I recently launched a new initiative through our holding company, North American Utility Partners, LLC (NAUP) – working with a group of old friends and energy entrepreneurs we launched a new “B2B Agent Program” entitled “Energy Never Sleeps”. This close group of old friends and colleagues have pleaded to me for sometime now, to put my knowledge of commercial energy sales into an online curriculum. While this was sort of a side project for me, being headed up by the 20-year retail energy veteran Ron Thibeau, the truth is that good-old-fashion-sales efforts are what I love more than anything. So the project has been therapeutic for me.
It’s no secret that the launching of a commercial energy brokerage back in the middle of 2001 is what triggered a major turn-around and upswing for me (professionally and financially). Over the years, I have had the privilege of starting and being a significant owner in more than one Retail Energy Provider, owned an energy software company, have ownership stake in a large solar-thermal project, and owned 2 energy based multi-level-marketing companies. But, my favorite thing to do is interact with the end-use commercial and industrial customers. Over the course of my career, I have had the privilege of brokering and/or closing some of the largest commercial and industrial energy services agreements across the U. S.
One of the reasons that I have had success in this realm is because, unlike many other sales professionals, I truly love cold calling. The truth is, I actually get mental stimulation out of interrupting someone’s day and then forging a new relationship. I enjoy it when the prospect’s heels are dug in deep and he/she is telling me that they are “so happy with their current guy” and how sorry they are that I am “just wasting my time”. This is right around the time that I begin deploying a series of take-away phrases... and not your usual used car tactics, I mean the really sophisticated ones that make the V.I.T.O. take a step back and open up for a conversation… and that’s how it starts. You know, that’s all that I really need, is an opportunity to have a conversation.
I loathe the new sales curriculum that are rampant today, teaching people short cuts and making promises of never having to make a cold call again. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in networking, in asking for referrals, in generating warm leads, I believe in branding and I certainly believe in marketing… but I am talking to real sales people right now, not the kind that want to hide behind titles like “consultant” or “analyst” because they’re sheepish about saying “SALES!!”. Here me loud and clear, the really big money goes to the guys and gals who are not afraid to pick up the phone and get a signature on the line that is dotted (in my Alec Baldwin voice).
I think the reason that the overwhelming majority of sales people abhor cold calling is because they completely start off with the wrong mindset; essentially they are doomed for failure before they even start. This only reinforces their hatred of cold calling, which in turn further feeds their wrong mindset and so you have a downward spiral resulting in weak commission checks and for many it means going back to a customer service or administrative job, instead of realizing the big income potential that a successful professional sales career can bring.
Most sales people view cold calling as fearful, boring, pressured, unpleasant, confrontational and demoralizing – these are the actual feelings inside most peoples’ mind upon starting the cold calling process. Subsequently, their cold calling efforts will be poor and so it’s no wonder that the customer has no choice but to react negatively to the sales persons’ weak efforts. One study said that “prospects who experienced poor cold calling efforts described the process as: a nuisance, felt that the sales person was unprepared and pressured, felt a sense of dishonesty and disrespect”. Funny how the two view points go horse and carriage.
I believe that the proper mindset begins with understanding your value proposition; for me this goes far and beyond reciting some value prop statement. In my curriculum, I actually refer to this as the cornerstone, in that the rest of the sales process should flow from this place (specifically objection handling). When you have a clear understanding and a genuine sense of conviction of your company’s value proposition; and you have honed your communication skills to effectively interact with key decision makers, then your cold calling efforts will start to feel exhilarating, innovative, structured and professional. Most decision makers understand, appreciate and desire value for their business – when you learn to speak their language; good results will follow. I certainly don’t mean to oversimplify it, the webinar that I did for the Energy Never Sleeps curriculum is about an hour long… but as a takeaway for you aspiring sales professionals, you should consider these two questions:
1) What is your value proposition?
2) Exactly what is it about your value proposition that will make the decision maker want to give you the time of day?
If you find that you don’t have a real sense of conviction about your Value Proposition, then by all means find another product, service or company that you can stand behind. I have found that having a real conviction about my company’s value proposition has a very positive impact on my cold calling efforts. The first thing it does, is give me the proper mindset. Secondly, it allows me to use very effective scripts and techniques that would not work effectively, if I had a sub-par product or service offering. Lastly, my cold calling efforts become fun and fruitful; which means that the commission checks will show the proof.
I hope that this helps a least a few sales professionals out there to hone in on and/or revisit their cold calling skill set.