Business development methods and skills
What is cold calling?
Wikipedia gives a very accurate definition : Cold calling is the solicitation of business from potential customers who have had no prior contact with the salesperson conducting the call. It is an attempt to convince potential customers to purchase either the salesperson’s product or service. Generally, it is referred as an over-the-phone process, making it a source of telemarketing, but can also be done in-person by door-to-door salespeople.
Is cold calling dead? My answer is no.
Has cold calling changed? My answer is yes, definitely!
Now to the question is cold calling dead, many people will answer yes. In my opinion, it is not. Not completely at least. When sales guru like Grant Cardone say cold calling is not dead, it must be true right?
I hope you can catch my sarcasm here. I am Grant Cardone least favorite fan, with all due respect. I do admit that the man knows how to hustle, but I don’t agree with all of his techniques. On the other hand he does sell a cold calling training and to quote him:
« The Cold Call is the single most powerful and effective way a salesperson can increase their sales and exceed their quota. Cold calls put the salesperson in the driver’s seat of their success. The cold call can help a startup grow with low cost, the entrepreneur shares their idea without an advertising budget, and the salesperson to be at the cause of their production, not the effect of a companies leads. » – Grant Cardone
I have to admit, there are some real truths in this quote!
Going back 10-15 years ago, it was the preferred method for most business developers. With all the available tools now, it has lost some popularity, but also lost efficiency. People such as CEOs, CTOs, CFOs are harder and harder to reach by phone even though means of communications are more and more available. People are busy, they don’t always pick up the phone or they prefer to know about your company before taking your calls hence the importance of a strong inbound marketing strategy.
But mind you do these same people respond to inbound marketing? Not always! They are not necessarily on social medias answering those automated sales messages.
So that leaves us to: what’s the best method for business development?
The answer is simple: it requires a full stack. A mix of all techniques and tactics based on your personas and audiences. Some people, really like the phone as it allows for real human connection and sharing of real human emotions and others prefer the privacy of answering an email whenever they want or not answering at all.
The real problem in my opinion is not the cold calling itself, but all those trainings given in the early 2000’s. Remember those trainings where you were thought precisely what to answer to an objection even if it didn’t make sense or even worse…where it belittled your client? Ya those trainings! People like to buy from people NOT from a rehearsed sales script.
Now that we painted the picture, let’s get into some business development techniques.
Business development methods
Social selling: social selling is a technique used to find, connect and engage with prospects using social media. It is a powerful way to engage with potential clients on different channels.
Networking: any activity involving the gathering of people with the goal to connect and create business relationships. Of course nowadays, a lot of networking events are held virtually making them more efficient. Very common networking events include: chamber of commerce events. masterminds, summits and any other type of organized events.
Cold calls: cold calling is one of the oldest technique used in sales. Is it an approach used to contact prospective client over the phone without prior contact in the hope of creating a sales discussion to be carried in the sales process. It is a great starting point to find the right person to talk to and start the funnel process.
Cold emails: very much like cold calling, cold emails is the act of sending emails to targeted potential clients with whom no prior contact was established. Some people say that cold emails work much better than cold calls. Yet again, a lot of people don’t open emails from companies they don’t know. There is also the technological aspects to consider, a lot of cold emails don’t reach the target due to security restrictions. In some countries, legal restreints exist and must be respected making cold emails less effective.
Inbound marketing: refers to pull marketing, it involves creating different channels to reach your potential clients without reaching out directly to them. With all the available digital tools inbound marketing has become a powerful way to deploy a marketing strategy.
More methods exist, these are just an overview of the most popular methods used.
Skills and personality are a very important aspects to consider when doing business development.
Knowledge is great, but the real power is in its application. Without the mastery of self (personality) and the skills, the climb to success can be hard!
What skills are necessary for business development?
Sales skills: active listening, product knowledge, relationship building, questioning…these are just a few sales skills needed to make it in the world of sales. Personality counts for a lot, as a sales professional, relationship building is very important. People need to like you…or not…but they definitely need to know that you are there to solve a problem for them.
Marketing skills: no need to know how to calculate ROI here, but having basic knowledge of marketing will definitely help on a sales journey. Basics concepts like personas, channels, audiences and so on will support sales efforts.
Business Intelligence skills: knowing your competition will support a good sales conversation. Knowing the market is even more important in order to have a high level picture of what is going on in your industry. Reading the news, keeping informed and being active is most certainly a must for any sales professional.
Communication skills: now that is the most important skill to have in your stack. Without proper communication no relationship can be sustained and it goes in business as well. Each client or prospect comes with a personal background or problem to solve and clear communication will ensure that the message at hand is being delivered properly. It is also the base of relationship building, clear, precise and regular communication will ensure your prospect or client is taken care of and they will feel it too!
Data analysis skills: Sales involve numbers, it is a numbers game in fact. On all levels numbers and data analysis are very important in sales. In all organization, sales objectives are calculated, sales velocity, sales quotas versus activities rendered. Data analysis is very important to keep track of what is going on in your sales department. It gives you a benchmark to compare from year to year, but also to talk with your potential clients. People like to know how much they will save using your solutions or how much return on investment they can expect.
Project Management skills: Every client is a project on its own. Each client has a different story, a different background and different people involved. Ensuring that each player in the process is well informed is key to a successful sales process. Aside from this concept, it sometimes requires different coordination tasks to deliver a complete product or solution. It is a skill often overlooked, but still very important to reduce friction along the sales process.
Emotional Intelligence skills: in my opinion, this is the single most important attribute a salesperson can have. Emotional intelligence with just the right amount of empathy allows a sales professional to anticipate the prospect’s needs. It allows for more efficient communication, better relationship building and less friction. The sales process becomes a two-way conversation where the prospect feels understood, feels like they are in the hands of someone that genuinely cares about their business and problems to solve. Without this skill, important clues are missed thus important opportunities are lost.
So I guess you understand by now that I have always been the black sheep on a sales team. I NEVER followed those pre-written techniques. Those cookie cutter techniques do not work period. I always followed my instincts. During the peak of my business development career, I was brought to work in very difficult territories where competition was more than fierce. The cookie cutter techniques didn’t stand a chance in such a competitive environment. I had to be real with my clients, transparent, authentic. I had to be quick (quicker than the competition), wise, disciplined, steady and knowledgeable. So I opened the books and tested my own techniques which served me oh so well throughout the years in a market in crisis (heavy trucks in 2007 and real estate in 2009) where sales were going down, where people didn’t always have the power to buy. Each sale, each prospect and each lead became very precious and important. They each needed to be worked in a personalized fashioned with a human approach. Even with the best training, I never was taught that the power lied in the human connection. Here we are years later and we are just starting to talk about selling in an authentic way which is called H2H.
Business development is an art, not an exact science. It is large and can be done in many different ways. What really counts is adapting to the market and following a clear vision. Yet again some people have different opinion on the matter. It all depends on everyone’s experience. A plan remains a plan until it is put into execution and more often than not: there is always a gap to be filled because reality can not be forecasted or predicted.
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