I attend a lot of industry trade events. Two things around them that I have come to expect:
- My mailbox gets filled with postcard invitations to stop by vendor exhibits at the trade show to register to win a free iPad.
- The two weeks following many events I will be on the receiving end of cold calls.
I pick up. Sales Training is an important part of my business and this is market research. The phone calls routinely break down like this:
Nick: Hi, how are you today?
Ryan: Busy. (“Busy” is the new “Fine”).
(sales translation: Mildly annoyed why somebody I don’t know is on the phone asking me how I am doing.)
Nick: Well, I am with XYZ Recognition. I understand you stopped by our exhibit at the recent trade show and have some interest in recognition. I am calling to see how I can help you.
(sales translation: The help part was a nice touch. It’s trendy to lead with the offer to help).
Ryan: I don’t think I did Nick. I don’t think I’d be a fit.
Nick: Are you sure?
Ryan: Pretty sure.
(sales translation: Nick is annoyed because my name is on his call sheet from the trade show).
Nick: Well, what kind of business are you in?
Ryan: Nick, how are you going to help me if you don’t know what kind of business I am in? You are calling to help me, right?
Nick: I guess I am not.
(sales translation: The white flag of surrender has been raised).
I’d be surprised by this if it didn’t happen so consistently. After years of doing trade show booth duty myself I also know that this approach simply does not work. In our Sales Training we spend time on understanding how to elevate the cold call into a warm call knowing that cold calling ranks low as a high yield activity. However, in almost every sales organization there are moments when we are required to go outbound.
If cold calling is part of your growth plan you have to show up prepared. Nick wasn’t making a professional sales call. He was checking boxes on his TPS report. He might hit his call volume quota for the week but he isn’t hitting home runs in revenue growth where it counts.
Nick needs a pre-call plan. So do you. On every call. For every meeting. At every customer touch point. If he would have lead the call with two ideas to help grow my business based on his research and established track record of results he would have had me at hello. That would require knowing a little bit more about my business.
You have to begin with the end in mind. The end is the customer outcome (and a signed contract).
Today’s buyer is time poor. They are overwhelmed, anxious, being asked to do more with less and simply not very interested in you. They can’t be. If they are generous enough to pick up the phone or schedule time the minimum expectation is that we show up prepared.
Better still would be to show up as an informed expert offering valuable insight specific to the customer business. A sales expert earns permission to challenge the customer and the status quo through the strength of their ideas. You have to make every customer contact count.
I haven’t been closed from a post convention cold call yet. Of course, I am rarely the target market. I get cold calls for all kinds of products and services post event that aren’t related to my business. Valuable sales time is a terrible thing to waste.