HOW you talk to your prospects and clients makes a huge difference in the success of your engagement with them, or more importantly if they engage with YOU.  It makes the difference if they treat you like a partner or "pest."

To give you some examples of B2B engagement:

  1. Two reps can have the exact same talk track, one has a lengthy discussion with a prospect and the other fails within 5 seconds into the call.  Why is that if they SAID the exact same thing.  Experts say more than 90% of communication is non-verbal, this still applies even if you are on the phone.  In fact, it applies even more so since you don't have any physical communication to offset what the tone and inflection of your voice is communicating. A lack of confidence (or even OVER-confidence, i.e., pushy)  in your voice will just hang out there without your physical presence to offset it.    
  2. One rep continually gets to the executives they are calling and another gets blocked by admins or sent to the vendor line.  Again, same list, same executive, same words--different result.  The tone of 1 voice tells the person at the other end "I am a vendor--you don't know me!" while the other communicates trust, professionalism, comfortable tone, confidence, and doesn't raise red flags.  
  3. One rep calls 20 companies and books 3 meetings, the other calls through 100 and gets none.  Same list, same message, same "value prop." 
    The results and examples are endless.  I get these calls all the time myself and I am always keen to listen to HOW reps engage with me, on the phone or in person.  I probably have a higher tolerance for bad calls because being in this business, I will let them finish talking--but the intention of the rep will quickly become clear and define the outcome.  Usually they could care less what I am really working on, and are just looking for the action on my part that gets their bonus, i.e., a meeting, another call, etc.

Two examples I'll use.

First is this one company in the data space, I work with a couple of data providers heavily.  But there are a number of other providers in this space and I get approached by many of them.  One company in particular, I have met 2 of their reps over the last few years at events.  Just happened to cross paths--the first one immediately asked who he should talk to at my company to sell "data" to.  I was wondering "why wouldn't you try to have a meaningful dialog with the CEO instead of asking who my marketing admin is three levels down?" I could be a champion for you guys, have a much larger scope of discussion--but he wasn't incentivized to do that so why bother...just look for the deal.  The guy was only thinking about himself and thinking an intro from me down-stream would carry more weight, not interested in an industry connection or interacting with someone that can't do something for them.  The next person on their team I met at another event, after a light chat waiting in line--she asked who we use for data and I told her and her response was "well why aren't you using us!?" (ask the guy at the last event we were at) I thought, wow how weird and confrontational.  We exchanged info, and then she said "I'll have a rep call you."  You do that....I never responded.  I find companies often hire the same personality profile--so this was consistent.  They are a small player in the space and I know why.

Second example--a software development company sent me a LinkedIn message about what they do.  The timing was good so I responded and said let's talk.  The first call was to see what my budget was, when can we talk, when will I do this, what is my budget, and what is my budget--then of course, what do I think my budget will be.  While I was trying to figure out if my idea was on the right track, they were 100% focused on themselves.  So I said my Operations Exec was out of town, let's connect when he is back on Thursday--of course, the suggestion is to book a meeting on Thursday. I am not going to spend his first day back in a meeting with YOU.  After much pushing to get a next call, I said I will call them when I want to talk.  So probably after 45 minutes on the phone in total, I know nothing about what they can do and no discussion about my idea other than they are sure they can do it...if I have the budget.  Then in the meantime, an associate of mine with a company that does this reached out and we discussed where they could help. We spoke nothing about budget except at the end to figure out how much they could do for me, and then we tee'd off the next step to talk again. I know they understood what I needed, they understood my concept, they were going to present ideas to me.  So I tell this other guy when he calls back, that I am going to work with this other company.  He says they can do it cheaper (I don't care) and unless I am totally in love with them they still want my business.  They don't even know what my business is!

It's important to step outside of the discussion and think about what your prospects hear. Now these above are extreme examples, although more common than we would all like. Your prospects are listening to totally different things than you think.  

Prospects in B2B Sales are Looking for This:

  1. Do they really understand my requirement
  2. Should I trust them, what have they done before that is like my requirement
  3. Are they more interested in closing a deal or helping me out
  4. How much time did they spend understanding my business/me before they called
  5. How did they deal with my concerns
  6. Do I like these people

That's what prospects are looking for in early discussions.  When reps take an approach of just trying to get to the deal and ignoring everything else along the way--they get pushback they don't even know the source of it, but unfortunately it is them.

Another new trend is to ask for a connection on LinkedIn from someone in a group or that knows some of my colleagues after penning a personal message (at least they have learned that--I am not one of those crazy accept every invite kind of people, but I am glad to connect if it makes sense.) But then shortly after, a pitch message comes over. One I recently got "One thing I always do with new connections is...." and then the pitch. Don't waste your industry contacts by alienating me within the first day.

How to Measure Your Approach?

  • Ask yourself how much you know about the company you last presented to?  How much did you spend ahead of time to look up the execs on the call and learn about them as a company and a team?
  • How determined were you to find out early if they have a budget (that you like) and when are they spending it?
  • Are you able to articulate in detail after the call what their pain was and why they are looking?
  • Did they eagerly move to the next step?
  • Did you discuss anything you have in common with them personally--like former companies you have worked with, or some industry connections to establish a good rapport?
  • Did you share something with them after the call that reinforced your understanding of their requirement?

These things can help you confirm you are on target or tell you to take some time and course correct.  It will do nothing but increase your performance in the end.