Chances are, whether you are e-mailing or calling a prospect, you know better than to spew about your product or lead off with a trap question that screams sales call.

It’s far more effective to start a business conversation around needs you uncovered in research before ever approaching your prospect. But even that isn’t enough any more, says sales guru Kendra Lee. Too often that “business discussion” is designed to covertly qualify if a sales opportunity exists, so it still feels too much like a sales call.

Beyond a business discussion
These days, to catch your prospects’ attention, you must go beyond a business discussion. You must have something important to talk with them about –- something that turns a cold call into a memorable and valuable conversation. Here’s how:

1. Know your purpose. In your first call or e-mail, don’t close for an appointment. Your purpose is to begin building a relationship, and to see if you should have a meeting. Sure, you’re under pressure to fill your pipeline, but many of the people you’ll speak with won’t be ready to make any immediate changes. And if you leave a positive impression as a thoughtful, intelligent person who may be able to help their business in the future, they’ll want to stay in touch. That gives you a lead to cultivate.

2. Share your expertise. Determine the business issue you could assist with, then offer your expertise on what they should be thinking about to address that point. If you have ideas about how a company could better control its costs, tell your prospect. Some ideas will be recommendations that directly connect to your offerings, but others may not. Guide them with ideas they can implement right now while positioning what you can assist with in the future.

3. Show what’s possible. Show prospects the possibilities of what they could be doing to improve productivity, cut costs, or address that need you uncovered in your research. Share one or two simple-to-implement ideas, as well as one or two more complex suggestions. The executives you’re calling are so busy they may not have had time to consider other possibilities.

4. Re-examine the status quo. By not pushing prospects to buy right now, you’re freeing them up to rethink their status quo. Your suggestions and possibilities allow them to take time out and think for a moment about what could be. They’ll want to pick your brain some more and consider ways to eliminate the issues they’ve been living with, now that they know they don’t have to.

Sure, this sounds like a deeper conversation than you usually conduct on a cold call. And, you might think they’d never stay on the phone for this type of discussion. But it works because you’ve grabbed your prospect’s attention and made them want to talk with you. After a conversation like this, they either want to schedule time for a follow-up conversation, or they want to hear from you again sometime soon.


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