Given the eclectic nature of my world — business writer, safety blogger, global organizational change and safety consultant — I get a lot of requests to connect on social media. I generally accept anyone who wants to connect with me (although I qualify them a bit, having been stung by brain-dead marketers who send me tons of junk mail even after I have asked them to quit). I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 contacts in my network, most of whom connect solely so they can see when I have a new article or blog post published, but many who see me as either an easy mark or a potential customer.
The problem is those who see me as an easy mark or potential customer are clueless imbeciles who have tried selling me used metal fabricating equipment to fire-fighting gear. Last week things were taken up a notch when a direct competitor to my company called me the phone conversation went something like this:
ME: Good morning this if Phil La Duke. Him: through a thick accent “yes my name is Sanje Salesman and I am calling for Phil Lah Dooky?
ME: (gruffly) Well I just told you that I was Phil La Duke, although I managed to pronounce it properly, what can I do for you? Him: I wanted to know when we could arrange a meeting where I can tell you how I can save you 30 percent or more on your training development costs.
Me: “How did you get my name?” Him: “From your LinkedIn profile”
ME: “Oh so you have read my profile” Him: “Yes, and I believe I can save you 30 percent or more on your training development costs.”
Me: “and having read my profile you realize that our companies are direct competitors and we provide the exact same services, in fact, MORE than your company” Him: “Yes but if we can just sit down for five minutes and talk I think I can save you…”
Me: “Look I don’t want to be rude, but what makes you think that you can save me anything? You don’t know what my costs even are?” Him: “Well our company develops our training in India so…”
Me: “You do realize my company has over 200 offices in 45 countries and has, in fact, three offices in India, maybe we should talk, may I can provide you services you don’t need for 30 percent less” Him: “Great when would be a good time to meet?”
I went on to tell him to take a deep breath and think about what he was suggesting. I told him that I thought he was too wrapped up in making a sale to even process what I had told him. I told him that a meeting was pointless because we would never do business. He seemed like a nice guy and I told him so, but then added, “man you have GOT to do a better job of qualifying your leads.”
If this had been an isolated incident I wouldn’t be writing this, but it’s not. Too many sales people get so caught up in the act of selling that they either turn off completely the prospect, or miss key opportunities, So in true click bait fashion, I thought I would compose my # tips for cold calling (number 3 will absolutely not shock you):
Know to whom you’re talking.
I don’t just mean going on LinkedIn or some business director and looking at a title. I mean first and foremost are you calling a direct competitor? I remember working a trade show years ago when an obnoxious colleague I liked to call Little Miss Marketing. Like a lot of people who are thrust into sales or marketing her complete lack of education, skills, or experience did not disqualify her from the position because “she has a fire in her belly”. (I’ve had plenty of fire in my belly and it’s usually bad Thai food, or those crawdads I bought from a homeless guy in New Orleans—those will keep you regular.) Well the owner had cornered a hot prospect and invited him and his team out to dinner. Little Miss Marketing did the same with what she perceived as an equally hot prospect. The two groups went out to one big dinner where the owner laid out our strategy, approach and even our pricing structure. Both groups listened with eager interest, unfortunately, as it turns out; Little Miss Marketing had invited the president and VP of sales of a direct competitor who easily stole the opportunity and four or five others. I would love to say she got fired for this, but alas, you have to do more than that to get fired apparently. I for my part spent my evenings drinking with old colleagues and pumped them for leads which never panned out, but since I didn’t COST us any sales, I was suddenly the big winner.
Listen for the need.
You need to sell, I get that. I may need to buy what your selling and I may not. Qualify the lead. One look at my LinkedIn profile will show that I am probably not going to buy a blow molding machine, but then again I did just buy an exact replica of the Maltese Falcon so there’s no telling what hair-brained product on which I might blow my hard earned cash. Seriously though, even a cursory glance at my on-line profiles have to tell you that I am not going to buy many of the good and services people are trying to sell me. What’s that old saying about throwing excrement at the wall and see what sticks? (Personally that expression has always baffled me. Who are these people with a ready supply of excrement, a willingness to grab a handful of it, and whip it at the wall? And you thought your office was bad. I also never fully understood exactly what a “party pooper” was or why every party needed on. I don’t ask questions to which I don’t want the answers.
Listening for the need is as easy as it is important. After a short introduction of who you are and what you do, ask the prospects some quick questions. The first question is what kind of company is ABC Unlimited? How many people work there? What is your role at the company? The answers of these three questions will tell you whether or not you are targeting the right company (or branch of the company), if the company is large enough to buy what you’re trying to sell, and whether or not you are talking to the right person. If you are talking to the right person ask them what their business goals for this year are. They may not tell you, but if they believe you can help them they generally will. If you’re not talking to the right person you can get off the phone and move on. If I don’t want or need what you’re selling no sales pitch will sway me.
Don’t ask me to help you find the right person to whom you should be talking.
I am, in many respects a heartless bastard who cares little whether or not a stranger makes a living let alone a sale. It’s not my job to help you to do yours and I have enough work to of my own.
Ditch the script.
I am so tired of listening to Sales 101, for example, always start with a question that the prospect can’t answer with a “no”. I once got a sales call from a person who said, “would you like to make more money? I said, “no. If I had more money I would probably just develop a cocaine addiction and spend all my money on drugs and women willing to exchange their affections to feed their habits” He had nothing after that. The script went out the window (as oddly, it always seems to with me) and he hung up. You don’t need a script to talk to me, like many people, I understand that people who are just trying to make a living, and I sympathize; like most I respond to genuine honesty.
Don’t try to con me.
I get phone calls and door to door solicitors who pull the, I was talking to so and so over at such and such and when I explained what I do he got really excited and said I should talk to you, or “I just finished a roofing job at your neighbor’s and he said you mentioned to him that you were looking for a roofer” (I told him my neighbor misunderstood, what I had actually said was I was looking to by roofies, which I like to sit next to a pretty woman at the bar and slip it into my own drink and hope for the best. He had no roofies.) In the former case, one of two situations exist, either it’s a heaping, steaming, pile of bull or the person he talked to wanted to torture the unsuspecting slob and opened the door to my twisted world and invited him in.
Phil La Duke
Phil LaDuke is is a Safety Transformation Architect at Environmental Resources Management. An author, he writes about business, worker safety and organizational change topics on his blog. An avid user of social media for business…