Are you a Phone Basher?

Oscar time is rolling around again (well soon, the ceremony is March 7).

Since I’ve got three young kids it took me until the very last day in 2009 to see last year’s Oscar winning movie – Slumdog Millionaire. But it was worth the wait. It’s a really great film.

One of the exchanges in the film between the host of the Indian “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, Prem Kumar, and our hero, Jamal Malik, goes like this:

Prem Kumar: So Jamal, tell me something about yourself.
Jamal Malik: I work in a call centre in Juhu.
Prem Kumar: Phone basher! And what type of call center would that be?
Jamal Malik: XL5 mobile phones.
Prem Kumar: Oh… so you’re the one who calls me up every single day of my life with special offers?

So what kind of sales person are you? When prospects hear from you do they hear another business professional or do they hear a “phone basher”? Do they hear someone who interrupts them over dinner or do they hear a peer?

What makes the biggest difference in what the prospect hears? In my opinion it’s preparation and customization.

In my blog post last week, I laid into a lousy cold call I got from a Sales 2.0 vendor no less. I’m going to guess that that sales person thinks of themselves as a professional sales person but they sounded to me just like a “phone basher”.

Why? Because they did not customize their call (or email). There were no messages in their call that tipped me off that this was someone I should take seriously.

If you want to differentiate yourself from the thousands of “phone bashers” out there, you need to do something about the three big factors that I’ve observed make a huge difference in what your prospect hears:

1. Prospect Profiles
2. Trigger Events
3. Relationships

1. Prospect Profiles: do your basic “blocking and tackling”. Make sure you know which companies are your ideal prospects. What industry are they in? What revenue do they have? What geography? Basic Sales 101 stuff. Only call the companies that are ideal prospects for you. Focus.

Secondly, figure out the titles you need to target in those companies. Don’t get stuck with one person to call – you may well run into a dead end. Call around. Get that first conversation that gets you insight into what’s going on at that company (this information helps you customize all future calls into that account). Getting that first conversation is critical to you ever getting into that account.

Get to know something about the industries your ideal prospects operate in. Start to pick up on the issues that face the people you need to call. Get smarter. Business people are supposed to know something about the business they are in.

2. Trigger Events: if you don’t want to sound like a “phone basher”, do your homework. Find out one thing at least that is observable from the Internet about what has changed at that company you are calling. Change is a constant. Find something. Is this company’s sales up or down – or sideways? Do they have any new products? Do they have any new execs (CEO, president, CMO, CSO, CRO – someone)?

This way the person on the receiving end of your call will hear differentiation. Their brain will say “blimey, this bloke has actually done his homework”

3. Relationships: “Slumdog” has plenty going on with relationships. Relationships make movies interesting. But guess what? Relationships make sales too. We buy from people we know, like and trust. Sales has always been about relationships. The more the value of the item you are buying the more sales is about the relationships.

You can “inherit” trust by using the trust another person has already established. This is called “referral selling” or “networking”. What you do is get someone who knows, likes and trusts you to tell a prospect (who knows likes and trusts them) that they should talk to you.

When this happens you are anything but a “phone basher”. Now you are de facto a peer. Your prospect has been told you are someone worth talking to by someone they know, like and trust. The chances of the prospect talking to you are very high.

Are you just a “phone basher”? I hope not. In my opinion “phone bashing” can be outsourced to India (or anywhere else for that matter) or can be automated (see ConnectandSell or Boxpilot). If you want to be a professional sales person well into this century, I’d learn some modern prospecting techniques soon.

What do you think? Is prospecting really about preparation and customization or is it really about volume? Is preparation and customization just time wasting?

Or do you not really care about “Slumdog” any more and just want movies in 3D with blue blokes running around?

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