This post is about how to behave differently when meeting prospects in a cold call situation vs. a warm lead. For the past nearly 9 years we've been fortunate that business has come to us. Recently, we made a decision about increasing our growth rate and that required some different methods to generating sales. We just could no longer rely on business coming to us - "warm leads" and instead had to begin prospecting..."cold calling", that is. This experience was both humbling and revealing, as it surfaced the importance of standing out from the competition.
By their nature "warm leads" typically have a relatively immediate need and you've already been vetted - a great situation for someone in sales. You just don't have to work as hard communicating your credibility, and finding the "pain and gain points". On the contrary, when cold calling to set up appointments, you've only got so much time to demonstrate credibility and make a connection. So from my recent experiences meeting with "cold leads" I've learned one very important thing
- You have to find ways to separate yourself from the competition - the people I am calling on see salespeople all the time. So, when you can separate yourself from the others pitching their products and services, you create a more credible long-lasting connection.
- You may not make a sale on the first call - the prospect may not have an immediate need or may simply be shopping around a bit to find the right match. So, if you've been successful at #1 above, you can nurture the lead through the natural buying funnel. One of the sayings I live by is "virtually every business person I run into will need the services my firm provides sometime in the next 2-3 years". This presents a great opportunity to make my sales goals today and next year.
Let's dive deeper into the two items above. Techniques that help separate you from the competition is comprised of four things:
- Bring a small gift of some type and not one with your logo on it. A small token other than the normal "logo swag" that says thanks for inviting you into the prospect's "home away from home", will be unique to what your competition does. Typically they will be worthless items with their logo.
- Bring something of value to the prospect. Often times this can be an article or report of some type that is relevant to your prospect and something he/she would find valuable. Most salespeople don't do this and your prospect will likely view you as an authority and someone interested in adding value to your prospect - regardless of whether you sell something to him/her.
- Make a statement that implies you have experience working with the type of prospect. This gives you instant credibility right off the bat and is something most "amateur salespeople" don't do. Read more about marketing messages.
- Start with a good opening statement. Asking the right open ended question at the beginning of a sales discussion can accomplish many things including implying a compliment and getting the prospect opening up to you. Read more about good sales opening questions.
The second important element about cold calling and prospecting is to nurture the lead. No one is ready to buy all the time so you have to nurture the lead through the buying funnel. Your prospect may have a real need with which that they aren't willing to reveal until you "passed the test". Consequently, you have to help nurture that lead from the "awareness stage" to the "action stag. Learn more about the sales buying funnel.
If you can make a good connection (#1 above) and nurture the lead (#2 above), you'll stand a great chance of turning that "cold prospect" into a sale.