Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Stop Hiding and Talk!

Modern sales techniques have to deal with modern technology. Mainly because we hide behind it most of the time, apparently afraid of saying no, not interested at the moment. It never ceases to amaze me that we are afraid of talking to each other.

I do not like blind cold-calling. Unless you are working a very good list and your product or service is an obvious fit, you are largely wasting your time. Especially in business to business. I like to identify a potential prospect, find out what they do and understand why they would want to talk to me. Then I try and find a contact.

You can find this in all sorts of places. LinkedIn is great for getting a name, as are some websites. It is much easier to research it than to talk to that most dreaded of demons, the gatekeeper. I hate unnecessary barriers. How do these ferocious guardians know that I will be wasting their precious minion’s time? Who made them the decision-maker?

Anywho, once I have a name, I can normally conjure up an email too. And there I set out my stall to entice, interest and intrigue my lucky contact. I do not just fire off a sales message. I lovingly craft it, personalise it and try and hit the buttons.

But the thing that interests me the most is the line where I say ‘and could you let me know when would be a convenient time to call?’ I like adding that, because as a buyer I like to arrange to talk to people, so that I am prepared and they are prepared, and I offer my victims...oops I mean lovely prospects...the same courtesy.

Of course, it is also a warning. It should tell the receiver that I intend to call them. 

It is a gentle encouragement to respond. If the prospect responds, they take control. They can decline my kind offer to empty their wallet, giving me a good reason, and telling me to leave them alone. Or they can send me back an order (this happens, my emails are that good! Really!). Or they can ask me some questions and say by all means call me after 4 on Thursday week.

One of these things happens about one out of five times. The rarest thing is a time to call, but in any case direct communication is achieved and let the games really begin. A soft approach has turned into a general love in and we shall be friends forevermore.

What worries me are the ones who do not respond. I am persistent. I will keep calling unless I get told not to, so the average contact will spend more time listening to voicemails from me than it would take to call or write to me to say sod off you annoying little man. No one is that busy.

There is an old cliché about people doing business with people. It is a cliché because it is largely true of course. You build rapport and then working together is so much easier all round. Therefore avoiding talking to people is crazily counter-productive. I mean, I am offering you ethical IT recycling not PPI for goodness sake!

The reality is that email, voice mail, receptionists and electronic answering systems are all great ways to stop business getting done. I cut my young sales teeth in a world before computers, when telephones got answered and people talked to each other. Really. In those days (the eighties) if a message was taken, the person would call you back. Really. No mobiles at the start, I did get a car phone in about 87 but that was largely for talking to my colleagues.

You may think that I am looking back through rose-coloured spectacles, and that may well be true. I just feel that we all spend far too much time hiding from ‘sales’ calls, when we should all be looking at them as an opportunity. If I take a call and someone starts reading a script at me, I stop them and ask exactly what they are selling. If it is not for me, I say no as politely as possible. If they then call me back, I will avoid them or be quite grumpy.

But I always try to remember something the late Peter Coyne told me. Peter was quite well known in Ireland because he was a master networker. He could work out a relationship to just about anyone through his network, and over a little glass of something in Dublin he reminded me that every single business relationship had to start somewhere. Ergo many have to start with a cold call, the first time company A has talked to company B.

So, especially if you receive a soft, polite, well tailored first approach, play nicely. It may be the start of a mutually beneficial thing. It may not, but you will have left another person in this world thinking well of you.

Another old cliché, treat others as you would be treated.