Drilling Down—it’s the only way!

You gotta drill down deep to get that appointment!

Very often, when pursuing leads, you will encounter roadblocks. They will come in many shapes and sizes. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you already know that the most common roadblock you will encounter is a low-level person (a gatekeeper of one sort or another) whose job is to blow you off. This Tale From The Trench will illustrate, in spades, how important it is not to let these underlings prevent you from keeping your eye on the ball.

Client: a project management firm
Target: a major metropolitan hospital complex with large projects planned

After getting bounced around from one department to another at the hospital (half of pursuing leads is simply doing good detective work), I finally reached the Master Plan Department (sounds like a real important department, doesn’t it?). I spoke with a very pleasant woman who listened to my pitch and then said, “we have already retained a project management company and have been using them for over 2 years. So—thanks but we don’t need your services.” I thanked her for the information and asked her for the name of the project management firm that they’d supposedly been using. She gave me the name (let’s call them Hammer Ltd). When I asked her what her title was, she told me that she was department secretary. As soon as I heard what her title was, I became very skeptical. Secretaries, generally, don’t know what is actually going on at the company—they are just trained to get phone solicitors off the phone, and quickly. Next, I Googled Hammer Ltd and I discovered that they aren’t a project management company at all, but an architecture firm. So much for the secretary’s information. I called Hammer Ltd and was quickly able to find out the name of the fellow in charge of the hospital project. I called him and got lucky—his office phone forwarded to his cell and he answered on the first call. He was the nicest guy I’ve spoken to in a long time and, it turns out, was not actually supervising the project that I was calling about but he was overseeing two other very large projects and was more than happy to schedule a meeting so that my client could introduce our firm’s services. As if that weren’t enough, he then gave me the name of the person at his firm who actually was in charge of overseeing the project that I had originally been calling about. I called that contact at her office and booked an appointment with her too! There is a tremendous amount of potential business to be had with these two appointments.
So, what’s the takeaway? Don’t let gatekeepers distract you and be skeptical! Lower level people don’t know what’s going on and, more than likely, have been told by their bosses to just end solicitation calls as quickly as possible. Keep your eye on the ball and you’ll get in the door, time and time again.

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I’m Shouting from the Rooftops!

The Appointment Source is at the very top of Google search results for both “qualified sales appointments” and “B2B Sales Appointments”

We're #1 for a very good reason!

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Here’s a neat trick…

This has happened to me often enough to bear repeating for your benefit. How many times have you gotten a response like this: “Go ahead and email me your information, I’ll forward it to the person in charge, and if he’s interested, he’ll get back to you”? Myself, I’ve heard that countless times. The other day, my assistant was being stonewalled by a woman while pitching an appointment for a mover. He knew they were moving, and this woman is giving him this classic runaround. He asked her for the boss’s name so that he could follow up but she wouldn’t give it to him and replied, “Bob is super busy, I’ll forward your information and he’ll be in touch if he’s interested.” Gee, I’ll be sitting here waiting! So Lou, sharp guy that he is, makes a note of Bob’s name (which missy has now revealed without intending to) and calls back an hour later and asks for Bob and—surprise!—gets right through to him. Bob is as nice as can be and confirms that they are soliciting bids and is more than happy to  schedule a job walk, which Lou does. So lesson learned: don’t be put off by people with no decision-making power whose only purpose is to deflect, dissuade, and otherwise blow you off. Keep the hammer down!

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Don’t Get Bamboozled by Gatekeepers!

One of my firm’s newest clients is a project management outfit that provides move-management services. I knew, positively, that XYZ Corp was planning a large move because a mover with whom I network had a meeting scheduled on June 20th to provide them with a bid. When I reached an admin at the company and asked who was in charge of overseeing the project (so I could book a meeting), she told me, “all of our vendors have already been chosen, thank you for contacting us but it’s all a done deal.” I very politely but firmly said to her, “Listen, I happen to know for a fact that a moving company was at your offices TODAY to discuss submitting a bid so I don’t think that that is the case.” To my complete amazement, she replied, “Then you must know something that I don’t know. The person handling the project is Bill Donnelly. Here is his direct number and his email address is ________”. This proves a point that I have made time and again: underlings are told to lie to vendors that call so their bosses don’t have to field dozens of sales calls a day. Know your facts and don’t be deterred by people in the lower ranks that are trained to mislead you. Keep your eye on the ball. And oh yes, I got my client the meeting.

