Stop Cold Calling and Start Communicating
People working in B2B sales have long tried different approaches to rise above the competitive noise and get their prospective client’s attention.
For example, by phone, salespeople may call early or at lunch while the proverbial gatekeeper may not be on patrol, pretend to be a friend rather than a vendor to get their call put through, or cloak the number they are calling from to get their prospect to pick up the phone. While these methods must by annoying for the potential client who is avoiding a phone call with a salesperson, they work often enough that some people still use them as a basic sales methodology.
Email came on the scene in the mid 1990s and we in sales experimented with long emails, short emails, creative subject lines, or just trying to schedule a phone meeting. Soon people started sending mail merges, where the value of finding one or two good prospects won over the embarrassment of annoying fifty people.
It seems reasonable to assume that soon after the first mail merge was sent, email blocking was developed. Now it is very hard to reach people at some companies by email because they have your company’s domain blocked. Emailing from a personal account may get your message through, but it doesn’t come across very professionally and makes it clear that you are knowingly violating a system that the recipient has set up to avoid emails like yours. But if it works, maybe it should be considered if your company allows.
Which brings us to what is often considered a best practice today. Call, get voicemail, leave a message trying to arouse interest, and follow up with an email with more details. This has become less and less effective as more vendors compete for attention but is still is a viable option.
Although many people don’t want to engage with a salesperson, they do have needs that must be fulfilled, and when your product fits those needs, you want the client to have top of mind awareness about both your company and yourself so they will reach out to you. Sometimes drastic action is necessary to show the prospect what they were always looking for but have systemically shut themselves off from hearing about.
These days you have to be a bit clever even when you believe you have just the exact solution the prospect needs.
Many top salespeople are solving the lack of communication crisis by engaging prospective customers the way the customer wants to engage, be it email, LinkedIn InMail, or in some more creative way that doesn’t project that you are just there trying to take their money without understanding their needs.
Here are a few methods that have been effective for me.
I consider myself a subject matter expert in sales and blog about the topic on a regular basis. I push these articles out onto LinkedIn, Medium, and other websites where there is a chance that they will be read by people interested in these approaches. I especially appreciate that other people like and comment on them, both expanding my reach and allowing me to start communicating with people who find them interesting, whether they are a future prospect or not.
I also invite most every person I do business with to add me on LinkedIn. Then I stay in contact and congratulate them on promotions and achievements and can keep up with their blogging if they write themselves. If we are already in communication like this, I do seem to come to mind when they are ready to evaluate products or services from my company. This is where I get some of my best sales leads, from people who know me and want to do business with me because they trust me.
LinkedIn InMails out of context are sometimes helpful to start communicating with a prospect, but they often don’t generate much more response than an email for me.
But phone calls, emails, and contacting people on LinkedIn is no longer enough to really initiate the sales process and communicate with people in new ways, and the tools to do so are available.
Twitter can be a great business tool to use to research your client’s business and talk to prospects. I made one of the largest sales in my career by reading months back on a client’s Twitter account. They would not give out the names of any of their recruiters over the phone, and they weren’t on LinkedIn or on Data.com. But, scrolling back through those tweets, I eventually found one congratulating one of their recruiters by name for some volunteer work she had done in her community. I had her on the phone that day and was directed to the proper contact who, with her introduction, took my call. Twitter can be a great place to start communicating with someone. Just don’t use auto-DMs, many people find them incredibly annoying and disingenuous.
If you do happen to have your prospect’s cell phone number, try texting instead of calling. Texts are still a quick way to get ahold of someone to set up an appointment or answer a brief question, although I don’t predict this will be true for much longer as more salespeople start communicating this way.
Finally, if you are still having trouble communicating with your target, I recommend aiming high and aiming low at the same time. Try reaching out to a C-level executive of the company to discuss things that would interest them like the big picture strategic issues that you could help them address. Instead of trying to get “around” the gatekeeper, engage them. Make sure to get their names and have a sincere interest in their take on the business issue you are trying to solve.
But no matter whom you are trying to reach or having success talking to, concentrate on really communicating. Instead of thinking about what you are going to say next, really listen to what they are saying.
So Instead of just ticking off an account each month by reassuring yourself that you left a message, try something else. Call someone else at the company. Start talking to your prospect on Twitter. Read an article they wrote and ask them a sincere question about it.
Those that move out of a call metrics environment into a research and communications environment will be some of the top salespeople in your organization.
Jessica L. Benjamin is a Team Lead for Commercial Telesales for Monster Worldwide, where she works with Monster’s customers and account managers to implement the right solutions to increase employers’ success in hiring top talent. Follow her on Twitter @JLBHireCalling
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