One time I lost my car keys when we were camping. I spent two hours looking for those keys, tracing my steps, looking in the grass, looking in the bathroom, looking at the playground. Then I gave up and called the towing company. The sun was setting, the kids were starting to complain, the mosquitoes were eating me alive, and I just didn’t want to deal with it anymore. The towing company showed up, and guess what? They found my keys. It took them five minutes. The keys were on the seat in my unlocked car. That’s the first place they looked for them. Why? Because they’ve been called out that campground hundreds of times by people who did the exact same thing.
How much of your day is spent looking for car keys that are sitting on your seat?
Here’s what I mean by that. In your database, you likely have hundreds of companies that you have tried to reach once or twice, maybe 10 times. And at some point, you just decided to quit calling them. You got frustrated, you had other things that needed attention, and you threw your hands up in the air. A professional prospecting company doesn’t do anything special or magical with your data — they just know where most people leave their keys, and they check there first.
The trick to getting through
Today I’ll share with you one of our “keys on the seat” tricks that we’ve learned over the years. It’s something you can try when you’re having trouble getting through a gatekeeper to have a conversation with a champion, influencer, or decision maker. First, remember that the gatekeeper could be any of those, so it’s important to treat them the same as you would the CEO. (A good rule of thumb in everyday life.)
When you call in to a company that you’ve called dozens of times already with no success, don’t tell the gatekeeper who you want to speak with. Ask who you should speak with. Get the gatekeeper helping you from the very beginning. Try this opener:
“Hi Julie — It’s Carrie Simpson calling from ABC IT. We’ve been trying to connect with Joe Smith for a few months to provide a quote for IT support. Is Joe the person we should be trying to reach?”
YES? “Great! Look, before you transfer me, can you answer a few questions for me? Our services are best suited for companies with more than 20 computers — how many computers do you have there?”
NO? “Oh! Well no wonder it’s been so hard to connect with him. Who do you think I should talk to?”
Keep the conversation going
At any point during this conversation, the gatekeeper may attempt to rush you off the phone, saying “We’re not interested.” If you can keep the conversation going for a few more minutes, you can still win the chance to move along through the process. Try this:
“I appreciate you telling me that. Is there someone I can send information to? The worst time to look for a new IT company is when you really need one. Do you work with a company already, or do you handle all of your IT support in-house?”
The goal is to keep the conversation going. The longer you chat, the more questions you can ask, and the more likely it is you’re going to find those keys. This is true for any title, any company, any vertical. Keep the conversation going. Have one or two more questions you can ask — open-ended questions that require a thoughtful answer.
Last resort? Ask if you can send the gatekeeper some information to review, and ask him or her to forward it to the right person if they see value in it.
Most of the time that email will get deleted. It doesn’t matter; it’s a Trojan horse. You just want to create the premise for your next call.
On your next call in, you’re on a first name basis with the gatekeeper.
“Hi Joan, it’s Carrie from ABC IT. How’s your day going today?” (A warmer intro means a warmer conversation most times.) “We spoke a few weeks ago about IT Support. I was trying to reach Joe — is he available today?”
If you continually can’t get through the gatekeeper, it’s time to look in other places for those keys.
Call really early in the morning or late in the evening when you’re guaranteed to get the directory. Now you’re going to start chipping away at a relationship with the decision maker — or anyone else at the company who will take a call from you. Business owners never rest, so you might luck into that conversation at 6 p.m. or 7a.m. Do they have an answering service? Try leaving a message with your name and your company name and phone number and see if someone returns the call.
Still no luck? You might get the controller by pressing “4” for accounts receivable. You might get someone live pressing “2” for human resources.
When all else fails? It’s time to talk to someone in sales about trading referrals. That is your easiest conversation to have, and your best entry point into any company. And if you’re really lucky? You’re calling a founder-led sales organization, and you’ll luck into a chat with the person you really wanted to talk to from the very beginning. Look at that, the keys were right there on the seat the whole time.
Photo Credit: Linus Bohman via Flickr.com. Used under CC 2.0 License.