Shortly after Christmas, my grandfather used to bug me to create a bundle of New Year’s Eve resolutions. He’d say, “if you don’t have goals, you don’t have anything.” He surmised that if I concentrated at least annually on my strategies for improvement, some of them would stick, and a better grandchild would result.
Businesses do the same, but usually more formally. Businesses create strategies of improvement which filter down into purchasing initiatives the clever telephone salesperson can fulfill. But our contacts usually won’t disclose these initiatives unless we ask. Back in my field sales days, I’d often call on large businesses, and I’d keep my eyes out for the posters, the small signs in the cubicles, or the CEO’s recorded speech on the public monitor articulating the vision. Often these initiatives had clever names, 1 x 2000 seventeen years ago, or Vision 2020 today. The salesperson that hitches his or her star to a named initiative with a helpful solution is golden. In my field sales days, I’d notice the signs, and then bring up the initiative in conversation. The telephone salesperson, blind to the posters and signs, and deaf to the CEO’s recorded exhortation, must probe.
Few customers will open-up directly about their company’s initiatives unless you have a good relationship. You build the relationship by having a good business curiosity. What makes this customer tick? How do they compete and survive in the marketplace? If the salesperson has been responsive, the products and services supplied have been of good quality, and they have asked intelligent questions, the salesperson can probe for these golden strategies.
First, check out the company website and press releases. Often the corporate marketing department will splash initiatives online, especially those targeted at their customers. Second, is there someone else you can ask besides the buyer? Perhaps a user of your product, someone in the quality department, or someone else you’ve befriended. A simple, “do you folks have any big initiatives I should know about?” may get the information. Third, ask your buyer. “Amy, to serve you better, I’m curious if you have any ongoing initiatives I should be aware of? Tell me about your corporate strategies this year.”
Any proposal that hits the desk of higher ups that mentions the CEO’s strategic project get serious consideration. Funding follows named initiatives, and quotes that reference these C-level pronouncements get preferential treatment. “I’m sorry, excuse me, pardon me, can I sneak by you?” There is nothing sweeter than your proposal proudly going to the front of the funding line.
The prerequisite salesperson requirement is curiosity. Do you care what is going on in your customer’s world, or is your focus on telling someone about the latest product or service your selling organization has created? The highly successful telephone salesperson positions this latest product or service as a way of addressing the customer’s named initiative, and hitches his or her proposal to the Vision 2020, or whatever clever name the customer’s public relations team created.
Rarely did my grandfather follow-up a year later to see how my resolutions performed. We were on to the new. Business customers are the same, initiatives are abandoned, new ones created, the marketplace dictates change. Continue to ask, to probe and keep current– the golden customer initiative is just a few questions away.