by Pablo Arroyo and Shaunda Wickham | September 1, 2020
With the advancement of technology and the ability for business owners to conduct their own research and buy online, cold calling is becoming an increasingly obsolete tactic to attract new business.
Many business owners find sales calls annoying, disruptive and that sales representatives actually do not understand the needs of their business.
For these reasons, it can be challenging for many sales representatives to make it past a gatekeeper or someone’s voicemail. In fact, according to a study conducted by TOPO, representatives must make an average of 18 calls to reach one buyer.
In order to flourish in this new era, business owners must adapt and encourage their sales teams to think outside of the cold calling box and instead focus on fostering relationships with potential buyers.
Utilize Current Client Relationships
It is important to build great relationships with current clients. If a current client feels that all of their needs are being met, customer service is exceptional and more importantly, that the product or service is valuable, this provides the potential of clients inadvertently becoming sales representatives for your company. They will tell their friends, family or those in their industry network how great it is.
Building great relationships with current clients provides comfort in encouraging them to tell their friends and even asking if they know anyone that will benefit from the product or service without it sounding like a sales pitch. They will be more willing to provide names or pass along information if the service and relationship are excellent.
Attend Community Events
For most business owners and sales representatives, attending industry networking events has become almost second nature. However, it is important to expand beyond the industry scope and start attending more community and charitable events.
Attending these events and finding commonality in giving back to the community helps build the foundation of many personal relationships. If done correctly, it can also help build business relationships.
One way to do this is by sponsoring an event. This gives exposure to all of the attendees and it may encourage them to look into the business and what it offers because the business is supporting a cause they care about.
There is potential that this avenue can backfire if utilized incorrectly. While attending the event, it is important not to use it as an opportunity to do a sales pitch on every attendee. In fact, business should not be discussed unless directly asked. Passing out business cards at a charitable event could come across as opportunistic and will have the adverse effect one is trying to accomplish.
Instead, use it as an opportunity to build actual relationships and a chance to find out how the product or service can help answer the needs of attendees. Then reach out later on and use the event as a talking point or conversation starter to further a trustworthy relationship.
Networking During COVID
During the current pandemic, when networking events and in-person contact is ill-advised, it is challenging to find new opportunities to meet and build these foundational relationships – challenging, but not impossible.
Many industry conferences have opted for a virtual platform instead of canceling altogether. Though many social opportunities have decreased, along with the opportunity for one-on-one conversations, many are still hosting virtual hangouts and happy hours. Though the chance of a one-on-one conversation is slim, the ability to build a lead list is still there.
Another way for conference attendees to associate a business name with an event is to either sponsor the event or try to become a speaker or a panelist. However, becoming a speaker or panelist is not an easy task. The business owner must first lay the groundwork of establishing itself as an industry leader. Hosting a blog on the company’s website, publishing articles in industry publications and speaking at community events are excellent ways to become an attractive candidate to the board that chooses the speakers and panelists.
After the Introductions
Now that a business owner or sales representative has made these new connections, what comes next? Like any other relationship, there needs to be a “get to know you” period. For a business relationship, this means research and more communications. Research potential clients and what their business needs are. This allows the opening to explain to them how the product or service can benefit their specific needs. The conversation needs to center around how the buyer will benefit, not the seller.
It is also important to make this a long-term relationship. The seller shouldn’t inundate the potential client with all of the information at once. Don’t expect a sale right away. Create a system that allows multiple points of contact.
Though there are still businesses that may find success in cold calling, it is gradually becoming an archaic method in this technologically progressive world. Today’s buyers want relationships and want to know specifically how a product or service can benefit them without the annoyance of incessant sales pitches. They want a relationship. Like any other relationship, it may take time, and that’s okay. Any functional relationship does not happen overnight.
Shaunda Wickham is a marketing specialist for the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida.