Cold calls don’t work. Not because they can’t work, but because most people have no idea how to actually cold call. The quality of cold calls that procurement people get on a daily basis are terrible. Sales people fumbling over their opening lines, talking about how golly gee wonderful their products are and ultimately plummeting into the abyss technical specifications and features that lose me in about thirty seconds. Sure, maybe once upon a time you could pick up the phone and dial Steve, the buyer down at the lumber mart and Steve would be happy to chat to you for hours without having met you before about your fancy new product. But it’s likely that the salespeople of Steve’s day had less competition, less salespeople calling on him, and Steve likely didn’t have the internet, Linkedin, and Email.
I hate cold calls. I’m busy, …really really busy. And if you’re cold calling me out of nowhere, you’re just going to waste my time and ruin that part of my day. Procurement people get hundreds of cold calls,….hundreds. You’re just another in the long line of hang ups we make daily. If you haven’t been recommended to me either internally by a business user of the products or services I buy or by someone I already do business with, or I haven’t found you myself, I’m likely not going to talk to you. Sounds cold, but it’s true.
So what does this mean for you, the cold calling sales person that absolutely has to meet the numbers of the sales game. Well, if I could make a recommendation, find a way to “know” me. Get an introduction from someone I know, find a connection, do some research. All in all, be smarter about your sales calls. USE LINKEDIN. Linkedin is an amazing tool. Remember playing that five degrees of separation game? Linkedin has changed how that game is played. Use it. Surely you know someone who knows someone who knows me.
Once you’ve found a connection with me through someone I know, make the call or email to them, and ask the person I know to introduce you to me. It seems more credible that way. If someone I know is introducing you to me, then they must respect you and trust you. And if they respect you and trust you, it’s a lot more likely that my level of respect and trust for you will subconsciously increase right away.
Okay, so you’ve scoped out Linkedin and done some more research to see if you know someone who knows me, you’re tilling the soil in my connection base and you cannot find a connection to give you an introduction. How do you get to know me now? We all know networking is so important in sales. But it doesn’t have to be the traditional networking that you think about when you think “networking”. I’m not talking about going to a large industry event or a chamber of commerce breakfast presentation and so forth. While these ideas are good, the primary means of networking you should be focusing on with procurement people should be much smaller scale. Take me for coffee or take me for lunch. The great thing about taking me for lunch is that we share an experience together, you have captive time with me and you, as the salesperson, can control the environment. Meeting in my office is my turf. You’re automatically on your back foot. I control the environment, I control the location. Lunch; however, is a shared experience where both parties can be at ease. There is something intimate about sharing a meal with someone that you cannot replicate in an office environment.
Once an introduction has been made, call me. Don’t leave it up to me to call you after an introduction has been made. If you do, you’ll be waiting for a phone call from me forever.
Here’s an example of a typical warm call I love:
Salesperson: “Hi Mark, my name is Bob and I’m calling from XYZ service company. Our shared friend, Billy, recommended that I give you a call! I believe he also sent you an email about me.”
Note: At this point you’ll know how good your relationship with Billy is if you get shut down right away.
My Response: “Hi Bob, good to hear from you. Yes I have received the email from Billy, how can I help you?”
Note: Don’t try to sell me right away. Set up a time to meet further or offer to take me for lunch.
Salesperson: “Mark, I’d love to grab lunch with you to learn more about your business, tell you more about my business, and find out if there is a way we can help you lower your costs and increase your efficiency. How does next Tuesday or Thursday work?”
Once you’ve secured the lunch date, be polite, say you’re looking forward to seeing me and hang up the phone. So many sales people try to sell at this time or get in a statement about how golly gee wonderful their product is, or make a comment about the other companies they are selling to. NOW IS NOT THE TIME FOR SELLING. You’ve got the lunch date, stop trying to sell. If you do, you’re just going to ruin what you’ve just worked for and I will cancel the lunch date at a later time or reschedule inevitably because now I really don’t want to meet with you.
Once we’re at the restaurant, please don’t go straight to business. Use this as an opportunity to get to know me. Find out about my family, what I do for fun, where I live in the city, what my favourite coffee is, etc. Procurement people crave genuine and authentic sales people, people who they can relate to. We’re so used to the greasy sales approach and we hate it. Deep inside we want to to know that there’s more to you than just securing the sale.
Do more research. Inevitably business will come up at one point in the meal at lunch or coffee. DO NOT TRY TO SELL YOUR PRODUCT AT LUNCH! Use the lunch as an opportunity to find out what my challenges are with existing suppliers and service providers. Find out where my pain points are. With information about my existing supplier base you can craft a sales presentation that speaks directly to my needs. DON’T RUSH THE SALE. The sales cycle when dealing with procurement people can sometimes be very long, but what results, if you do it right, is a relationship that will generate multiple sales and last a lifetime if cultivated properly.
If you absolutely cannot find a connection and you absolutely must cold call me, don’t waste my damn time. Know your product, know my company, and have ideas ready that can save me money, save me time, or increase the quality of my product or service and have examples of where you’ve done it before.
Here’s an example of typical cold call I hate:
Salesperson: “Hi Mark, my name is Bob and I’m calling from XYZ service company to talk to you about our wonderful and amazing company that sells the best widgets ever! Can I have a moment of your time to tell your how golly gee wonderful my product is?”
My Response: “Hi Bob, I’m really busy, please send me a sales brief and I’ll look at it when I can.”
Bob gets immediately shut down and I file his sales brief and never look at it again. Here’s the truth, I honestly don’t give a toss about the features and benefits of your product and how wonderful and amazing you think it is. I get loads of new sales calls every single day and they all talk about how their products are the best thing ever. I don’t care. But you know what I do care about, how your product or service can save me money, save me time, or increase the quality of my end product or service. Very rarely, and I’m talking like maybe once a quarter, I get a call from a salesperson that actually understands this. And this is how that sales call generally goes:
Here’s a typical cold call I love:
Salesperson: “Hi Mark, my name is Bob and I’m calling from XYZ service company. If I can show you how to save 20% on your bottom line cost to produce your product, would you give me 30 minutes to show you how we can do that?”
My Response: “Hi Bob, I have time next Tuesday or Thursday, which works best for you?”
In the second example, Bob made an impression. Bob didn’t make it about his product, he made it about my need to reduce cost. If you absolutely have to cold call, cold call like the second example, it gets to the point and it speaks to my needs. Now obviously, you need to make substantiated claims, because if you say you’ll lower my cost by 20%, I’m going to hold you to it. So make sure you know what number is going in for your product otherwise you’ll just piss me off. If you can’t validate a number on cost or efficiency, then don’t commit to a number. Ask the question without it, such as, “If I can show you how to save money so you can reduce your cost to produce your product, would you give me 30 minutes to show you how we can do that?”
Think about your audience folks. If you’re calling a procurement person, that person cares about the following, generally in the following order (but not always):
- Cost / Risk – Specifically, how can you reduce my cost or my risk.
- Quality – Specifically, how can you increase my quality.
- Time – Specifically, how can you reduce the time it takes to make my product.
The point is, if you can frame your cold calls with these items in mind and how they affect the procurement person it will be a lot easier for you to get past the cold call and get an actual meeting.