill: And we’ve had many, many people on here saying, this is a skill you need to practice and as many social media influencers who make their whole living around advocating this. So guys and gals, the first thing that Colleen or actually second thing, the first thing we’re gonna talk about today, the first thing we’re talk about today is that she says, one of those unprofitable skills is the belief is the application, is the premise that cold calling works. Okay, so there’s a good chance that you may be tied to a stake and burned for hearsay. Colleen–

Colleen Francis: Am willing to take that chance.

Darryl Praill: Your opening line in this blog as relates to this is, “This is flat out wrong,” and I just love this, how brazen you are. So tell me why it is cold calling, in fact, clearly not work?

Colleen Francis: Okay, so let’s set the premise here for one second. I’m saying that the cold to the work the calling still works and people get their knickers in a knot all the time when I bring this up ’cause they think I’m saying that telephone doesn’t work. That’s not true at all. But the telephone in isolation when calling strangers who don’t know you or your company does not work. I’ll give you the stats, right? We used to have clients who would see anywhere from two to 10% success rate on cold calling.

Colleen Francis: Those ratios are now one third of 1%. So sure, okay, you could bet your success on one third of 1% in terms of making a cold call to a sale. But for most B2B customers, and I mean, I work in the B2B space, right? So my clients are generally large fortune global 2000 companies, or manufacturing companies or technology companies, fast growing technology companies, it doesn’t work, what works is finding ways to warm up that call. So it could be marketing programs. I mean, it still works to make a call if your marketing team has done outreach, and you’re calling inbound leads, people who have raised their hand on your website or downloaded forms.

Colleen Francis: What works is still building relationships through social media, or through networking or through trade shows, or through existing customers. What works is still some combination of; email, online networking and making that call but what doesn’t work anymore is this cold calling approach that I used to use when I sold at life insurance where you you know, open the phone book and just start calling people who don’t know you. Executives will not pick up the phone anymore.

Darryl Praill: So I love that nuance, right? So she’s not saying cold calling is not working. That was good. She says cold doesn’t work, but calling does. And I would agree with that. And we’ve actually talked about that on all of our shows we’ve actually said this, in any healthy organization, there should be no such thing as cold calling any more they should all minimally be warm calling or you’re wasting your time.

Colleen Francis: Exactly, I have a lot of clients who work in really traditional industries and they’re cold calling is still physical, cold calling, like go to an industrial park or walk in the back of a lot. And they grew up in the root sales person type of environment they can’t do that anymore because of security. It’s not even, just like a receptionist or a phone where you pick it up and they’re saying no solicitation, their security there in the US and they physically can’t get on the property. So here we have a bunch of senior sales reps, who are field sales reps, and they’re sort of lost, like, oh my gosh, what do I do–

Darryl Praill: What do I do?

Colleen Francis: And then they just go and open the door and now I can’t physically in the building, but the same is happening on the telephone.

Darryl Praill: So one of the things you did talk about though, you said warm it up a little bit, right? And you use all these different channels, whether it’s networking or eBay, one of things you said was social earnings to get deeds over here. Because I know the founders of OutBound, especially people like Mark Hunter and originally Mike Weinberg, are not the biggest advocates of social, hence the whole premise of OutBound. So, since we’re stirring the pot today, lets just keep on going that’s what we Canadians are known for. You mentioned social, is that a way is that an effective channel is that as a precursor to warm it up before you make that call.

Colleen Francis: Yeah, I love disagreeing with these guys. We have a lot of fun. Yes, it is absolutely a precursor of 75% and it’s growing all business people, executives, decision makers, decision influencers are on LinkedIn. So it’s not about using LinkedIn to make a cold call, or Facebook, if you’re on the business to consumer side or Twitter, it’s about using it to gather information on who to call.

Colleen Francis: So it’s about figuring out what those clients or customers or companies are interested, it’s about using the tool to figure out who all the higher level, lower level, left, right, top bottom people are so that you can start to build out your community of buying influences inside that account. It’s also a way to showcase your value. So what doesn’t work on LinkedIn is connecting with someone and then immediately bombarding them with that, “Hey, can I sell to you an advertisement?” What does work is using your platform in your community to deliver value?

Colleen Francis: So people who are posting case studies, news stories, the way they’re impacting their value, educational pieces, videos, again on that, how to it warms up the environment. So even if you never connect with someone directly on LinkedIn to say, “Can I call you,” people are starting to get familiar with your work and the value you deliver. So when you do pick up the phone to call them, they’re like, “Oh, hey, I see you on LinkedIn.” That’s the kind of warm relationship that you want.

