In order to be granted some of their precious time, you need to move them from oblivious to curious.
They will grant you access only if you pique their curiosity or provoke their thinking with relevant information such as:
- How other companies address the same issues;
- Business outcomes they’d like to achieve;
- Information on industry and competitive trends;
- Intelligence about their customers’ wants, needs, trends;
- Updates on topics they’re interested in knowing more about; or
- Insights into a vexing problem or new priority.
Every three to five seconds during your initial outreach, your prospects ask themselves, “Is this of interest?” If not, you’re gonzo. Delete, delete, delete. That’s why it’s so important to invest time in your up-front positioning and messaging.
As you can see, all these value propositions contain the three essential elements. They focus on business drivers that are important to prospective customers. The “movement” words show the impact on the status quo. And finally, the numbers add credibility and highlight the gap between what is and what could be.
While it’s tempting to follow up with a “just checking in” message, that’s the worst thing you can do. Every single communication needs to provide value. Since many of your connections will be via e-mail, this gives you an opportunity to link to quality content or attach it to your message. Smart companies:
- Go for conceptual buy-in as the critical first step.
- Ensure rock-solid alignment with their business goals and objectives.
- Provide leadership and guidance to help their decision making.
- Provoke their thinking and open them up to new possibilities.
- Scope out the potential value of making a change.
- Engage multiple people in the decision-making process early.
- Uncover any or all obstacles to their making a change.
- Continue offering valuable ideas, insights, and information.
- Make it easy for your prospects to do business with you.
Never let the lack of money in the budget stop you. Every single day, in every single company, people change their priorities about how to spend their money. When the economy is struggling—as it is while I write this—CFOs are rethinking their budgets every ninety days to ensure they’re most aligned with market conditions.
Your customers’ status quo is the original course. Everything in their ecosystem is set up to maintain their current way of doing things—even if it’s not the best way to get the work done. They may know it, or they may be blissfully ignorant that their ways are outdated or under-performing. It doesn’t matter. The devil they know is easier to deal with than the devil they don’t. They may have contracts that prohibit them from doing things differently, procedures that detail the exact processes to follow, and even entire departments or infrastructures that support their legacy systems or methodologies. Not only that, you’re walking into a customer’s ecosystem that potentially has people who:
- Could lose their jobs if they brought in your solution.
- Worked with your company in the past and had a bad experience.
- Would rather do the work internally than use an external resource.
- Would feel bad ending a long-standing vendor relationship.
- Are involved in turf wars with others on the decision-making team.
- Have future plans to which you’re not privy.
- Don’t believe a change would work for them.
There are hundreds of valid reasons for keeping things the same. With frazzled customers, it can take even longer to bring about change, because the sheer number of distractions prevents them from focusing on your ideas, products, or services.
Sometimes it just seems easier to stay with the status quo, which former U.S. president Ronald Reagan defined as “Latin for ‘the mess that we’re in.’ ”