Sunday, August 23, 2009

Doing it All Wrong

From a recent email link, excellent advice as we prep for the week ahead:

How to Create a Memorable Impact With Your Cold Calling

By Larry Prevost, Dale Carnegie Training Instructor

It's proving to be a busy Friday and 11:59 a.m. rolls up fairly quickly. I power up my phone, put in my bluetooth, get on a conference call and hit the mute button so I can listen while taking care of some of the other errands that I need to get done today.

I hop in the car and get started picking the tasks off one at a time.

After I get everything squared away, I drive down to pick up a quick lunch and a thermos of coffee at Starbucks. It is now 1:05, the conference call has ended, and I'm standing in line at Starbucks to order up a bold Venti.

That's when it hit me: I had a meeting with a sales rep at 1 p.m. today and I'm missing it!

Yet I'm not even stressed out about it--and I'm in no real hurry to get back to the office.

Let me back up to my initial meeting with "Bob," and you'll have a better picture of why I didn't care.

Last Wednesday, Bob dropped by our office. It was a relatively nice day and Bob was taking advantage of it by doing some door-to-door cold calling, introducing himself and dropping off contact information. I've got no problem with that. In fact, I admire anyone that has the confidence to walk in the door of a company and the skill to start a decent conversation.

Bob, however, did some things that really didn't make this initial meeting impactful and really didn't give me the impression that there was any real value in his offer.

1. To get your prospect's attention keep your pleasantries relevant and short.

Bob started by doing the one thing that I recommend people not do when they first meet with a prospect--talking about the office décor.

I've got three computers on my desk, one desktop and two laptops. I've got an HTML book spread open in one corner of the desk. I've got a JavaScript book open on top of another spot on the desk. And I've got one of our strategic presentations program manuals opened in the middle of the desk. (I'm looking for ways to put more of our class information online and make it more interactive for our community.)

But what does Bob mention as a way of getting my attention?

He points to one of the Success prints hanging on the wall and says, "That's a good picture. I've got a smaller version on my desk."

Now, the majority of my problems and challenges are displayed right on my desk for anyone to see. And Bob starts talking about a picture that has nothing to do with anything that I've accomplished, anything that I've created or any problem that I'm currently solving.

Incidentally, in my travels I've run into some decision-makers who purposely buy pictures of boats or fish and hang them on their wall for the sole purpose of giving unwary sales people something to talk about.

Unless you see a collectable piece of ancient Egyptian antiquity on your prospect's desk and you happen to be a collector yourself, leave the office décor out of the picture.

2. Direct your prospect's attention to achieving a solution and keep the communication open

The next thing Bob did was hand me a canary yellow flier. Right at the top, the headline read: "ARE YOU DRUNK?"

Well, it got my attention, but it set a confrontational tone toward the rest of the flyer--and toward Bob.

First, the attention-getter was demeaning to the reader. Look in any book written by any sales expert in the last 50 years, and you will find that they recommend complimenting prospects on their past purchases or accomplishments. Plus, it's common sense to start your conversation with points of common interest and agreement. Claiming that your prospect is drunk, dumb or stupid puts them on the defensive.

The point here is to get your prospect in an open frame of mind and looking at possibilities.

Putting a prospect in a favorable state of mind by complimenting them on a past purchase or accomplishment or stating something that you admire about them increases your ability to communicate with them.

By using any of the shock tactics out there to get your prospect's attention, you run the risk of offending them. When this happens, you can expect an uphill battle in creating rapport and opening a dialogue.

The other thing here is that this statement is guiding my attention to focus on something that's not helping Bob's efforts.

If you've been to any kind of professional development seminar in the past 20 years or so, then you are familiar with the exercise that reveals how we can direct and guide what a person is thinking. The facilitator stands at the front of the room and says: "For the next 30 seconds, I don't want you to think about Abraham Lincoln. Don't think about Abraham Lincoln. For the next 25 seconds, think about anything but Abraham Lincoln. Please put Abraham Lincoln out of your mind."

By the time 15 seconds have passed, everyone in the room is ready to shout: "OK. Stop it with the Abraham Lincoln already! I can't stop thinking about it if you don't stop talking about it!"

The same principle applies here. Whatever attention-getting method you are using, make sure that it is connected to the solution you are offering and that it's relevant. That relevancy will be instrumental in helping your prospect focus on the real issues at hand.

3. Make your offer relevant

As I said earlier, I had three computers on my desk and a couple of books regarding website development and presentations. I've got two cell phones on my hip with Internet access. And we are in the process of expanding our online presence.

And Bob is selling… phone book advertising!

Of course Bob said he had an Internet component, but it sounded like it was hastily tacked on as an afterthought.

Truth is, I can't think of too many business owners that are in a rush to get themselves in the phone book. I'm sure that there are some organizations that do find this to be a useful component to their marketing mix, but most of the companies we interact with today are putting their money into enhancing their online presence and making it more interactive and customer responsive. They are putting their money into search engine marketing. And if more companies are putting their money into online strategies, and the advertising money continues to move into online media strategies, then the print media advertising market is going to continue to shrink.

If Bob is serious about selling phone book advertising, he is going to need a bigger reason than, "If nobody used the phone book, there wouldn't be all of these advertisers in here."

Overall, it was not a good introductory call. It left me feeling that any further communication with Bob would not be a productive use of my time. And your prospects are saying the same thing if you aren't being effective in opening your calls.

If you find that your prospects are blowing you off or that they are saying, "Sure, I'll meet with you" and then are missing in action at the appointed time, then chances are good that you really never got their attention. You didn't make the offer relevant to their challenges and problems.

In that initial encounter, you simply need to show the relevancy and value that you bring to your prospects. Go back, get their attention, and talk about the challenges that are of interest to them. If you can show relevancy and value, your next meeting will become important to them and they'll remember you the next time they are about to get on that conference call while speeding off to run an errand.

About the Author: Larry Prevost is an instructor and an IT consultant for Dale Carnegie Training of Ohio and Indiana.

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