How many of us call prospective engineering and technology clients on scheduled conference calls, only to find they are not there? How many of us have driven to see a prospective, and even current, manufacturing client only to find out they are AWOL? A no-show?
And this is not a behavior pattern only reserved for “pesky salespeople.” It’s happening to engineering and technically intensive manufacturers, distributors and service companies as well.
Hey, don’t take it personally. There are only so many hours in the day. And our clients are busy with scheduled – and often unscheduled – fires that need to be attended to. And their priorities may not align with their company priorities, from time to time. (Hint: if your drive is more than 45 minutes to see a customer, call ahead to reconfirm).
Consider the business development process and how long it typically takes to work yourself on to a prospective customer’s dance card.
It’s difficult not to get yourself pumped up in anticipation of the meeting. You’ve done your due diligence, I hope. At least you were not planning on winging it, were you? Studied their website, pulled up their business information from various internet resources, spoken to internal staff to determine their history and persona if they are an existing customer, taken a look at the upstream and downstream data and informational economic and industrial trending factors that influence their decision-making?
Oh, and if you do not understand what I just wrote, then you and I need to talk.
Any preparatory work that you do for customer calls never goes to waste.
These folks simply do not have time to do their jobs. And that’s another piece of information that you need to add to what you know about your potential customer. Because, in essence, you are profiling them in your memory for a future conversation. You are getting a sense of what it is like to be them and work for their company, which is trying (I hope) to do business with you.
And when you do eventually connect, there is no apology needed on their part for a missed meeting. Jill Konrath, in SNAP Selling, relates there are about 60 MINUTES in each 60 hour work week which are available for face-time (in person) appointments, let alone conference calls.
Business development strategy better include the following elements as well as enough time to accommodate about 10 customer touchpoints.
Why? That’s what’s involved before finally establishing rapport with your prospective customers. And this also goes for current customers. Sometimes it’s like herding cats. You have to be patient.
Plan on establishing a great email relationship. That’s going to be your main venue of communication. And customers won’t necessarily have time to read the text of your email either. So:
- Make sure your email heading clearly states what it is you are wanting from them (e.g., Babette Ten Haken – Reschedule conference call from this morning?)
- Make sure your email “From” includes your phone number; make it easy for them to communicate with you, especially if they are accessing this info via mobile phone
- Make sure your digital signature includes your name, repeats your phone number, email address, company name, and perhaps a distinguishing tag line that describes your company’s services and capabilities (reinforce why they need to be working with you)
- In the body of your email, IF they even read it, include the reason why you need to reconnect. Include an ROI deliverable implied in the solutions your company provides.
Just some food for thought. How many of us generate well-crafted, thought-out emails especially after seemingly getting blown off a conference call or appointment?
And never, never write a return email in the heat of any moment. Because your customer doesn’t understand what it is to be you, and work for your company. And they don’t care. So they aren’t aware of all the factors contributing to the significance of your being able to connect with them for this missed conference call or in-person meeting.
Be patient. It all works out.
When you eventually get to meet the prospective customer, these “ships passing in the night” missed opportunities are seen as just that – missed opportunities. And you both can share a chuckle about it. And move forward to a productive and rewarding working relationship.
Something to think about?
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013 -2016. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools and is available on Amazon.