How to do it without coming across as tone-deaf and calloused.
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There are two reasons to keep prospecting during the COVID-19 scare:
- Prospecting, particularly appointment setting is not something most sales professionals like to do. It is also a habit. When we stop for any reason, it has always been hard to get restarted.
- If you stopped prospecting in March, continued while we’re all sequestered during April and while things are ‘getting restarted’ in May, you’ll have turned off the pipeline spigot for 90 days. If you’ve got a 90-day buying cycle, you’ve turned off new revenue for six months. That’s half the year. Need I say more?
So, the question is not ‘should I’, but ‘how should I do it’? First, I get it. It is a concern to call prospects and act as if nothing has happened or changed. It will come across as calloused and tone-deaf. It may even damage your brand. What’s the solution?
Here’s what we’re recommending to our clients:
- First, regardless of what your message is, how you deliver it is everything over the phone (if you like to ‘Drop-in’ to prospect, you’re not doing it now). There was a study published by UCLA determined there were three key ways humans communicate. The biggest way (55%) we communicate is non-verbal. All of that is lost when we can’t see our target. The second most powerful way we communicate is through tonality (38%). To take advantage of this, we must come across as empathetic, and even be ready to disengage if our target seems irritated.
- Ask yourself if you have any advice to provide to a business that could help them through this challenge. If you do, lead with that right now. Our Commercial Insurance and Employee Benefit industry clients have plenty, so that’s what they are leading with. The appointment is secondary and comes in the form of a ‘virtual’ phone or video conference call if the offer of advice is accepted as helpful. If it’s not, we Professionally Disengage as always. Experience so far is that this approach is being received as incredibly generous. Promises for meetings after things settle down are frequent if the appointment is not gained immediately.
- If you don’t have advice to offer, look for anything else that perhaps is worsening because of this crisis. Perhaps it is supply of what you sell. We have a high-tech industry client that is getting appointments right now because they sell a remedy to an issue that worsens when the economy turns bad.
During March, many calls, regardless of how conducted, were met with harried executives that did have more pressing things on their minds. They were trying to figure out how their business could survive. Early to mid-April seems to be the financial types of decisions keeping executives busy. How to pay for continuing expenses. As this gets behind us, we’re getting reports from sales professionals that executives are beginning to get ‘cabin fever’ working from home with kids, dogs and cats underfoot which means two things:
- They are easier to get on the phone. (Office phones are being forwarded to cell phones with no gatekeepers in the middle.)
- They are becoming open to having a conversation over the phone if for no other reason than distraction.
The Payroll Protection Act is designed to give us immediate cover for payroll and other essential costs to keep our businesses afloat while we all stay away from one another. Once that frees us up and the economy begins to reopen, how are you going to pay the bills? You better have revenue—and that comes from a full pipeline, so don’t let your sales team quit prospecting, just do it smarter.
Caponi Performance Group and Contact Science jointly market the appointment setting solution called Coldcalling101™. It is the only comprehensive solution to solving the biggest barrier to success in most selling organizations—the inability to secure enough Initial Appointments to begin the selling process. We accomplish that through simultaneously addressing both the efficiency and effectiveness of the process. We can be reached at 817 224-9900 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find answers to many of your challenges in our many published articles on LinkedIn and in our books: Contrary to Popular Belief, Cold Calling DOES Work! Volume I: Effectiveness, The Art of Appointment Making and Volume II: Efficiency, the Science of Appointment Making.
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