by Sheryl Tuttle

Effective cold calling requires utmost courtesy and proper business etiquette. Whether maneuvering through gate keepers or speaking with high-level executives, manners and good business acumen are crucial at all stages, from initiation to resolution. But is it asking too much that it work both ways?

In a black and white world, resolution occurs in one of two ways when calling prospects.

  1. Affirmatively – Intrigued and interested, the potential customer wishes to take the conversation to the next level.
  2. Negatively – The potential customer expresses no need or interest.

As everyone knows though, we don’t live in a black and white world. There’s lots of gray. And the biggest gray to me is a lack of response from a target prospect at all.

Executives tend to be very busy people, so one or two attempts to reach them would be futile and certain failure. Persistence is key. In fact, numerous prospects have thanked me for continuing to reach out despite their lack of response because they were interested in hearing more, but had been too busy to reply. So it’s not wise to give up calls too easily.

It’s just good business etiquette to return phone calls. Busy executives that are not interested in what is being pitched should indicate so. They won’t have lost too much time, and in fact, rather may have saved time in listening to future voicemail messages.

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by Sheryl Tuttle

I don’t think I’ve made one introductory pitch so far this week that I didn’t get cut-off and interrupted – the prospect having no time to listen or in too much a hurry.

Are we going to have to condense the 30-second elevator pitch?

Could social media be to blame?

We all know that social media (SM) is changing the way we reach out and relate to one another. But it’s also creating a new language, complete with acronyms, abbreviations, and smiley symbols, to shorten the message so that it fits within the character limitation for chats, text messages, and internet communication. SM conversations require short, direct messages.

But is this new communication style saving us time, or is it creating expectations of quicker interactions?  Is it adding value, or causing miscommunication and lost opportunity? Is the time span where we have a prospects attention being reduced at all, or is this just an unusual phenomenon?

SWDYT
(So What Do You Think?)

by Sheryl Tuttle

I’ve been following “prospect call” and “cold call” tweets lately, and there are certainly a lot of them. It’s funny too, because people seem to be either very strongly for or against prospect calling.

Many tweets bash prospect calling as a complete waste of time, an activity that will tarnish your reputation, and even one tweet claimed it immoral! Yet, I have observed an equal number tweets proclaiming success. So which is it? Are prospect calls worth the effort or not? Will prospect calls boost your business or hurt your reputation?

The answer is …both.

Allow me to clarify. The fact is, many people approach prospect calling completely unprepared. They view it as a dreaded menial task, a necessary activity to increase their pool of leads. These folks lack professionalism. It’s all a sales and numbers game to them. Either the prospect hops on board and wants an appointment to hear more, or he jumps off, never to be contacted again. This approach can cause problems for your company.

On the other hand, folks that prepare glean much more success in their efforts. These teleprospectors understand the value of their roles, which may not immediately result in a sale, but rather they create and develop a relationship. They learn what they can about the company and their potential needs, ask relevant probing questions, and then listen to the response.

It requires professionalism to develop new business opportunities successfully through prospect calling. It is through peer-to-peer conversations that true relationships are forged.

If you believe your efforts at prospect calling are hurting your reputation, then perhaps it’s time to take a look at outsourcing your process to professional appointment setters.

by Sheryl Tuttle

The C-Suite Executive has a mound of papers on his desk, numerous incoming messages, important meetings to attend, reports to review, emails to send, and presentations to prepare. Besieged with cold-calls and pitches via email and direct mail, he has taken your call. You have about 30-seconds to make that busy executive want to talk to you, and only a few minutes to convert the curious into an appointment.

But how?

Much of what goes into a successful prospect call relates to the art of storytelling. Telling stories is a talent that requires knowledge of the subject matter, interest in the audience, and sincerity at its core.  Here’s five easy ways you can improve your prospect call results right now.

A good opening

It’s not enough to provide your name, company, and a brief description. Your prospect gets several of those calls a day. Your call needs to be different and to stand out.

The easiest and best way to do this is with a little research beforehand. Anything you know about the company can help. Visit their website and their blog if they have one. Check the news and press releases. Tailor your opening statement to include a value proposition that focuses on what they need. They don’t want to know how great you are, but rather how you can help them solve a problem.

Stay true to the plot

Keep focused on the purpose of your call and do not go on and on. Remember you are speaking with a very busy executive. Stay to the point and keep it short and simple.

Deliver with feeling

Don’t read a script or make your call sound rehearsed. Be natural and relaxed, and fluctuate your tone to add emphasis where appropriate. Using variations in pitch and volume adds personality and passion, often eliciting a more enthusiastic response.

Engage with your audience

A good storyteller will “read” their audience, listening and changing direction if needed. Engaging in a successful dialog requires good listening skills too. Make sure your prospect is part of the conversation. Ask questions, then listen. Pause and wait for the response, then ask clarifying questions if needed.

A satisfying ending

Don’t make the prospect guess what you want. Your ending should be clear. If you are calling for an appointment to meet with the prospect, then ask for the appointment.

Challenge 4 U: Make your next prospect call with the zest of a master storyteller. Does your call outcome differ?

by Sheryl Tuttle

Frequently I’m asked whether it makes sense to start or continue a new business campaign through the holidays. The argument is that many people vacation during the holidays and so you are less likely to reach a decision-maker during this timeframe. Many people contend that it makes better sense to put these efforts on hold, until the New Year and the resumption of “business as usual.”

