B2B sales unfold in a number of ways for different sales professionals, mostly dictated by skills, products, buyers’ habits, geography, style and experience. The one commonality for most is the need to continuously grow revenue, which usually involves finding new companies to buy your product or new buying centres in existing accounts. Either way it will involve the need to meet and engage with new people/prospects/buyers.
While most can agree on the above, there seems to be little agreement when it comes to how. Some beat the drum for traditional prospecting, with a heavy emphasis on cold calling; while at the other end you have those who promise you’ll never have to cold call again. I think neither is completely right (extremes rarely are). Both have a vested and economic interest in their view rather than a moral conviction based on a repeatable “better way”; both have mastered the art of double talk that leaves the unsuspecting rep caught in a soup of words that rarely results in sustainable change.
Personally, I think you need to take a blended approach, which runs the gamut from old school cold calling to leveraging up to date marketing automation and other tools and related techniques made possible by the latest technology. I don’t like cold calling any more than the next person, it is god’s punishment to sales people, perhaps a rite of passage, in fact when god wanted to show he/she/it had a sense of humour, he/she/it (I’m so PC, eh), created voice mail. Along with cold calls, you also need to incorporate referrals, which include leveraging networking and the variety of tools offered by technology.
However, all referrals, like cold calls, are not created equal. Loosely speaking you can put them in to one of three groups:
1. Introduction – Someone you know, a client, supplier, or in your network, are aware of a potential buyer for something you can provide, and as a result sets up a meeting to specifically introduce you and by extension explicitly or implicitly recommends you and your solution. Let’s face it this is top of the pile for sales people.
2. Direct – A person in your network lets you know of someone with a potential need, and at the same time tells the other party about you. It is left to you to reach out and connect.
3. Indirect – This is when someone tells you that they are aware that Barney may be in the market for what you sell, but takes no further action and may even ask that you not mention that they referred you.
For the discussion here, which is not about cultivating referrals, but rather how to action them. Point being that with the exception of the first type, Introduction, your first interaction is unscheduled and therefore an interruption, which makes it a cold call of sort. Yes, you can send an e-mail, introduce yourself and the premise of your outreach, and if you do get a response, schedule a call, but that does not change the fact that the e-mail was not anticipated, agreed to or scheduled, and therefore cold. If you don’t get a response, and decide to call, guess what sunshine, it is unscheduled, unanticipated, an interruption to their day and, yes you guessed it, a cold call.
The question then becomes how do you manage the moment when you make direct contact with them. When the person you called is faced with the choice of moving on with their day as planned or changing it for you. In most cases, if you have done any cold calling, you know their first inclination is to move on with their day as they planned it. This is the “rejection” sales people hate most; Especially because they were calling the person because they were told that there was an interest; and there may indeed be, but exploring that interest was not on that day’s ‘to-do’ list, in fact it was relegated to March, so you are back to being an unplanned interruption.
The question becomes: What do you do When That Moment comes? The moment when the person at the other end of the phone, or tweet, or e-mail, or smoke signal, decides that what they are in the middle of doing is more important than the interruption. Remember, they don’t know, and care even less that they were a referral. They politely tell you what they need to get back to their day, “send me some…”, “yes Henry said you’d call, but I told him I wasn’t ready yet”, “I am just in the middle of something, can you call me Tuesday”, and so on.
If you are not prepared to handle these reactions, and that’s what they are, not a considered responses based in ‘reason’, but a means of getting back to their day, you will suffer the fate of many cold callers.
No matter the source or nature of a lead, if it was not a direct introduction, with the mutual understanding that you were there to engage them as a buyer, the moment will come when you have to convert them to being an engaged participant. When that moment comes, it is almost certain that you will have to deal with transitioning from “interruption” to “open to discussion”.
This is why both ends of the spectrum only address and help with part of the challenge of engaging with new customers. The cold calling crowd fails to help their followers source, evolve and nurture quality leads. “Make enough calls and you’ll get enough prospects”, while factual, not always accurate, and certainly a painful way to make a living.
The referral, never cold call again, SEO rules, Web 2.0 crowd, will help you find potential buyers who have indicated various degrees of interest, directly or indirectly. But with the mantra of “the buyer is in charge”, or “ready to be responsive”, you often are left short when the buyer chooses to get back to their day.
You need take steps to manage the dynamics and flow of the conversation, as both camps will lead you to that singular moment where they are both the same; the moment the person you are targeting decides that you, at that moment, are an interruption. If you are not prepared for that moment, neither method will help you get passed it. If you do take the time to prepare, you will have more prospects.
Take a few minutes, mark down the most common things you have to deal with “when the moment comes”, and then practice ways of taking the obstacles away, be it that they are “busy”, “got it under control”, “oh, I just mentioned it to Harry, it’s no biggie”. We have captured some and posted them here in the past, or you can grab the ebooklet of the series compiled by SalesMarks here.
If you are not ready for the inevitable, regardless of when it presents itself, you will not be able to cross from interruption to sales conversation when the moment comes.
What’s in Your Pipeline?
Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. Go ahead, do it, click here now!