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Sometimes you just have to Steamroll!

You won’t give me an appointment? Say hello to my little friend!

Not getting the answer you want? Sometimes getting the right person on the horn is all you need to do to close the deal. Booking high quality sales appointments is, like so much in life, about persistence; being unwilling to take “no” for an answer. This is not an arena for the shy and retiring. This story will illustrate how applying the principles I’ve outlined in many of my previous posts leads to success.

The client: an office and industrial relocation company.

The prospect: a manufacturing company with offices, labs, clean rooms, warehouse, and inventory.

On my first call I spoke to a very pleasant chap named Mark. Mark told me that I needed to contact Leslie in the purchasing department. I spoke to Leslie and booked an appointment for a site tour and job walk. Simple enough, I thought, but the fun was just starting. A day later I got an email from Leslie that read, “I need to cancel this meeting until next week. I need to follow-up and see if this service is needed.” Now I knew perfectly well the service was needed—they were planning to move! I waited a few days and called Leslie who told me, “I’m going to check with Marcus and see what’s going on.” Up til now, I had thought that Leslie was the head honchette.The following day, Leslie left me a voicemail saying, “Marcus has already chosen our moving company.” I asked Leslie to speak to Marcus but she said that he was already swamped with dealing with the move. So I waited a day and called the reception desk, asked for Marcus and he picked up right away.  When I pitched him and requested and appointment he said, “sure, I can use one more bid. I haven’t been very impressed with the ones I’ve received”. I scheduled the walk-through.

The truth is that I was a bit worried that, when my client showed up, he would be referred back to Leslie, who might have gotten pissed off that I shot a curve around her to reach Marcus. As it turned out, Marcus met directly with my client and was impressed with their credentials.

The result: approximately two weeks after the job walk, Marcus informed my client that they had been awarded the bid.

The Takeaway: don’t be dissuaded, discouraged or deflected. Get the decision-maker on the phone at all costs and close them!

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An Excellent Resource—check this out!

Proteus B2B Marketing Blog

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End of the Year Advice: Top 10 Cold Call List—Ignore at your Peril!

The Appointment Source’s quick recap of some of the most important principles to follow when trying to secure meetings with decision makers to sell products or services. Ignore these at your peril!

  1. Be skeptical: You will often be told “a decision has been made,” when, in fact, if you got the right person on the phone, you might discover otherwise.
  2. Don’t pitch the janitor. Unless you are talking to the person in charge of your project or issue you are spinning your wheels.
  3. If they tell you, “check back in 90 days”, call back in 4 weeks (no more than 6). Sometimes things move fast. You snooze you lose.
  4. Always ask for what you want: even if it’s early in the project cycle, tell them you would like to meet and introduce your company “before you are inundated with other vendors”. That way, you get a leg up on your competition.
  5. Use the myriad tools the web affords you: LinkedIn, Google, and Jigsaw are your best friends. Use them.
  6. Don’t waste your prospect’s time: if you are fortunate enough to reach your target on the phone, be clear, concise, and polite. Ask for what you want. Decision makers don’t like marketers that waste their time and pussyfoot around. Get to the point, quickly.
  7. If you are told, “so and so is handling this and he’s already chosen a vendor”, be sure that you talk to so-and-so yourself and verify that this is the case. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to “so-and-so” and discovered that the bidding has not been closed and booked an appointment.
  8. Be skeptical (I know I said this already). If you are told, “vendors have all been chosen,” call back in 2 or 3 weeks and try again. You’d be surprised how often the story changes and you are able to get in the door.
  9. Remember that it’s a numbers game: you have to make a lot of calls and get turned down many, many times to find the live ones. This is not a game for the easily discouraged. Keep hammering—good things come to those who work, and work smart (see previous tips and blog postings).
  10. Network: good networking contacts (i.e. people that share valuable business intelligence) are gold and very hard to find. I have probably gone through at least 20 networking contacts that give me out-of-date worthless info for every one person I have found that provides me with valuable information. Be ruthless about getting rid of the former and do all you can to hang onto the latter—share your best info with them so that they reciprocate.
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The Coldest of Cold Calls…

