If you are a new business developer trying to get through to a company leader and set up a meeting, what are your best tactics? Specifically, how do you get past voice mail to make your pitch?
Automated voicemail systems are ubiquitous in today’s business world. We rarely place a call these days and actually hear a live receptionist answer the line. Instead, we encounter a recording of a generic (usually female) voice offering a menu of options. But even when a real, live receptionist answers the phone, you have to get that person to transfer you to the president or CMO. And chances are, you’ll get dumped right back into voicemail to leave a message.
How do you intrigue and interest them so they will take your call the next time you ring? Or better yet, get them to call you?
Use clever direct mail pieces or letters that include relevant case studies to build the prospect’s awareness of your agency before you call them. Send something every few weeks, or more frequently if you are intensively pursuing the prospect.
Also, cultivate the company receptionist. Ask the receptionist when might be a good time to call the person you want to speak with. Be courteous, friendly and professional. Impress the dragon guarding the moat, and you may gain a friend who will wave you into the castle.
Meanwhile, begin your research to prepare for the call.
We have long promoted the need to be fully prepared before contacting your prime new business prospects. This means that before you mail a flier, send an email, or pick up that phone, you should know as much as you can about the prospect. Your new business team should gather the following:
Company Background. Have research in hand about the company, the leadership, and specifically, the person you want to speak with.
Dun & Bradstreet. Use your banking connections if you can’t access this information directly. Have a clear picture of the company’s financial situation for your agency’s protection and to gauge whether they can afford to work with you. Can they pay the tab for your services? Can you help them improve profitability?
Competitive Analysis. Know who the company competes against, how they stack up in the market against their competitors, and how their products compare to similar available products.
Marketing Analysis. Study their current marketing (if any) and get a sense of their budget and recent expenditures, where they advertise, how often and for which products.
Audience Analysis. Who are their customers? Understand the company’s challenges in reaching their audience, and get a feel for audience perceptions of the company. This is very valuable information. Many companies are very poor at customer relationship management (CRM), particularly in the manufacturing sector, and will be amazed that you have spoken with their buyers.
Brand Audit. Look at the company brand, considering all the data you have gathered. Is the brand strong? Aging? Weak? Invisible?
SWOT Analysis. Identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Develop ideas about how you can help the company take advantage of the positives and cancel out the negatives.
Engage with Intelligence
When you are prepared to speak knowledgeably about the prospect’s situation and offer ideas that will grab their attention, you are ready to directly contact the prospect.
Write a concise, high-impact speech that introduces your agency, mentions a key finding of your research, and presents one of your ideas to help them overcome a specific challenge. Practice this speech until you can deliver it in a friendly, enthusiastic, positive voice. Ask others in the agency to hear your pitch and fine-tune until you have it down pat.
Be prepared to speak at greater length with the company representative, just in case your strong direct mail piece or targeted email has already made the prospect open to your pitch.
Now, make the call.
Leave your great, intriguing and very smart voicemail message, supply a phone number and suggest a time when you will call back to follow-up.
If the first call fails to get a response, don’t give up. Keep calling with intriguing insights gleaned from your research. Watch for news items about the prospect in trade journals or the local newspapers, and send emails with links, expressing your desire to meet and discuss, that “great idea I suggested in my last call.” Try the same tactics with other key managers within the company to see if you can get in “through a side door.”
Continue sending targeted email, clever direct mail pieces, and keep calling until you gain a meeting. Many new business efforts fail because developers make one call less than they need to connect with the prospect.
Second Wind Research can help you “get smart” about clients and new business prospects.