I cold call and prospect all the time. It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve done since I first started in sales. I’m always looking to build and expand my customer base, so I enjoyed Iannarino’s article on “Stop Avoiding Minor Conflicts”
because he discusses the behavior and attitude around cold calling. It’s very true when he says “people don’t want you to cold call them. They don’t want to be interrupted while they are heads down working.” This is a fact, however, prospecting is a must driven activity. Based on personal experience, many of my relationships with customers started from one of my many cold calls.
As an Information Technology sales consultant and driven by commissions when I bring the right solution to the business, I often drive disruptive and transformative solutions and get the customer to look at things differently; investing in technology that they haven’t used before. Overcoming the following characteristics, which are common, and the human nature of decision makers is a big challenge:
- Most customers want to keep doing the same things, and, unless the roof is on fire, not look at new technologies or deal with salespeople or sales consultants if they don’t have to.
- Invest in technologies that they understand and are familiar with.
- Not be a crusader and do something different.
- Focus on those vendors and partners that they have always dealt with.
- Not answer the phone and avoid salespeople.
- Act interested in a new technology or vendor for a time, but then give the business to an old partner that they deem more reliable.
- View all IT solutions providers as the same
Customers, as mentioned in the article, “ask you to email them so they don’t have to tell you no,” and I get this all the time. In fact, I often fall into this certain quagmire any time I meet a new prospect at an event or even after a meeting. In the beginning, I used to accept the “just follow up with me and send me an email” routine, but now I head the potential conflict head on by asking for a commitment and a follow up meeting date.
Equally important is to not give the customer too many options. Try to avoid questions like “what works for you over the next few weeks?” and instead try “I am available Wednesday and Friday of next week or Monday and Tuesday of the following, which works for you?” Even more effective is to offer the decision maker a time when you are meeting with others and are down the street or relatively close to where they are. Customers, especially in IT, want explanations that make logical sense. They want things to be presented that are practical and easy because at the end of the day you will be asking them to make a choice, an investment, make a decision, and you will be asking them to do something that will require more than them just going about their job on a daily basis, all while operating under the normal constraints like family obligations, job pressure, traffic, and all the challenges that life may bring.