How to Approach a Sales Prospect

It is a rare breed indeed who doesn’t approach the cold sales call with a sense of trepidation (or even cold, hard dread). Unfortunately, there isn’t a single winning solution to this; no sure-fire script that opens all doors, no magic bullet. But there are a number of things you can do to make it a less daunting prospect and even – dare I say it – make it enjoyable.

Marketers often seek to soften the blow of cold calling with the notion of a “warm” lead. The warmth of such leads can vary dramatically, but one thing is for certain: it will never be as warm as “getting on like a house on fire”.

So, what can you do to make cold calling less of a daunting prospect?

1. Schedule regular time to make calls

From your point of view, there are two aspects to this. First, practice makes perfect. And second, the best way to reduce the fear is simply to have a go.

After all, what is the worst thing that can happen? Your sales prospect won’t take the call? They listen but aren’t interested? They close the door on you? They walk away? OK, so maybe what you are offering isn’t right right now, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be right next week or next year… and now you are on their radar.

However, importantly, there is another important aspect to this. When is your sales prospect going to be best placed to take the call? One good indicator for this is to consider what time your existing clients prefer you to contact them? For example, if your sales prospect works in manufacturing, first thing in the day might be best; before they hit the shopfloor. If your sales prospect works in education, after four o’clock might work better, because then the students will have left for the day and your prospect will be free to talk. If you’re not sure, experiment with different days and times and find out which suits your sales prospects best.

2. Call the Right People

Well, duh! Right? Yet, this does seem to get overlooked more often than you think.

The first step towards calling the right people is NOT to draw up a fantasy wishlist of all the companies you want to work with, however appealing it might be to do this.

The first step is to create a spreadsheet of your existing customers. What industry are they in? What job titles do they have? What do they have in common? What problems do they commonly articulate to you?

Profiling your customers in this way will help you understand not only who to target, but how to frame your opening discussions and your product or service offer.

Once you have identified the industries and job titles you most want to target, pick a geographic area to focus on and build a small list of sales prospects – GetProfiles is the ideal tool here.

Getting the list building stage right is going to directly impact your chances of success, so it is important to invest time here: use the right tools and the right intelligence.

3. Offer Something Valuable

Why does your sales prospect want to talk to you? What’s in it for them?

If you’ve been profiling your existing customers in order to create your GetProfiles list, then you probably already know at least one answer to this. Share this intelligence with your marketing department. Ask them to create a guide, case study or tool that can help answer the most commonly asked question – or questions.

Your marketing team will be happy because you are helping them create content they can use for their inbound initiatives. Your web optimization team will be happy because you will be able to dominate the results on topics that people are actually searching for answers on – delivering not just traffic, but meaningful traffic.

And, let’s face it, it’s always easier for you to pick up the phone, or make that first approach, when you have something to give your sales prospect that you think they will value.

4. Script a “No Script” Script

This basically boils down to preparation. You don’t want to sound like you’re reading from a script. But you do need to be prepared to answer questions and you do need to know your stuff. Writing a script in advance helps you have the answers to hand and think about the questions you want to ask.

And, if you are asking the right questions – and enough questions – the conversation should be in the hands of your sales prospect, not you. When that happens, you can’t help but avoid reading from a script.

It is true that being prepared at the same time as sounding natural is a difficult balance, but I refer you back to point #1: practice makes perfect.

5. Don’t Sell

OK, counter-intuitive… but not really so crazy. How many of your sales prospects are going to be at the buying stage when you make that call? Chances are: not many. How many might be at the buying stage sometime over the next two years? Probably most of them, if you have done your targeting exercise properly.

This isn’t a race; this is a relationship. It takes time, and nurturing. Feedback questions and insight to your marketing team. Continually share useful content with the prospects who have shown an interest. Answer questions. Stay in touch.

So, in summary, how do you approach a sales prospect? It might be a little glib to suggest that one should approach cold calling as one should approach anything else in life: with integrity and passion. However, that doesn’t make it any less true either.

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