Have you ever noticed? You only get “that” phone call or email when “they” have a problem? A problem which they probably tried to remedy themselves countless times before throwing their hands up in the air, and calling you. And probably calling everyone else who has been prospecting them, too.
Our current and potential customers feel they are bullet-proof. They have all the answers. They can handle any curve ball thrown their way due to their great internal resources and robust business models. And they are right, within their frames of reference.
So no matter how many wonderful prospecting techniques you are using, “pain points” you are so skillfully navigating them through, and informative technical phone calls you are using to express your non-sales concern for your customers and prospects….they really aren’t buying it. And they certainly aren’t listening to what you are saying to them, either. Like the spiel about your wonderful engineering expertise, your ability to solve their technical problems, your fully integrated solution, and your ability to create relationships.
Because they are not in crisis mode. Yet.
Several months ago, I received an email from a business owner who was interested in speaking with me about forging a potential business relationship. He was very specific about when to call, to whom I should speak to arrange for an appointment, and on what day I should call. I did my homework online and found out all I could about him and his company. I compared his information with industry trends and trigger events. I created a preliminary snapshot of his business, markets, potential customers and even extrapolated about what his potential issues might be. I spent about 30 minutes on this exercise and gleaned some information which I also could apply to other companies I am researching. It wasn’t wasted time. I learned a lot.
And I gotta tell you. The more I read, the more skeptical I became. Because his company fit the profile I’ve encountered so many times before, in small to mid-sized businesses in the manufacturing sector. They contact you. And when you return their call (even on the date, time and to whom, per instructions), they aren’t available. They disappear. And not necessarily because these companies and prospects aren’t interested. It’s because their problem, in their minds, “disappeared.” They decided they over-reacted and they don’t need your help anymore. Until the next time they are in crisis mode.
I did my follow up:multiple attempts to contact this company over a three week period, via email, voicemail, etc. (yes, I got to 10 attempts). Then I figured, you know, we are LinkedIn contacts. The company sees my activity. I am not interested in being treated like a stereotypic vendor who is expected to keep pursuing them like a greyhound chasing that rabbit around the racetrack, hungering for their “bait.” C’mon man.
There’s a LinkedIn discussion circulating about how to cultivate a “hunter” mentality in sales professionals. Well, in this economy, chasing around prospects who have no intention of doing anything with you in the first place is a waste of your time, and you will starve doing this. The problem is, with all of us trying to hone our client development skills, how can you tell the difference between the “real deals” and the posers?
Sometimes it comes down to going with your gut. Basing the call on your experience. Or giving the customer or prospect enough rope. And then putting them on the back burner. Because we all, as business development and technical professionals, have a lot of things we need to do for those customers and prospects who aren’t playing games with us.
Don’t you wish you had $10 for all the customers and prospects who call you, in crisis mode, and end up getting free consulting services and expertise from you? Because you thought they were interested in doing business with you, when all they were after was picking your brain when they are in crisis? Wow, if that “free advice”, which we call prospecting, were part of billable time, our employers would be thrilled.
We’re just chasing the wrong rabbit on the wrong track. That paradigm is broken. The next time you have an opportunity to participate in an exercise like the one I just described, don’t. Develop your own specs and persona for the type of customers you want to develop. You know, the ones you do your best work for. Spend your time and expertise on them, instead. And stop beating yourself up about the “other” ones that get away.