Guest Blog by Nigel Edelshain, Sales 2.0

Red-highlighted person on squareWhy do sales people use “plan D” as the default when cold calling?

As you may also know I’ve come up with this approach called “Social Calling” that works so much better than traditional cold calling.

I came up with this approach not because I found some tablets hanging out on a hill in Northern New Jersey but because I spent years making thousands of ineffective cold calls. Then I started a telesales firm and had my team make tens of thousands of ineffective cold calls.

After a while I thought “you know there might actually be a better way to do this”. So I started doing what a scientist/engineer would do (or at least the non-brilliant ones, I’m not Einstein you know) I observed. And I read just about anything I could find.

And then finally I drew a framework on a napkin (or was it a tissue? I’m not sure now.)

After that creative moment I went back to being an engineer and started testing my hypothesis. Crazy thing it actually seemed to work (and still does).

The framework on the napkin had three key elements:

  1. Know the right companies and people to call
  2. Call at the right time
  3. Use relationships to get you referred in the door

So here’s the thing about sales people using Plan D. Most sales people don’t use ANY of these.

Know Who to Call

Most of the time sales people seem to know roughly what companies to call. “My territory is mid-sized manufacturing firms in New England”. OK, cool. Good start, chief! But then they fall down as early as Step 2.

When I ask them “who do you call?” The IT sales person says “the CIO.” “How’s that working out for you?” I ask. He says “guy never picks up his phone. I’ve called him 13 times in the last two months and never got hold of him. I think I’ll call him at 6.30 am before his assistant gets in.” Then I ask, “Who else have you called?” He answers, “No one.”

Here’s problem #1. Research clearly shows multiple people are involved in the buying process—even in small companies. You don’t have to limit yourself to calling one title. Your first goal is to find out what is going on over there. So find a human to talk to. They don’t have to be the decision-maker. They just have to know how the company buys cardboard pressing machines (or whatever you sell).

Timing is Almost Everything

Change. Research by my friend Craig Elias shows calling buyers who have experienced relevant trigger events is five times more effective than “boiling the ocean.”

Now how many sales people actually use trigger events? Maybe a few read the paper and congratulate people on their new job but in general the execution on this is rubbish.

Here’s my thing: Find out what trigger events affect your prospects and make contact shortly after one of these events happens.

Example: In one of our clients a new senior VP came in and vendors there changed faster than people going through the subway turnstiles at Grand Central. Good time to call in there? You’re not joking, sport!

Referrals Are Still Great

And finally, why oh why do we sales people not want to use relationships?

There’s a whole industry out there telling you 80% of people get their jobs by networking. Networking is a code word for using relationships (you think I invented all this stuff from scratch?) You think selling yourself is different to selling a service? Nope! It’s just harder for most people due to our hang-ups… but not different.

Getting referred in is always hugely more successful than calling out of the “blue yonder”. It always has been. Probably always will be.

What’s wicked awesome is now there are tools that tell us who-knows-who. They show us the “social graph.” Now we can sit on our bottoms at our desks and find a path to our prospect through people we know. Boy, are we spoiled.

Plan D for Me?

So given all this stuff is teed up on a plate for us, why do we skip Plan A, B & C and go straight to Plan D?

Why do we cold call with no clue about who we’re calling, no change in their environment and as a complete stranger?

Clearly, referral work. Why waste your time (and theirs)?

Let me know, chaps.

Nigel Edelshain, Sales 2.0: Nigel Edelshain is CEO of Sales 2.0. Companies that work with Sales 2.0 get radically superior sales results by utilizing Web 2.0 and social media in their sales process. Clients are companies in sales-intensive industries such as IT services, insurance, software, printing, and telecommunications.