Darryl Praill: And from firsthand experience I can totally attest to that works like you wouldn’t believe. Now one of the things that Colleen mentioned in that was talking about using your LinkedIn or social tools to go and almost effectively map the organization who’s hot, who’s medium who’s low, what are the right of the rolls and all this stuff, but she has an opinion on one of the skills that you should get rid of as it relates to whom you target in your organization.

And we’re gonna talk about it in about 30 seconds, time, don’t go anywhere, will be right back.

Don’t Just Call High

Darryl Praill: All right, so you talk is, on your blog, you say one of the five unprofitable skills we hit about cold calling which courses emphasis on cold but not on the calling. You said another unprofitable skill was the the legacy approach, if you will, the historical approach we’re all taught from the time we’re, we sales professionals, which is you call high. You call the CEO or C-level, maybe a V-level, that they own the budget. That’s where you go, if they delegate down, life is good or where you go, but you start there. And you say that is an unprofitable skill?

Colleen Francis: Absolutely it is. Because what happens is we get sellers who get stuck trying to call into that top person and they inadvertently create a gatekeeper for themselves. The key in this marketplace is to create, I call it a buyer community. It’s different than a committee in the old sense where there’s these formal roles. There’s an entire community of people that your buyers are relying on for information and we have to influence that buyer, from the bottom, from the sides, from the top all over.

Colleen Francis: And if you only call “Hi,” and you get stuck, just calling this single person, you create a gatekeeper for yourself because you’re not gonna be able to get through. I learned this the hard way years ago, and I inadvertently was trying to call on an executive, of actually a general in the US Army, couldn’t get through to him. And so we just started working below the ranks, right, we started working with all of his subordinates.

Colleen Francis: And we started to create this community of practice this influence community, I guess, if you want to call it that, which eventually led us to have a meeting because he couldn’t not listen to what was going on around him. And you can replicate that in the corporate environment, right, I mean, I think Gardner’s latest studies show that there’s 11 people involved in the decision, 11 people. I mean, that’s huge, right? And they have direct and indirect influence. So you’re selling yourself short if you only call on one person.

Darryl Praill: What we did a podcast of the day, you were talking about referrals. And as it relates to this, ’cause I know you have an opinion on referrals, as it relates to this conversation. They use the start of, every sale has a minimum of six and it could be as high as 11, nine or 11 now, it depends on your SAP. But either way, it’s a lot, if six is the is the low and elevens, the high, their point was, we have a tendency to establish a bond with one person in that sale.

Darryl Praill: And maybe we’ll ask that one person, their point was, but if there’s six people or nine or 11 involved in the sale, you should be working all of those people because all of them have the ability to bring you more company but you’re right, why would you just sell high and even I know when we do our own marketing here to warm up the sales funnel, we actually target high and low ’cause we don’t know if it’s gonna be championed up or mandated down. So we wanna make sure we’ve got a full 360.

Colleen Francis: Absolutely and I find too, that the images to make a sale or buy a product inside organizations is coming from a variety of sources. So aligned with this is my belief that there is really no avatar for an ideal buyer anymore. We’re seeing for example customers who would normally traditionally sell to, like a VP of engineering or VP of maintenance or a warehouse manager, getting there in from customer service or sales because the sales and customer service teams are being overrun with complaints due to a problem in the warehouse. So we’re seeing that ideal buyer doesn’t really exist anymore.

Colleen Francis: And the best thing salespeople can do is to take, I think what’s kinda been called a bit of an account-based approach where they’re really calling on multiple people and trying to influence multiple people in this community, who are ultimately going to have influence or the decision power to buy from you.

Don’t Ask Poor Customers for Referrals

Darryl Praill: Alright, so one of the other top five skills you said are unprofitable was to ask everyone for referrals?

Colleen Francis: Yeah, absolutely.

Darryl Praill: On face value, why wouldn’t I ask everyone for referrals? So why is asking everyone for referrals are bad, bad unprofitable skills. I emphasize everyone as many times as I could, I’m sorry. So I’m kind of given it away, go ahead.

Colleen Francis: So here’s the thing. You only want to ask people for referrals, who are people that you want more of. So this is the thing that salespeople do they ask everyone for referrals, including they’re terrible, cheap, nasty, mean, high maintenance customers, and who do you think those people know? They know more nasty, cheap, high maintenance, pain in the bud customers? So you only want to ask for referrals from people who you want more of in your pipeline. So I know that sounds funny, but–

Darryl Praill: No, it’s over. Let me explain the marketing corollary, okay. We asked customers on a fairly regular basis, our customers, the classic NPS on a scale of one to 10 how likely are you to recommend VanillaSoft. Guess what? Those who give us a nine or a 10? I asked them to go to Google or G2 to give me a review. Those give me a four or three, I don’t ask them. It’s the same exact thing, yeah, exactly. All right, we–

Colleen Francis: That’s really important that you didn’t slice that.

