“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!

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