Reaching out with purpose

Reaching out

You’re now at the stage where you have an offer that’s reshaped, relevant and ready to go. Now it’s time to take it to your current and new customers. This article is about how you can begin reaching out with confidence and a clear message.

We know that a lot people are uncomfortable about this stage. Reaching Out, or selling, is often seen as a dirty word, it can evoke massive highs and deep lows. There’s fear of rejection to fear of handling objections and so on. But then there’s also targets to be hit, survival of your business and driving success, so it has to be done.

So how do you start with a bang?

You need to re-frame how you think about sales.

There are two halves to this. Firstly, you know your product or service is now in the best possible shape to provide value to your client. If that’s the case, how do you think the customer would feel if you DIDN’T tell them about it?

Indignant? Hurt? Upset? Would they ask you “Why didn’t you call me about it?”, or shout “How dare you NOT call me!”. Therefore, the question isn’t why should you contact them, it’s why shouldn’t you contact them.

This is the first half of your re-frame. You know your offer is right, it would be remiss of you not to tell customers about it.

The second half of your re-frame is even simpler.

When you’re contacting your customer, you’re not trying to sell. What you’re actually doing is trying to unlock a bit more of their time and attention. That’s all.

Think about when you’ve been on the receiving end of a cold call. Most of the time we bet you couldn’t wait to get off the phone. But if that person’s opening couple of lines were engaging enough, you may have given them another minute to find out more. That’s exactly what you’re trying to do here. Less daunting, more engaging.

With these two halves of your reframe in place you can feel more confident in contacting them. The next question is how do you demonstrate relevance and value up front to them in your first contact? For the purposes of this we’re going to skip over emails and go straight to a first conversation, as this is where the most discomfort is felt. A first conversation could be a call, or at a conference or anywhere where you have the opportunity to speak to someone for the first time. Note this is mainly focused on a business-to-business setting, but you can still use these tips to help you in the business-to-consumer world.

We’ve found the following Frame-Behaviour-Result framework works really well when reaching out to someone for the first time and demonstrate relevance and value.

We’ve already covered your mental re-framing. The Frame in this instance is simply the reason why you’re calling them. However, as you have likely experienced yourself, sales calls tend to be focused on telling you about a product or service and its’ features and pricing, with little or no thought given to your existing needs or situation. They may ask you some questions about who your existing supplier is, or how you currently do what you do.

Frame – have the reason for your call completely focused on them not you

The issue with this type of call, and the reason why when anyone who receives one feels so negative about it, is that IT’S ALL ABOUT THEM, NOT ABOUT YOU. They are calling because they need to hit their targets, they want to get promoted, whatever. But it’s rarely genuine that they’re ringing because they want to see if they can help you. 

So the Frame is about making the call about the other person. Before you pick up the phone, think about if you were them, what would make you want to listen. From customer feedback, the most relevant things people ring up about are:

  • You’re ringing about something they’re doing – maybe there’s an initiative you have a point of view about, or think you can help with. Maybe it’s an industry-wide issue that you know your customer is dealing with. 
  • Something they should be doing – this area covers those developments or changes in your customers’ markets that are known about, but they haven’t done anything about yet. For example, dealing with new regulations, or a recent product launch, or a new competitor. You think they either aren’t doing what they should be about it, or they’re too busy right now to do anything about it
  • Fresh thinking/something new – This falls into the category of ‘something not on their radar yet’. It plays on the Fear of Missing Out, FOMO. This could be about the new service your company has launched and you think it might help them.

With the first two points above, starting off the conversation referring to something that’s happening in their world makes you immediately relevant, and it’s highly likely that they will hang on for a little longer to briefly talk about it. We would recommend starting off with one of these first two topics as the general rule.

For the third point, well, your chances of success start out lower, particularly if it’s about your new service or product. Why? Because right then, they can’t see the relevance of it. But, if you start the conversation referring to something in their world first, then they are more likely to give a little more time and attention to you. The challenge at the end of this article will help get you started in this.

Behaviour – don’t fall foul of these

Under the types of pressure everyone can put themselves under when engaging in a first conversation with a potential customer, the resulting behaviour changes can betray the true feelings of the seller.  These changes can include:

  • Speaking faster
  • Higher tone of voice
  • Tripping over words
  • Barely hearing what they said
  • Becoming too jokey
  • Becoming overly positive

How you come across in this first contact is important, and something to be consciously aware of.

If you identify with any of these traits, then practice or rehearsal of the first conversation, with a friendly colleague or friend, works absolute wonders to become fully aware of the small tweaks to make before the real conversation takes place.

Result – focus on unlocking stages as opposed to one big win

We covered this at the start of the article. You are simply trying to unlock more time and attention. Thinking like this means:

  • It keeps your focus on the other person, rather than your ourself [e.g. financial or meeting targets], meaning that your preparation before the contact will be much more valuable to the customer.
  • It helps to ‘equalise’ your positioning in your mind with the customer. You’re not trying to sell or convince, and therefore potentially feel subservient, you’re calling to immediately demonstrate value and see if you can help them.
  • It naturally limits the length of this first contact, as long as you don’t start giving tons of details about how you can help. This only about IF you can help.

With all this in mind, here’s a challenge for you.

In the next article we’re going to talk about the structure of a great first conversation. Part of that structure involves creating what we call a ‘hook’, those first 12-20 words that get the customer’s attention. A hook is a reason for starting the conversation that makes it compelling for the customer to stay involved. A hook is rooted in their world first, not yours.

What is your hook going to be?

Think about it, test it out and then write it down. Next time you’ll have the chance to slot it into a full conversation structure that greatly increases the chances of unlocking more time and attention from your customer.

Cherry Martin

Cherry Martin

Cherry is Associate Editor of Business Matters with responsibility for planning and writing future features, interviews and more in-depth pieces for what is now the UK’s largest print and online source of current business news.
Cherry Martin

Cherry is Associate Editor of Business Matters with responsibility for planning and writing future features, interviews and more in-depth pieces for what is now the UK’s largest print and online source of current business news.

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