Cold Calling Is Dead: Proactive Prospecting is Alive and Well

by Linda P. Kester September/October 2016

Thinking back to a door-to-door sales blitz she attended as a rookie sales person, Linda Kester discusses defunct sales strategies and compares them to activities that create credibility and actually generate volume.

Linda P. Kester,
Writer & Professional Speaker,
Institute of Personal Development

It’s a Tuesday morning in June 1987. I’m two weeks into my job selling Canon photocopiers for Dupli-Fax. One hundred and forty-four of the company’s sales reps from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware have convened in a parking lot of a recently defunct Bradlees discount store in the Philadelphia suburbs.

It’s a party atmosphere. Someone starts tossing around a beach ball. Enthusiastic office equipment salespeople clad in business attire stand joking, laughing and eagerly gearing up for a sales blitz. Blitz day means that the entire sales force targets a specific geographic area to generate leads and sell equipment.

Dave Connolly, manager of the Willow Grove, PA branch, stands with a bullhorn in his hand, shouting instructions. “Pair up with someone you have never worked with before. Go into every building. Enter every office. If there’s a ‘no soliciting’ sign, ignore it.”

He tells us to lift up every rock, knock on every door and, using his signature line, shouts, “Yeah baby, close some deals!”

I was in an unfamiliar town, walking into non-receptive offices, expected to close deals without knowing anything about the customers. Working with a gruff copier rep from Delaware, we begin the blitz at the top of an eight-story office building in Jenkintown, PA. On the eighth floor, someone hollered at us. On the seventh, someone told us that we were trespassing. On the sixth floor, the security guy caught up with us, and we were escorted out.

Ice can’t get colder than that. The experience was demoralizing, yet educational. I knew there had to be a better way.

Cold calling without doing any prior investigative work is dead. However, proactive, credible prospecting is alive, well and a vital component in attaining new business. Differentiating between these two types of sales activity will result in volume transformation.

Difference Between Cold Calling and Credible Proactive Prospecting

Cold Calls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-Call Planning

The beauty of credible proactive prospecting is that with pre-call planning you uncover needs before approaching the decision-maker. If you are calling on vendors, talk to a sales rep (they are a great resource for information) and ask, “Can you help me? I’m going to be talking to your VP of Sales and I want to be sure I have the right information.”

If you are calling on a lessee, ask the gatekeeper or another employee that you found through research, “So I’m better prepared when I talk to your CFO, can you answer a couple of questions?”

Next, obtain the answers to qualifying questions like:

  • What kind of financing are you currently using?
  • What kind of equipment do you need to grow business?
  • What does your company specialize in?
  • How are decisions about leasing made?\
  • What is the length of your sales cycle?
  • Do you include leasing quotes on your proposals?
  • Do you sell used equipment?
  • What is the average dollar amount of the company’s sales?
  • How many sales people do you have?
  • Which manufacturers do you represent?
  • When was the last time one of your applications was declined?
  • Any upcoming plans to move or open another office?

Just before ending the call, ask one more question regarding something they shared with you, such as, “You said you are using Resource Capital, do you like them? Do you ever use anyone else?” Doing this demonstrates you value their opinion and may compel this connection to share more valuable information.

Meeting with the decision-maker after you have uncovered this information shows that you did your homework and you highly regard their business. You position yourself as an expert advisor, not an annoying interruption.

Call Reluctance

Some leasing sales reps want to do everything except prospect. Choosing this article’s title was risky because reps experiencing call reluctance will read the headline and think, “Woo-hoo!”

The Sales 2.0 movement is trying to convince us that email campaigns, LinkedIn, Twitter, website analytics and blog posts alone will make lessees run to your front door with their first and last payment in hand. This is hogwash. Those tools work in conjunction with consistent, credible outbound sales calls.

Selling has changed. Lessees and vendors have more power. They can research finance companies before you call. Acknowledge this power shift. Customers need a problem solver, not an information provider. As a leasing professional, you understand their problems — make sure the customer is aware of this.

Social selling will not produce enough activity to meet your volume goals. You still have to pick up the phone to generate and solidify new lessee and vendor relationships by truly understanding their business and offering solutions that make their lives better.

Unfortunately, many proficient reps avoid picking up the phone. Here are some of the common reasons for call reluctance and action steps to extricate it:

1. Procrastination

  • Tell yourself, “You know you’re just putting this off. Take the time right now and prospect for 30 minutes without interruption.”
  • Knowledge isn’t power unless it’s put into action.
  • It’s not about what you know; it’s about what you do.

2. Wrong Target Prospects

  • Do your existing leads provide a high probability of generating volume? Have a strategy session and ensure that your targets are focused on industries with growth opportunities.

3. Confused Message

  • Are you clearly articulating the benefits of your leasing company? Write down the value and resources you provide.

4. Fear/Passive/Intimidated

  • Think: “I choose to do this. I am a person of action.”
  • Envision how good you will feel when you achieve your goal. Think, “Opportunities are everywhere. Finding new clients is deeply satisfying. I enjoy building long-term relationships with vendors and lessees.”

5. Thinking they are too busy

  • Block time to prospect every day.
  • Success comes from a systematic approach and a constant swarming offense that includes telephone calls, meetings, emails and social media.
  • Being busy doesn’t mean that you are being productive.

Objectives

Sales activities drive sales objectives, which drive business results. Remember, you are not cold calling. You are pursuing the right people with opportunities to help them grow their businesses and preserve their lines of credit.

Once you complete your pre-call planning and place an investigative phone call, you are ready to set your objectives for the next call. The objectives can include:

  • Obtaining a vendor profile
  • Finding out what differentiates them from their competition
  • Learning about the company’s 2017 goals
  • Asking about the biggest challenge facing the company in 2017
  • Finding out if the company has ever done a master lease

The next steps include crafting an interest-generating opening statement and engaging the decision-maker in dialogue. This flow will advance the sales call to the next level.

It’s very likely that you’ll end up in the decision-maker’s voicemail the first time you call. Use the information that you uncovered during your research to formulate a unique voicemail message. The prospect will be more likely to return your call because you don’t sound like every other sales person calling; you demonstrate that you are a professional. If they don’t return your call, you are still building good will and the next time your name pops up on their caller ID, they may be more likely to answer.

We are so lucky to be working in the equipment leasing and finance industry right now. We have more power at our fingertips than there was on the Apollo spacecraft that landed on the moon. The opportunities to succeed and grow are enormous, and we never have to worry about being kicked out of an office building.

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