Don’t you know who I am? Big businesses, you can stop reading now. You have no excuse. But you small-to-midsize businesses — you SMB’s — I’m talking to you.
A recent phone call got me thinking. I don’t usually answer the phone when I don’t recognize the caller but this time, for some reason, I did. I could tell right away — it was a cold call. The caller launched right into his sales pitch. I listened, politely, until he paused for a breath. I thanked him and told him it seemed like he had a great service. The only problem? It was entirely inappropriate for me or my business. So why was he calling me? He had pulled my name and number from the membership of my local chamber of commerce. Then he picked up the phone and dialed…and wasted my time AND his time.
And you may say “What’s the big deal? It was just a couple of wasted minutes.” But it’s more than that. Today, it’s a lot more. In the age of pervasive communication every interaction with anyone in your ecosystem — prospects, customers, colleagues, competitors — has an impact. How you prepare yourself for that interaction can mean the difference between a positive, neutral or negative impact. In the case of this errant salesman he most likely doesn’t understand that it was more than just a few wasted minutes. I’m pretty easy going so the impression he left with me is fairly neutral, but for others it’s likely he left a “what an annoying salesperson and business” impression. A little preparation could easily change that.
Long Tail of Information Age
Having grown up with digital and been elbow deep in technology most of my life it’s sometimes hard to realize there are still many businesses, particularly SMB’s, which are on the long tail of technology adoption. Big businesses spend lots of money on software and systems to help them better target prospective customers. So it’s understandable that many SMB’s never consider this route. But you don’t have to be a big business to get information on prospects.
Amazon has pushed the envelope in terms of identifying customer needs and customizing their user experience. But you don’t have to be Amazon to have a clue what your prospects want and, even more important, need. Tools alone don’t solve problems or build things. You need processes.
It’s amazing what you can find out about someone given a name, email and company name. And you don’t need any fancy tools. There are plenty of tools for anyone in sales — from solopreneur to enterprise sales team — to use to help vet prospects or other contacts. Here are my “go to” tools (and they’re all free):
Google: It’s not like I’m a celebrity but, particularly from a business point of view, it’s fairly easy to figure out who I am. And that’s true for many people. It’s always a good start.
Linkedin: By far my favorite contact vetting tool. Whether it’s finding out if you know someone in common based on common connections or getting a better a feel for the person through their work history, Linkedin is always a great resource. I once turned a cold call into instant rapport because I saw the contact and I had worked at the same company years before and had friends in common.
Crunchbase: If you are talking to startups (as I often do), this is the place. Find out company history, key personnel, investors — it’s all there.
Rapportive: I’ve got Rapportive plugged into my Gmail and it feeds my profile information based on the email of the sender.
Cold calls are tough. We’ve all done them at some point or another. It’s a fishing expedition in unknown waters. It doesn’t have to be that way. There’s no excuse for not knowing who I am.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.