I make my living with words, so full disclosure: I’m not a salesman.
And neither, it seems, are the legions of people, purportedly in sales roles, who interrupt my day with phone calls asking if I’m the IT guy at Ingram’s, if I’m in charge of purchasing printing supplies, if I’m the one who oversees janitorial services (still waiting on that promotion, boss!), if I control the phone and communication spend . . .
It goes on and on. Invariably, when I tell them, no, that’s not what I do here, the follow-up is: “OK, can you tell me who does that?”
The next sound you hear is a phone handset almost, but not quite, making a soft landing.
Google. LinkedIn. Half a bajillion other sites that purport to sell “updated” contact information from U.S. companies—if you can’t get the low-down about the company you’re selling to, the individual you need to reach, or what the needs of either are, before you cold-call somebody, you shouldn’t be in sales. You should be turning burgers before that art becomes fully automated.
Because you obviously don’t know a damn thing about the way your particular product or service can benefit to the big fish you’re trying to land, or how to communicate that thought.
Herewith, then, Boone’s Rules for Outreach, which you can tattoo on the back of your eyelids if it will help end the straight-up cold call forever:
Know the Target Company.
Know what it does, and be able to quickly and clearly articulate how you can make life easier for the executive you’re calling. Remember: This is about them and their bottom line, not you and yours. If you’re offering a cleaning service, will those tasks benefit someone with an accounting office the same way they would a physician’s office? What’s the difference between the two, in terms of process, time commitment or cost? What’s the difference in terms of the value proposition you can make to the person running that firm?
Know Your Target Executive.
For heaven’s sake, know the name of the person you’re trying to reach. If you don’t know even that much, how can you possibly have a clue as to how they run their business or how you can help them determine that value proposition?
Welcome to the 21st Century.
LinkedIn can tell you that you and your prey were at the same college at the same time. Or that your target volunteers at the same non-profit you do, or maybe goes to the same church or has kids in your kids’ school. Those are connections—use them. Having something in common with a sales prospect is a great way to start a conversation without addressing the fact that you’re trying to get into that someone’s wallet.
Value, Value, Value.
After your name and company, the next words out of your mouth should pique interest on the other end of the line by clearly stating that you’re calling to see if they’d be interested in saving as much as x-percent on their labor/supplies/utilities—whatever. I don’t now many effective business leaders who aren’t interested in ways to improve efficiencies.
Be Not a Jerk.
Dear Lord, please be polite. Not just for yourself, mind you, but as a simple matter of kindness. Nothing kills the career prospects of the unfortunate soul who replaces you—and inherits your calling list—quite like being rude to someone who wasn’t in a buying mood. Trust me: they remember your company’s name, and it’ll be even harder for your successor to break the ice.
And if—this is a big “if”—you make the sale, please: DELIVER. You think social media isn’t going to burn you after doing a cash-and-dash transaction? That, however, isn’t the only reason to over-deliver on a promise: Every satisfied customer you make out there is quite likely a repeat customer. And the more repeat business you have, the fewer cold calls you have to make to eat.
Remember, this isn’t just about using the phone. Cold-call emails are right up there with root canals for busy executives whose Inbox is usually bursting before 8 a.m. Short. Sweet. To the point—which is, “Can we get together and talk about how XYZ, Inc., can help cut your expenses?”
Give those a try, cold-callers. You might just find that the notion of servant-leadership works at your level, too. So go—serve. And for Pete’s sake, stop calling me: You want someone in charge . . .