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How to Not Fail When "Cold Calling" C-Suite Executives

Sharon Gillenwater
by Sharon Gillenwater on Jul 10, 2015 5:03:00 PM

How to Not Fail When Cold Calling C-Suite ExecutivesAs salespeople, we don’t like to think of ourselves as solicitors. We are providing solutions that we truly believe in (or should anyway), and know that what we have to offer could benefit every prospect on our list. Our solutions are essential, valuable, and often, a game-changer for our customers. But to the executive on the other end of the phone who is not familiar with your company or your solutions, you are little more than an annoyance.

While gaining credibility with new prospects is an age-old sales challenge, today, it’s harder than ever. We would even go so far as to state that cold calling just doesn’t work, period. The prospect you are calling receives multiple sales calls every day and cannot possibly have a conversation with every sales rep who picks up the phone. But, if you talk to these executives, they all have stories of reps who broke through the noise by offering a nugget of insight or something of real value (and communicating it very quickly), thus earning the right to a subsequent conversation--or even a meeting.

So what makes the difference? How can you break through the noise?

The key to success is to make a warm call instead of a cold one. Here are four ways you can make a warm call that will engage a CXO in a conversation that doesn’t feel like a sale.

1. Do Your Homework

We’ve preached on this topic before but so often, reps skip this step. Doing your homework on your prospect is the single most important factor in being able to have a real business conversation. When Warren Buffett takes a meeting, he says he never asks about industry, market, competitors or advantages. He already knows them. In fact, he says, asking these questions demonstrates a lack of preparation. Given that all of this information is at your fingertips today, there is no excuse for a lack of preparation. Understand who your prospect is, where they are coming from, what’s important to them and what challenges they are facing. If you can prove that you understand what keeps them up at night, and that you have some possible solutions, you’re in.

2. Don’t Use a Script

Your initial pitch should sound natural and should be specific to the person to whom you are speaking. There is nothing that will cause a prospect to hang up the phone faster than “Good afternoon John. Have you ever wondered how much money you are wasting doing X?” A scripted introduction, no matter how well crafted, is a big turn off. Instead, have a few key points specific to your prospect in front of you when you make a call. Did they make a comment to the media recently? Did their organization experience a major change? Find some way that you can connect with your prospect by referencing something relevant. E.g., “I read in the New York Times yesterday that your company is focused on X. We are working on this same type of initiative with some of your industry peers, and I thought you might be interested in having a conversation about this.” It is much harder for a prospect to hang up the phone when you are directly referencing something that they have stated publicly that they care about.

3. Use Your Connections

A conversation is much easier to initiate if you have some common ground. Look for possible LinkedIn connections and think about reference customers who might be able to make an introduction. You likely have connections to many people who could help warm up the conversation--all you need do is ask. If you don’t have any connections to your prospect, at least try and understand their affiliations and carebouts. Don’t be disingenuous in your attempts however. If in your research you identify that your prospect is passionate about an organization or group that you are not, don’t try to pretend that you are.

4. Don’t Give Up

Relationships are not built overnight. They take time, consistency, and proving your value to get a prospect to trust you enough to even think about buying from you. This is especially the case the higher your prospect is on the executive ladder and the more expensive your solutions. Be authentic, informed and deliver value to your prospect and sales opportunities will emerge all in good time.

We can help you do your homework! View our sample profiles to see first-hand how our profiles can create a connection between you and your top prospects. 

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Sharon Gillenwater
Written by Sharon Gillenwater
Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market, from Fortune 500 companies to independent non-profits, to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.

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