I was asked by a client to make some cold calls into an upper “C” level suite to set appointments for his outside sales team, to show the inside team how it’s done. His inside team first of all had trouble getting these busy people on the phone, and then getting past the first paragraph of their script before getting cut off.
I had listened to these calls and immediately recognized the problem: the reps weren’t taking the time to immediately assess the prospect’s mood and connect with them, therefore they were coming off like sales reps — and the executives who they did reach weren’t having any of that…
If you call into the upper “C” suites, here is what I did (and you should be doing) to connect with and give yourself a chance to have a conversation with them.
1) First of all, before you leave a voice mail, try calling three to five times to try and reach them first. Vary the times of your calls, and on same day and on different days, to see if you can reach them.
I have done this for many years and it’s amazing how lucky you’ll get if you just persevere.
2) When you do get them on the phone, immediately assess their style of communication by how they answer the phone. Are they in a hurry? Are they a driver? Or, are they laid back? Relaxed and at lunch?
It’s crucial that you match their pacing and their energy or else you’ll just telegraph that you’re a sales rep who is going to waste their time.
For example: When one COO answered the phone, he was short and somewhat demanding. I immediately said: “John, thanks for picking up the phone, I’ll make this brief…” Then I went into a two sentence value statement and asked him a question. He was appreciative that I didn’t begin reading a sales pitch at him and gave me a considered answer to my question.
3) This is important: If you find someone who seems somewhat laid back or at least not in a hurry to bite your head off, then connect with him by talking about something else – briefly – before you pitch him.
For example, I called into a company and the hold music was the rock song, “Sweet Home Alabama.” When the prospect picked up the phone, I immediately complimented him on the hold music and asked him if that was his personal choice. He said it came with the phone system and we talked about the song briefly. Only after that did I tell him who I was and begin my pitch.
This technique also works well with subjects like the weather (is it hailing there, too?), and the day of the week “I hope Monday is treating you O.K.” or “I don’t know about you, but I’m happy it’s Friday…”
By the way, it’s always best to lead off with these kinds of rapport building techniques before you announce your name and company name. If you announce first, then you’ve put the “salesman” target on your forehead and it’s too late. But the key is you must have the right personality to do this with. If you try this with a driver, your call will end right there…
4) Be absolutely prepared to overcome the “I wouldn’t be interested,” blow off. You must have an effective comeback to that blow off memorized and be ready to rapid fire it off, because if you get that from a “C” level exec, then you’ve got a nano-second to recover.
I like something along the lines of: “That’s fine and I’m not trying to sell you something today. Instead, I think I have an alternative solution for you r (XYZ), and just want to find the best way to show it to you – believe me, you’ll be happy you learned about it…”
5) “Briefly” is a word that gives you the best shot of giving your next couple of sentences. Try: “_________, thanks for taking the call, briefly, what I’m calling you about is….” And then make it BRIEF. Get to a question quickly to either engage your prospect or give him the chance to tell you he’s still not interested or he’s not the right guy/gal, etc..
The point is to engage your prospect – not talk at them.
6) Let your prospect talk! After you’ve got your two sentences in (better make them good!), it’s time to let your “C” level executive talk. DON’T interrupt. Hit your Mute button. These guys and gals are used to talking and to having people listen. If you do that, you’ll gain their respect and they’ll give you a chance to speak when it’s your turn (usually).
The point of all these tips is that you have to connect with your “C” level exec and meet them on their level. You can’t just go into your pitch at your own speed and expect them to politely listen. They won’t.
But if you follow the above techniques, you’ll at least separate yourself from all your competition who is calling them, and you’ll have the best chance of actually connecting with them and having a chance to get your value statement across.