Try these tested alternatives to merely ‘smiling and dialing.’
You have a perfectly qualified lead: A marketing executive with a large budget who invests heavily each year in promotional products … but she isn’t buying. Was it something you said? No, it’s actually what you didn’t say.
For more than 20 years I have been in marketing with purchasing responsibilities, so I get more than my fair share of sales calls every week. I don’t mind, because I’m often introduced to exciting products I have never considered. In other words, if you’re a salesperson who knows what you’re doing, I’m an easy target. Unfortunately, too many salespeople really don’t know what they are doing. Your qualified prospect may need to buy products, but they don’t need to buy them from you. Your job is to convince them that they do.
Try using these six tactics on your next sales call:
1. Find out who I am. You can easily gather someone’s professional history from the company website or a LinkedIn profile. That information can be very helpful in creating a more personal connection, which allows your prospect to envision themselves as a future valued customer. If you are from the same hometown or have a college connection, let them know that—it could matter.
Most important, it takes only minutes to see the path your prospects have traveled and the purchasing roles they have held to better understand their level of knowledge. If you aren’t sure of their experience or familiarity with your product, ask. There’s no need to spend the first 10 minutes of a call rehashing what they already know—share something new.
2. Educate yourself on the company and clients. Knowing your prospect is important but understanding the company’s customers is equally important. Don’t shortcut and ask them to explain who their customers are—you should already know. Most companies have case studies posted on their website. Read them. Others may display customer logos and that should help you understand the types of organizations who need their product and services. Your time is valuable, as is theirs. So the more research you do ahead of time, the more respect you will show and the more productive the call will be.
3. Know industry pain points. Successful salespeople dig deeper in their research to develop at least a moderate understanding of the market’s typical pain points, historical data or shifts in the industry landscape. It will be difficult to build credibility and carry on a productive conversation if you can’t at least empathize with their current position.
And by all means, know your own competitors. Imagine how frustrating it would be for your prospect to inquire how a product feature compares with Competitor A’s, and you don’t even know that company exists. You can’t sell someone on being the best solution if you don’t understand what your competitors are offering (or have stopped offering).
4. Listen first; sell second. It’s a digital world and prospects can purchase most products online, but working with you will bring human interaction and input—so bring it. Take the time to listen and offer fresh ideas as well as caveats they may not have considered. You might get a bonus if you can move more water bottles or tote bags this month, but that doesn’t mean those are wise purchases for this prospect. If you genuinely believe they should choose a different product than they originally thought, tell them why. How will it improve their company brand? How will it be used more by their prospects and customers? In other words, behave less like a sales vendor and more like a marketing partner who’s an extension of their team. This can ensure a long-term client relationship, with a higher chance of referrals.
5. Treat the first conversation like it’s the last. If you score an extended conversation from a cold call or are surprised by a quick decision to order, be ready for it. Always be prepared to answer every question that may come up: various order sizes and costs, technical adoption, size, weight, shipping, global compliance, etc. Never suggest a second or follow-up call just so you can check with a colleague on the basics. If in fact your prospect asks an unusual question, they’ll know that and expect you to confer with a colleague. But they will only be patient if you were prepared and knowledgeable about everything else.
6. Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. If the call goes well, get back to your prospect sooner, not later. I’m amazed at how many salespeople don’t follow up in a timely manner or at all, even when I’ve demonstrated a clear interest in purchasing. That significantly diminishes the trust factor. If a salesperson isn’t responsive, it is a negative touchpoint that leaves a bad impression and makes the organization appear unreliable.
A solid marketing strategy focuses on targeting and personalization, instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, so it can capture the strongest leads. If you only take away one thing from this article, internalize the need to educate yourself, so you don’t generalize the needs of all of your prospects. I understand you have a lot of leads to call and experience a high level of rejection, but taking a few minutes to do your homework before each and every call can be the difference between a yes and a no. If you approach every call to prospects with a real seriousness of purpose, then many more will likely result in valuable opportunities and your sales will soar.
Joby Moore is vice president of marketing at FRONTLINE Selling (www.FRONTLINESelling.com). She has more than 20 years of experience, specializing in digital marketing, SEO, advanced analytics and web optimization and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.