What do you do when you have nothing but the company name and a phone number and solid intel that the company might need your product or service (they’re opening a new office; they’re moving; they’re expanding on-site, whatever…). You’ve tried LinkedIn and Jigsaw and you’ve got nothing and you have to call that receptionist and plead your case. I’ve found that a little courtesy and straightforwardness goes a long, long way. Try this: “Hi, my name is Sam Smith with Hubbard Widgets, I’m hoping you can help me because I’m a little bit lost.” Pause. “I’m trying to locate the person at your office that coordinates widget acquisition for the firm. By any chance do you have any idea who deals with that?” More than half the time I get a name and once I’ve got a name, even if it’s not the right person, I’ve made contact and can use that person to get to the next level. That’s it! Be honest and up-front about what you need. Be super-polite and, more often than not, you’ll find people will try to help you. Try it. You’re welcome.

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Prospects lie!

Prospects lie

Is this your prospect talking?

Can you blame them? It’s analogous to the hot girl who gets hit on so much that she tells you that she has a boyfriend or gives you a fake number. It’s just the easiest thing to do to get you off their backs. So how do you, the wannabe Ace Prospector, sniff out those lies and know when there is a real opportunity that you shouldn’t stop pursuing? Read on…
The Client: an international office furniture manufacturing firm
The Prospect: a food manufacturing company with a huge new plant under construction with a brand new state-of-the-art office to be outfitted (a top-notch opportunity)

When I first contacted the client, I was told that they were taking bids from interior designers. A couple of months later, the operations manager told me, “the company president has already selected furniture”. This was in February 2010. Since I knew that they weren’t occupying the new building until 2011 this seemed very doubtful to me. I tried reaching the president directly but his phone was very well defended.
In August I contacted the operations manager again. This time I was told that the interior designer would be assisting with the furniture selection (contradicting his earlier obfuscation). I asked who the interior designer was but he refused to give me the information. He said that if I sent my client’s company info via email that he would forward it to the design firm, so I complied and sent an introductory email. I followed that up with an email detailing a Design Excellence award that my client had recently received for a large well-known office project. He confirmed receipt and said he would forward the information (because of spam filters I always ask prospects to confirm receipt of my emails).
After another week, I sent a follow up asking the operations manager if there had been a response from the interior design firm.
He wrote back and said he had forwarded my latest inquiry. Later the same day, a principal with the design firm emailed saying, “I understand you are eager to work with us on this project. When are you available to meet?”
After my client met with the prospect I was told that no other furniture vendors had gotten in the door to date. No surprise there.
The Takeaway? Learn to distinguish when a prospect is simply trying to blow you off. Listen for inconsistencies in what they tell you. In this case, the prospect tried to tell me that the owner had selected furniture when the company had only just selected a GC. Persistence wins the day every time. You might get a different answer in March than you did in January. Never accept the first response you get as an honest answer. Particularly if you know that the prospect has been getting bombarded with vendors’ inquiries.

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You’ve got tools—use them!

Nowadays life for the cold-caller has been made exponentially simpler. I have found, on more than one occasion, that simply typing “facilities manager, XYZ Corp, Tucson” will bring up not only the contact’s name, but also an email and sometimes a direct phone number. But if not there are plenty of other ways to leverage the power of the web.
I was working a lead—a company had a 300 employee relocation planned—and all I had was the name of the company and the info “45k move planned”.
So I went to Jigsaw and got some names but none of them were handling the relocation. Finally, I got a receptionist to give me the name of the operations manager who was handling the move.
I got him on the phone and was told (and I quote), ” I can‘t make any promises as I have several vendors already interested but I will keep you posted”. I’m not a fan of hoping and praying when concrete action is possible, and so…
I went on Linkedin and typed in this person’s name. Lo and behold he had held a position at Jones Lang, a firm that my client has done lots of business with.
I called my client and got the name of his Jones Lang contact whom, it turns out, this operations manager knew very well. I called him and asked if he would call the prospect and put in a good word for my client. He did and later told me, “If he hires another mover I’ll be very surprised,”—evidently he laid it on pretty thick. The next day I got an email from the prospect requesting a meeting and now my client has a strong shot at the job. Based on the former colleague’s recommendation, I’d say it’s very likely that he will book the business.
The takeaway? Use all the resources that the wondrous web provides you.

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