It has been said many times before, that ‘people buy people’. In B2B business development, it is the single most important mantra that sales teams must adhere to if they want to achieve long term success.
But how does that work when you are approaching cold prospects – people that have never dealt with, or spoken to you before?
Here are seven rules of thumb, designed to help sales professionals develop positive relationships with cold prospects:
1. Don’t annoy them
It might be stating the obvious, but if you want to build a rapport with someone, you will do well to keep them onside. That’s why bombarding prospects with invasive approaches like cold calls is so destructive – it just interrupts someone at the most inconvenient times for them.
Yes, of course, any approach you make will have to interrupt a prospect at some point. Just make sure you choose the path that is least intrusive and gives your prospect the space to reply at a time that suits them.
Above all, don’t badger the target with repeated approaches over a short period of time. There is nothing more irritating as a prospect than feeling like you are being forced into submission by someone who doesn’t take no for an answer.
2. Be true to yourself
Business Development is a tough profession that requires a unique set of skills. It requires mental resilience in the face of inevitable repeated rejection and an ability to handle the pressure that comes with targets and an expectation to fill the sales pipeline constantly.
Because of this, there is often a general acceptance that sales is no place for ‘nice people’. That is simply untrue.
The ability to get along with others by demonstrating genuine respect for another person should never be overlooked.
Never pretend to be something you are not and don’t be pressured into doing so. That road will lead to a miserable career and miserable results. Play to your strengths and if that requires a different approach to business development, then go out and learn how to use it to your advantage.
3. Be mindful of their time
Face it; everyone is busy. You are busy. Your suppliers are busy. Your existing customers are busy. Why would your prospects be any different?
The best business development professionals understand this and know that brevity matters.
It is critical that you can articulate your value in a way that matters in as short a time as possible. Otherwise, you run the considerable risk of losing your prospects attention (and patience), which inevitably results in lost opportunities.
The combo win for you is that the quicker and more clearly you can communicate the value you are selling, the more time you’ll create to fill your pipeline. We call that a win-win.
4. Offer genuine value
Do you understand where the real value lies in what you do and sell? Do you know why the prospect should care?
’Value’ is an ethereal term. It’s meaning and significant ebbs and flows according to the changing conditions of the market and needs of customers.
To build truly positive relationships with your prospect, you need to present value in a way that matters to them. Spark their interest. Back it up with evidence. Try to give them a genuine reason to listen.
5. Show real interest
When a salesperson is focused on communicating the value that they offer, it is all too easy to forget that the prospects being approached aren’t just numbers in a CRM. They are real people; individuals, with their own unique wants and desires.
Dale Carnegie wrote in his timeless book, ‘How to win friends and influence people’, that everyone likes to feel important. The best way to gain the friendship of others is to recognise the deeply engrained desire within everyone to feel important and understood.
If you can demonstrate a genuine understanding and sincere interest in events from their own professional lives, prospects are far more likely to react favourably to your approach.
6. Demonstrate humility
It may be difficult for some to accept, but not everyone you approach will benefit from what you are offering.
The list of reasons can be enormous. The timing is wrong. Their circumstances are wrong. They don’t have any budget. They are going through major changes. They don’t want any changes. The prospect is new in the role and doesn’t have enough knowledge to understand and appreciate your value. You are too good. You aren’t good enough… These are all legitimate reasons why a prospect won’t be interested in what you do.
Understanding and appreciating this fact will make you feel more human. That does not mean you have to adopt an apologetic approach. That has the potential to make you look weak and lacking confidence in your value. However, it does mean acknowledging that for whatever reason, this might not be right for the person you are contacting. That takes humility and emotional intelligence – both vitally important components of any positive relationship.
7. Break the mould
If you see and hear the same things every day, you don’t notice them as much.
It’s the reason people can live in a house next to an airport or a train line – you get accustomed to the constant noise, and you stop looking around at everyone that passes.
The same is true of outbound B2B sales. Prospects are so inundated with lacklustre approaches by phone, email and direct mail that they often don’t give a second thought before hanging up, clicking ‘delete’, or adding to the recycling. The reality is, your messages are often just another form of noise.
Building a positive relationship in any circumstances is about establishing a meaningful human connection. That requires something far more thoughtful, personal and individually tailored.
It might sound like hard work, but if you want spectacular business development results, you can’t expect to follow the herd.