Fifteen to 20 contacts a day.
That’s the goal many companies set for their account managers. A challenge, for sure – but definitely achievable.
The problem is, many of your competitors have set the exact same goal for their sales reps. Multiply those 15 to 20 contacts by the number of competitors in your market, and that’s how many sales calls are being made each and every day.
If you then divide that total by the number of prospects in town, do you know what you get?
Prospects who are sick and tired of being cold called!
And honestly, can you blame them?
WIN / WIN or LOSE / LOSE?
While few would disagree that a more aggressive approach to sales and marketing is necessary when competition is stiff or the economy is challenging, many will disagree about the best way to do it. Old-school managers simply believe in cranking up the numbers (i.e., more call volume equals more sales). But that logic doesn’t always hold true.
In the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” Russell Crowe plays John Nash, a mathematician who won the Nobel Prize for developing the concept of non-cooperative game theory. If you’re unfamiliar with the theory, it roughly means that to make the best decisions, you have to consider the actions of your competitors.
What does game theory have to do with cold calling? Let’s look at the results that typically occur when all players in a market try to win more business by using aggressive cold-calling tactics.
• Decision makers become inundated with solicitations and, in response, raise their defenses—and you have to invest more time to speak to fewer people.
• For most companies, sales stay roughly flat while the organization suffers the following consequences:
o Depressed morale
o Anxiety and even depression among sales staff
o Increased sales rep turnover
o More transactional selling and less consultative problem solving (more volume equals less time for each prospect)
• The industry as a whole suffers:
o The more competitive “noise,” the more buyers perceive your services are a commodity
o Pricing pressures increase and margins fall
o A negative perception develops regarding the professionalism of the entire industry
In this game, you can’t get the best outcome if you use the same business development strategy as everyone else. So if you’re faced with intense cold-calling competition, your best solution may be to choose an alternative marketing strategy.
No doubt, you need to continue to be aggressive about sales and marketing. But don’t do what everyone else is doing. The current environment offers an ideal opportunity for you to truly differentiate your products or services. Instead of simply increasing the cold-call numbers, consider the following:
Every time you make a cold call, write a letter, or send an e-mail, you are interrupting the recipient’s day. You are, in effect, saying “STOP! Put down whatever you’re doing, and pay attention to me.” And as we all know, unwanted interruptions are annoying.
Direct sales is all about building relationships. To be successful, put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. If you’re going to interrupt someone, make sure the interruptions are worthwhile—from the recipient’s point of view. In essence, make sure you have a “Valid Business Reason” for every interruption, and that each communication adds value and enhances the relationship you are working to create.
What’s a “Valid Business Reason” for interrupting someone’s day? Consider these 10 ideas:
1. Solve a Problem
The best interruptions rarely have to do with the products or services you sell. Instead, share information that helps your prospects address their most important challenges. For example, you could offer:
• How-tos on issues that matter to your customers (kind of like what you are reading right now!).
• Tips on any type of business topic that’s relevant to the recipient’s job function (and that you can write about authoritatively).
2. Share Local & Industry News
• Forward articles you read online.
• Share stories you find about companies that are in your prospects’ industries.
• Share experiences and trends you’re seeing in the market.
3. Provide Statistics
Publish data that would interest your prospects. For example, one of our clients in the staffing industry published a quarterly clerical and office salary guide showing the local pay rates (min, max and average) for about 20 different positions. They collected the data just by reading the classifieds each week and recording pay information in a spreadsheet.
4. Offer Access to Competitive Data
Do you have information about your prospects’ competitors that they don’t have? If so, offer to share it. By doing so, you become a valuable business resource for prospects.
5. Thank You’s – Cards, Gifts, Calls
People like to be appreciated. Taking the time to say “thank you” is a simple, but too often overlooked, way to nurture a relationship.
Teach people how, when and why to use your products or services. Explain to your prospects the types of problems you can solve – especially important when selling to smaller companies that may not be sophisticated consumers of the products or services you offer.
7. Add a Touch of Humor
A good joke can be a great relationship builder. Just keep it appropriate and don’t over-do it (i.e., skip the “joke of the day” approach – it gets old quickly).
8. Share Case Studies
Show how other businesses are solving real problems using the services you provide. People like to read case studies for two reasons:
• They prove the value you have to offer.
• They make people feel more comfortable that someone else has tried the solutions you’re recommending.
9. Puzzles, Brain-Teasers and Trivia
While these may seem irrelevant, providing occasional “fun breaks” can be a great way to create involvement and get people to respond to you. Like humor, this type of information is best used with restraint.
10. Training and Professional Development
Teach your clients and prospects relevant skills (e.g., how to hire) that help them become better consumers of your products or services. This can be done through seminars, direct mail, e-mail, webcasts or teleconferences. Through the process of teaching a skill, you build trust, you position yourself as an expert in that skill, and you get to spend considerable time with your prospects.
If you don’t want to do the training, consider partnering with other firms who would—so long as there is no cost to you. This type of co-marketing adds value for your customers while demonstrating your caring, commitment and understanding of the issues that are important to your customers.
Please note… There is ZERO sales literature on this list. That’s because, unless you’re specifically asked for sales information, it rarely makes a worthwhile interruption. The exception? Limited-time sales and new product announcements—most serious prospects will want to know when you have something special to offer.
The Value of Adding Value
So what does all this “Valid Business Reason” stuff do for your sales team? It will turn cold calls into hot contacts! Here’s how this kind of “high value content” helps:
• It differentiates you from the cold callers.
• It makes a great drop-off or direct mail piece that will help you get past gatekeepers.
• It provides a reason for a follow-up call and acts as an ideal conversation starter.
• It creates a solid first impression and positions you as an expert in your field.
• It offers the shortest path to discussing real issues with decision makers.
The whole point of marketing is to support sales. Cold calling is tough; sharing high-value content is easy. And when account managers have something valuable to offer, achieving those daily contact goals becomes a simple task. By including high-value content in your sales and marketing plan, you’ll find it easier to get in touch with more people—and stay in contact with them more often.
And of course, that will make it easier to win more business!
Whether you’re trying to educate prospects, create more warm sales leads or even get potential customers to call YOU, the BARQAR team is up to the challenge. For more information, a quote or a free demo of our services, give our digital and inbound marketing experts a call.