Contacting the client

I have deliberately used the term “contacting the client” because so many are put off by the thought of having to call someone to whom you have never spoken before.

Some of you will find this aspect uncomfortable initially partly because you have never been in the sales environment, partly because you may feel it belittles your status as a consultant and partly because you hate the telephone. I hate the telephone -for me it is simply a way of getting a brief message across or making an arrangement to meet or book a game of golf. However, I want you to look upon it as a simple and very efficient aide to your securing future wealth. After all you will be making very few calls if you follow my routine.

The key objective of this call is NOT PRIMARILY TO SECURE AN APPOINTMENT despite my earlier comment. The objective of this call is to enter into a conversation with a businessman and to see if you can determine whether there are problems that need attention and if so is there potential business with the client and whether he/she will value a meeting with you. This comes as a surprise to many because they look upon this call not only to obtain that appointment but also to get a time and place at any cost. FORGET THAT! You will find that an appointment opportunity falls into place without effort.

A friendly conversation is the KEY to this call. That is why I have stressed earlier that you read up on the latest business news in the client’s particular industry. Again I remind you that if you stick to just a few types of businesses you will acquire that knowledge base quickly. As an example at one time I concentrated on two types of business: large animal veterinary practices and architects. The former because I had a friend who had been selling a major manufacturer’s drugs to the veterinary profession for 30 years and could tell me all the current and ongoing concerns of these practices and architects because theirs is a very labor intensive industry and I was able to identify large areas of unpaid-for time and poor banking and cash flow procedures after only two meetings. Naturally I could not survive on just these two sectors but they made up a large proportion of my effort.

Before I continue please note these remarks:

If you’re talking, you’re not listening – and nobody wants to deal with someone who won’t or doesn’t wish to listen.

Again, let me remind you that before you make the five calls ensure that you have updated yourself on the latest issues affecting the clients industry. Read the web articles especially the particular trade journals. Be aware of banking issues with SMEs that may be in the papers. Try to find out about any local issues affecting the area in which he/she trades – just small points that can indicate your interest and basic knowledge of the client’s business and where it operates. This IS VITAL if this conversation is to proceed successfully. Try to determine “hot buttons” for that sector. In time this will become second nature to you. However, one “hot button” that almost always exists is banking. So many of your clients will not be completely happy with their bankers.

Some of you will find this aspect uncomfortable initially partly because you have never been in the sales environment, partly because you may feel it belittles your status as a consultant and partly because you hate the telephone. I hate the telephone -for me it is simply a way of getting a brief message across or making an arrangement to meet or book a game of golf. However, I want you to look upon it as a simple and very efficient aide to your securing future wealth. After all you will be making very few calls if you follow my routine.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

That call

Now, let’s be honest. For very many of you the thought of making a call to an unknown person does not rank highly in your list of favorite tasks. So I am going to provide you with as much help here as I can.

Before you make that call you must carry out some preparatory steps. This is the real secret to confidence and assurance on the telephone.

I repeat

Firstly, check the client’s web site if he has one that is identifiable – and most do. You will immediately get a feel for how the business is structured. Then make a few notes and keep them to hand or even better keep his site in front of you on the computer when you call

Scan the relevant industry journals on the computer. They may give you a current hot topic.

I purchased my home from a gastroentologist who told me a story as he was handing over the keys to my new home. Here is his story:

Question: What do you call the person who graduates at the top of the class from Harvard Medical School?

Answer: Doctor (label).

Question: What do you call the person who graduates at the bottom of the class from the worst medical school?

Answer: Doctor.

While I don’t recall the exact point he was trying to make in telling me that story, I do know that it is a very powerful illustration of a concept that can have a major impact on anyone who is marketing or selling in business. Here’s why:

We like labels because they let us make snap decisions. They allow us to — instantly — sort our world into comfortable, well-known buckets. Often, they allow us to simply not think, or to not think deeply. For much of life, this is very useful.

However, when you’re trying to market or sell to someone, leading with a label is usually not a good thing. This is especially true if you are highly-differentiated, or serve a need that people are not aware of.

