Dunlap Discussions: Prospecting Tips from the Pros – PART 2

We’re back at it with part two of our three-part series, Dunlap Discussions: Prospecting Tips from the Pros!

(Did you miss part one? Find it here!)

This series is intended to assist any salesperson or marketer who is tasked with prospecting. We interviewed our team of appointment setters, who have an average of 15+ years of experience in the industry, to learn their top tips and advice for prospecting, getting through to the decision maker, and scheduling appointments.

Last week we kicked off the series with tips on 1) preparing to make prospecting calls and 2) connecting with the decision maker. This week, we are diving into the next two phases of a prospecting conversation – speaking with the decision maker and asking for an appointment.

Speaking with the decision maker:

You’ve gotten through the gatekeeper and now you’ve found yourself on the phone with the decision maker (woohoo!). Now what do you do?

Three tips from the Dunlap Marketing team are:

  • Be confident, professional, polite, and brief
  • Know your material
  • Qualify to make sure there’s a fit/need

Remember that first impression we talked about last week? Well, now that the call has been transferred to the decision maker, you’re now back at square one. When speaking with the decision maker, be professional and quickly get to the point. Be confident with the material and message you’re presenting (practice, practice, practice). And before moving too deep into the conversation, make sure there is a need for what you’re calling about. This will save both you and the decision maker time!

Asking for an appointment:

You’ve presented the information to the decision maker confidently and concisely. You have qualified to verify a need or a fit. Next up, it’s time to ask for the appointment.

Some primary suggestions from the team at Dunlap Marketing are:

  • Ask for the appointment by suggesting a date/time
  • Have a positive mindset

Help the decision maker help you. By asking an open-ended question such as “when can we schedule an appointment”, you might inadvertently turn the decision maker away by putting him/her in a situation where he/she has to suggest the date and time. Instead of this approach, narrow the options and offer up one or two dates and time frames.

And of course, have a positive mindset. Believe that you are capable of setting this appointment – because you are!

We’ll be back next week to wrap up this series by talking about closing the call and other must-have tips from our team!

Decision Maker VS. Decision Influencer – Who Do You Talk To?

Teleprospecting for New Business Opportunities

The epitome of early-stage business development is making your very first teleprospecting calls into a new prospect list.  As you have likely experienced with B2B business development, at the beginning of the nurturing process, it’s highly unlikely to make a sale during your first few interactions with a prospect. Sure, “right place at the right time” scenarios happen, but not frequently. However, an outcome that is more likely to occur is identifying companies that will soon be in the market for your services. Because of this, it is wise to set your expectations as “getting the sales process started” when engaging in early-stage business development.

A conversation we have almost every time we build a campaign for a client is:

Who do we need to talk to?

Most commonly, our clients’ response is:

The decision-maker!

But, is this always the best approach for getting your sales process started? Our question then becomes:

Is it realistic to get the decision maker on the phone?

Usually at this point, our clients start scratching their heads…

Typically, decision makers are difficult people to get on the phone – as a general rule of thumb, the larger the company, the more difficult it is to reach the decision maker. If the objective of your cold calling efforts is to get the sales process started, and if a mid to long-term sales process is common, why not increase your likelihood of having a productive conversation and broaden your reach to include decision influencers.  These are people who may not be directly involved with the decision making, but are knowledgeable about future plans, and likely have a measurable contribution to the future decision.

In our experience, decision influencers are more willing to take phone calls and are more available to offer insight into the company’s future plans.  Because this is early-stage business development, a major goal in a conversation is to identify future purchasing plans.  It’s too early in the process to ask for a decision to be made – you are simply trying to determine the timing of future plans. 

We use this analogy frequently inside our office:

If you are on a first date with someone, is it normal to talk about wedding plans, or should you spend time getting to know each other?  Should you learn what the likes and dislikes are of the other person?  Should you learn about their needs? 

Over time, as you nurture a relationship, you then, start talking about the serious topic of a long-term commitment.

It is perfectly acceptable to start building a relationship with the decision influencer.  During this journey, you will be able to learn more about the likes and dislikes of the company, and what the important elements are that you can build your sales strategy around.  There is a lot to be learned, but do not lose sight that you still need to ultimately connect with the decision maker.  If you are successful at building trust with the decision influencer, chances are, they will introduce you to the decision maker.

In summary, this approach is most beneficial when your target prospects are large companies with layers of people.  If you are cold calling into small and mid-sized companies, keep working to connect with decision makers as well.

7 Steps to Implementing a Smart Calling Program

What is Smart Calling?

A smart calling program incorporates the discipline of making prospecting sales calls with a plan. It’s having a targeted approach and a game plan that will guide you to a desired outcome.

A smart calling program has a plan that utilizes a known process that you can trust.

