There is no shortage of advice one can get when trying to determine the basics when talking with potential new customers and clients. Asking the right questions and asking insightful questions will give you a better understanding about who you are connecting to and how you may be of service. The goal here is to show your value through what you ask and how you make good use of their time plus you want to fill in missing information about them and their company as you go along.
Here are the basics:
Make sure you have a name of someone, not a random inquiry into the company. If you don’t know who the person is who is responsible for making IT decisions, my advice is to not call in and ask that. No one likes that call. Show a little effort and come up with a name within IT or operations – even if that person is gone, you at least sound like you know something about their company.
Use a Hook:
The best hook for calling in to a company is to be able to reference other companies in their industry that you work with (or your company works with) so they person on the other end of the line might feel it is worth a minute or two to talk. If you simply dive into what you do, your products, and your services, it becomes just one more sales call to delete a message about.
“John, Lori Richardson here. We are working with dozens of financial institutions as large as (name a large bank you have as a client) as well as many great neighborhood banks like yours on enhancements to their data security (or whatever it is that you do) . I have just a few questions to see if it might be a good use of your time for us to talk further- and share a bit about what we’re doing with your industry counterparts. I’ll try you back, and will send an email to make it easier for your reply as to good times to reach you.”
Once they are on the Line:
What you ask depends on who you reach.
C-level / conversations must be high level. That means using business language, not technical terms. Ask questions that uncover what the executive aspires to accomplish or challenges he / she is working to solve.
“Who, in addition to you, is involved in your 2016 data initiatives?”
“We’re working with a number of peer companies in the banking industry. We hear that secure transmission is their #1 issue – is that true for you too?”
“What else?” (now be quiet and listen)
“Are you looking for / open to new ideas to solve / fix / improve that issue?”
Mid-manager IT contact:
Mix business and some technical questions – let them guide you on how technical they are by their answers.
“What does your team spend most of their time on these days?”
“Do you have enough planning time so you can be thinking of upgrades and enhancements to the current systems?”
“Would you like some help with that?”
Great source to uncover issues at a company when you are not yet speaking to the decision making team. Uncover problems, issues, and future plans through simple questions. Using the example of the bank again, it could be:
“Do customers come in and call in worried about security issues?”
“Is that something the bank is concerned about too?”
“What’s the executive stance on how well customers are protected?”
“Who should I contact about ways we can help with that?”
“What other issues are you personally dealing with in your role?”
Get them talking and learn from them, without sounding like an interrogator. If you are truly curious and sound that way, it will be a more helpful conversation than if you have a list of questions to answer – so be flexible, and if they go a different direction with their answer, such as the need to find more good staff for their department, go with it and ask them more about that. Maybe you can refer them a good recruiter or potential employee and really prove your value-added nature.
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Lori Richardson is recognized on Forbes as one of the "Top 30 Social Sales Influencers" worldwide and is a Top 25 Innovative Sales Blogger. Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside sales teams in mid-sized companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog for sales strategies, tactics, and tips.
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