As consultants we must scale that seemingly insurmountable mountain called ‘business development’ at some stage in our careers, including making cold calls.
Most people dread the infamous ‘cold call’ even to someone they already know. In fact most people find a more comfortable approach to sales is via email or through an introduction.
I’m not a salesman save for a good three years of a not so lengthy career where I worked in a role that required cold calling. For this I was thrust into learning a great deal about cold calling and really fast. The outcome was I learnt that there was nothing really scary in it. It was a realisation that it’s really just about relationships.
The first thing you should do after making a sale is call your hardest client."
I like this quote because it illustrates that it's all about attitude and that person at the end of the line will hear the confidence in your voice. Confidence builds trust which is a cornerstone element of a new relationship.
Here are five key things I’ve picked up to be effective at business development:
1. People like to talk about themselves and their work In the context of work we are very often dealing with complex situations. We all enjoy time out from that to offload and share a problem. Many work problems are solved just by verbalising the problem. Granted there is no immediate ‘sale’ in this discussion but stepping back and taking a longer term view of the relationship may achieve a better overall result for both parties.
2. Most people appreciate that a meeting is about sales but happy to leave it as an elephant in the room You don’t need to overtly sell anything as all parties in the room know that this is the underlying premise. A good place to start is to relax and not try too hard. Your aim should be to build trust and confidence with the client.
3. Things happen at right angles to your plan
Your plan and reality are two different things. The analogy to the Honey Bee and the concept of the procession is applied here. In short a honey bee collects nectar for the queen bee to feed and procreate with a goal of securing the long term validity of the hive. What it’s actually doing is cross pollinating flowers but it just doesn’t know it. In the context of Business Development knowing your processionary impact is a powerful thing. Building sound and trusting relationships is what you are doing but at right angles to that is what you are actually after.
4. Get to know what fires your client triggers Understanding what your potential new client wants is important. Conduct research and speak to your professional colleagues to gain a better understanding of what your client needs. Ask your clientwhat their triggers are.
5. Aim for a 'like' Business development is all about people and relationships. Everyone has a different way of going about building a relationship and there is no one best way. People like working with people they like being around.
Cold calling can be quite nerve wrecking and if we don’t confront that, they stack up to become an insurmountable mountain. Perhaps seeing the cold call as a means to an end and an unavoidable dread is the wrong way of looking at it. Cold calling is just an opportunity to start on the right foot with a new business relationship and is the beginning of a process.
Taking it on with confidence and enthusiasm shows the potential client how you as a person conduct business relationships. Don’t be too hard on yourself in a cold call. The things I mention above are things we do naturally in the course of any relationship so a cold call is just a confronting element of the same process. At the end of the day, it’s just you making the call that knows if things are not quite right. The person on the other end just thinks it’s a phone call.