By: Sam Meade
Ironically, cold calling seems a very hot topic of discussion lately. Particularly, whether it’s a legitimate method of initial communication, or whether it’s slowly dying out as an ancient sales technique.
So, is cold calling dead? The short answer is no.
Cold calling is an essential part of new business development, and now more than ever, it’s essential that you get it right. The best business development professionals know exactly what they want to get out of a call before even picking up the telephone. Successful call mapping can be the difference between the start of a blossoming relationship or the end of one.
So where does it all start?
First and foremost, a bit of background work prior to the call. A valuable trait of a successful Business Development professional is their ability to know who to talk to. The reality for many BDMs is that (more often than we might like to admit), a lot of time can be spent preparing for a call, simply to find that you are being referred onto someone else.
Why does this happen? Simply put, you have failed to effectively qualify the prospect.
Here are some helpful tips to get you through the perfect call – from qualifying the prospect to closing the call:
Tip #1: Use all the tools available to you
The importance of utilising an insight led approach to call mapping is key in being able to structure the perfect conversation. Scanning industry blogs, reading through the trade press and using new business insight tools like Upstream, can enable you to find appropriate points to discuss to ensure that your call is relevant to the prospect, and not a nuisance to them.
Social media networks like LinkedIn & Twitter are a wonderful way to get a feel for an individual and their company’s organisational structure (some even list their direct responsibilities within the role!). Finding out this information will ensure you are ready to make that all important first step to building the relationship with your prospect.
Once on the call, you need to ensure that you grab their attention from the offset. The most important part of the call is the first 30 seconds, the elevator pitch. This is where the contact decides if they’re going to give you their attention or not. A lot of people get the elevator pitch wrong because they do not understand it’s purpose, which is in short a way to generate enough interest to continue the conversation, not to close business. Which leads me to tip #2…
Tip #2: Keep it to a concise intro (to the point and relative to the prospect)
If you manage to adhere to this, you will have caught their attention, and now you can move onto qualifying their situation. This means figuring out whether the prospect needs your product/service, and more importantly, if they can afford it.
This is where identifying what you want to come away from the conversation with before the call is essential to knowing what questions to ask. Try probing the prospect into talking about their situation and existing approach with the use of structured qualifying questions. Of course, the dream outcome is that they are interested right away, but we are in the business of generating business relationships, and finding out when they might be interested could be far more valuable than forcing someone to take a meeting when they’re not ready.
Tip #3: Your first question should be the least intrusive
You need to remember, your relationship with the prospect is completely cold, and you need to come across consultative and valuable. Your chances of a positive conversation will increase if you start off slow, map out a structure for the call which ultimately leads to the end goal (a follow up call later in the year, or a meeting in the diary, etc.).
Once you have all the information you require, you need to make a judgement call to your next actions, whether that’s getting commitment from the prospect to a further call or meeting. Either way, get that in the diary as soon as you finish the call. Which leads me to my last point…
Tip #4: Send an invite for your next action right away once the call has ended
The biggest mistake I find BDMs make is not setting a specific next action directly following a call. You can seriously increase the business development life cycle by accepting vague sense of commitment from the prospect, e.g. “Give me a call in a couple of months” or “Send over an email with some dates and times”.
To avoid this rabbit hole, just be polite and ask for a specific follow up date and time. If you’ve outlined an apparent reason to speak again, the prospect will not mind. Then it’s just a matter of securing this appointment with an accepted invite, and I emphasize accepted because until the invite has been accepted, it isn’t in your prospects diary, and in a weeks’ time they will probably forget.
As I hope I’ve made apparent, setting out a clear call map from the offset will allow you to build your relationship with the prospect from the get-go. By following these tips, you can ensure that you have all the necessary information to move this prospect through the business development life cycle successfully.
While business development often gets linked to sales, I would argue that it’s so much more than that. So when it comes to call mapping, an agile, thought out approach can be the difference between traditional sales and truly understanding prospects business objectives in order to connect with the right people when the time comes – ultimately what good business development is all about.