Cold calls are helpful, but hard to make. Waverly Deutsch and Craig Wortmann, clinical professors of entrepreneurship at Chicago Booth, offer entrepreneurs some pointers. Their tips apply to meetings and later sales calls, too.
- Start every meeting or call with what Wortmann calls “purpose, benefit, check.” State why you organized the meeting, what you plan to share, and what you hope to accomplish. Tell your client what benefits to expect from participating, and make sure that your plan meets their needs and matches their expectations. This will prevent you from wasting time—yours and the customer’s.
- Make sure the customer does 60% of the talking. Many entrepreneurs, excited about what they are bringing to market, immediately begin talking when they should be listening. Customers want to know that you understand their situation, requirements, timelines, and constraints. As you listen, you will hear details that you can use to make your offering more directly relevant to them.
- When you hear, “This is too expensive,” ask questions such as, “Tell me more, are you more concerned about the outright expense or the longer-term cost?” Repeat the objection back in your own words to show the customer that you are listening, and then respond and move the conversation forward. Asking questions helps you get more information, but also allows you to look confident, unafraid, and willing to help.
- Have a specific outcome in mind, whether it’s setting up a face-to-face meeting or leaving with a list of things you’ll do to move the conversation forward in the future. If a prospective customer says he has to validate the technical specifications of a product with his technology department, for example, offer to do that for him. Ask for the IT director’s contact information and make that call yourself.
This article originally appeared alongside Attention entrepreneurs: Sell or die.