Thanks to everyone who’s posted a comment. It does add an element of delight to this blogging discipline – helps me remember that this is indeed a conversation, not just me blathering on ad nauseam.
One of the comments posted last week included the query “I’d be interested in your input on how much research (and time) should be invested before contacting someone.”
Good question – and not all the easy to answer. One of the Top Five phone fears is ignorance, getting caught in a conversation without enough information and then being perceived as unintelligent or foolish.
As I discussed last week, it is important to do enough research so that you know you are calling someone in your target market, someone for whom your product or service holds value. And it is important to know some basic information about their business.
For example, you don’t want to call me and talk about your human resource services for small business when, with a little bit of research, you’d know that, with the exception of my summer student, Lindsay, I’m a solopreneur.
You want to do enough research so that you feel comfortable picking up the phone. At the same time, you want to be aware that “research” is one of the biggest and most reliable methods of procrastinating on any task – from making phone calls to writing a blog!
Sometimes it is as easy as identifying a specific market segment and calling every company you can find. For example, I recently had reason to contact daycare centres in Greater HRM that offered after-school programs. The project involved very little research. Occasionally there was a website that was helpful but mostly I made my way through the yellow pages (yes, really), introduced myself and asked the question “Do you offer after-school programs for children 12 and younger?” If they said yes, I continued the conversation. If they said no, I thanked them for their time.
Other times you might need to know a bit more – like where a company operates, the extent of its product line, if it has been in the news lately. This can be gained in a quick visit to their website. By reading the first two or three paragraphs of the company’s home page, viewing their locations and then reading their most recent press releases, you should be ready to pick up the phone.
If that doesn’t sound like nearly enough research for some of you, take into consideration that the best way to connect with a prospect is to inspire a conversation. And since you don’t yet have anything in common, the best way to make that conversation happen is … to ask them about their business.
One of the best prospectors I ever worked with always said to a new contact: “Tell me more about what you do there. I know a little bit and I’d like to learn more.” It worked beautifully. Most people are very proud of their companies and want to talk about them. Now during this conversation, if he learned that his service wasn’t a fit for the contact, he’d say: “You know, based on what you’ve told me, I don’t think my service is appropriate for you right now. But I’m really glad to have learned more about you and I’ll stay in touch in case our product line is ever of value in the future.”
In fact one of the best ways to improve your prospecting calls, the conversations you have, is to listen to good radio interviews. A great journalist doesn’t do a lot of talking. They ask amazing questions and the interviewee provides all the information. Television interviews are good too, but the visual sometimes provides additional information, sometimes creates a distraction. But the radio is the same as the phone. It is all about tone of voice, choice of words and good questions.
Some of my favorites include CBC’s As It Happens, The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright or Q with Jian Ghomeshi. The questions asked are incredibly powerful. You can listen to these programs, and others, as podcasts. Click here: CBC Podcasts.
Enjoy your phonework everyone!