BD 101: Don’t Be A Cyborg

by Scott - 8 Comments

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Usually within the first 5 seconds of picking up the phone I can tell if its a cold call. A creative mispronunciation of my name followed by monotone script reading typically give it away.

The person on the other end could have the greatest offer in the world for me. But it doesn’t matter. For better or worse, I’ve conditioned my brain to turn off as soon as I recognize these interactions. Its as if a trigger goes off that immediately diverts all of my focus towards determining how I can politely extract myself from the conversation…I might as well be talking to a machine.

Pro-active business development often requires a lot of cold outreach. When I’m reaching out cold via email or phone, I always try to be cognizant of the interaction outlined above. Specifically, how to avoid being bundled in with the armies cyborgs I just described; my success depends on side-stepping this perception.

I’ve found that navigating cold outreach by the 3 principles below not only prevents me from seeming irrelevant right off the bat, but also yields the best results.

Keep it Short

Keep your dialogue short and to the point. In a world with more choices and less time, our attention spans have been diluted. We’ve created filtering mechanisms in order to brush over things we don’t perceive will add value to our lives. 

The result: If I don’t know the sender, I don’t read the email – I scan it. Packing more information into an email means a higher likelihood that I’ll unknowingly gloss over your value proposition; I miss the value and never respond.

The same goes for overblown phone pitches. If you’re not engaging me in a way that elicits a response in the first 30 seconds, you’re toast. Have you ever got a member of the opposite sex to like you by them by rattling off why they should like you in the first 2 minutes of meeting them? No. Unless you’re really, really ridiculously good looking.

Be Human

People like having conversations, not being talked to. Long winded phone scripts and 4 paragraph cold emails don’t exactly feel like a conversation. They feel a pitch.

I find it much more effective to present myself in a humanistic way – WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? It means writing/talking as if you were having a normal conversation with someone. Sometimes that means assuming familiarity. Other times it means making fun of yourself and intentionally speaking with pauses (on the phone). Hopefully the juxtaposition below will speak better to this than my JV explanation.

Human Phone example:

“Hey x, my name is Scott Britton and I’m calling from best company ever.  Maybe you could help me out here…(intentional pause to capture attention)…I’m having a really tough time finding the person in charge of designing your new supersoaker. Any chance you might be able to point me in the right direction”

Cyborg Phone example:

“Hi this is Scott Britton calling from X company. I’d like to talk with the supersoaker designer regarding a product enhancement that will add 1300 rpms to its stream. Currently we work with all the other supersoaker companies and have generated an additional 3x return on their investment.”

Human Email Intro:

Hi X,

I noticed you guys didn’t have an map widget on your site. Would love to talk to you or the appropriate person about taking care of that….[state some street cred here]…I’m curious, have you guys ever thought to include one?

Cyborg Email Intro

Hi X,

My name is White Goodman and I work for X. Our company works with fortune 500 companies and is backed by Patches O’houlihan and Bill Murray. We have put over 6,000 map widgets on sites increasing user’s time on site by 6 minutes on average….
Can you see the difference between what a human call/email is vs. a cyborg one?

Truth be told many other “sales/BD gurus” have preached to me that should state x, y, and z impersonal importance indicators at the beginning of a cold interaction “to capture their attention” or “let them know you’re worth talking to.”  Well I tried that and have found a much higher success rate by taking a human, conversational approach.

My hypothesis to explain this is in alignment with my personal behavior when I’m on the other side – most people are faced with so many daily decisions that they’ve conditioned themselves to filter out anything that appears to be a blanket interaction void of value. Remember the goal is to provoke a response, not tell them as much you can about yourself and your offering within the first interaction.

Be Personal/Relevant/Informed

Keeping it short and talking like a human is a good start to disarm my anti-spam filter, but it doesn’t always make me feel compelled to respond. You know what does? Demonstrating to me that you went through the extra effort of learning about me or my company.

Bringing up a piece of recent news, referencing something specific to their site, and even going as far as mentioning something unique to the person you’re emailing IN PASSING is a great way to signal your email wasn’t #1 of 10,000. People appreciate it and feel more obligated to respond. At least I do.

I could write an entire post on how to subtly lace your emails with personal context, but for now I’ll just highlight one of my favorite tactics. Within the first sentence of an email, I like to throw in a provocative hyperlink that references the problem you have a solution for. The hyperlink should direct to the portion of their site where they’re lacking and you hope to supplant a solution. An example I’d use if I worked for a company with a comment API:

“Hey X, I noticed that your article pages don’t have a comment section.”

In this case, I’d link to the page on their site that lacks a comment section. The goal here is to make their problem obvious before I propose my oh so perfect solution. In the process I signal that I’ve taken the time to do my homework and that its not a blanket email, rather one that was crafted specifically to address something I can help them with.

The strategies described above don’t guarantee that you’ll get a deal or even a response for that matter. That comes down to having a compelling offering. However, these are practices that I’ve noticed can improve your chance of getting to that point. By not acting like a cyborg you give yourself a chance.

It definitely takes a lot more work navigating pro-active BD using these principles. You move slower. But the idea is to maximize return not get through your target list as quickly as possible.

Think about the cyborgs you encounter. Think about your cold approach. Would you respond to your pitch?

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