Three Ways LinkedIn Improves the Effectiveness of your Sales Calls

By Nigel Cliffe

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“I should know my prospects better”

That was the conclusion of the Managing Director of a large printing company after he had been on a sales workshop with me. So what made him reach that conclusion?

We had been working on target audiences. One of the exercises at the workshop was to fill in a simple questionnaire about a key customer. Just like many other attendees, the Managing Director found that he had many gaps in his questionnaire. He had been unable to answer some pretty basic questions.

He admitted to me that he found this lack of knowledge embarrassing. After all, if you are targeting a large account, you should be able to talk knowledgeably about your customers.

Call research drives better results

Salespeople who spend time researching and preparing for a call achieve better results. They have a much better chance of establishing a good relationship with their prospect. They also have a much better chance of controlling the conversation.

Salespeople who rely on making more calls without preparation won’t have the same control in the call. The customer will be treating them as a commodity supplier. They’ll be calling the shots. There won’t be any relationship. It’s hard to achieve results on calls like these.

These days there is no excuse for not carrying out call research. The power of LinkedIn means that you are extremely well equipped to find out a great deal about a prospect. So what should think about before picking up the phone to a customer or prospect?

Make sure that you have researched the customer

Here are just a few of the things that you should know about prospects:

  • What job role do they have?
  • What do they typically do in that role?
  • What sort of print do they purchase?
  • How is that print typically used by their sort of company?
  • How is the prospect’s company doing?
  • How is the prospect’s market sector performing?

It’s generally not difficult to research this sort of information. Someone’s LinkedIn profile will instantly tell you their job role. It will usually also have links to a company LinkedIn page and a company website. This will lead you to a lot of the other answers to the questions above.

Once you have this information, you can start thinking about what you’d like to say on the call. There’s one vital question you should ask yourself.

Why should the customer take your call?

I’m a great believer in using WIIFM. WIIFM stands for What’s In It For Me? It’s a question you should ask (from the customer’s point of view) before every call you make. Why should a customer take your call? What’s in it for them?

Remember, the chance of finding a new supplier is rarely enough to make a customer speak to you at length. You will be much more successful if you can bring a customer new ideas or information that will really help them or their company.

Again, look at the LinkedIn profile and follow through to company websites, other social media streams and blogs. This can be a really good way to understand how you can help this person and their business.

Let’s assume that you now have a great reason to speak with the customer. There is still one other thing you need to think about if you want a successful sales call.

What do you want the customer to do?

I have often met salespeople who haven’t thought about this question. The obvious answer is that they want the prospect to place the order. However, this is rarely going to happen early on in the calling process.

So this question relates to exactly what you want to the customer to do next to stay in your sales process. It might be to agree to a meeting. It might be to allow you to send them a case study.

It’s generally a very small step. But if you focus on this rather than the end sale then your call is likely to be more successful.

Naturally, many print salespeople prefer not to carry out this level of research.

Surely research takes up too much valuable sales time?

Let me answer this from the customer’s point of view. Over my years as a buyer, I have received many, many calls from print salespeople. A lot of those have been from people who rang me up knowing nothing about my company or me. They stood no chance of having a conversation, let alone gaining a meeting or an enquiry.

Sales people that rang me up with well researched, targeted calls were usually able to have a worthwhile conversation with me. They often progressed to more in-depth discussions and business. Best of all, using LinkedIn means that this research needn’t take up too much time.

So if you want to win business in this way, it’s time to take action

Set aside 30 minutes in your diary every day to carry out some call research and preparation. You’ll find it really will improve your results.

You’ll also never have to face the embarrassment of having to admit that you should know your prospects better.

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