In which we discuss the connective value of a little extra digging as part of our pre-call research.
“You can’t find those Cole Haan shoes anymore.”
I had just called a break in a meeting that included a client’s Senior Leadership team. One of the senior leaders, notably well dressed on every occasion, broke my moment of reflection as his colleagues left the room.
“Your shoes. Can’t find those anywhere.” I felt … astonished…that he would comment on something I was wearing. Then…amazed… that he recognized the shoe. Then… curious… how come he recognizes the shoe? Then…some weird variation of pride… he’s paying attention to MY shoes.
Now, I’ll admit to a gentle shoe fetish; I’m not quite to the level of “I am my shoes,” and I choose my work shoes thoughtfully and maintain them carefully. As our conversation developed, I discovered that the Senior Leader and I share a preference for particular shoes and styles.
Now… AS DUMB AS THIS SOUNDS… I felt more connected to the guy after that conversation. We had some shared “insider” knowledge.
So, hold that “connection” thought. That “insider knowledge” thought. Where is this leading? Call preparation.
Imagine we’re calling on a machine shop. First call. We’ve called on one or two other machine shops, and we’re no experts. We sell… whatever… financial services, office supplies, internet services. The intended object of our sales affections is walking us around the shop floor. As we pass by a lathe, we say, “Oh, you have a LeBlond engine lathe. Those are great for hard materials and large diameter parts.”
Now, our prospective client will feel a bit like I did after the hearing the “can’t find those shoes” comment – astonished that we would comment, amazed that we would recognize it, and then, maybe, a little pride. Certainly, our prospect would feel that we’re a little bit more “with it” than the last touring peddler who didn’t know his ROMI from his South Bend.
So… yeah…. Call preparation. The absolute minimum expectation is that we’ve read the company’s web site, we’ve skimmed (at least) the related First Research or equivalent industry profile, and (if they’re a public company) we’ve pulled some insight from their annual report. We’ve invested 30 – 90 minutes getting up to speed, understanding the essentials. That’s all EXPECTED.
To stand out clearly, we have to get to the “can’t find those shoes” level, the “LeBlond” level. We need just a little insider understanding.
So, how do we get that? Three possibilities:
1. We interrogate the first couple of machine shop owners we call on to tell us about the machines on their floors – what they are, why they chose them, what they’re particularly useful for, and so on.
2. We call our buddies who’ve called on machine shops or worked in machine shops and we ask the same questions.
3. Some machine shops comment on their web sites about their machines – a clue to the types of machines we should learn about. We use a Web search tool … we search “machine shop equipment” … and read through a few sites to develop some awareness of machines, their capabilities, and their value.
OK, not all of us call on machine shops. The idea is…. a little insider knowledge can go a long way to help us stand out and create connections to prospects and customers whether it’s machine shops, law firms, commercial printers, doctors, or horse farms we’re calling on. It’s “Be prepared, PLUS.” And it’s true, LeBlonds have more fun.