Differentiate – In person

In this time of surging social networking, our (thankfully) e-equipped world easily, and all too readily, inundates everyone with a relentless torrent of marketing communications. On top of which businesses are constantly exhorted to ‘do more’ with targeted on-line advertising, Tweets, Facebook and the like. A kind of ‘get digital or get wiped-out’ notion is spooking the herd.

Obviously, some of this works (Google and Facebook seem to be making money!) but as in all things, too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. Getting your message through the cacophony of ‘targeted’ messages is increasingly difficult. Or is it?

Like all sales folk, I am aware that there are times when I must push myself into a ‘discomfort zone’ – and strangely mine currently presents as ‘Cold-calling’. I say this is strange because I have been immensely successful with cold-calls – I once even sold an IBM mainframe and associated disk and print hardware in a 48 hour sales cycle that started with a cold call to talk about CCTV! I must admit that in my early career I did at first fear the cold call (issues with rejection?) but a six month stint door-to-door selling “Yellow Pages” to the nascent business markets of the United Arab Emirates in the 80’s soon got me over that. It turned out that I really enjoyed the risk/uncertainty (= excitement) that came with the unknowns of cold-calling – I guess it’s as close as I get to sky-diving.

Now, it also turns out that the vast majority of salesfolk are similarly fearful or dismissive of the cold call – perhaps believing that it doesn’t apply to their market or brand proposition, or that it smacks of desperation, or is somehow ‘low rent’. Possibly their marketing department have oversold themselves – promising an endless stream of qualified leads. Whatever the cause, too many sales folk are willing to rely on others, or on the internet, to do their prospecting.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my early career was in Advertising – and one of many lessons I learned there was to “eat your own dog-food” – i.e. consume what you sell or do what you tell others to do. To that end, and in order to differentiate and get my message through, I am about to embark on a cold-calling campaign – where I will seek to meet first with the target Sales Manager’s Personal Assistant. I will apply my ‘One Minute More‘ techniques to establish a human connection with same, and seek their assistance in getting my message to their boss. If I get it right (and I’m bound to get it right sometimes) they will personally carry my message to their boss, and ensure it gets that person’s attention (added to which it will probably carry the PA’s recommendation, which is a powerful influencing factor in my experience).

Now you may well ask why have I told you this? Surely the secret is now out and others will be able to steal my initiative and make the calls before me? The truth is that, in part, making it public like this will force me into going through with it (a bit like committing to a weight loss program) and the other aspect (and the primary purpose of this blog) is that I want readers to think about selling, all aspects of selling – and surely getting the initial attention of your prospect is the single most critical aspect of the sale, is it not?

Published by Malcolm Duffield

Malcolm Duffield provides advanced high-level sales coaching, ‘basic sales training’ and sales training for pre-sales and post-sales engineering staff. In ways markedly different to the typical classroom lecture approach. Like the game of ‘Go’ – selling is strategically complex, nuanced and more dependent on intuition than process. Sales – process alone is no guarantee of success because customers are humans, are fiendishly complex, intuitive and need to be met on their terms. Humans need to interact rather than merely transact. They have many needs, wants and aspirations – not all clearly stated. Having a proposal that is a good fit to the stated need is a start. Having a price that’s in the ball park will also help – but what will invariably make the difference between success and failure will be our ability to understand, connect with and provide value to the customer as a person. Focused primarily on IT sales, where solution and value, but above all human connection through respect, integrity and empathy, have to be brought together to win high-value deals - it would appear that other 'capital acquisitions' benefit from a similar approach. I have 30 years experience in such sales, and know what works and what doesn't work.