If you make cold calls, what happens when the prospect you are trying to reach is unavailable?
It was only a year ago that I was traveling around with a client’s sales agent, making cold calls.
Funny how a year can seem so long ago.
We were expanding their business into Mexico, and I was tagging along to provide real-world coaching and feedback.
(Yes, I’ll do almost anything for my clients.)
Although we had called ahead in many instances to arrange a meeting, I encouraged the new employee to take every opportunity to stop by and introduce himself to potential prospects.
After all, sales—and specifically opening up new markets—is about creating awareness of you, your company, and its products or services.
We spent time stopping by, unexpected, allowing the new employee a chance to experience all kinds of receptions, from the “Do you have an appointment today?” to “I’m sorry, we don’t accept unplanned visitors.”
There were likely six cold stops added into our trip during a three-day period.
It didn’t take long before my new mentee asked, “What should we do when the prospect we are trying to reach is unavailable?”
The Personalized Cold Call
There are several reasons why I encourage cold calls.
It builds confidence and character, for one thing.
But the most important benefit to making a cold call, be it in person or over the telephone, can offer is opening up opportunity.
An opportunity to place a follow-up call.
To send a personalized email or letter saying, “Sorry I missed you the other day, but…”
Even to mail a written letter with a business card.
Truth be told, if you are traveling to meet a prospect or customer in person, you’d be remiss not to make at least one cold stop.
Why not make the most of your travel time?
What to Do When Your Prospect Isn’t Available
There are several actions you can take when the prospect you are trying to reach is unavailable.
Below, I’ve outlined several strategies I’ve used, all with varying degrees of success.
Leave your business card:
The most obvious thing to do is to leave a business card with reception.
That’s old school.
What I like to do with this strategy is add a personalized note to the back of my card suggesting a call to action. Something like, “Bob, sorry I missed you. Had some important news to share. Give me a call!”
Leave your boss’ business card:
If you want some stature, leave your boss’ business card (with their permission, of course), and add a note to the back – “Shawn wanted me to stop by and say hello! I’ll call you tomorrow at 10 a.m.”
Leave a high-quality brochure substitute:
Another old-school strategy, part of what I like to call the “thank goodness they weren’t available, let’s drop something and get outta here!” approach. Lol.
This still works as a leave-behind, but rather than a brochure, take a portion of your pitch deck then print it on some fancy paper and add it to a small binder.
Something like this can act as a leave behind with substance and quality.
Leave a name drop message:
I enjoy this strategy. Leave a message with reception or on voice mail that suggests you are working with their competitor and thought they might be interested in what you are discussing.
“John, I was in the area visiting company XYZ, I think they’re your competitor. They’re still considering our product, but I thought you might be interested in hearing what we’re recommending before they make a decision.”
Leave a provocative message:
Leave a message with reception or on voice mail that is provocative.
“John, I noticed your curbs are damaged, likely from your snow removal crew. We can fix that and ensure you never have curb rash again. Give me a call!”
Ask for someone else (up the chain):
This is exactly as it sounds. Just tell reception something like, “Sorry to hear John’s not available; however, this is somewhat urgent. Would his boss be available? It should only take 5 minutes.”
Ask for someone else (down the chain):
Very similar to above but the opposite direction. “Sorry to hear John’s busy. I won’t be back for some time and I know this is important to John. Would there be someone else I could speak to?”
Use the “I can wait” strategy:
If you have the time, just respond with, “No problem, I can wait.” If you’re told the person is out of the office or will be busy for hours, divert back to any of the strategies above.
Never Waste an Onsite Opportunity
You might be thinking that selling virtually is a better approach then cold calling.
Depending on your product or service, you may be right.
However if you’ve spent time on the road as I have, you’d be remiss not to stop by to “say hello” to a potential prospect.
The cost of acquisition is low, and by being present, you dramatically increase your chances of building a strong relationship quickly.
But if your prospect isn’t available, don’t miss out on the opportunity.
Use any of the strategies above and capitalize on the visit.
© Shawn Casemore 2021. All Rights Reserved.