My office phone rings a LOT. And at least 50% of the time, the person calling is cold-calling me, hoping to sell whatever product or service they offer. And since the more enterprising of these folks at least glance at my blog before calling me, I thought I’d write some tips for them here.
Be aware I have no idea how to actually do a cold call. There is likely no one in the world worse at that than me. So everything I write here is from the perspective of the callee, not the caller. I’m sure this will read like “10 steps to fewer sales” for experienced sales folks. :-)
Imagine this, which seems to happen most of the time:
Greg: “Hello, this is Greg…”
Sales guy Bob: “Hello, Greg, this is Bob WannaSellYa. How are you doing today?”
11 words, and this already puts me in a bad spot, and instantly annoys me. First, I have no idea who Bob WannaSellYa is or what company he’s with. So I’m either annoyed that he wants to know how I’m doing even though I don’t know him, or I’m horrified that I might have met him yesterday and forgot his name. Could go either way. If you have some connection to me – if say someone I know gave you my contact info – then say so right away, and I’ll pay much more attention. Otherwise, my usual response to this:
And I’m sorry to admit, it’s not a polite “fine” – it’s more of an annoyed, who-the-f%@!-are-you “fine”.
I don’t want to be mean, I really don’t. It’s not my nature. But I have a lot to do today, and talking to you wasn’t on my list. So please, do what you can to get to the point quickly.
Ok, so now Bob knows I’m doing fine, and if he’s really listening, he knows I’m already somewhat annoyed about the call. Now comes the meat of the conversation, I guess. I’ll give a hint at this point – if I don’t know who you are, then don’t pile on any more small talk; asking me about the weather in Denver will not help your chances. But assuming we’re past that:
Bob: “Great, glad to hear it. Greg, I’m with AcmeServices here in Dallas, TX, and we’ve got 90 of the Fortune 100 as clients. Do you currently host your own information systems?”
Greg: “I’m sorry, who did you say you were with?”
Greg: “And what do you do?”
You see, I’ve probably never heard of AcmeServices, I don’t know what you do, and I’m not likely to have a conversation with you about what I might or might not be hosting until I know what you’re after. Are you a managed service provider? An edge network provider? A consultant? A hosting company? Give me one or two sentences about what exactly you do, and maybe even how you think it might fit with what I do. Even if you get the second part wrong, I’ll know two things:
1. I’ll have a general idea what you do.
2. I’ll know that you spent at least 5 minutes looking at what I do, so I don’t have to explain that we sell enterprise software AND operate an online hosted system.
Based on #1, I’ll be able to triage the call. Either tell you a) I’m not interested, b) I’m not the one to talk to but perhaps point you to someone else, or c) I’m indeed the guy and let’s spend a few minutes talking. And if you also did #2, we’ll be able to jump right in if there’s something here.
And if I know enough about what you’re saying to tell you I’m not interested, then you’re just not going to be able to talk me into it right then on the phone. It’s never happened. If I don’t really know, then I’ll say so and you can tell me more. If, for example, you sell solid-state storage, and I use regular disk storage, then I’ll pepper you with a bunch of questions to help me understand whether I might be interested…but if I’m not interested from the get-go, then you can save us both some time, and you can save me from feeling like I’m being rude by trying to end the call.
(aside: if you do sell solid-state storage, please do call me, because I do have some questions. :-)
Let me try to boil all this down to a few tips, if I might:
- Get to the point quickly; small talk is awkward when we don’t know each other.
- If we have some mutual acquaintance or connection, say so quickly, and I won’t blow you off. Better yet, ask them to introduce you to me via email.
- If I don’t answer your voice mail, you don’t need to leave 8 more messages – I got the first one. I probably just don’t need what you’re selling at the moment. It’s no offense.
- Don’t ever say we’ve chatted personally in the past when we haven’t. I have a bad memory, but I remember things like this. This is a sure-fire way to make sure I will never return your voicemail or email. You’d be surprised how much this happens.
- Email is a much better way to get ahold of me, frankly, than the phone. If you’re obviously selling something, then I might not respond, but I do at least read the first sentence or two of every email I get. If I don’t need something now, but think I might in the future, I’ll save your email, and remember you later (I usually don’t reply until I’m ready to actually dig in). But – if your email reads like spam, as opposed to a personal note, it’s much less likely that I’ll save it or respond.
Anyway, I’m sure I just offended most of the sales people who read my blog, and perhaps others as well…and like I said, I have no idea what kinds of things actually work and what doesn’t. I just know what I personally respond to. So if you want to sell me stuff, this will probably help!