Jeannie Walters

B2B Sales? Do Your Homework!

By: Jeannie Walters | June 24, 2013 | 

B2B Sales CallsGood salespeople are out there.

They are the ones who do their homework, understand the prospect, and actually listen.

But they don’t seem to be the ones calling me.

The ones calling me are the ones who not only have no idea who I am, but they say things such as “enterprise solutions” about five seconds after I answer the phone.

Solutions to WHAT, exactly? And I’m not alone.

A client recently lamented about how much time gets wasted with bad B2B sales calls. Another friend with a new position at a large, well-known company said he couldn’t believe the crazy calls he’s getting.

It’s Not Easy Calling Strangers

Business development is a difficult job, but that’s no excuse. It’s time to expect more from those making these calls.

My company, 360Connext, and I both have a fairly decent social media presence. Our website is out there, too. It would take about 10 seconds to look these up and determine if we are even remotely close to the bulls eye of the target market. Lately, however, I’ve been receiving calls about tools to better manage my call center (don’t have one, never have); enterprise IT department overhead (what IT department?); and my favorite – someone pitched me to hire a customer service speaker for my organization. If I needed one, I’m pretty sure I’d hire me first.

I Know Where Salespeople Get Information

It’s my mistake for attending or presenting at conferences or joining professional membership organizations. They got the list! And that’s all they need to start calling. I believe as a presenter, attendee, or member on a list, we should expect our information will be respected.

Have you ever bought anything from the hard-driving, never-comes-up-for-air sales pitch? I sure haven’t. B2B sales is still about people. If I don’t feel you care one iota about me, then I’ll find someone who does.

Here is a quick list of ways salespeople could do a better job with this type of calling:

  1. Look up the prospect first. The Internet is full of good stuff such as company websites, LinkedIn profiles, and Twitter feeds. Find out if this prospect is who you think they are. If not, move along. Fish where the fish are.
  2. Ask yourself, what problem are you solving? Before launching into your pitch, find out if your prospect feels that pain.
  3. Respect that it’s an intrusion. Don’t launch into a five minute speech the minute the phone is answered.
  4. LISTEN. Ask questions.
  5. Customize the follow-up email. Add a detail or two about the conversation and for goodness sake, spell the names correctly! Triple check if you need to.

None of these ideas are new or even very savvy. There are many experts in B2B sales who may advise differently. My lens, though, is about how to have fewer ruined days.

If salespeople respected the process and the person a bit more, I’d bet we’d all have better days. Don’t you think it’s time to ditch the cold call and create relationships instead?

About Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the Chief Customer Experience Investigator™ and founder of 360Connext, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in the cornerstones of customer experience: customer engagement, employee engagement and connections like social media. 360Connext serves mid-market companies and larger by helping them evaluate their true customer experience. The evaluations always lead to improvements which then lead to results like increased online conversions or loyalty.

  • There’s nothing I dislike more than receiving cold calls… and they’re never targeted! Typically, the person on the other end is reading from a script and like you said in your post, they launch into a speech (I don’t give them more than 10 seconds, let alone five minutes) and don’t listen. Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call. Maybe we should read your blog post to the next telemarketer who calls. 😉

    • EdenSpodek For all the do not call lists and all the hatred against telemarketing, it continues to be used because it does work. 
      The best telemarketing call I ever received came around 1998. They called my home and started their spiel about selling me a subscription to the local newspaper. I informed them I was managing editor of said paper, and after a moment of silence, the telemarketer said, “Well, nobody’s used that one on me. I’ll let you off the hook,” and hung up the phone.  🙂

    • EdenSpodek That would be SO FUNNY! Just launch into reading this! LOL!

      • jeanniecw ClayMorgan LOL! Agreed! Telemarketing works like email spam. Most people hate both but enough people respond to justify their annoyance. Unfortunately, to Jeannie and Gini’s points, telemarketing is very time consuming and there are more efficient ways to drive sales.

  • John_Trader1

    Excellent post Jeannie. I’ve been preaching this message for quite some time and still remain puzzled why there are so many B2B salespeople who are terrible at building relationships and ringing the bell of relevance. One thing that always sticks in my craw is when I get these B2B calls and the salesperson calls me “boss” or “bud.” The last time I checked, I busted my tail at achieving an undergrad and graduate degree and worked very hard to get where I am in my career. The least you can do is have the courtesy of calling me by my name and not refer to me like you would one of your buddies at happy hour.

    • John_Trader1 You bet, chap.

      • John_Trader1

        jasonkonopinski I like “chap,” hadn’t heard of that one. When someone refers to me as “boss,” “chief,” or “bud” I always repond by calling them “slugger.” They don’t seem to like that too much but it proves my point.

        • John_Trader1 jasonkonopinski LOL! We had a client who called one of our young male account managers “Champ” whenever he saw him. 🙂

    • John_Trader1 Great point, Sport.

      • John_Trader1

        Love it!

  • briancrouch

    Too many sales orgs allow the lead generation process to be serparate from the biz dev or professional sales rep. How many of your calls might have been from lead gen cold-calling companies that were hired as outsourced lead providers? A horrible way to approach the first step in a relationship, as you point out

    • briancrouch I agree!

