Daughter: So, do you want to get together?
Daughter: What do you want to do?
Daughter I don’t know. What do you want to do?
And on it goes… I can’t help thinking that it would go easier if my daughter started with one good reason, like, “Meet me at the gym in 20 minutes, let’s play some basketball.” If the friend says, “I’m not up for basketball,” my daughter could either (1) suggest another activity or (2) ask the friend to pick an activity, either of which would sharpen the conversation. The answer could also be, “no, I don’t want to do those things.” At least, at that point, the choices are clear.
Even better if my daughter knows something about what her friend has been thinking: “Remember you said you wanted to play some basketball? How about meeting at the gym in 20 minutes. I’ll bring Pat and Sarah.”
The same theory applies in approaches to prospects when we’ve not been introduced by a referral source or another connection. I’ve heard sales representatives calling prospects like a list of names out of the telephone directory, saying things like…
- I’m the local branch manager of ABC Bank, we’ve never met, and I’d like to meet you.
- I’m going to be in the neighborhood next Wednesday and I wondered whether I could stop in.
- We have a friend in common, Pat Smith, and I’d like to come and meet you.
- We have some new and unique products and services that I’d like to share with you.
- We help businesses just like yours save time and money, and I’d like to meet you to talk about your company.
These are all “sales rep-focused,” not prospect-focused. They have nothing to do with what’s happening with the prospects. I keep thinking, “Give them one good reason to get together, and the chances are good they’ll say, ‘yes.'”
1. Find out something about the prospect…concerns, recent decisions or actions, anything that would give you a clue to their thinking. Yes, it takes a little time, so you have to plan ahead. You can’t be doing this five seconds before you make the call or in the middle of a “call blitz.” You use the information to form a “warm up” sentence like this:
- “I’ve heard you’re planning to build a new building this year.”
- “I’ve learned you’re planning to expand your operations in Germany next month.
- “Congratulations on landing the ABC contract.”
2. Since more people respond to fear, uncertainty, and doubt, the “one good reason” to meet probably should play to the dark side, and (in the best case) connect to the recent event you’ve cited:
- “We see interest rates rising during the next six months. We think companies should fix rates now to avoid paying extra interest expense.”
- We’re seeing an increase in check and credit card fraud in firms similar to yours. Some are facing significant losses.
- “We believe the dollar will continue to fall. We think companies with foreign currency exposure should hedge their exposure now.”
3) Ask a question:
- I’m wondering how you see this?
- How do you think this trend will affect your company or you?
- We’ve been able to help other companies address this challenge. I’m wondering whether you’d like to talk about how we might do the same for you starting in the next 30 days?
The prospect listening to one of these reasons or others may say, “I don’t agree” or “I’m not concerned about that.” A good response to this could include, “Terrific. Glad you have that covered, so what’s at the top of your list right now?” At least at that point the choices are clear and, if the prospect answers the question, you have either one good reason for your next call or the beginning of a conversation right now about the issue that’s important to the prospect.