I disagree, and here’s why.

For the very reason that more people are on vacation, the likelihood of reaching a decision-maker increases. Not only are your target prospects taking time off, but so are their gatekeepers. While the number of executives in their offices may actually decrease over the holidays, the number of executives answering their own line increases. This often results in making connections that would otherwise have been more difficult.

Additionally, while everyone is quick to agree that the holidays can bring on more stress, it is also a time when holiday spirit prevails. People emphasize community, relationships, and goodwill. They tend to be in better moods, and are more likely to be receptive to a conversation.

The best time to initiate a new business campaign is when it is right for you and your business, regardless of the season. When you want to begin filling the sales pipeline with future business, that’s the time to start a new business campaign.

Happy Thanksgiving.

by Sheryl Tuttle

I recently read Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, and offer the following review of the book. But why provide a book review about social media on a blog about filling your new business pipeline through outbound prospecting efforts?

Because social media is not a fad that is here today, gone tomorrow. Social media is revolutionizing the business world, and not just in retail and consumer industries. It’s B2B too. And it will affect how all of us do business into the future, and it cannot be ignored.

I’m not sure how social media will alter the course of my day, making calls to target prospects in which my clients wish to do business. But I do know that it will. It already has in some positive ways.

But first, the book review, then let’s talk more about social media.

GroundswellGroundswell

winning in a world transformed by social technologies

by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Groundswell is a great book to help people understand the revolutionary social technology changes that are occurring, why they are happening, and how to tap into it and transform your business. It’s a very interesting read with good information, much of it familiar though, particularly for those already actively involved in social media.

The authors explain that people utilize social media to connect, collaborate, react, organize, and accelerate consumption. They give numerous examples of tools for each of these categories, and explain which of the five primary objectives these tools help companies meet. For example, blogs are effective tools for talking and getting feedback, while ratings, reviews, and online communities help energize the groundswell.  In addition, people engage more or less with social media, and their involvement will range from completely inactive to active creators, with several levels of involvement in between.

Thus, planning is a large part of success. The idea is to look at the objectives first, especially since technology constantly evolves, and select appropriate tools that will develop the relationships to get there. The authors introduce a four part planning process that consists of people, objectives, strategy and technology.

Concrete examples and case studies provide additional substance and make the information easily digestible, enabling you to create actionable steps to move your company into the groundswell. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about social media and the steps to take to get involved.

Now, let’s talk about . . .

What Effects Will Social Media Have on Outbound Calling Efforts?

While there are some that say social media will eliminate the need for outbound calling efforts, I disagree. Social media may create enough buzz and information about a company, service or product to make inbound calls a bigger reality, but prospects are not all created equal, and not all people will respond similarly. Cold calling will always remain an effective way of picking the higher hanging fruit, of introducing your company or service, and in creating relationships.

So if social media isn’t going to remove the need for outbound new business initiation efforts, what effects will it have?

Since social media is about listening, communicating, and connecting, I see it as another instrument in the salesperson’s tool bag. Already we do web research and look at prospect websites to learn about a potential customer, now we can add blogs and other social media tools to that list, better preparing us to match our deliverables with our customers’ needs.

Social media enables conversations to occur, and for others with interest to join in, but in the end, the telephone still ranks high for communicating one-on-one.

What are your thoughts on social media?

 

by Sheryl Tuttle

Does this sound familiar? A new marketer or business development professional is brought on-board to fill up the sales pipeline. A large part of their efforts will be reaching out to prospects, a.k.a. cold-calling. They quickly learn the business. They’ve nailed down the pitch and the value-proposition. They are enthused and they are good at closing sales.

But the pipeline doesn’t fill.

Often it’s the result of not enough effort made in cold-calling. And let’s face it… cold calling isn’t for everyone. There is a great deal of rejection with cold calling, and I previously posted about handling that rejection here. The fact is, the most successful campaigns run about an 85% rejection!

So then, what are your options?

The way I see it there are two options. Option 1 is to keep looking until you find a person that “gets” your business and one that is also good at cold-calling. The upside is that they become fully immersed in your company and its culture. After all, they are an employee. The downside is that they may not have other business development skill sets you seek. Sometimes you get an either/or, but not a both – you find someone with good business acumen, strong business development skills, or someone successful with cold-calling, but oftentimes it is not someone skilled all around. Also, keep in mind that a person spending a large amount of their time on the phone daily calling the same targets with the same message may burn out quickly. Some variation in the day-to-day is welcomed for even the most seasoned of cold-callers. Finally, this option can be expensive as not only do you have the employee salary to consider, but the cost of other employee benefits as well.

Option 2 is to outsource your cold-calling efforts. This option enables you to keep your in-house talent, and frees them to spend more time focused on servicing customers and landing new business. Another upside is that your cold-calling efforts can be utilized when most needed, then turned off when resources become too stretched. In other words, if your pipeline becomes sufficiently full and you want to take a break from those efforts, you can, and without having to worry about laying someone off or assigning them new responsibilities. The downside is finding the right talent. Hiring the cheapest isn’t the right solution as you want to be sure to hire professionals that are comfortable talking to your target prospects on a peer-to-peer basis, and that are skilled specialists that can quickly immerse themselves in your company and integrate fully.

As you can see, both options have benefits and drawbacks. Your company resources, size, budget and culture will often determine what’s right for you.