I have read with interest lately the commentary about the use of the telephone for making contact with prospective work providers. Some say that ‘cold calling’ is of no value and in certain cases I would agree because of the way the call is handled. My response to someone on Twitter recently about cold calling was to be “relationally cool”and by that I do not mean unprofessional! There are two aspects to this phrase; firstly, it is all about having the goal of building a relationship with the person on the other end of the phone. Second, being cool for me is breaking this awful practice of ‘hard sell’
When I answer a call and someone garbles down the phone, “Is that Mr Latchford?” (my name is Langford) or worse still, “We are offering you Mr Latchford because you signed up to our offer!” Yet, I have never heard of the company calling and neither did I sign up for their offer! It gives the professional Sales and Marketing fraternity a bad name and makes our job more challenging. I also find the insincere ‘patter’ unhelpful when I talk with people. I think quotas and the pressure to earn a living have added to this purposeless exercise. Yet, there is a place for using the telephone for those who use it well.
The telephone is a powerful communication tool and should not be underestimated. The use of the telephone needs to form part of our overall Marketing mix and will be extremely effective in generating new opportunities within your market place. Although we are hearing so much about Social Media I want to affirm the need to talk with people as part of your overall plan of action. You might want to evaluate your marketing plan by asking some of these simple questions before you embark on a planned journey.
The Road Map
To use a metaphor, it is very important to look at the road map before leaving on a journey (even where GPS is used). Why? Because I want to enjoy the journey not just the destination. So, before calling a new business I research what this company does, what sectors they work in, if they will require our kind of service, who is the best contact (Procurement, Estates, MD, Premises Manager) and how best to approach them. If you know where to look it is easy to build a quick profile of the company you are about to call. Making that first call with that kind of knowledge makes the contact all the more effective.
The actual Call
Having done your homework you then call that Architectural practice and find out who is dealing with the particular project that interests you. Your objective is to get on to that all important tender list. Briefly, introduce yourself, your company and what you do. Find out if the project is going ahead, what course of action to take and agree a call back time with your new contact. You can then formulate your letter or email with company information and the content discussed along with track record and agreed time for a call back. It may well be that you put the phone down with a lot more information than that but this will be enough for the first call. Add the information carefully to your contact database.
The Call back
Having agreed the ‘best’ time for a recall the architect will be thinking along the lines of who to include on the tender list. This next call will include confirming the procurement route, timing, the number of bidders to be included on the list and how many ‘new names’ they will be considering for this one. In developing relationships listen carefully to the architect in this case, ask what criteria will be used to select the list of tenderers. If you have built this relationship well you might consider setting an appointment to meet the decision makers.
By asking questions you will quickly build a picture of the requirements needed for the project you are chasing. Will they select the contractor on price only or will time availability be an issue. How much will technical competence in key areas be taken in to consideration? Are they looking for site managers who have experience in working in occupied buildings for example? These questions will give you an understanding of the clients requirements even before the tender list is drawn up. I have found it helpful to agree a callback time with your contact on each call.
Your objective in following up on each call is to make headway with this ‘new’ person and to find out about the progress of the project, other team members, and more importantly other projects in the pipeline. I have found that if you don’t ask you won’t know! Try it.
We have mentioned research which is important and will give you confidence when making the call. Your call will require confidence and focus – why am I calling? If you are making contact with an organization that uses some sort of PQQ to include you on their approved list make sure you get the best contact names, email and direct dial if possible. If you can get the name of the ‘gate-keeper’ be friendly, courteous and cool as he or she will become a very good contact for future work opportunities.
When you get through on the phone to the person you want, make sure you are sensitive to their situation. Experience tells me if they are in a hurry or their tone betrays impatience. I may have caught them in a meeting. Ask if it is convenient to talk for a couple of minutes at the start of the call. This gives them the option of being honest with you to agree a more convenient time to call and gets the relationship off to a good start.
I will leave more for next time.
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