Appropriate Person Prospecting
Recently, one of my client’s salespeople told me that he was having no luck cold-calling. I role-played with him, and his presentation was very good. That wasn’t the problem.
Doing a deeper dive, we discovered that the vast majority of the people that he contacted (if he contacted them at all) were “not interested!”
He was very frustrated in that it took him over sixty-five dials to get a decision-maker or even a decision-influencer on the phone. Sixty-four of those dials wound up in the voicemail boxes of the decision-makers.
There is no shortage of whitepapers, reports, et cetera circulating today that quantitatively substantiate the fact that old-fashioned cold-calling is not nearly as effective today as it once was.
I believe that, more often than not, that is due to the fact that we are talking to the inappropriate person.
If you’re calling from a purchased list, you may have purchased the correct title but you may not reach the appropriate person.
In other words, if you are targeting, let’s say, the Vice President of Engineering in a particular company, calling him/her directly may be a complete waste of your time.
Although, based on your experience, the majority of your existing agreements were signed by someone with the title of VP of Engineering, that doesn’t translate into an absolute fact for 100% of your prospects.
So, instead of calling an account and pitching your product, which opens the door almost immediately for the customer to say “not interested!”, I feel that it is far more civil, far less confrontational and far more effective to utilize what I refer to as the appropriate person technique.
The appropriate person technique literally starts with a request to talk to the appropriate person.
Your phone call should start with a phrase that sounds like this: “Hi, I’m calling to inquire as to whether or not you’re the appropriate person to evaluate our Gizmo 98. If you are not the appropriate person, who would you suggest I talk to?”
By approaching your customers with this tactic, you are coming across far less confrontational and far less like the classic, late-night infomercial, TV pitching salesperson.
It’s an old cliché, but you have to earn the right to get the customer to talk to you.
Four Step Process
There’s a four-step process that has been proven many times over to effectively get you in touch with customers.
The first step is to interrupt them. The appropriate person script is a very good interruption because it is very difficult, if not grammatically impossible, for the listener to say that they aren’t interested.
After all, you didn’t ask if they were interested; you asked if they were the appropriate person.
The second step of an effective prospecting campaign is to engage the prospect. This would be a lengthier phone call and/or a series of emails and/or (if we’re extremely lucky) a face-to-face meeting.
During the engagement phase, you have to bring out the pain or problems that your company’s services or products solve; and it’s useful, at this step of the process, to have some case stories to illustrate what you’ve done for other companies.
The third step is to educate. Please note: This and all of these steps can be accomplished in one phone call. Although that is a rarity, it does happen; and the frequency of that occurring is dependent on what you sell, who you sell it to, and how the market views and values your offer.
In the educate phase, it’s easiest to educate customers by having a portfolio of case stories which you can relate.
If you’ll recall back in anthropology class, we humans have educated each other for thousands of years with stories. Story-based education precedes all other forms of education.
The fourth and the final phase of your process should contain an offer which, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, will “sell” the prospect on meeting with you and/or will position you to have a follow-up call.
Try the appropriate person strategy, and I am confident that your success rate will go up significantly.
It’s less confrontational, more effective and, candidly, it positions you as a professional where other techniques may not or do not accomplish that.