Cold clients are potential customers who are not familiar with you or your organization. Often, outside sales people will make these sales visits because they know the client could be a good prospect, but the client is clueless about you or your company. Regardless, like every customer, they have both Needs (must haves) and Wants (would like to have). As a disaster restoration sales person, you should know that a pain or challenge a hotel owner might face is the potential loss of revenue from a water damage event, since guest rooms may be out of commission. A nursing home may have the pain of patients falling, or walking out of an unattended exit. Cold client sales provide unusual and unique challenges, and the following simply strategies will improve effectiveness in both novice and seasoned salespeople.
Prepare and Practice: Disaster recovery salespeople must rehearse your questions before making any phone calls or drop-ins. As I teach in my sales classes, the preparation, presentation, and process must be repeatable, so practice is crucial to your success. Selling is a process, not an event. That’s why the system you follow must be structured so you can duplicate it over and over. Your first contact with clients tends to be mostly informational, so practice your conversation starters out loud to ensure they sound as natural as possible. Find creative ways to ask open-ended questions, such as, “If you could instantly improve one area of your (disaster preparedness/maintenance, etc.), what would you change?”
Get Ready Mentally: Fill your work space with things that make you feel positive and happy (pictures of family, favorite knickknacks, etc.). Mentally prepare yourself to be resilient to rejection. Rejection is a part of sales, and a positive outlook will increase your success. If you can’t handle constant rejection, rude and disrespectful people, maybe selling isn’t for you. Sometimes you need to remind yourself that what you have to offer may not be right for the client. I refer to this as “it not being a good fit.” In fact, I suggest you even make the point with a skeptical prospect that what you have to offer “may not be a good fit for them!” This soft reverse psychology often works very well to make your prospect stop and think before they throw you out the door. In the end, create a positive routine you can perform before each sales visit, such as listening to a song that makes you feel invincible, or jogging-in-place.
Perfect Your Voice: Successful salespeople have a ‘customer service’ voice. It takes time to truly master, but is worth the effort, because customers instantly make assumptions based on first impressions. Enlist friends and family members to practice your voice on. The perfect sales voice is confident, friendly, and energetic. It is respectful, but also conversational. It’s been said that the lower your voice, the more weight it carries. Certainly, we are all blessed with a certain pitch and tone, but a concentrated effort to make it reassuring, warm, and welcome will be very helpful.
Research Thoroughly: Do your homework on your cold prospect! Students in my commercial sales classes are continually reminded that they must do their homework on their prospects and the prospects’ industry. If you don’t know details about the client, their specific challenges, as well as have knowledge about that vertical (industry), then I can’t imagine how you can talk intelligently to them, or even know how to offer a solution. It is imperative that you target your customers carefully and get creative to find customers in unexpected places. For example, a restoration contractor might cold visit dozens of small business owners to find new customers, (without doing any homework on them), but more thoughtful salespeople will evaluate a specific vertical market, and then learn everything they can about that vertical before approaching them. You have the world of Google at your fingertips, so learning your client and their industry isn’t difficult anymore. Plus, there are dozens of valuable vertical markets to research and then sell to.
Create a Needs-Emotion Mindset: Every customer has needs that are not being met. Even more importantly, almost everyone makes purchases based on emotion! An effective salesperson makes the customer aware of services they need, but appeals to their emotional desires to convince them. Telling a story – related to their “pain” enables your client to experience the emotion that is needed to get them to make the decision. The big brands today, that we all know about, use emotion to sell their products. No one really cares the details of how Heinz Ketchup is made, but we all care about that thick, sweet, slow-dripping taste on a burger. Experts all agree, most people make a buying decision based on emotion and then justify it with logic after they buy. Always keep the importance of the needs – emotion concept in mind when speaking to customers. It’s important to understand how the client evaluates that needs / emotional process. An example is the hotel owner certainly needs guests to stay in his rooms.
That’s a financial given. However, the emotion of having a major disaster, having guest leave or unable to check in because rooms are available is the emotional aspect. They will react immediately to the emotional side and then rationalize afterword that heads in beds is critical.
Build Trust and Rapport: A New York Times poll found that Americans think 30% of people are trustworthy, while 70% of people they know are trustworthy. For salespeople, this means building a relationship with customers is essential to maximizing sales. Be genuine. Take a moment to break the ice. Ask how the customer is doing, and then listen and respond appropriately. Customers want to talk to people who are interested in them, and trust the advice of salespersons they know or like. Furthermore, your visibility and exposure on social media sites like LinkedIn, where clients and associates can give you written recommendations is extremely helpful to building trust and credibility. Best of all, you simply need to ask them for that recommendation and they’ll usually provide a great one.
Follow Up and Follow Through: Before your cold visit ends, agree on a time to speak again. Make a note about the customer for the next call. Include something personal, such as an interest in football, and something professional, such as needing faster internet. The next time you call, your customer will notice that you remembered these details.
Whether you are a new salesperson, or new to cold client sales, these strategies can be used and perfected to improve your career. These strategies are tools, and like all tools, the more you use them, the more proficient you will become.