- Know what you are calling about--not just your company but the category your company is in. Spend time researching, learn the industry, understand the "why" aspect around the reasons companies buy. Don't wait for your marketing department to provide information--they are slammed too, educate yourself. Spend a few hours each month reading trade publications, look up related topics on Wikipedia, Quora, or Focus.
- Develop your skills--not objection handlers and being manipulative, but how to connect with prospects on a person-to-person level. I ran across a research point that most sales reps don't invest more than $20 a year to develop themselves professionally. It isn't the company's job to make you better, it's YOUR job to make YOU better. The things that make you better are not cheesy tricks to get prospects on the phone--the real substance is learning about how companies buy, what is meaningful to them, how your solution ties into the big picture. There is actually a study HBR did a number of years back that still stands true today, you can download it here What B2B Customers Really Want It shows companies hire almost opposite from what customers really want. Be what customers really want.
- Each call teaches you something. One of the biggest disservices a rep can do in their development is miss the education each conversation will give you. Many reps (and it is clear the moment a rep checks out on a call) just shut down once they don't see an immediate opportunity. The thing they miss is they have a prospect on the phone--LEARN from them. Ask them what they looked at most when they put what they have in place...create a question track to just talk with them as people, you have them on the phone--talk with them. Your best source of information is often prospects. You shouldn't be having the same conversations in 6 months that you are having today--you should be more fluent, more educated. And much of that growth comes from understanding the value in each discussion--opportunity or not.
- Know your prospect--not just the title you are after, but what does their work environment look like? You can be sure of this:
- Most executives are in back to back calls/meetings or reacting to something going on in their organization
- They get 200-300 or more emails a day that require some kind of action
- They get 40+ calls of one sort or another, staff, management, etc.
- Some don't check voicemail or delete ones they don't immediately recognize
- They are doing more with less budget and staff than ever
- You are one of about 10 other vendors that called them that day
- They are real people with lives, families, health issues, and everything else that they need to deal with.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
It Just Isn't Easy
Having met thousands of people in sales over the years, one thing is sure. Cold calling isn't easy. It isn't for the lazy, people that don't want to invest in themselves, the thin-skinned, or the entitled. It isn't for people that want the easy way out, or the sales reps that have no interest in others. It also isn't for people that are tuned out, have no appetite for learning, or that see cold calling as beneath them. The best cold callers are people that are very intuitive, care about their prospects, their offer, and invest in themselves.
There's lots of hype around topics like "never cold call again" or "cold calling is dead." But is it? Cold calling in the sense of picking up a phone without doing any research has been dead for years, but anyone in sales that is successful is able to pick up the phone and have a conversation.
In fact, one of the most important skills to have isn't a smooth convincing presentation that can make someone agree to a meeting they don't really want to have, but rather the skill of understanding what your prospect's work environment is like and caring enough to learn how to navigate through it.
An example of not knowing a prospect's environment is the calls and emails I get every day, and it's all the same stuff--they want to show me how they can change what I'm doing, why what I am doing now is wrong, why they are better, and why I am wasting money with my current model. First, they don't know what I am doing, I actually am fully aware of the optimization level of what I have in place, I know the cost of what I am doing, and what you just proposed is completely incorrect for my work environment. What would have worked is to just say you want to connect and learn about what I do, talk about what you do, and see if it makes sense to have deeper discussions.
My point? Most cold calls alienate prospects.
What does cold calling really require?
What does this all mean to you? Stand back and assess where you or your team is, and where you might need to make some improvements. Changing an overall mindset is often all that's needed, not a complete overhaul of sales process and training--just realizing what you are working with and are you taking advantage of everything you already have access to.