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January 24, 2011

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Brrrr...It's Cold In Here | A Practical Tip for Warming Up That Icy Reception Your Cold Calls Are Getting

I read a great post by Sales 2.0 author Anneke Seley on Selling Power's blog today, where she referenced an "open letter to vendors" from an IT Manager named Justin Davison. In his letter, posted in the Spiceworks user community, Justin castigates the sales professionals who disturb his work all day long with prospecting calls that are truly cold - they haven't bothered to research Justin or his company beforehand, and are simply playing the traditional Sales numbers game, hoping for a hit. Justin urges Sales professionals to get to know him first and to "talk to his problems", rather than just pushing their solutions.

Think about it. Wouldn't it be great if you could get to know your prospects before cold calling them?  Wouldn't this make your cold calls much warmer, if you knew something about the needs, concerns, and pain points of your prospects before you made the call?

Well, there is a way. Its called social media, which is really just a fancy word for 'online community': Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, blog posts, even the "old-fashioned" online communities like forums and listservs. These are communities where your customers are hanging out, sometimes ranting, sometimes conversing, but often looking for answers, solutions, and recommendations.

This is where you come in.

Now, not only can you find out what issues keep them up at night, but if you actively and thoughtfully contribute to their community, you set yourself up as someone who knows something about their field, their interests, their pain points...their world. Note that when I tell you to "thoughtfully contribute", I'm not talking about posting promotions and offers, or even pushing your product or company. I'm talking about adding real value by retweeting the advice of others considered "experts" (always a polite way to enter any community), by answering questions in a relevant manner, and by posting original thought leadership in your field.

So, when the times comes to make that cold call to someone like Justin, imagine how different things might be if he recognizes your name, and even recalls how you answered a question in his online community! You won't feel that icy chill blowing through the phone.

Here at Glance, we have a Sales Manager that does a great job of getting to know his prospects and thoughtfully contributing to his customers' communities via social media. His name is Mike Walsh, and you can follow him on Twitter where he hangs out as @SalesOsmosis.

I'll end this post with 2 sentences from Justin's letter: "I challenge you to use new ideas to communicate with me and my peers and differentiate yourself from the people who are still cold calling every day. I challenge you to move beyond COLD calling..."

-- Carla Gates, Director, Marketing & Social Media, Glance Networks

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Not only do our prospects hate the cold call - so do we as salespeople! I am in sales, and I own a company, so I experience both sides of this. For the sake of both sides - it only makes sense to know something about your prospects and offer something of value on the call. As a bare minimum, ask a question that relates to your prospect's situation, and PLEASE allow people to "disengage" if they so chose - without pressure or rhetorical questions from you as a salesperson.