In lead generation, we have always been taught to go high into the organization and pitch the decision maker. Sales success is all about a process of prospecting and lead generation, building a network of relationships, eventually getting in front of the right person, appointment setting, and then delivering a winning sales proposition to meet the prospect’s needs.
All of these classic tenets of appointment setting still hold true, but the process of getting to that key decision maker has grown more complex as technology and work habits of key decision makers have changed.
In her latest book, “Snap Selling”, Jill Konrath writes about today’s decision makers: “It’s a crazy life, even a fragile life, where things such as traffic jams, computer problems, and sick kids can put you over the edge……..the last thing they want to do is add one more item to their already overﬂowing to-do lists. Throw in an uncertain economy, and things get even crazier for these burnt-out people who are now expected to do even more with fewer resources.”
With this in mind, traditional cold calling procedures need a significant “makeover.” It’s no longer good enough to look up “purchasing or procurement managers” and hope to make a swift entry in the sales cycle. Cold calling in today’s sales environment requires creative management of relationships and the building of thoughtful approaches to make contact with key decision makers.
Here are three ways to re-engineer your cold call methodology to meet the demands of today’s complex and crazed business environments:
1. Target lower level managers and directors before going to the C or V levels. Top-ranking executives typically have gatekeepers or screeners working for them as administrative assistants or managers. By the time you are ready to reach these C and/or V level key decision makers you need to turn the temperature of your call from cold to warm. You do this by planning your cold calling strategy lower on the client company’s org chart. Lay the groundwork by introducing yourself first to the lower level administration staff and managers who are on the front lines of the organization.
2. When cold calling, your first call should be a “business intelligence” call, not a “sales” call. With every cold call, social networking needs to be your first task. Ask about the customer’s needs, and listen to what they have to say. Make sure that the call is about “them,” not about “you.” Lay the groundwork by introducing yourself to administrative gatekeepers and lower level managers who are on the front lines of the organization. It’s critical that you turn these people into coaches and ask for their help. These calls use a different approach and are not truly “sales” calls…that comes later. It’s also important that you adjust the sound of your voice on the call, as these social networking calls should be perceived as simply someone trying navigate the complexities of the company’s organizational chart. Ditch the overly scripted lines and make sure you sound like a real person. Imagine that you’re a customer of the client, and that you’re calling them because you need their help. Ask for help in reaching the correct person. Don’t make it an adversarial or “transaction-based” or “hard-sell” conversation; instead, make the call a casual chat, and focus on explaining the value that you are offering to the prospect’s company. Keep the focus on relationship-building, connection and mutual benefit – you’re trying to help them, so how about they help you? Use the call to get the lay of the land and find out if the person can direct you to the next person to call; if they’re not the right person for you to meet with, then perhaps they can tell you who is?
3. Use these referrals in voice mail messages. As you go through the cold calling process, develop a short list of helpful people within the organization who have sounded receptive to what you have to offer. Ask them for names and numbers of other people within the company who might be interested to hear from you. This process can be time-consuming, but this process of building referrals is a form of high-quality lead generation. Every conversation is bringing you closer to getting in front of an ultimate decision maker. Use name dropping to warm up your next call as gatekeepers are more welcoming when they hear familiar names. As you work your way up the org chart, use the names and titles of the people you’ve already chatted with and incorporate voice mail into your process to increase your call back rates. “Hi, this is Joe Smith with ABC Solutions. I was on the phone with Bob Jones in Logistics earlier today, and told me that you might be able to help me…” Every time you can drop a name of someone within the company who is known to the person you’re calling, you are warming up your cold call.
Cold calling has always been the most time-consuming, difficult and occasionally frustrating aspect of lead generation. The best sales professionals take their cold calling to an elevated level, beyond the “by the script” style of telemarketing, and use cold calling as a way to build relationships and deliver value, even before a sale is made.