Pest or Perseverance

When you call a prospective client to request a meeting for the first time, the primary rule is, have something useful to say. That’s the legwork that makes a cold call less chilly.

perseveranceWhen you call a prospective client to request a meeting for the first time, the primary rule is, have something useful to say. It’s data they might be interested in. It’s a transaction that is similar to one they did or might do. It’s a problem they might share, that you’ve already solved. It’s data information or research that might be relevant, or it’s how you are connected or linked to them. (It’s also best if you can pre-deliver this info.) That’s the legwork that makes a cold call less chilly.

Once you know what you are going to say that’s either potentially useful to them, or connects you to them (or both), then you’re ready to call.

Before you call take five minutes to practice what you want to say and how you want to say it. Write it down. Read it. Say it. Say it without reading it, from memory. Then get your calendar, a pen, and we suggest making the call in the morning. (But that depends on you and, something that’s difficult to know at this point, how they use their day.)

“Hi Jon, this is Tim Wills at Berenger. I know you through Bill Stern at the K of C Club. Berenger developed a new add-on to our product that you should know is out there. I’m going to be in St Louis in three weeks. Can we meet for 30 minutes?”

When Jon says “yes,” make the date and get off the phone. Your goal is to meet your new client face to face. Save your ideas and thoughts for the meeting itself when you are better prepared.

The chances you get Jon on your first try are pretty slim. Even after eight bounces to voicemail, assume that every call you make will be the one that is picked up by your client prospect. Even on your ninth call, you still do a quick in-your-head rehearsal. And, you haven’t left eight messages, especially on voice mail. That’s a great way to lower yourself to pest status. You might have left one or two so your client knows you are calling to set up a meeting, delivering on the promise you made in your initial correspondence.

Preparing to make the meeting request call is one of the differences between being a pest and persevering.

Good Luck!

Questions for Them

Good questions might be a mash up between coaching and selling. A personal or business coach, in the purest form, only asks questions. Yet a good coach can provide plenty of value to a client. Ask good questions, be a coach to your clients, and you’ll benefit from the value you provide.

Demonstrating value is an integral part of any client meeting. It’s being useful to your client. It means that they are deriving benefit from their interaction with you.

From the salesperson’s point of view, the ideal demonstration of value is explaining how your product or service can solve a problem for your client. A problem which, if solved, will help them achieve a larger goal or objective.

There are other ways to provide value. One way is asking questions. “Asking questions?” You ask. Yes, asking questions. Not any question. Only some questions provide value. A simple way to separate those that don’t offer value and those that do is to divide them into questions for you and questions for them. Questions for you are questions that they have already asked themselves, especially questions they have already asked themselves to which they know the answer. When you ask questions that fall into this category you’re not helping your client, you’re informing yourself. This may be necessary so you can provide value later on, but you are using up your credits when you ask questions for you. (Neil Rackham’s book SPIN Selling includes situation questions, the S in his acronym, in this category.)

question_postitsQuestions for them (which, by the way, are also questions for you) are questions that your client has not yet asked, and doesn’t yet know the answer. They catalyze, invite new thinking, or reframe a situation. They often begin with one of these catalytic question stems: How might you…? What might be all the ways…? In what ways might you…? or How to? (An english professor, in England, once told me, with frustration, that “How to” results in a phrase not a sentence, so it’s technically not a question. But it can still be an inquiry, which is the point.)

A catalytic question poses a question from a new perspective, one that has not yet been considered. It doesn’t just transmit information from them to you. It opens up a new space to explore. It creates opportunity, and opportunity has value. A colleague was once consulting with a team from Accenture. (She was a consultant to the consultants. I find it refreshing that they take some of their own medicine some of the time.) She followed up on her first meeting by sending them a list, not of next steps, not action items or solutions, not suggestions, not even ideas. She sent a list of twenty-five “How might we…?” questions that she had derived from their conversation.

Accenture’s response?

“We should be doing this for all our clients.”

Simply by asking questions she demonstrated value.

Good questions might be a mash up between coaching and selling. A personal or business coach, in the purest form, only asks questions. Yet a good coach can provide plenty of value to a client. Ask good questions, be a coach to your clients, and you’ll benefit from the value you provide.