This article was guest written by AXIOM Sr. Instructor Jimmy Gary.
It was my first day at my new sales job and my manager (we’ll call him Joe) showed me my new desk, complete with all the tools for success; a computer, a phone and yes, even business cards. Immediately I thought “man how prepared are they?” They even have my new business cards ready to go; “boy have I chosen well or what?”
The next words out of Joe’s mouth will stick with me forever. “Write your name on these blank business cards and go hand out 50 of these today, when you get back we’ll talk about how many sales you made so we can pay you.”
That’s right, they weren’t MY cards after all, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, it was painfully clear that I wasn’t getting paid UNLESS I made some sales – 100% commission!
Sometime later I had the opportunity to start my second sales job and it wasn’t all that different. I soon realized that most managers viewed sales as nothing more than a numbers game; the more people you contact the more you sell. Now don’t get me wrong, there is no denying that all else being equal, this underlying assumption is absolutely true. And, in contrast to doing nothing at all, lots and lots of “cold calling” is a far better alternative because eventually we will find someone who needs our products or services. But is this really the BEST approach to achieving sales success?
It is important to understand that in order for a “cold call” to be effective and uncover an opportunity, certain things have to happen. First, we have to get to someone with authority. This isn’t always easy to do, which is why so many training programs promise techniques and tactics for getting past the gatekeeper. Second, we have to make a very compelling point in order for this target decision maker to stop what he/she is doing and even pay attention to us. Finally, we need to be so compelling that whatever we promise resonates NOW and relates to one of the more important challenges they face in managing their business, otherwise they aren’t about to devote further attention to meeting with us.
But how do we consistently get past the gatekeeper, get the attention of the decision maker and ultimately convince them to spend more time with us when we know little or nothing about what these people deem important or how we can help them achieve their objectives? For most sales people, the answer is that we DON’T, which is why so many despise cold calling – it often generates very little return for the time invested.
What if there was an alternative approach that would produce MORE opportunities and MORE sales for the time invested? As it turns out, there is a better way! The secret to producing significantly more and better opportunities is to determine how we can help the prospect BEFORE attempting to secure the appointment. To do this, follow these three simple steps:
Create an ideal customer profile
Define what problems you can solve, the characteristics of a customer that would likely have and care about these problems and the questions you need answered in order to determine the degree to which a given person/organization matches the profile.
Before reaching out to the target decision maker, gather information to determine how well this person/organization matches your profile. At this point, you may find the gatekeeper you had been trying to get around is actually your new best friend because this person can help you understand if/how you can help the decision maker succeed. Oh, and by the way, if you find out that they don’t match the profile, don’t bother trying to secure an appointment – you likely won’t succeed and even if you do they aren’t going to buy because you have nothing that brings them value.
Make a specific compelling case
Don’t bother with general benefit statements that don’t produce results. Once you have determined what problems you can help your target contact solve, use this specific information to make a case for why he/she should invest time with you now.
By using this approach you will focus your attention on people with whom there is a clearly defined opportunity for you to bring meaningful value. As a result, you will secure more (and better) appointments for the time invested and ‘cold calling’ won’t seem nearly as painful as it once did.