B2B telephone prospecting:
9 tips for getting them not to hate you
1. Don’t pretend it’s not a sales call. Do not stoop to “I’m not calling to sell you anything, just to offer you / make you aware of / update my records / take a survey / etc.” You will only insult your prospect’s intelligence. I have had quite a bit of success with this uber-honest opener: “Brace yourself; this is a sales call.” It usually draws a chuckle, followed by, “Go for it.”
2. Obtain permission to pitch. Before presuming to charge ahead with my spiel, I always ask, “Is this a convenient time for you to talk?” Yes, I’m giving the prospect an out. But you know what? They’re busy people, and they appreciate it when you respect their time. Often, those who can talk will hear you out, and those who cannot will give you a time to call back.
And if they tell you to get lost and not to call back, get lost and don’t call back. They are saving their and your time.
3. Be nice to admins. Don’t think that acting abrupt and important will make an admin quiver in fear and forward you to the boss. Admins deal with the likes of you every day. You will stand out from the others if you treat that person like an equal and enlist his or her aid.
Here’s an approach that led to landing one of the biggest clients of my career: “I realize that your job is to protect Mr. A from people like me. Trouble is, what my company does is something I am sure would interest him. Is there anything you can do to help me?” With a bit of surprise in her voice, she replied, “I’ll do my best for you.” She called me back the next day. I ended up with a new client.
4. Be ready with a long, medium, and short summary of how you can help the prospect. Be sure to focus on your prospect’s company, not yours. No one wants to hear you brag about your company’s fine reputation or that you’ve been proudly serving happy customers for 50 years.
5. Do your homework. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been turned off by a caller who clearly didn’t know what my company does, or who was dumb enough to ask outright, “So, what exactly does Response Agency do?” If you call knowing nothing about my business, your claim that your company or product can help me is an empty one.
6. Get to the point. Don’t waste an executive’s time. Avoid long intros, and keep background info as short as possible.
7. Know when to let go. The moment it becomes clear that you’re not going to make a sale, graciously thank the prospect and hang up instead annoying by persisting. That’s just good manners. If manners fail to impress you, consider that a prospect who likes you may call back another time.
Note to Positive Mental Attitude junkies: “Know when to let go” is not the same as “give up easily.” Spare me your scolding and I’ll hold off writing about just how silly the whole PMA industry is.
One more thing. If there is no interest, do NOT offer to send literature. It is a waste of your company’s money and a sure sign of an amateur.
8. Have an objective when you call. What do you hope to accomplish by the end of the call? Everything you say should advance the conversation in that direction.
9. Don’t farm out high-level B2B prospecting calls. Farming out calls out is okay for consumables like toner. It’s another matter altogether when you’re selling high-end products and services. There is nothing more pathetic than an outside caller who does not know your company well enough to field questions. Besides, it’s a little ironic, if not a little insulting, to interrupt a busy executive with a call that isn’t worth your own time to place.