Buyers are an obscure group of people. In most organizations they are difficult to understand and even more difficult to contact. You send e-mail after e-mail, leave voicemail after voicemail, and still it takes an act of Divinity to get them to respond to you, especially if it’s a cold-call. Most Buyers like it that way and, in fact, set up defense mechanisms to prevent reasonable cold-call communication. The day that call-waiting was invented is a National Holiday for Buyers. And the fact that Buyers can now see who is calling them before they pick up the receiver brings tears of joy to their eyes.
The truth is, Buyers who have cradle-to-grave procurement responsibilities prefer to stay in control regarding cold-call communication. For the most part, it’s understandable since everyone within and outside of their company calls the Buyer because they need something from them in order to move business forward. Accounts payable calls for information in order to approve or reject invoices. Quality calls to find out what specifications suppliers quoted to. Material Planners call to find out what was purchased and when it’s expected. Management needs reports completed on cost savings and commodity strategies. Engineers need to know what suppliers will be quoting the project. Production needs to know why specific suppliers were chosen to receive the order. Then there’s the supply base; dozens if not hundreds of Sales Reps needing the Buyer’s time and attention.
Okay, I know I’m not getting any sympathy here but I think you get the picture. The bottom line is that communication isn’t always as easy as you’d like it to be, especially when it comes to telephone communication and especially when it comes to cold-call selling. The majority of Sales Professionals would agree that the cold-call process is probably the most reserved part of selling, though not necessarily the most difficult or least liked. After all, cold-call selling is the process of contacting someone you’ve never met, who may not be familiar with you or your company, and attempt to sell him something. Again, this is not to say that cold-call selling is the most despised part of sales. Some sales professionals actually thrive on it while for others it’s a way of life.
From The Buyer’s Desk, most telephone cold-calls are a turn off because the Buyer isn’t hearing what they need to know about your company within a reasonable amount of time. So what’s reasonable? Well, think of it this way . . . how long is your own attention span when you receive a call from a telemarketer at home? Not very long, is it? Probably a matter of seconds. Well the average attention span of a Corporate Buyer on the phone at work is a little longer than yours is at home but only because they get paid to take sales calls. Think about that statement. Buyer’s get PAID to take sales calls! (Am I getting any sympathy yet?) Of course, a Buyers attention span is a bit longer as they put a little more effort into it because that’s what they get paid to do. But the fact is you’ve got about 20-30 seconds to get the Buyer interested in your call before their mind wanders and they start thinking about things like the weekend or their golf swing.
The main reason why a Buyer’s mind wanders during calls from the supply base, especially if it’s a cold call, is because after a while all cold-calls tend to sound the same. The main problem with cold-calls is that very few Sales Professionals really know how to do it right. That’s because most Sales Reps are conducting their cold-call from the “sales perspective” and NOT from the “Buyer’s perspective”. Cold-call selling should really come down to what the Buyer WANTS and NEEDS to hear, and not necessarily what you can’t wait to tell him. What you can’t wait to tell the Buyer during a cold call versus what the Buyer actually needs to hear can be two completely different things! Feel free to read that last sentence several times. Memorize it if you need to because it’s extremely important. In fact, it should be the new paradigm in sales.
It’s important to be aware that if a sales meeting was the outcome of a cold-call, it doesn’t necessarily mean the Sale Rep knew what they were doing. It most likely meant that the Buyer is so used to dealing with poor cold-calls that they simply overlooked an inadequate performance. If your cold-call is weak but they want your product, you’ll probably get the meeting. But if your cold-call is weak and they don’t necessarily need your product, all the easier for them to turn you down.
So let’s discuss what a Buyer wants and needs to hear. When you applied for your current job you most likely submitted a document either before or during your interview. That document was, of course, your Resume. Experts tell us that Resumes should be short and to the point. It should give the “highlights” and NOT the “details” of your career. That’s because a Resume is not meant to get you a job on its own. It’s only meant to get your foot in the door so you can start working on getting that job. So when you call a Buyer for the first time, remember that you shouldn’t be attempting to sell them anything . . . at least not yet. A cold-call alone will never get you an order. A cold-call is only meant to get your foot in the door so you can start working on getting an order. Unfortunately too many Sales Reps try to sell me on their products before selling me on themselves and their company! With that in mind, what you need to do before you cold-call the Buyer is develop what we’ll call a Verbal Resume.
Just like a written Resume, your Verbal Resume should be short and to the point. It should give the “highlights” and NOT the “details” of your company. It should not be developed to sell anything but simply to get your foot in the door. Now I’m not going to tell you how to develop or deliver your Verbal Resume. But I will tell you to say it slow, say it clear, and keep it under 30 seconds. Here’s an example: “Hello, Mr. Smith. My name is Susan Jones. I represent The Anson Company. I hope you’re doing well. Anson is a Tier One manufacturer of gear-cutting machines for the automotive power-train industry. We specialize in reduced cycle-times and close machining tolerances at competitive costs to our clients. We have supplied various types of solutions to your competitors, including ABC Company.” In this example the Sales Rep told the Buyer more information in 30 seconds than the Buyer gets in most 30 minute meetings! The advantage of a good Verbal Resume is that you’ll impress the Buyer up front and make the Buyer feel more inclined to set up a meeting.
In mentioning your products and services, think about your target prospect and what they’re currently experiencing in their industry. You can find that information in industry-type publications and on the Internet. What can your company do that could provide some key benefits to the target prospect? It could be increased production. It could be improved quality. It could be cost savings against their budgets. Think about what the Buyer would be interested in achieving, find out what their current goals are and focus on them. Remember, Buyer’s prefer that you take an interest in their company’s needs and will be more responsive during your cold-call.