“I don’t have time to research – I have to make my daily call goal!”

“I don’t have time to research – I have to make my daily call goal!”….

…. was the reply I received when I asked the salesperson if she was going to look at the company’s website before she made the call.

The previous week, I had facilitated a training module on finding new business to a group of inside salespeople at a large computer reseller. During the module I had stressed the importance of conducting some research prior to calling a new prospect. At a minimum, I had suggested looking at the prospect company website and searching LinkedIn to see if the person they were calling had a profile, so they could learn something about the company and person they were calling that could help them on the call.

Now I was back at the client’s call centre to do some on-the-job coaching with the salespeople I had trained. I was sitting with Rachel (not her real name), and she was making outbound prospecting calls. I asked her who we were going to call, and she showed me a list she had printed with 30 or so names on it.

“Great – let’s get started,” I said.

I watched incredulously as she immediately dialled the first number on the list. The prospect didn’t answer, so she left a voice mail and hung up. She glanced at the second number on the list, and as her finger hovered over the phone preparing to dial, I asked her to wait a moment. She turned to me with a quizzical look.

“Have you already done some research on these prospects?” I asked.

“On no,” she retorted with a quick laugh.

“Aren’t you going to do some?”

“Like what?” she asked.

“Do you remember us talking last week about checking out the company website and the prospect’s LinkedIn profile so you can customize your call script?”

“Sure,” she replied. “I remember you talking about it, but I don’t have time for that.”

“Well, I’m not suggesting you spend half an hour on each prospect – just a quick look at the website, and their LinkedIn profile to see if there’s anything you can use during the call.”

“But I have a daily dial goal I have to meet, and if I take the time to research, I won’t be able to meet that goal.”

“You don’t need to spend more than 3 or 4 minutes on this. You’d be surprised how often you’ll see something you can use to generate interest and build rapport.”

“No time,” she declared. “I can ask them about their situation when I get through to them.”

I could see she was adamant about it, so I decided to let her try things her way and see how it worked out for her.

“Okay – go ahead and call then.”

She dialed two more companies without reaching anyone, but she managed to connect with the prospect at the next company she called. I saw from her list that she had called a building contractor. A very nice, friendly gentleman answered.

“Hi! Could I speak with the person who administers your IT systems, please?” she enquired.

“Oh – I’m not sure what you mean,” he replied.

“Is there a person who looks after your computers?”

“Hmmm – I’m not sure.”

Long story short, there followed a 10-minute conversation at the end of which Rachel finally discovered this was a father and son business, and they only had one computer. They were most definitely not a prospect for Rachel, and she had wasted 10 precious minutes of her day to find that out.

She looked at me as she hung up and said: “Well, that was a waste of time!”

“Yes it was, wasn’t it? Just out of curiosity, do they have a website? If they do, let’s take a look at it.”

Turned out they did have a website, and if Rachel had spent 30 seconds on it before calling, she would have seen that it was a two-person business, and not worth her time calling.

I stated the obvious: “30 seconds would have saved you 10 minutes that you could have used to research and call another prospect.”

“You’re right,” she agreed.

“So – are you going to do some research before you dial the next prospect?”

“Oh no – I don’t have time for that – I have to make my dials!”

There are three lessons in this episode:

  1. A little bit of research goes a long way.  Know who you are calling, and why, then modify what you say accordingly. Your prospecting will yield much better results.
  2. Some people can’t see what’s staring them in the face, and no matter what the lesson, some people just won’t learn it!
  3. What gets measured gets done. If you’re a manager, be careful what metrics you are setting for your team. They’ll act in a manner that satisfies the metric – set the wrong one, and you’ll get the wrong behavior!

Please feel free to share this blog with anyone else you think would enjoy it and learn from it.

“I want to buy from you, but the rest of the committee don’t.”

The words struck fear and dread in my heart. I was expecting to close the biggest sale I’d ever made, but when I called expecting to hear that the PO was on the way, instead I heard:

“I want to buy from you, but the rest of the committee don’t.”

“What committee?” I stammered.

“The other four professors. The rest of the purchasing committee,” came the reply.

“I didn’t know there was a committee,” I blurted out, incredulity infecting my voice.

“Well you never asked. I just assumed you knew.”

This was the first I had heard about any committee. What the heck was I going to do now?

This was back in the early 80’s. At the time, I was working for a company that made extremely sophisticated scientific equipment. One of the instruments they made was something called an X-ray spectrophotometer. This thing attached to an electron microscope, and analyzed the chemical composition of microscopic samples. It cost $134,000, which was a lot of money back then (and still is!).

I had been working on a sale to a professor of metallurgy, at a large university in Vancouver. We’ll call him Dr. Rock. My company’s instrument was fairly new on the market, and had clearly superior technology to the competition – something that Dr. Rock and his technician agreed upon. The company had only installed two of these instruments to date, so it would mean a lot to the company if we made the sale, and it would certainly help my reputation as a salesperson.

I assisted Dr. Rock in writing an RFP, with the specs weighted in our favour, of course. He made his submission for funds, which were approved a couple of months later. To celebrate, I took him out for lunch – a lovely little bistro called the Frog and Peach. That was on a Thursday, and I enquired as to when we might expect a purchase order.  He replied that they would be ratifying the decision by Tuesday of the next week.

As it happened, I had arranged a business trip to Winnipeg that following week. I didn’t want to jeopardize the sale, so I asked Dr. Rock if I should postpone the trip in case he needed me for anything.  He assured me everything was in order, that I needn’t postpone, and that I should phone and check in with him on the Tuesday.

So off I went to Winnipeg on the Sunday night. However, when I awoke on Monday, my instincts were bristling. Something just didn’t feel right, and by lunchtime I was feeling decidedly nervous. I put in a call to Dr. Rock, and was told that he was in a meeting. I called again at the end of the day and managed to reach him. That was when I heard the dreaded words, and discovered that there was a committee involved.

It transpired that the committee was composed of five professors who would all have be using the instrument. Dr. Rock would be the “owner”, but they all wanted to have input into the decision. Dr. Rock had assumed that I had been talking and selling to the other committee members as well. I hadn’t, but my competition apparently had!

Scrambling to think of what I could do to rescue the situation, I asked if he would be able to get the committee together later in the week and stall any decision until then. He promised to give it the old college try (pun intended!).

In the meantime, I called the company manager responsible for the instrument division. Fortunately, I had taken the time to develop a relationship with him, and he made the commitment to fly up to Vancouver, together with his head of engineering, to make a presentation to the committee.

The next morning, Dr. Rock told me he had persuaded the committee to defer the decision until we had the chance to present to them, so long as we could get there that week. I got myself on the next flight back to Vancouver, and my colleagues flew up from Tennessee to meet up with me that evening.

We went in the next day and after two hours of presenting to the committee, they made the decision to go with us. Result! Dr. Rock was happy, the company manager and head of engineering were ecstatic, and I made Salesperson of the Year.

It all turned out well in the end, but there were two very valuable lessons that came out of this experience for me:

  1. Build relationships with your company resources before you need them. I doubt very much that I would have gotten the cooperation I did if I hadn’t already built those relationships.
  2. Just because you are selling to the decision maker, never assume that there won’t be other influencers involved. Always, always, always ask: “Who else will be involved in making this decision with you?” If you do that, you won’t ever have to hear those dreaded words yourself!