As a sales professional, you have your pick of worthless, hyperbolic declarations on social media. You read headlines that scream, “Cold Calling is Dead.” In response, you might see an article yelling back, “Cold Emailing is Dead!” You know what? Neither is dead. Those who traffic in such outlandish claims are both wrong and likely trying to sell you something you don’t need.
All business relationships start cold. Even if you have a warm introduction, you’re still pretty cold when you first reach out to a new prospect. Having an online lead registration, a social media connection or a referral by a mutual friend is a good start, but you need to do the work to get to a successful close. Closing happens when you build a relationship. It doesn’t matter if you’re calling or emailing. If you do it wrong, you won’t create a profitable selling relationship.
The wrong approach almost always involves rushing into your sales pitch. Let’s say you get a warm intro to a prospect but then jump right into your spiel without first establishing common ground. The prospect’s guard will immediately go up. You will get dumped into the cold seller bucket with everyone else. Even with your warm intro, your chances of success will drop as if you had made a completely cold call. Care to know how to avoid this trap?
Productive sales relationships begin when you find common ground with your prospect. It can be as simple as expressing that you like the other person. As Robert B. Cialdini notes in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, perhaps the most important book you can ever read about building sales-driven relationships, liking someone is one of the most powerful mechanisms of persuasion.
Use the prospect’s personal information to establish common ground and demonstrate that you like them before you even interact with them live. For instance, you can show that you like them by taking the time to learn about them and their idiosyncrasies. If your prospect shares something about themselves in a bio or social channel, chances are they want to talk about it. Use interesting facts about people to engage with them.
Steve Richard, Co-Founder of Vorsight and one of the best sales minds I have ever encountered, talks about following what he calls the “3x3 method.” Take up to three minutes to find up to three things you can reference when you do outreach. For example, if you look at the bottom of my bio, you’ll see that I live in a 105-year-old farmhouse with my wife, three kids and seven chickens. Every once in awhile, someone will reference those chickens when they’re doing a “cold” outreach to me. I always respond. Why? Because I appreciate the interest. And, I really like my chickens, okay?
Doing research may also trigger reciprocation, another powerful tool of influence. If you discover something interesting about your prospect, he or she will be compelled to find out more about you to reciprocate. The practice will help fast-forward the relationship building. Even simply clicking “like” on people’s content shows that you care. The split second it takes to click is trivial when compared to the perceived value in the prospect’s head that you took the time to do this.
Having established common ground, you can move to engagement. Selling is a human activity. The process works best when you can relate to your prospect before he opens up about his problems and becomes receptive to your pitch. This where you can move the thermostat up on the relationship.
If you started out cold, achieving common ground warms it up a little. Now, you can turn up the heat by introducing value. As Cialdini says, “The implication is you have to go first. Give something: give information, give free samples, give a positive experience to people and they will want to give you something in return.”
In my experience, people want relationships to blossom faster than reality generally allows. It takes some time to engage with a prospect. It need not take a long time, but it isn’t an instant process. To get where you want to go, you have to be patient and take the time to provide value, over time. This demonstrates that you truly care, that you’re committed to the relationship. Investing time helps differentiate you from others who view the prospect simply as a number on a spreadsheet.
Of course, you have to be selective about investing time into prospects. You can’t spend 3 minutes researching each of 10,000 leads. You’ll achieve nothing. Good qualifying is essential to making the common ground/engagement/investment of time approach pay off. You can also automate certain parts of the process. That helps you be productive while building high-quality relationships. That’s where we can help.
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