dialing for dollars

Are your reps guilty of this costly mistake?

A rep from one of the world’s largest technology companies that sells enterprise (i.e. large corporate) solutions rang me up yesterday. I’m not looking to call the firm out publicly so I’ll refer to the 3-lettered company as SPG. The rep didn’t reach me live so she left a message.

Paraphrasing her message, she wanted to thank me for stopping by their booth at Dreamforce and asked whether I would have some time so she could learn about our current processes and see if there is a way they could help me. It wasn’t so much the content of her message—though there is much to criticize there — it was the fact that she called me at all. I have no use for high-end enterprise solutions. My company has less than 10 people. For her to call me was a complete waste of her time and mine. So why did she call and do your reps make the same mistake?

I suspect that reps were handed a list of people from Dreamforce and told to follow-up. I didn’t stop at SPG’s booth. My guess is that they scanned me as I was walking by. Booth tenders see you passing and stop you to ask if they can scan your badge. I always say yes. This isn’t a bad trade-show practice. Much like panning for gold, you need to scoop up a pan-full of minerals before you can sift through it for the good stuff. The operative word here is “sift.” You don’t take a pan-full of minerals to the assayer. You sift first.

Sift through your leads before you start calling

One of the simple rules of selling is this: “don’t call prospects that will never buy your product.” You don’t need to know whether they will buy you just need to know that they might buy. This is what I refer to as suitability. Small companies are not suitable fit for large solutions and will therefore never buy them. Don’t call them.

Ideally, her marketing department would have pre-qualified the leads for suitability and this company is certainly big enough to have the resources (i.e. tools and technology) to do that. Had marketing pre-qualified the leads, I would not have been on the call list. Since that obviously didn’t happen, it is the rep’s responsibility to pre-qualify before calling. In this example, it would have taken approximately 15 seconds for the rep to go to my website. There, she would have seen that Smart Selling Tools is not a large enough company to be a suitable prospect.

You might ask, “Wouldn’t it take more time to qualify than to just pick up the phone and leave a message?” The call itself is only part of the equation. This is the string of events her message likely put into play:

  1. Left a voicemail
  2. Put me on a call/email contact attempt sequence
  3. Send me an email re: the voicemail
  4. Leave me another voicemail
  5. Continue until I either reply to tell her that I’m not a suitable prospect or until the pre-determined contact attempts have been exhausted.

What a waste of resources!

I don’t believe in the call first—ask questions later approach. If you ask your reps to call each lead without first knowing its suitability, you are hampering productivity and revenue growth. You have two choices. You can either run your list through a database service to check for company size or other relevant criteria. Or you can have a qualification team sift through the list manually by visiting websites or conducting other relevant searches. If you don’t have either option available to you, then make sure your reps know that they are to pre-qualify leads and that you don’t expect nor do you want them to call leads that are not suitable for your products or services. It’s too costly of a mistake any way you look at it.