Customers and Prospects
As an entrepreneur, you have a lot of never-ending things on your plate, including continuing-ed. One area where you should focus some of your continuing-ed time is on developing and improving your Prospecting, particularly your Cold-Calling skills because Prospects become Customers – your source of Revenue. The ability to pick-up the phone, call someone you don’t know and pitch to them is a critical skill, especially when you’re trying to get your first 10 customers. And generally speaking, no one really enjoys cold-calling I think largely because there is so much rejection (ie “not interested”) during a cold-call. Learning how to be better at the prospecting process and having effective cold-calls can make the experience more enjoyable; it has for me. Remember, as a Founder/President/etc, no matter how great your product/service/etc is, if you’re not proficient in Prospecting for new Customers and bringing in revenue, you’re company isn’t going to survive long.
Prospect vs Customer
This may sound obvious to you, but to many people it isn’t. Prospects are not the same as Customers. Again, Prospects are not the same as Customers. While there are a number of differences between a Prospect and a Customer, here are three big ones:
- A Prospect won’t know who you or your company is. A Customer will.
- A Prospect hasn’t bought from you. A Customer has.
- A Prospect won’t have a vested interest in you or your company. A Customer will.
When you’re making cold-calls to Prospects, you need to remember you’re not talking to a Customer. You’re talking to a stranger you have no relationship with and they (initially) won’t know who you are or care who you are. The cold-call’s purpose is to start building a relationship with a Prospect and work towards converting them to a “future” Customer.
The Goal is not to make a Sale.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re in a B2B (business-to-business) company. When you’re cold-calling, you’re prospecting (or looking for) for new Customers. As such, the goal of a cold-call isn’t necessarily to “make a sale” but to qualify the prospect to see if they would be a good Customer (or not). If you make a sale on your cold-call, great, but chances are you won’t so don’t set your expectations too high. Coming from a technical (non-sales) background, I was under the belief that when I called a prospect, my goal was to get a sale during the call. And I was very wrong. After many failed cold-calls, I started doing research on how to make effective cold-calls. One of my biggest learnings was that the goal of a cold-call is to get commitment from the Prospect on the “Next Step”. Huh, what’s that?
The “Next Step”
When you’re cold-calling Prospects, you’re calling a stranger. You need to “break the ice” and get thru that first initial conversation. You’re dealing with a human being and humans seek to create relationships. So you’re goal with that first call to a Prospect is to start building a relationship. You need to get them comfortable to who you are so that you’re not a stranger to them. If you think about it from your own personal experience, getting a cold-call from a stranger who’s pitching a sale is probably going to turn you off. While it may sound like an incredible offer that’s being pitched to you, you’re probably not going to make an impulsive decision right then and there on the call.
That’s where the “Next Step” comes in. When you’re making a cold-call, don’t focus on making a sale; focus on the Next Step. Basically, you want to come to an agreement with your Prospect (who’s still not a Customer – yet) on when the two of you can talk again, either on the phone, video call or ideally, face-to-face. This Next Step is where you can focus converting your Prospect to a Customer – a topic for another blog. At the end of your cold-call, you’ll now have started to develop a relationship with a Prospect, they have some interest in what your company offers and you have a Next Step. You’re in great shape. But don’t stop with that one Prospect. Pick up the phone and call the next one!
Bonus Tips on Next Step
When you schedule the Next Step meeting, schedule it in “real-time” while you’re still on the phone with the Prospect. Most importantly, be specific about the time and day, i.e. “meet 1PM next Tuesday at Prospect’s office” because if you don’t, you risk having a lot of back and forth emails which wastes time and can delay the Next Step meeting.
Prospecting and Cold-Calling, Part 2
In the next post we’ll get a bit more tactical on creating a Cold-call script and using it with your Prospects. You’ll find that having a script will help you feel more comfortable making cold-calls. And based on my experience, you’ll also find a script will improve the effectiveness of your calls.