7 Steps to Your Smart Calling Program

The following are seven steps, developed by our team, that you and your team can follow as you prepare your own smart calling program:

  1. Data Records: clearly identify the businesses you want to call 
    • Common starting points are utilizing either a current customer list or an idle customer list
    • If you’re building a fresh list, common list-building criteria are: 
      • Specific industry categories (such as SIC codes)
      • Specific company sizes (revenue and/or employee count)
      • Defined geography
  2. Identify the Decision Maker: know who the right person is you want to talk with; if this information is not available to you, know the proper title and/or department – in today’s environment, it’s also helpful to find out if this person is working in the office or remotely
  3. Messaging: prepare a message that is brief, quickly gets to the reason for your phone call, asks good qualifying questions, asks about current satisfaction levels, and defines their future plans
  4. Utilize Technology: have a data-capture tool, such as a CRM, that allows you to efficiently document the valuable information you gather, a tool that allows you to define and schedule next steps, and might allow you to send follow up emails
  5. Train: be properly skilled to make the phone calls, roll play, and practice.  Record your live calls and listen to them and have peers listen to them  
    • If you are new to making business calls, don’t feel like you must be an expert – you do not.  Prepare yourself to answer basic questions, and this will get you much further than you think.  Remember, these calls are the beginning of the sales cycle, not the end
  6. Schedule: develop a schedule for making your smart calls and enter these times in your calendar. Create a schedule that is reasonable and achievable, then follow your plan and be patient
  7. Commit: trust your plan. If you do the work, you will start to see the results

If you follow the above steps, you will be implementing a smart calling program with a smart plan – a plan that is targeted specifically to a group of companies, some of which might become your future customers. There are common industry phrases that describe this type of work such as cold calling, telemarketing, teleprospecting, or lead generation. No matter what you call it, when it’s done properly, it is an excellent way to fill your pipeline with qualified prospect opportunities.

We live in odd times right now.  Normalcy is something that people are looking for, an example of this is human-to-human conversation.  With all of the bells and whistles that can come with sales and marketing, sometimes the simplest thing to do is call and have a conversation.

Dunlap Marketing has been in the business of building and conducting smart calling programs since 1996. Over the years, we have developed a process that we utilize with every client we serve. For more information on our programs, email Mike at miked@dunlapmarketing.com.  

How To Identify Your Target Market With Three Simple Data Points

Part 2

As B2B marketers, business developers, and salespeople, it’s our responsibility to keep the sales pipeline full of prospects. This is no easy feat and takes a lot of hard work. When the flow of word-of-mouth leads and referrals runs dry, where do you go? How do you define your target market and find businesses that can become your future prospects?

Last week, we discussed the two ways to approach this question – the method that will be the best fit for your company depends on your starting point.

  • Starting Point #1: You have a list of current and/or past customers AND you want to continue selling to customers who are similar.
  • Starting Point #2: You are starting from scratch. This means, you do not have a list of current and/or past customers OR you have a list, but you do not want to reach this group, instead, you want to target a new segment.

If Starting Point #1 sounds like a fit for you, go back and read this post.

Maybe you’re just starting out. Or maybe your goal is to grow by breaking into a new segment. If so, Option 2 is for you. Arguably, this route can feel very intimidating. But, if you apply the same three data points we reviewed last week, geography, industry, and size, you can easily conquer identifying your target market.

Here’s how to use geography, industry, and size when you’re starting from scratch.

  1. Geography – can be defined by state, city, county, zip code, or even neighborhood
    • When you’re starting with a clean slate, it is easy to think “everyone is my prospect”. And while that might be the case, it is not an attainable lead generation tactic. You need to have a starting point, or an “A List”. If you put your blinders on and start thinking realistically, geographically, where will your first buyers come from? Often, they come from your own backyard – or neighborhood, county, city, state, etc.
  2. Industry
    • Start by filtering out industries you know you do not want to work inside of – examples include competitors and non-fits. For example, if you’re a business banker, you would want to filter out other banks.
    • Next, brainstorm the industries that are good-fits. This is where you’ll start finding your target industries. For example, if you sell industrial kitchen equipment, you will want to include industries such as restaurants, hotels, senior living facilities, hospitals, etc.
  3. Size – can be defined by employee count, revenue ranges, or physical square-footage
    • This is where you begin zeroing in and really start identifying your target market. There are multiple ways to define the size of a company – depending on your product or service, we suggest using either employee count, annualized revenue, or square-footage – sometimes, a combination of the three. For example, if you sell on-site fueling services, there’s probably a minimum number of gallons you want to fill on each site – you can use employee count to gauge the number of cars on site, which will give you an approximate number of gallons. Or, if you’re a commercial roofer, you would look at square-footage to determine buildings that have roofs that are in the size-range you want to do business with.

Whether you’re starting from scratch or have hundreds of existing customers, you can identify your target market. By using geography, industry, and size, you will be well on your way to your next selling opportunity!