New Business prospecting: second steps

Once you have a list of target prospects and have at least some sense of how your product or service can make their life easier or more enriching, contact needs to be made.

There are a number of oblique angles that can be used here, like attending networking events or submitting articles to their vertical press titles, but here I’m going to talk about direct contact.  If you’re great at picking up the phone to make cold calls, read no further: you can probably make another sale rather than reading the rest of this, so do it!

For the rest of us, me included, it’s a chore and we will do almost anything rather than that!  Which is ironic in my case as I was a telemarketing operator about 15 years ago.  In fact, we’re all pretty good on the phone when you come to think of it, chatting to our friends & relatives, or buying products & services.

So what’s different?  Probably only your frame of mind: you decide that it’s going to be a tough call; you put it off, which only increases the pressure; and all this pervades your senses when you finally do pick up the phone; with the net result that you do not enjoy yourself.  Which reinforces your feelings. 

I think, therefore I am.

Agency life in New York is a brilliant lesson in how to use the phone.  They will have a thought and pick up the phone to collaborate.  Especially if they’re in a meeting with others, where the call takes place on the speakerphone.  There are no reservations, no second thoughts: we can’t second guess their feelings or ideas, so let’s call them up and ask them what they think.  If they’re busy or can’t help, call someone else.  Business is about networking, about sharing and growing ideas, about collectively making money.  What can we learn from this? 

First, clients, suppliers, colleagues are all human and whilst in the UK they might generally be more reserved, they still like to be valued.  When do we feel most valued?  When others ask for our opinion, or want to share an idea that might help us, particularly.  With even the most direct sales call, there’s a fundamental difference between ‘I’m calling you to try and sell you my product, so can I come & see you?’ and ‘I’ve had a new idea how we might be able to help you with your challenge: could I come and share my thoughts with you over a coffee?’

Second, let’s add some structure to the call.  Draw a quick mind-map or list of the points you want to cover and have in mind which order to progress, bearing in mind that conversations are organic and may go in an unexpected direction.

Third, let’s not prevaricate.  By all means make sure you have your facts lined up, but a mind map takes like a minute to prepare.  Pick up the phone and start dialling before you have a chance to see the potential problems.

Forth, imagine you’re speaking to a friend or at worst, a senior relative: be natural, warm, respectful and unafraid.

Fifth, be genuinely interested in the other person, which will make you more interesting.

There’s an additional trick which people find really useful, especially if they are starting from ground zero and having to make calls for the first time.  It about low impact activity.  It is far easier to make 20 cold calls a month by doing one every morning, than it is to summon up the courage to do them all in a day.  You can also reflect on the result of the call more effectively and be more natural at implementing any changes to the next one.

Be strict with this approach though: make sure you make that call every day, or catch up by making two the next day.  However optimistic you are, it’s unusual for business to beat a path to your door without at least a little effort on your part.

And remember, whilst you might have more urgent things to attend to, this aspect of you work is Important.  Make time for it!

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