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Inspired By A Linkedin Discussion: What Is Your Primary Objective When Phoning A Prospect?

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by Mike on August 9, 2011

I am going to try something new after scanning my Linkedin updates this morning. Not even sure I’m allowed to do this. But top salespeople ask for forgiveness, not permission – right? I found a great discussion that was started by Michael Pedone. I have never corresponded with Michael before. Here’s a link to the discussion. Sending it along because it covers a topic that is relevant to my clients and something we talk about often.

Here’s the question Michael asks to start the discussion:

What is the Objective of a First Time Sales Call?

Scenario: You have the name, number and email address of the CEO of a small business that you’ve identified as a strong candidate for what you have to offer. You’ve never spoken with this person before… they don’t even know you exist. You are about to make your first time call to them.

What is your primary objective of the call?

Build Rapport
Qualify
Explain Your Services
Close a Deal
Other

The first reply was from Nicole in Vancouver: “To secure a meeting” was her very succinct answer.

By the time I got to the discussion there were about 10 replies and then I chimed in with my thoughts. And because I am so passionate about the topic, felt the need to respond again a few posts later.

Here are the two comments I made.  As always, curious for thoughts. I tend be extreme about this topic (surprise, surprise) because so many salespeople and sales teams have swung the pendulum too far the other direction.

Comment 1:  Mike Weinberg â€¢ This is a great discussion. Glad I found Michael’s update this morning. I love the dialogue. Gotta say, Nicole had me at “hello.” I am huge fan of getting the meeting. Why? Because I see very few (like zero) salespeople having too many appointments with prospective clients. When someone can show me evidence that their sales team is having too many wasted appointments with unqualified prospects, AND they’re not able to get to all their hot qualified leads because they’re “wasting time” meeting with all those unqualified prospects, THEN, and only then, will I become a fan of better screening before taking a meeting.

Having said all that, I think Michael’s comment just above is brilliant and practical. I completely agree that we can go into sales situations with an idea of what the prospect’s likely needs/issues/pains/desired results are. And we can share our “story” leading with those issues to engage the prospect and communicate that we get it, that it’s not about what we do, but what we can do for them. So, while we want to position ourselves as consultative problem-solvers, it is ok to tell the prospect how we help others and how we think we can help them.

Thanks for getting me charged up today with this discussion.

 

Comment 2:  Mike Weinberg â€¢ I can’t agree with Marc’s take on this. If your job is sales and as Michael said in setting up the scenario, this CEO was already on your strategically selected list of prospects, then you want to meet with the prospect. Period. You picked this prospect for a reason. Good things happen when talented salespeople get in front of strategically chosen prospects. Even if they’re not a fit to buy today, good things come out of well-conducted initial meetings. As I shared before, show me a salesperson who is having too many meetings with strategic prospects who look and smell like our best customers and then I’ll consider changing my theory. I am coaching and consulting every day. I haven’t seen one company that isn’t making their new business sales goals because their people are wasting time with too many meetings. But I see an untold number of companies and salespeople failing to develop new business because of lack of meaningful activity.

I’ll rest now. Think I may have taken this discussion down a path for which it wasn’t intended. But I feel so strongly about this, I had to chime in.

 

Would love your take on this. What do you think?

Related post from the early days of this blog:  Stop Over-Qualifying

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Simmons August 9, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Mike-

How does that initial call go for most companies, or companies you help? Is it something like this?

“[Prospect Name], you don’t know me, my product, or the next words about to come out of my mouth, but you probably know my ultimate goal is to schedule time to walk you through my [insert product or service] and how it will help [Company] achieve its [Objectives, Goals].”

Here’s how our calls go:

“[Prospect], I mailed you [dimensional mail piece] and I noticed you were taking a look at your personalized microsite. Do you have any questions I can answer? [If not] I’d appreciate 30 minutes of your time to discuss our solution further.”

We preface this conversation with a personalized URL we track. We call all prospects on a list, but we start with those that go to the microsites first. This helps us prioritize our calls to hit the most educated prospects. Mail pieces and microsite are great ice breakers.

Whether we leave a voice mail or get on the phone with the prospect we send a follow-up email using JumpSpark. If the prospect doesn’t click a piece of sales collateral in the JumpSpark email we wait a couple days and call back. If they do click a link to collateral and we get a real-time email alert we call them back immediately.

That describes our initial prospect engagement process. Short answer, yes we try to get a meeting. Seems like your kind of a sales junkie, so I thought you’d appreciate the overview.

Cheers,

Michael

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Mike August 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Thank for the thoughts Michael. You’ve got a lot in your comment. I think I agree with most of it and am trying to discern how much is sharing a technique and how much is promoting your service.
I will say that most people do a poor job at following up on promotional items or mailings. One of the very first things I work on with clients is their “Sales Story” and how that plays into proactive phone calls.
Welcome,
Mike

Reply

Wim @ Sales Sells August 9, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Hi Mike, I’m on your side on this one!

As a sales coach/consultant over-qualification is one of the most common ‘diseases’ I cure everyday. If your intention is not to meet with the person, than there’s no point in calling him/her a prospect (“suspect” might be a better term here). The sad reality is that over-qualification often has become an excuse NOT to meet with people. It’s as if today sales people only feel like the prospect is worth their time when they’ve practically said “we want 1,000, where can I sign?”. An order taker is not a salesperson! When calling prospects, the objective is simple: establishing a relationship or taking it to the next level and the best way to do this is in a face-to-face meeting.

If you’re interested Mike, I explain my ideas about calling prospects further in my ebook (free download on my website). Basically it’s written from the perspective of calling prospects solely focused on setting appointments.

Thanks for tackling the subject with so much passion,
Wim

Reply

Mike August 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Fantastic thoughts Wim — and not just because I agree :) You’re right, it’s an excuse and a disease! I’ll check out your ebook and I’d encourage everyone else to as well.
Thanks for your contribution.
Mike

Here’s the link to Wim’s site: http://www.salessells.com/ Check it out!

Reply

Lorne Havisto August 9, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Hi Mike,

First off, gotta love Social Media, I linked to this post from twitter, checked out the conversation in Linkedin, joined a cool looking group, sent you a connection request and am now writing this, all in a few minutes.

I have to agree 100%, I love meeting with prospects. I always get something from the meeting, whether it turns into a referral relationship or a sale down the road, or just a great conversation with someone, get the meeting!

I don’t spend lots of time on the phone with people, it is usually a bit of qualification and then ask for the meeting. I particularly like what you said about showing proof of client meetings wasting too much time…. I have never seen it become an issue.

I learned quite some time ago that to over-qualify is to set up prejudicial expectations of what your customer really needs and what you are going to do with them, you can end up in a meeting with your ears off and miss what is really going on. I have had several “not much there” customers turn into giants because I did not have a preconception about them that I built for myself.

There are cases where I have established a relationship over the phone, eg. I am in Vancouver and have a customer in Mississippi that I have never met. We get on well and do some good work together. But, this is not the norm, I find I gain so much trust and move things ahead so much faster in person.

Thanks for speaking up and being so adamant about this, needs to be said over and over again!

Also, one more plug for Wim, he’s got it going on :-)

Reply

Mike August 9, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Lorne,
You get the social media Star of the Day Award! Thanks for finding this and double thanks for commenting. Personally, my social media experience has been phenomenal. Can’t even begin to describe the generosity of others and how I’ve benefitted.

Appreciate your thoughts. And I LOVE Vancouver.
Best to you,
weinberg

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