Sunday, April 13, 2008

Inbound Cold Calls...Do You Change Your Tune?

Lots of sales and marketing people (and their employers) want to know how to make better cold calls. Many debate the level of success that can come from smiling and dialing a stranger while trying to talk your way into an discussion about your services, but the truth is that when it works....BAMMMM!!! you can have a new client. Lets face it, we all love the "chance" of getting new clients, so we make the calls.

There is much out there (positive and negative) written about the effectiveness of cold calling in blogs, books, newletters, etc... I know, I have made many, many a cold-call over time. I don't "LIKE" doing it, but it is an expected part of the job when you have a quota.... and the process does sometimes lead to the opportunity to meet a prospect and begin a discussion.

While making a series of calls to prospective customers, I was reminded that companies who have sales teams (and want their sales people to sign up new clients) should instruct their employees on how to receive cold calls. I am sometimes appalled at how rude C-Level executives can be on the telephone when called by sales professionals. Meanwhile they have outbound sales teams who are calling their prospects. It is sort of a paradox: they want success for their own company, while treating those who call into their company with disdain.

I understand that C-Level executives are busy (heck, we are all busy), and most simply never answer their own phone to avoid solicitations. As I said in my previous post, there are people I meet who instantly think "* 3" upon meeting me in person. They do not even know why, but they have an instinctual calling to hit "delete" at the sound of my voice (because they have ignored so many of my voicemail messages!).

But not returning a call is very different from having an off-putting attitude when you are actually talking to someone. Sure, you cannot meet with every person who calls, but that does not mean that you have omnipotent knowledge about the product or service that the other person is offering. If you are going to answer your phone, you need to be prepared to talk to sales people. It is just a fact of life. Treating everyone with respect should go without saying.

Yet, many executives I know HATE the calls they get from salespeople, and take pride in avoiding, deleting or otherwise getting rid of people. The bad news is that by doing so they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

However, some people I know have great ways of dealing with inbound calls. One CEO (who asked to remain nameless) told me recently he has three questions that he asks all sales professionals who call him. He turns the theory of probing questions around on the sales person to decide if he will take the meeting:

1. What companies like mine are currently using your product or service?

By getting instant names of others he can make a more informed decision of if this might be of interest to his company. If a competitor's name is given he wants to look closer, as the thought of the competition having access to something he has never considered is just a dumb idea. It does not mean he will buy, but he wants to make sure that his buying decisions are educated decisions, not automatic "NO" because he has not taken the time to explore his options.

2. How long has your company been in business and how long have you worked for them?

Seniority has its privileges and companies that have been in business a long time with a good tenure of employees are doing something right. He likes to meet with people who have long careers with the companies they represent.

3. Can you meet at 6 AM?

He is a morning person who gets to his office at the crack of dawn. If someone has passion about their product or service you will find them up and ready to talk at any time. He says the same goes true for those who actively attend "after-hours" networking events. The slackers have all the excuses in the world why they only work 9-5, but those he wants to do business with will come out on a Sunday to meet him.

If someone meets all three criteria, they get an appointment. He claims to not be a good buyer, as he still says "NO" often, but that he has also uncovered amazing opportunities for his company because he is "open to the prospect of being someones prospect".

How about you.... are you open to inbound calls?

Have A Great Day.


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