3 Steps to Successful Cold Call in B2B Customer Development
I had two observations about B2B startups doing customer development via cold calls. When founders spoke passionately about their businesses and their products (features), they got silence treatment on the phone.
JFDI’s 2013B startups were mostly B2B. They were selling to large enterprises, F&B, construction firms, SMB, blog shops, eCommerce sites, pharmaceutical, pharmacies, and consumer brands. There were some founders that were good at cold calling and getting meetings, but others got complete shut down. I sat through some cold calls with the teams and took notes. I had also done a lot of calling when I was working in research (for investment funds).
I was most curious about these: a) what techniques were successful; b) what did founders teach themselves to become more successful?
Sell Value, not Features
This was a piece of advice from one of our mentors, Simon Dale from SAP. B2B founders really needed to sell the value and not the features. It was extremely important to help customers to start talking about their pain points, and sought advice from customers on how they solved the pain point.
As soon as founders started talking passionately about features and product, it became “selling.” Potential customer would try his best to get off the phone by offering an email address, but never responded.
Get Comfortable with Awkward Silence
Fear was the reason why one of our guys told me he didn’t want to call. He didn’t like the awkward silence—and therefore he kept yapping about his product features, until he incited some sort of response from the poor customer. He kept throwing jargons like “just in time,” “distance learning,” over the phone.
After calling for a few weeks straight, he got used to it. We had talked about getting really specific in the questions to encourage the customer to talk about actual pain points.
Conclusion: Three Steps
1) Establish Credibility
- “I’ve been working with project managers/project engineers at firms like yours to understand pain points in the field and I wanted to see if I could get your advice on how you deal with _______”
2) Go Specific and Repeat Back What They Say
- “when were you last doing _______;”
- “how did you achieve _______;”
- “who did you interact/send _______ to;”
- “what part of the process did you have to do repeatedly,” etc. And paraphrase what they told you back at them.
3) Follow Up or Referral: is this a potential early adopter?
- “that’s very interesting, can I follow up with you/your colleague to _______;”
- “do you have friends in the industry that may have this problem,too;”
- “how can I help?”
And always follow up with a thank you note and a “how can I help?”