Recently Colleen Francis shared three stories of unsavory business development tactics in her article, "Lying to Get Past the Gatekeeper: 3 True Tales of Deception Your Firm should Learn From." She did a great job presenting the wrong way to do things.
I spoke with a few teammates here at RAIN Group that work on telephone business development for our clients to get their thoughts on the article and the right way to make cold calls.
The deceptive tactics used in "Lying to Get Past the Gatekeeper" are, indeed, employed by less reputable companies and lead generation firms and give the rest of the industry a bad name. As Francis points out, outright lying in your cold calling script does not provide the foundation to build a strong a relationship, it destroys it.
Does that mean that it is impossible to build a trusting relationship with prospects through a cold call? Absolutely not. In my experience, and that of the business developers I've worked with, cold calling (when used correctly) is a key way to break into corporate accounts and begin a relationship.
What, then, can you do and say for cold calling success? Here are three proven cold calling scripts that have helped service businesses break into new clients.
(Please note: While the actual names of the companies and short descriptions of the businesses have been removed, and some details have been changed, these are introductions actually used by business developers to engage new corporate relationships.)
My name is John Smith and I am with Smith, Smith & Smith, we're a <insert type of firm>.
We've been scheduling brief phone calls to introduce ourselves and share best practice information. We'd like to tell you how other <industry> companies are...
- Protecting their global shipping operations and ensuring continuous cash flow
- Achieving the best possible efficiencies by connecting all <blank> disciplines
- Using <our client's special expertise> to create competitive differentiation and capture market share
The information will give you a framework for assessing your situation at <company name>. I'm wondering if you'd like to talk with me and one of the partners here at Smith, Smith, & Smith on March 23.
My name is Jane Smith and I am with Smith, Smith, & Smith – we're a <insert type of firm>. As a part of that work, we have just completed a benchmark study where <industry> firms rate over 350 major suppliers in those areas critical in deciding who they will do business with.
What we've been doing as a way of introducing ourselves is to share with some select suppliers survey details specific to you:
- How (company name) rates on six critical success factors
- Where your competition stands in relation to you
- What areas you can focus on that will have the greatest impact on increasing your share of wallet
That's it. Even if you decide not to pursue this any further than this first meeting, at least you'll have valuable intelligence as a result.
What does your calendar look like next Wednesday or Thursday?
My name is Jane Smith, and I'm calling from Smith, Smith & Smith. We are a <insert type of firm>.
The reason I am calling is to schedule a brief telephone meeting to review the findings of the work we have been doing on what makes the biggest difference in <topic area> for leaders who are looking to <do something specific that benefits the company>. It is fascinating stuff, especially since in the next ten years there will be <an important industry dynamic that you need to attend to>.
If you're interested, we'll even make some recommendations as to what areas to focus on that will make the biggest difference in your particular situation.
It's fascinating intelligence, and I was hoping you might have some time on the morning of Thursday, June 6 or anytime in the afternoon during the week of June 22. What would work for you?
The Essentials of Effective Scripts and Cold Calls
What's similar in these three examples?
- The business developer introduces themselves and provides a brief overview of their firm (one sentence, not a 20-second elevator pitch).
- They immediately move to the WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”) and pitch a value-based offer. This is not "an introductory meeting" where you go in and pitch a sales presentation on your clients, services, and successes. It is presentation where you are sharing your expertise and insights and applying it to the prospect's situation.
- There is a simple, non-threatening call to action. You are not going to sell your services on the first call, but you might schedule a 10-, 20-, or 30-minute teleconference in which you share your valuable insights. This will also help position you as an expert and thought leader in your field.
- The business developer closes with asking the prospect to look at a specific time on their calendar. This turns the question from being one of yes/no to being one of when.
- In the introductory meeting the service company actually delivers the best practices, the benchmark research, the findings, that they promise in the cold call. The pitch is not a sales presentation in disguise, but a conversation where actual challenges and advice is shared.
It is important to note that these scripts are never read word-for-word—prospects can smell this kind of rookie mistake from a mile away. The script is a starting point and the best business developers internalize these scripts and make them their own.
Before making the call you must be ready to have a peer-to-peer conversation around business issues facing your prospect. These conversations appear as though they'll end in two minutes with a yes or a no, but often times they can go for thirty minutes or more. If you can't be conversational without a script in front of you, you shouldn't be making the calls.
An extraordinary script and value proposition with a mediocre business developer will get you nowhere. An extraordinary business developer, adjusting their value-based pitch along the way from direct prospect feedback, will get you introductions with top prospects—without having to resort to deceptive tactics.