In my experience, business-to-business sales people who don’t cold call will fail sooner or later. They also work twice as hard as they need to, and for less money.
All the truly successful salespeople I’ve ever met target and cold call specific customers they want to win.
Here’s one example.
Alan is a top-ten achiever and has sold business-to-business for an international IT company for over twelve years. He specifically targets and cold calls prospects that are not price sensitive, stay loyal and are a good match to his products. (A good match means happy customers that remain loyal.) These are the hardest customers to win initially, but subsequent upgrades and repeat sales over many years secures his future income. Over 70% of next year’s income, already in the bag.
He rejects most of the leads and inquiries generated by his company’s marketing activities because they are from poor quality customers that shop around and steal his time.
The problem with B2B selling is this. Most markets have three types of customer:
- The first are loyal and profitable, and rarely change supplier. They hardly ever respond to adverts, mailers or e-shots. They have no reason to search for you on the web or visit your trade stand or events. In fact, they’re happy just as they are. The only effective way to win them is through targeted cold calling.
- The second type of customer is bad or toxic. There is little loyalty here. They shop around for the lowest price and are a nightmare to serve. Either way, they are short lived and a liability. Unfortunately, bad customers generate most of the leads and inquiries that less successful salespeople feed on; because they will not cold call.
- The third is somewhere in between the good and bad. They still have value. Go after them when the good customers aren’t biting and your prospect list is a bit thin.
In my opinion, what is the answer?
- Target the decision maker. (Functional staff can’t authorise a change of supplier.)
- When you cold call, don’t sell your products or services. They’re not interested. Give prospects a reason to meet you. Explain how you have helped your own customers to improve their businesses or achieve a business advantage. Name a customer or two to build relevancy and credibility. Curiosity makes them listen. The sales team of a national UK fuel supplier, selling business-to-business, increased their appointments with decision makers by three hundred percent, simply by doing this.
- If they won’t see you at first, ask them if you can mail them monthly case studies or articles. Make sure these are of value to them or they won’t read them. (This is a job for marketing.)
Don’t advertise your products or services; they’ll bin your mailer! And post it, don’t email.
- After a few months of mailings they will get to know and value you. When you next call they are more willing to meet. Reciprocity.