Move your Online Social Conversation to a Phone Conversation

I have found that one of the challenges sales people face is finding time to do the intelligence gathering and research they know is the most important first step to successful selling.

Gathering Intelligence and Organizing your Findings

The first step in successful selling is to have a well-defined process for documenting and organizing in the intelligence gathering and research phase– this will save you time. At Social Centered Selling we’ve created a toolset that organizes the information and assists our clients in qualifying sales worthy leads.  Some guidance here:

  • Identify profile information about your target.
  • Note where you are connected inside and outside the organization you are pursuing.
  • Follow the company on LinkedIn and executives on Twitter.
  • Document the information and insights that you have gathered while doing your research.

Effective intelligence gathering includes using Sales 2.0 tools such as InsideView to keep abreast of any new information about the target executives you are pursuing and the companies they represent.

How to Identify Sales Worthy Leads

Now that you have done all of your research and intelligence gathering on a company and the target executive(s) you want to approach, how do you know when to move the conversation to a telephone call?  Begin by asking:

  • What information suggests that you have a sales worthy lead and there are areas in which to engage?  What key events, business drivers or initiatives to address the drivers have been announced by the company and, by which executives?
  • Why should you pursue now?  What are the top five reasons you believe the executive will be interested in taking your call?  Be honest with yourself.  Answer this question from the perspective of the executive with whom you are going to be speaking.
  • What will you say to the executive that will cause him to accept a meeting with you?

Call Planning 

Using this structured approach will increase the likelihood of an executive accepting a meeting with you during your initial telephone call.  Do not read from a script; rather, have a call strategy and plan it out to maximize your chances of success in securing a meeting.  Winging it is for amateurs.

Get enthusiastic about approaching the executive for a meeting. You’ve done your homework and you have determined why an executive would want to hear with you. It’s important to relate to both their personal and business agenda. Be sure to listen intently to what the executive is telling you about their problem and what a solution will need to deliver.

Remember the objective of the call is to secure a meeting – not sell them!  The call should only last five to seven minutes and pursue the conversation from the point of view of developing a long-term relationship.

Preparation Essential to Success in Securing a Meeting during your Initial Telephone Call

Adapted from Selling to the C-Suite, co-authors Bistritz and Nichols.

Create Credibility Fast: Begin with Three Levels of Client Learning

Creating credibility means having done all of your research and intelligence gathering on the company you want to pursue and then demonstrating you’ve done your homework when you meet with the prospect-client executive.

Gathering information leads to insight

The tools for intelligence gathering and doing our research are now at our finger tips – social media has truly revolutionized our process for client learning because we now have instant access to real time social conversations. Yet, sales professionals often miss leveraging this intelligence despite it’s now become known as the quickest way to be in a position to contribute insights and create a foundation for long-term, collaborative relationships – trusted advisor relationships –with prospect-client executives.

As described by the authors of Clients for Life:  How Great Professionals Develop Breakthrough Relationships, connecting with an executive requires three levels of prospect-client learning, and with social media we also need to apply this same thinking with our real time intelligence gathering. The three levels of learning are, namely:

  • The prospect’s-client’s industry
  • The prospect’s-client’s organization
  • The prospect’s-client executive

As sales professionals we must become savvy at understanding social sales and how to master Sales 2.0 tools in order to effectively compete in today’s new world of selling, where Buyer 2.0 is in charge of the buying process.

Doing research within your network to determine if a connection is able to provide a credible introduction is a smart way to leverage this resource. And remember, it’s not all about you (“Go-Giver”).  Offering up a little bit of sugar goes a long way. According to a research study presented by the authors of Selling to the C-Suite, a recommendation from someone inside an organization will usually-to-always produce securing a meeting 84% of the time; a credible referral from outside the company will usually-to-always secure a meeting 42% of the time. Pretty impressive…this isn’t old fashioned, outdated cold calling!

When you identify people in your LinkedIn network, for example who have first or second level connections to you, it’s time to set up a live conversation. Pick up the phone and ask the connection questions that will determine their level of relationship and standing with the executive you want to approach. Be focused on two things this connection may be able to help you with:

  1. What information do they have that can help you with the three levels of prospect-client learning as described above?
  2. And, do they have a credible relationship with the individual you are trying to meet?

If the person you are connected to doesn’t have a credible relationship with the executive you want to meet, proceed with caution. This is a good time to ask them if they know someone else that you could talk to.

What are some of the questions and insight you need to ascertain from your contact to determine if they have a favorable – or even better yet, a credible – relationship with the executive you’re trying to pursue?

  • When was the last time they spoke with the executive and who initiated the call?
  • What was the nature of their conversation?  Was their value delivered?
  • When was the last time the executive asked them to serve as a resource or deliver value around a problem, or shared confidential information with them?
  • What has the executive done for them or with them in the past six months? If there is an answer here this could be an indicator that there is a trusted advisor relationship. This is pretty darn sweet when we learn this!

If the person in your network appears to have a favorable relationship with the executive, and better yet one in which is credible, then the next step is to ask for an introduction. Watch for an upcoming article on how to use the intelligence gathering and research you’ve done to move your executive level social conversation to a phone conversation.

Always find ways to give back to the person in your network who has just shared insight and their time with you. And if they are in a position to provide an introduction for you to the executive you are targeting, be sure to treat the prospect-client with kid gloves. In sales we all know that relationships and time are essential to building a profitable stream of business; we must respect both.