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.
When 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.
Is cold calling a necessary part of being a salesperson? Or should a good salesperson never be cold calling? The battle continues because the answer is contextual. Whether cold calling is useful depends on your situation, your industry and your product.
The battle over cold calling rages on.
Is cold calling a necessary part of being a salesperson? Or should a good salesperson never be cold calling?
The battle continues because the answer is contextual. Both of the above statements are true, depending on context. Whether cold calling is useful depends on your situation, your industry and your product.
Cold calling is a viable option if the following criteria are met.
- There are many potential buyers of your product. Many means many, like nearly everyone — examples are insurance and shoes.
- The opportunity cost to a ‘no’ to your request, whether that request is for a meeting or to actually buy your product, is low. In other words you don’t really care if they say no, presumably because there are many more folks out there whom you can find. As an example, you have a hundred more names on a list of people who clicked a web link identifying their interest in Florida real estate, and that happens to be what you’re selling.
- There are many routes into a client organization. If you are selling facilitation services to run meetings more effectively, any departmental manager could use your services. If one manager at Aquacorp says no, you are not closed out from calling on another.
- Your pitch can outline a need quickly. People have to get it. And to get it, the problem your product solves must be universally understood. “Tired of sewing patches on the ripped knees of your children’s pants? Toughskins will outlast any other pair of pants.” Parents who have that problem get it right away. (Still, my brothers and I wore a lot of holes in the knees of Toughskin jeans.)
Another way to think about it is the reverse. Would you be disappointed if the person on the other end of the phone said no to your request? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then don’t cold call.
A sales script is a short, rehearsed speech that informs someone about your industry, your company, your product or you. Scripts are useful in client meetings and other situations as well – in a coffee shop, at a party.
You probably already have scripts: those things you say over and over about yourself or your company or your job. They grew organically from having to present yourself or from being asked the same question over and over (like what do you do?).
A short script about who you are and what you offer can position you as credible, intriguing and worth spending time with. The ability to express your essential message quickly and cleanly sets you apart from the crowd.
Here are the seven commandments of scripts:
- Focus on one key point per script that illustrates something unique about you or your company.
- Tell a story. Facts and figures that support the story are even better. Stories are about people. Data and a person with a personality are the ingredients of the best scripts.
- Be relevant to your audience. Have custom scripts for specific types of clients. Don’t use scripts that aren’t relevant.
- Every script ends with a question. The goal of your meeting is to learn by asking questions. Ending with a question to your client reminds you of that. And you never know when you’ve earned enough credibility that the person you’re talking to will start answering your questions.
- Be brief. A script is said in less than sixty seconds.
- Be brief, really. Monologues are only for evil superheroes.
- Always finish with a question. Got it?
Figure out what you’re already saying and follow the seven commandments of scripts to make your scripts better.
If you hear yourself saying, ”It’s not personal. It’s just business,” be careful. Ask yourself if you’ve made a decision you’re not proud of.
“It’s just business” and “not personal” imply that there are different guidelines or values we apply depending on whether we deem the interaction as ‘personal; or ‘business’. If in the ‘personal’ interaction we apply our life values, what values or rules are we applying in the business interaction?
Having two sets of values implies business as a game. This tempts us to view the primary goal as getting the best score (money). There are two problems with this.
First of all, it is personal. For the entrepreneur who invested five years of his life in a start-up? For the manager who’s wrestled a new division to life? For the team leader who’s nurtured the growth of the members of her team? For the small business owner who has employed the same friends for 25 years? For you when your best client signs a deal with a competitor? It is personal.
Second, the “game” of business and sales has no rules. In the end the only rules are the rules you choose to live by. And if you choose to live by them and then apply them selectively (as in this doesn’t count, this is business), then you’re not really living by them.
Strive to be the same “you” in business and everything else. In the end you’ll be happier, healthier and more fun to be with.
Once you have at least a loose connection to your prospective client, you need to communicate it to your client, so when you call and ask for an opportunity to meet them, they already know who you are and how you’re connected to them…
Employing the Loose Connection
Loose connections may be a nightmare for an electrician, but they are wonderful for sales people. If you want to get a yes to your request for a meeting, it’s useful if you’ve found a connection you share with your client, and even better if they know what that connection is. That’s what this post is about — activating the connection you’ve found.
The process for activating your loose connection is important. Use two separate communication methods (a belt and suspenders strategy is usually enough to ensure that the message gets through). Your email might go to a spam folder, your phone message will likely be listened to, a handwritten note might end up in the circular file, but it will probably be read. Send two types of missives, a call and a note, a call and an email, an email and a note, or an email from someone they know, then an email from you.
The content of your initial message explains who you are, the connection you have to them, and either asks for a meeting or says you’ll be calling to ask for one in the next week. If it’s an email, it’s less than a hundred words.
Your note, email and/or message might say, for example, “ Hi I’m Mary Snell at Berklee. I saw you speak on a panel at the user conference last week. I asked you the question about advanced interfaces [reference to how you’re connected]. I’d be pleased to get together with you and talk about whether working together might benefit us both. I’ll give you a call in the next week [and you do call in next week] to set up a time that works for you if you’re willing. Thanks.”
You can decide if this is better than the unconnected alternative: “ Hi I’m Mary Snell from Berklee. I’d love to get together with you and talk about whether working together might benefit us both. I’ll call you this week to set up a time if you’re willing. Thanks.”
You’ve found the connection to your prospective client. You communicated that connection so they know how they’re connected to you. Our next post will talk about the call for the meeting request; what you say and how you say it.