In our example above, the Harvard Medical School graduate is compromised by advertising himself as a mere “doctor.” On the other hand, the person who graduated at the bottom of the class of the worst medical school is getting quite a lift from the doctor label.

Your task is to define yourself by the problem(s) you solve and the results you help people achieve.

To be effective at this, I recommend that you consider doing the following:

  • State a problem that can be resolved, or a situation that can be enhanced, in a specific target market.
  • State the nature of the outcome you achieve for people who have that problem.
  • Stop talking.

Saying more than that will not help, so stifle the urge. If the person you’re talking to recognizes the need, and if your message is reasonable, he or she will say, “Tell me more.”

You actually want to say as little as possible. Talking people to death rarely leads to a sale For example, my message for many is: “I help business people worldwide who must enhance their ability to generate profits. Often we see 50% and greater increases in annual profits for those that follow our guidance.”

Or, I could use a label: “I am a consultant”.

I probably don’t need to say how poorly that label works out for my bank account.

Timing is in my experience critical here. So is your demeanor at the telephone even although the potential client cannot see you. Do not slouch on a comfortable seat in jeans and T-shirt but wear your normal office clothing THIS IS A STRICTLY BUSINESS CALL OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE.

Now before  go any further let me tell you that after a very short time my AVERAGE APPOINTMENT rate from this system was TWO appointments IN EVERY FIVE CALLS. Sometimes I secured three and once four but I also had some occasions with just one and some with none but the simple average was 2.3 in every five. Even if I made only one meeting from the five calls I still ONLY made five. Don’t change this rule.

“You never know what you can do till you try.”

Make the call between 3 and 4 pm on a Wednesday or Thursday. Why these limits? Experience has shown me that Mondays are fire-fighting days from the previous week and loaded with problems for the week ahead. Tuesday is resolving those problems and maintaining working patterns. But Wednesday and Thursday have special qualities. The problems of the previous week have largely been addressed or are being handled and a few niggling further problems or difficulties are beginning to show up. The client is in a calmer but” help me” mood.

The timing of the call is for similar reasons. The morning proceeds briskly but research has shown and my experience confirms that between 2 and 4 pm each day we experience a “mental low”. A new opportunity or the availability of expert advice and a fresh voice to solve a problem is stimulating. The client is more likely to listen. (Strangely enough some recent research in the UK has confirmed that 2pm to 4pm each day is the “low energy” point in most working days)

I usually found that each calling session rarely lasted more than 90 minutes and was usually no more than an hour – indeed some only lasted 40 minutes. Just an hour and a half each week to secure two further qualified appointments. It has to be good.

That is in excess of TWO appointments each week for about 60-90 minutes per week. Work out how much that saves you each month in appointments fees alone!

Now at this point I can hear people saying, “What if he has a secretary or somebody taking his calls?”

This person will usually say something like “What is it about, can I help you?”

The response is “Thank you but I don’t think so. It is regarding a personal letter I wrote to Mr……….. last week and what I have to say I feel should be direct with Mr. …………… in the first instance. When is the best time for me to call back?”

NB this is why it is important that you put PERSONAL on the envelope.

Under NO circumstances talk to anybody else or disclose what the call is about. A response from a company such as this is the one occasion when you may have to make an additional call outside your planned weekly calling session.

As soon as you get through to the client – and do not forget it MUST be the addressee of the letter – you open by referring to the letter you sent him last week. In very many instances they cannot recall it but that does not matter because immediately you have a talking point and he wants to know what the letter was about. Just START A CONVERSATION. My angle was always to ask how he/she/they were finding business at the moment and then as soon as possible get onto an industry specific topic or if, say interest rates were biting business at that time, discuss his view on how it is affecting him/her. BUT remember it is questions from you and answers from him. Seek out his views and as quickly as possible determine a problem area and confirm to him that such and such a problem does need early attention. Do not immediately say you can solve it. However do keep in mind that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are dozens, indeed hundreds of your colleagues who could help out in any specialist area.

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