In many businesses, the first step towards making a sale is to meet with a prospect for the first time. Initial meetings arranged by telephone cold-calls are very different to those set up using alternative prospecting techniques- ones which allow prospects to determine if and when the meeting should be held.
Meetings that are arranged through cold-calls are far more challenging for small business owners as they carry a greater risk of failure and rejection.
Comparing the two types of initial prospect meetings, there are significantly different dynamics in play. These dynamics ultimately determine how successful you are in growing your small business.
If you set up the meeting with a cold-call, it is unlikely that you will make the call at exactly the time when your prospect had decided to purchase a product / service similar to yours. The more likely scenario is that your call is made at a time before your prospect had finally decided to buy something. Any meeting you arranged was due to one of two factors. Either your prospect wanted to engage with your company at an early stage or you were very persuasive or manipulative during your cold-call.
When you do meet, the prospect’s requirements are not firm. The purchasing timetable remains vague and it is unlikely a specific budget has been allocated for the purchase. Although the prospect has some interest in your products / services, there is no forward momentum towards a sale because the prospect’s buying cycle has yet to start.
Your initial meeting will focus on the broad elements of the possible purchase. It is likely to conclude with your prospect agreeing to consider your products / services once the buying cycle begins. From this point, all you can do is to keep your company name in the prospect’s mind – most likely through email marketing activities – until the buying cycle begins.
Unless you are very lucky, the best outcome of the initial meeting set up via a telephone cold call will be some form of “keep in touch” activity. It is arguable if you will gain any advantage over your competitors as a result of such activities. Therefore, was there any real value from holding the initial meeting?
It need not be like this.
Imagine the scenario where prospects actually contact you. They do so after assessing via the Internet your products / services, your capabilities and track record. Contact is made when prospects have commenced their buying cycles and are ready to engage with suppliers in meaningful conversations.
Naturally, at this stage, each prospect’s requirements are much better defined, their buying process and timetable are also defined and a budget is allocated. When you meet, the prospect is keen to engage and answer the questions you have regarding the proposed purchase. It means you can quickly assess your likelihood of winning the sale.
Your initial meetings are always successful, even if you find out your products /services are not a good fit for the prospect’s requirements. You can walk away at an early stage and focus on other better sales opportunities. If you can meet the prospect’s requirements, your job is simply to match your sales cycle to the prospect’s buying cycle. By doing so, it’s easy to obtain the prospect’s agreement to move to the next step – it’s in their interests to maintain the momentum of their buying cycle.
For you, the small business owner, it means every initial sales meeting is with a prospect looking to buy. You get far less outright rejection. There is no need for exploratory meetings with prospects before they are ready to buy and no need to spend time on “keep in touch” marketing. Even if you have fewer meetings, the prospects you do meet will be of better quality. They are all looking to buy. It should result to a much better return on your sales efforts.