      • briancrouch

        jeanniecw Aaand, that will teach me to comment via small phone screen. Didn’t even see that typo.

  • Amen.

  • susancellura

    I completely believe in creating relationships! The most successful sales people I know are the ones who build a relationship by getting to know the client. From old-timers who carried customer files in their car and would refresh themselves by reading the notes before the meeting to today’s “always on call due to technology” sales people, there is a common denominator. When I listen to them on the phone with a client, half, if not most of, the conversation is about life updates. The business portion is short and to the point.

    • susancellura Great point about relating to someone’s real life, not just business. Our favorite people care about US.

  • “If I needed one, I’m pretty sure I’d hire me first.” LOL! The curious thing to me is people still make cold calls. I know there are big believers in it, but I’ve never seen it work well enough that it’s worth the person’s time. There are so many other ways to approach someone – and build a relationship – today. The list you have? That can work for any type of relationship-building, not just making a phone call. But that’s the key…the relationship. It’s the same with PR people pitching their client’s stories. You can’t take the time to look up and see what we cover? Argh!

    • ginidietrich Seriously. I could hardly believe it when she said that. I asked her “do you know what I do for a living” and stumped her completely. Embarrassing for her! But honestly, it doesn’t take much. I love EdenSpodek’s idea to read this post to them when they call! I keep chuckling over the idea of that!

      • jeanniecw ginidietrich I’m glad I made you laugh Jeannie. I usually spend more time in awe of the wit expressed by several of the other Spin Sucks’ community members most of the time.
        I actually asked a salesperson not to call me about a service I was inquiring about on behalf of a client recently. As promised, I did get back to him when we were ready to progress to the next stage.

        • EdenSpodek jeanniecw ginidietrich I think you have a divide between old biz / social biz there…. old biz doesn’t understand that social biz is all about developing a relationship (not a product or service) and being there. Seinfeld has a great lesson on that!

    • ginidietrichGini, believe it or not I could probably attribute approx 50 percent of my business to cold calling (and the referrals after these people become clients) … and I still do a little of it each day. As I rely more on social / content marketing I’ll probably be doing less of it, but it still works rather well, so it’s hard for me to give it up.
      Maybe when I completely figure out LinkedIn, I will 😉
      If I look through the local business journal and see a new hire at a company I’d like to work with, I log that name, do a bit of research and make the call. It’s not perfect, but it certainly works. And there’s no secret … go right into the value your offer and try not to sound like a hack solicitor.

      • Craig McBreen “do a bit of research” – be still my heart. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I have no doubt you’re one of the good ones. ginidietrich

        • jeanniecw Craig McBreen ginidietrich Agreed – a little bit of research goes a long way and helps build relationships.

        • yvettepistorio jeanniecw Craig McBreen ginidietrich If someone says “hey, I think you might find this useful” they’ll get 1 minute from me. And if in that minute they back it up they’ll get more of my time. 
          I find when I extend the same courtesy that it works both ways.

  • There is a lot of common sense truth to this, Jeannie. I think one thing that gets lost for these enterprise-solution-peddlers is the fact that although the time and effort spent in establishing a relationship with a potential customer doesn’t immediately bring in revenue, it has a huge payoff (potentially) in the long run. As with many things in life, patience is a virtue.

    • biggreenpen The cold truth: most people you talk to aren’t ready to buy yet. Biz dev / marketing that can’t deal with that will find itself in trouble!

  • That first one is so critical. I get so many pitches about my various websites, the ones I use to demonstrate one or another aspect I’m testing. Since they are real sites that have to do with my hobbies, invariably I’ll get an offer to “fix” one of my sites from someone who has not read the huge notice, usually on the front page of the site, that explains why I’m only using one method of promotion on that site. 
    Some of those bad sales people will say “well, in those cases it didn’t matter because you weren’t going to buy no matter what.”

    To which I say, I have customers I am too small or too big to serve now that I refer to others. I frequently point my clients and customers to the great work of my colleagues. Not to mention that part of what I get paid most for is having a big mouth (or is it not being able to keep my digital mouth shut? I forget…) So, if they’d approached me correctly, I probably could send them business. 
    Head scratcher for sure. Especially when it’s for something social related, approaching in the most anti-social manner possible!

    • Tinu I’m amazed at how “cold” some of the cold calling really is. And it’s a great point about referrals – when I’m not exactly right I point business to those I trust. Thanks for adding that!

      • 🙂 My pleasure.

  • I am just about to start kicking out some sales and this was great to read. I am sure I can use all the help I can get! I am an amazing sales women, but most of my customers come in NEEDING a product I am selling. This will be the first time I am reaching out to those that may not be sure what they need.

    • Marketing Gal I really believe a *little* research can go a long way. Good luck!

  • “Business development is a difficult job, but that’s no excuse.” Harsh, but true! I needed to hear that. Great article, Jeannie!

    • devanmarie Thanks, Devan. It’s true!

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