From Cold to Client: Part 1 - Blueprinting

Taking orders is not sales. This for me is one of the most important yet basic distinctions in business development. What I’m talking about is essentially the difference between inbound business and outbound activity.

While most inbound leads will require a level of nurturing and still need to be closed, they hold a different set of characteristics to self-generated leads. Specifically: engagement, intention and value.

 

A lead that has approached your business is looking for the services or products you provide. They’re already, to a certain extent, engaged. They have an intention to find out more and potentially buy. At some level, they understand the value of what you’re offering.

With outbound business and cold leads, you’re starting from scratch. That, to me, is the true definition of sales. From ‘cold’ to ‘client’ is a kind of alchemy. You’re turning thin air into money. Here’s how…

We begin at the coldest possible point – the North Pole of sales if you will. Raw data.

Once you’ve identified your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP – see previous article ‘How to be Amazing at Sales’) you know who to hunt for. This for me has always been the most exciting and entrepreneurial element of sales – creating a ‘hit’ list. It is the epitome of proactive sales activity. Remove any limits whether conscious or unconscious and decide who you want your clients to be. It’s empowering.

10 years ago when I sat down at the desk of my first real sales job, this data research was my first task. In fact, it had a name… Blueprinting.

As an aside, I’d like to acknowledge just how lucky I was to begin my sales career in that teleconferencing company back in 2006. Not because they were amazingly well-structured – quite the contrary. This was a product with virtually no marketing behind it. No content, no brand awareness, no inbound leads. To add to that, it was a deeply competitive environment – not just competition from the other teleconferencing providers – but from the team around me. Imagine standing knee-deep in a murky river, shoulder-to-shoulder with 20 other hungry opportunists, each of you panning through silt and mud and detritus in the hope of finding the smallest grain of gold… that’s what it was like in this sales department. We had to work for every single lead. Nothing was handed to us. Every single opportunity was man-made.

Blueprinting is detective work. Your objective is to find out everything you need to know about that company in order to develop them into a prospect. How big are they, what do they turn over, how many employees, the structure of the business, decision makers, budget holders, lines of report, which suppliers they already work with, details of recent projects or purchases, how much they spend… gather all of this information and bingo – you have a qualified lead. A blueprint.

 

“And how?” you may ask. Only a certain amount of this information will be available in the public sphere. There is only one way to get to the other stuff. Pick up the phone. Speak to Jean in accounts, speak to Cathy on reception, speak to Cliff in IT... they are your friends on the inside. I once got direct telephone numbers and email addresses of every top-level director for one of the UK’s largest banks simply because I had a nice chat about Masterchef with Tina from the Isle of Wight office.

Each nugget of information is a piece of the puzzle. As you put them together, you get a clear image of the organisation you’re dealing with – and whether they fit your criteria. That piece of data has developed into a lead and now holds some real value.

As an aside at this stage, organising your leads into a CRM is vital. My preferred process would be to keep raw data out of the CRM and only load in leads once you’ve qualified the key pieces of information. At any given time, you’ll want about 300-500 qualified leads per salesperson in your CRM. I’ve mentioned consistency before and it’s vital that you keep this volume of leads replenished.

Now you’ve got some clean, qualified leads you’re in a position to create and develop opportunities.

At this stage, I’m going to get my giant comedy foam finger and point out a massively important distinction; blueprinting and pitching are two separate disciplines. Here’s what I’m talking about:

 

Blueprinting as I just described it is a process of fact finding. The objective is to find out everything you need to know to a) qualify whether you want to do business with this company and b) put you in a position to offer some value when you want to begin developing the lead into a prospect.

Pitching (for want of a better term) is the call you make to initiate a business conversation. It’s mission-driven by virtue of the fact that you’re working towards a goal. A meeting, an introductory call, a web demonstration – whatever the deliverable, this is the purpose of the pitch.

Now, an experienced salesperson will put these two disciplines together on the same call and come away with the prize. An inexperienced salesperson will put these two disciplines together on the same call and totally fudge it. In my opinion, you are in a stronger position to pitch your services if you already have the background information you need easily to hand – and the target will feel confident that they’re speaking with an informed business professional rather than a ‘cold caller’ (because everyone hates those.)

Here’s what I’m talking about. Which of these two calls would you prefer to receive:

 

Scenario 1.

Salesperson “Hello, I’m calling from ABC company – we’re experts in XYZ and we work with J, K and L clients.

Are you the decision maker? Do you currently use XYZ services? How big is your department? Who are you working with right now? How much do you spend? What are your business challenges?

Can we meet to discuss?”

 

Scenario 2.

Salesperson “Hello, I’m calling from ABC company – we’re experts in XYZ and we work with J, K and L clients.

I understand you’re the best person to talk to about XYZ and I know that there’s an opportunity to help you with this.

Can we meet to discuss?”

 

See the difference? Scenario two puts you in the power position. Statements instead of questions feel more confident and allow you to be direct, incisive and reach your call objective quickly.

 

Next time – pitch better and dramatically increase your opportunities. We'll focus on turning those leads into prospects quickly and effectively.

Happy Blueprinting!

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