Reema, the salesperson: (Smiling) “Hello, my name’s Reema from Axis Consulting. Is this Shailendra Gadge I am speaking with?”
Reema: “Sir, Mr. Tirupathi Srinivasan from ABC Ltd., had sent across an email introducing us” (silence)
Customer: “Oh yes, I remember now”
Reema: (Smiling more broadly now) “Yes sir, would this be a good time for us to speak? I’ll need no more than three minutes.”
Customer: “Yes sure”
Reema: “As Mr. Srinivasan would have mentioned in his email, my team and I specialize in working with organizations in the textile industry. Especially, we have identified a means of helping you see if you are spending more than what you really should on your IT infra…. (Silence for two seconds)
Reema: “For example, we helped Mr Srinivasan reduce IT costs by around 30% at ABC Ltd…”
Customer: “Oh, okay”
Reema: “Mr. Srinivasan had mentioned that you might also be interested in a discussion on this topic with us. What I wanted to know is if you would be willing to spare twenty minutes of your time for a meeting with me. I could share with you a means of identifying if you could reduce your IT costs?
Customer: Err… ahem… okay… when do you want to meet?
In the first few pre-workshop online lessons, we had spoken about why one needs to sell business outcomes to senior management, rather than interacting with people lower down the organisational hierarchy and talking about order details with them.
The question that we had then asked was how one can get through to these individuals?
We had also discussed online how every salesperson is taught that they have to be ‘consultative’ in their sales approach. The truth though is that your customer is unwilling to consult with every salesperson who asks for such a discussion. Such discussions require a degree of trust to be present before the customer can open up to the salesperson. It also requires the customer to spend a great deal of time explaining things to the salesperson. Obviously then, the customer is not going to have consultative conversations with everyone.
|1. Doesn’t know you; you are a stranger or, at best, an acquaintance (lack of familiarity)|
|2. Hasn’t recognised your worth (lack of credibility)|
|3. Hasn’t realised what’s in it for him as a result of speaking with you (lack of perceived value)|
You’ve got to earn the right to have such a conversation.
Get someone, who knows this person well, to introduce you
Proactively, seek referrals from all your existing customers
Ask every customer of yours “Who are the two/ three decision makers at other organisations that you could introduce me to?” Then, get your customer to follow through on this.
Note: Ideally, send your customers an introduction format, which your customer can simply forward to others
When you are referred by a trusted friend of the customers’, they become more amenable to meeting with you (a stranger).
Let direct contact be your last resort
Now, it is very possible that in spite of your best efforts you might be unable to get referred to a prospect, whom you wish to pitch to. In such situations alone, we recommend that it is fine to make direct contact with a customer.
Yes, not approaching a customer directly but trying to establish familiarity first is a longer process to start with. It will take you a while to obtain introductions to prospects. But, once you set the ball rolling, you will see how much easier it is to get a seat at the table with decision makers.
However, simply being a friend of a trusted friend will not necessarily get you a seat at the discussion table with your prospect. This prospect of yours has to be convinced that you will be worth his/ her time. An important part of the pre-meeting process – especially, the introduction/ referral process – has to do with establishing your credibility with the prospect.
That is the content of the next module in this program.
Here is why:
It is one thing to be able to get a seat at the table with your prospect/ customer, who finds that you are worth giving an order to, or worth requesting a proposal from. It is an altogether different matter to get a seat at the table and to get the customer to open out to you about key strategic/ operational pain points, which allow you to provide your customers with keen insights that they can use, and thus make you stand out from competition.
The former indicates a relationship, where the customer views you as “one of those many salespeople, whom we can negotiate with to get the best terms and conditions”. The latter is the relationship between a prospect and a consultant (which is what you want to be).
However, as we had seen earlier, the customer will not have consultative conversations with all and sundry that turn up at his office. You have to show that you are worth having such a conversation with.
Mentioned below are a few tips that can establish your credibility with the customer.
How to establish credibility
Get your referee to lay out your credentials. Here’s what the referral could sound like:
“Preetam (that’s you) is a storehouse of knowledge on all things cutting edge in the field of [your domain/ business vertical/ field of operation]”
A referral like the one above, especially since it is made by a friend of your prospect’s or by someone that the prospect trusts, will makes you appear to be someone worth spending time and having a consultative conversation with.
Get your knowledge and expertise out there on the world-wide-web
There’ll almost always be a time gap between your referral and getting that first meeting with your prospect. Use this time to solidify your credibility.
On your LinkedIn page, constantly publish some cutting edge posts (related to your field/ domain/ industry vertical) on how your prospective customers – the decision makers – can best meet their KPI’s. Post your referral, as you wait for the meeting, send a LinkedIn invitation to your prospect (the decision maker).
Later, email the link of the post on your LinkedIn page to this person. Add a line in your email that reads something like:
“Some ideas that you might like.
[Add the Post Link]
P.S. we could discuss a few more ideas like these when we meet”
These initiatives help build your credibility by communicating to your customer that you are someone who is well-versed with matters that occupy your prospect’s mind (how they can meet their KPI’s) and that you possess the ideas and expertise that your customer would draw upon, should he agree to having a consultative conversation with you.
While your competitors meet your prospects to hoping to receive an order, you could be the one that the customer reaches out to, in order to solve key business problems.
Ah, now isn’t that exactly what you are seeking?
Your value communication can – and we recommend that it should – begin even before you meet with your prospect for the first time. It enables you to set the stage for a consultative dialogue with your customer.
The following are some of the words/ phrases most commonly used by salespeople. However, these rarely, if ever, constitute a true value communication:
Rather, remember what ‘value’ really means:
In the interim between the referral and your first sales meeting with the prospect (or even as a standalone endeavour to get a meeting with a prospect, in the event that you have been unable to obtain a referral with this prospect), send your prospect an email containing a one hundred and forty word ‘KPI + Improvement + Proof’ message and attach a case study of the customer that you are referring to in your ‘proof’ message.
This message will go a long way in telling the customer that meeting with you will be absolutely worth his/ her time, since the content of your conversation will be about things that he/ she cares about.
Getting a seat at the table with the decision makers (not the people lower down the hierarchy) and getting these individuals to agree to have a consultative conversation with you requires you to communicate familiarity, credibility and value (FCV) in your first few interactions/ communication with your prospect.
 A message that is more than one hundred and forty five words in length might be ignored.