From cold calling to sales meetings: How to manage your outbound B2B sales prospects
Going to a sales meeting with a new prospect that you or one of your inside sales reps (ISRs) have uncovered through cold calling or online research, can be daunting. They’re not like the prospects you who send an email enquiry or who phone in to ask about your services, so your meeting strategy has to be different.
For a start, prospects who phone or email you have looked at your website and have a defined need for your services, so they are already interested in buying from you. Prospects generated by cold calling aren‘t at this stage yet. They weren’t looking for your company or your services when they were cold called, so you can’t go into the meeting and open the conversation by asking how you can help them. They’ll probably just say “I don’t know… you called me”!
So how do you open and run sales meetings with prospects generated from cold calls?
First of all, you need to do your research before the meeting, on the prospect, their role in the organisation and the company they work for. Use LinkedIn to find out what the prospect does and their responsibilities, as well as to understand their work history – this can provide useful talking points to break the ice and build rapport at the beginning of the meeting.
Next look at the company’s website to find out what they do and start to flesh out the ways that your product or service could help them. Make notes and build a list of questions that you can refer to and ask in your meeting. Make sure that you include ways that your product/service can help not just the company, but also how it can help the prospect personally. Not all the areas or questions on your list will turn out to be valid, but you want to have a comprehensive list of possibilities and options to work through in your discussions. If the sales lead was generated by a cold call and your ISR has gathered information about the current situation and pain points for the prospect, make sure you think about how you could address these issues for the prospect and add these issues and questions to your list too.
Now build an agenda for the meeting. This should look something like this:
1. Quick overview of who you are and how you help companies like the prospect’s
2. Your understanding of the current situation at the prospect’s company (based on information from your ISR and your own research)
4. Wrap up and next steps
When you get to the meeting, exactly how this will run will depend on the person you are meeting with and whether you are meeting them online or face to face. Regardless of whether you meet online or face to face, the first step is to build rapport. You will probably find that you need to do this faster for online meetings, as you don’t have the added talk time that occurs as you walk into the prospect’s office, meet them, shake their hand and sit down. Remember that mirroring is important here too, so if you have someone who is chatty, make the most of this – but don’t let the meeting agenda get away from you. If your prospect is abrupt, respect their time and get down to business faster.
Once you get through the introductions and rapport building, it is time to get into the meeting proper. This is the part that some salespeople find hardest, but it is just a question of how you start. As I said earlier, you can’t start by asking “how can I help you?”, nor should you launch into a long monologue about you and your company. Instead, tell them your agenda for the meeting and then tell them a little about you and your services (a short elevator pitch, if you like). You can also ask them if they had heard about you prior to receiving the call from your ISR.
Then, if your ISR has gathered useful information about the prospect on their initial call with them, start by saying “I know you spoke to [NAME] a few days ago and she said that you are…”, outlining their current situation and focussing on any pain points that your ISR uncovered on their call.
If you’re not sure of the details of that conversation, change your approach and say something like “I know you spoke with [NAME] a few days ago and he has given me a broad overview of that discussion, but I thought I’d start by asking you about what it was in that conversation that piqued your interest in us?”
This question can go one of two ways – either the prospect will open up and tell you all about their situation, or they will give you a non-answer that you can’t do much with. With this latter outcome, put your research into play and let the prospect know what you have understood about them and their company.
Pause now and confirm that your understanding of them and their situation is correct and then move into the discovery section of the meeting. Work from the list of questions that you developed prior to the meeting, skipping those that aren’t relevant and digging further into those that are. Try to keep your questions open where possible, starting broad and focusing in as you uncover pain points.
Make sure that you don’t let this become an interrogation and remember that it is ok to discuss possible solutions that you could provide during this section. Discovery is not a one-way street with you asking questions and giving nothing back until you get to the end of your list. The best discovery sessions are a discussion with you presenting possible solutions as each opportunity presents itself, seeing if your solutions fit and helping the prospect to see how you can work with them.
The reason it is so important that you prepare a list of questions in advance of the meeting is that prospects are unpredictable. The issues that you expect to be the key ones turn out not to be, and the real issues turn out to be something else entirely. Without preparing a list of questions in advance, it is likely that you’ll be thrown by negative responses to those issues you thought would be important to them. With a pre-prepared list, though, you can keep digging into other areas until you uncover the real issues that the company and prospect are facing.
Once you’ve done all of this, it will be clear whether you can help the prospect or not and you can move to wrap up the meeting and agree on the next steps.
If you have found meeting with sales prospects generated from cold calls to be difficult, follow this process and you will quickly find you are having great sales meetings every time and that meeting with cold call prospects becomes something you look forward to.
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