Forget Always Be Closing

Darryl Praill: The classic ABC always be closing. Classic skill. But you say, name A, you study the skill you need to ditch. I’m confused, talk to me.

Colleen Francis: Well, there’s a time and a place for closing. And I find that salespeople who try to close too early are seen as overly aggressive. Now, closing isn’t just asking for the sale. For example, salespeople who are going back to what we said earlier on LinkedIn, try to sell you and close you, the first time you make a connection with them. I was approached by a company that sells data for example, and we got on the first call and they demo with the product to me. But the first call was all about this is our product. This is what we need, there is a real focus on clearly trying to hit this one call close and it’s off putting, not everybody in your buying community can buy.

Colleen Francis: And so when you’re talking to people, we have to quickly discern as a salesperson, whether or not this person can buy or shouldn’t, should we be using this call as a research call? Should we be using this call as an education or a teaching moment? Should we be delivering the customer some new idea or value or insight that they could then take across the organization or up or down the organization, but trying to close on the first sale, especially in today’s environment, where people are really immune and turned off by that will cause you to lose that business and it will reduce your overall closing ratio.

Darryl Praill: So any meeting folks, we’ve talked about this before on past episodes, you should always be either looking for an advance or a continuation not necessarily closes, I get her point right so advance to the next step or continue the conversation but not closing. ‘Cause you said it, off putting. The minute you, I feel off put, I feel like a transaction to you and I wanna partnership, I don’t want to be your transaction, I want you and I to have a partnership, you need to share this risk with me. So that’s my opinion. All right, last one.

Colleen Francis: Just one quick thing for your tactical thing for your sales people do to think about, 75% of the time you spend in an opportunity should be spent on the front end of the opportunity before you get to that presentation where you’re gonna close 75% so you have 100 day sales cycle, 75 days of it should be spent in that front end. When you do that you dramatically improve your chances of close. If you reverse that you likely will not close the business.

Darryl Praill: So I’ll even add on that remind people who missed the James Murray episode. We talked about when you go into a meeting or go to an encounter, right, which is really the front end, if you will, but what Colleen is getting at, before you even talk to them, you should have three answers to three questions. Why should they see me? What do I want the client to do? And how can I add value on that encounter?

Don’t Force Leadership in the Career Path

Darryl Praill: And if you do that, right, then you’ll get the advanced with the continuation, but her advice is brilliant. Now we’re tight on time. So, I’ve saved the most controversial one to the end, ’cause many people here wanna be sales rock stars, they have a career path in mind, not unlike how I began my conversation with my employee. And you say one of the top five unprofitable skills, you say the career path for great sellers is sales leadership, you will go from a seller to be a sales leader. And you say nay, nay, so talk to me?

Colleen Francis: Yeah, so selling and sales leadership are two completely different skills and people who are great salespeople often are not great leaders. And that’s okay. As a seller and as an organization, you need to be empathetic to the fact, to our conscious of the fact that a great seller should maybe stay a great seller and just sell more.

Colleen Francis: Maybe the career path for that great seller is to figure out how to earn more than their current job and not manage other people. And I think salespeople have to be comfortable with that, we tend to because we’re competitive think that moving up through the ranks is the most important thing. And I’ve seen a lot of top performing salespeople fail at leaders because they hate the job. They just think it’s something they’re supposed to do.

Colleen Francis: And good organizations, when they promote somebody into that sales leadership role will always give them an off ramp that they can be comfortable with, “Hey, if it doesn’t work out, if you hate it, “or if you’re a terrible leader, “then why don’t we put you back in sales “and make that work?” Because if you don’t, then you’re gonna lose that great salesperson and you will have had to suffer through a period of terrible, terrible leadership.

Darryl Praill: Ladies and gentlemen, have you had fun? Has it gone by really super freaking fast? It has for me this is Colleen.

Colleen Francis: I had fun.

Darryl Praill: I had fun, I know, forget everybody else, we’ve had fun. This is Colleen Francis. If you liked her here, there’s more of her, you can see her on YouTube Colleen Francis.TV you can go to website, or you can just go see her live at Go see her live, tip, if you register now, use code VS 100 as in VanillaSoft. It’ll save you some money. Colleen one final thought for you, what’s one thing people should be prepared for when they go to OutBound if they’ve never gone there before.

Colleen Francis: I would be prepared with multiple pens and multiple pads of paper because it is a nonstop action-packed tip, after tip, after tip, after tip of three days.

Darryl Praill: It’s a theme we are seeing folks it is good, check it out. VanillaSoft is the title sponsor. In the meantime, we are out of time. That my friends concludes another week. But don’t worry, we’ll be back. My name is Darryl and this is INSIDE Inside Sales. You take care.