Cold calling, clever business networking or just plain stalking?
Whatever you call it, it is a great way to get a meeting with a C-Suite decision makers.
I’m talking CEO’s, VP’s, MD’s, ACO’s and even Police Chiefs. If the opportunity runs into the millions, then this is the only strategy to adopt.
A few years back, a police connection of mine told me that the force he worked for were about to go out to tender for what was likely to be a £20m contract. I knew that as soon as that was announced then I wouldn’t stand a chance of getting in front of anyone before the competition.
I needed a good plan to meet the Police Chief, but what could I do?
It’s all about getting in ahead of the competition
Simply waiting for a tender to be issued is just a HUGE waste of what could be a really good opportunity. Great sales people don’t wait for the paperwork. They get out there and try to steer the opportunity in their company’s direction.
When tenders are issued the lines are clearly drawn on the battle field between you, competitors and the prize. Strict procurement rules mean that no one should cross into anothers territory. Step out of line and you are banished with your tail well and truly between your legs.
So, when I heard this juicy snippet I hatched a cunning plan. I have used this tactic so many times before and since. It is a plan that has never failed yet. Yes, it can take a lot of time and planning, but when you are talking deals running into millions then it certainly delivers a fabulous return on investment.
This is the strategy that has never failed to get me a meeting with even the most senior of decision makers. I knew it wouldn’t let me down this time.
How I successfully appointed the Chief of Police
Part One – Stalking the C-Suite
Now I knew that the Police force I was targeting had one public meeting planned before they were due to issue the tender. The first part of my plan to get a meeting with the Police Chief was to be there.
I’ve often attended public meetings, exhibitions or even high profile networking events, solely with the intention of meeting and speaking to my target decision maker. However, on this occasion speaking to the police chief wasn’t part of my strategy.
My plan on this occasion, was simply to get them to remember me.
(Note: A few years back, each UK police force had a board of advisors to monitor the running of the service such as the financials. They were called the Police Authority, but now we have elected Police and Crime Commissioners who are charged with holding the police fund.)
So, firstly I found out when the next meeting was of the police authority and duly arrived at the Headquarters ready to put my plan into action. After reporting to reception, I was collected by a lovely Sargent who escorted myself and two BBC reporters up to the board room. I was wearing a black suit coupled with a gorgeous pair of killer heels and ready to make a big impression.
The meeting started with the Chair of the Board welcoming everyone including the two journalists. He then went on to extend a special welcome to the one member of the public in attendance.
That member of the public was me and I thanked the Chair for welcoming me.
At that very moment, every single person in the room including the Chief Constable, Deputy Chief, Assistant Chiefs, Finance and HR Directors, as well as the whole board, looked at me.
As members of the public rarely attended their meetings, I was an unusual sight and every single one of them wanted to know who I was and what I was doing there. I mean their job is to detect unusual activity, so they are all bound to be naturally a bit curious.
Success! The first part of my plan had been executed to perfection.
I then had to patiently wait until the first part of the meeting had ended before the journalists and myself were asked to leave as the second half of the meeting was closed. Until we left I made copious notes on what was said and by whom, as well as watching the way everyone spoke to each other. Knowledge about prospects is most certainly power.
Part 2 – Cold calling the Chief of Police
I then left it a couple of days, before ringing the Police Chiefs office to ask for the meeting. I knew before the phone was answered that I would require that one cold call to get the meeting in the diary.
I rang at a lunchtime, fairly sure that the Chief wasn’t in a meeting and was immediately put through to his executive assistant. I told the assistant that I had attended the meeting the previous week as part of my research into the forthcoming tender and briefly explained how the Chief would benefit by meeting me.
After being put on hold for just 2 minutes, the assistant came back on the line with a couple of dates the following week.
That meeting meant that we were the first and last bidder to speak in confidence with the big decision maker BEFORE the tender was released and all subsequent access would be controlled by procurement.
The Perfect C-Suite Cold Call
By combining a few different tactics with a huge dollop of creativity, I had managed to achieve the perfect cold call to a C-Suite executive responsible for a massive million £ budget.
This is what I call the targeted cold call and it worked like a dream. Yes, I could have made a lot more cold calls whilst I was sat in that police authority meeting, but would I have got many meetings to discuss a £20m sales opportunity with the decision maker?
No because I would never have nailed any of those calls without a similar strategy. I might have got some meetings to discuss sales opportunities into the thousands of my British pounds, but not a big deal like this one.
7 Top Tips for perfecting the perfect C-Suite cold call
- Do your homework. Research the prospect to find out what they do and where they go. Empathise with them by finding out what is important to them and what are the challenges they face.
- Be creative in your approach. Don’t be afraid to do something a bit different in order to stand out from the crowd. Your prospect will consider you a thought leader not a sheep follower if your approach shows creativity and respect.
- Make friends with everyone. The C-Suite decision maker may make the final decision, but they always have a lot of influencers who are always happy to share their opinion of a supplier. Getting everyone on side will always make the decision a lot easier for them to make in your favour.
- Don’t be tempted to contact them before YOU are ready. Be prepared to let your prospects curiosity develop by keeping them waiting. This strategy will always be the exact opposite of your competitors.
- Swiftly follow up. Don’t ever wait for the prospect to get in contact with you or wait too long before contacting them. Just because you made an impression doesn’t mean they will remember you in a few days. They are busy people and will quickly move their attention to something else.
- Get the meeting to the gatekeeper. You don’t need to speak to your C-Suite decision maker to appoint them. Sell the benefits of the meeting to the gatekeeper and they will sell the idea to their boss.
- Be confident of success. Don’t let the seniority of your decision maker make you nervous of using such a direct approach. They need to buy a lot of products and services and would rather deal with confident successful people, than a nervous shift looking sales person.
Cold calling will always have a place in the sales process. The trick to cold calling success is work out if you play a pure numbers game, or just apply a targeted approach.
This can depend on several factors, but at the end of the day it is all about the return on investment. In business time is money. So, no matter how you use cold calling all you need to do is make sure that for the time and effort you put in, will always deliver you a profit.