If you're selling, know how to pitch, says Ian Jones.
02 September 2019 | Ian Jones
Early on a Friday morning I answered a call from an unknown number - because it could have been my daughter who was travelling abroad - but I should have known better.
It was a cold caller selling fit-out services for a move - documented in the media over three to four years - which we completed last year.
I used to cold call. It's difficult. But if you pick up that phone, choose a good time and do your homework. Research the company, because pitching to a TV company is going to be different from pitching to a bank. You need to explain quickly why your service is different.
Imagine, instead, that the caller had told me he knew we had moved, but wanted to highlight his company's innovative fit-out approach. He didn't so I wished him well and returned to my podcast.
It's not just cold callers that get it wrong. Property agents send brochures, which have cost a small tree its life, for properties in Bedford or Exmouth. No offence to people who live there, but I've never shown any interest in these areas so why send me these?
Our spam filters redirect around 200 emails a day from sellers of goods and services.
It's hard to get your message heard amid the waterfall of noise in digital sales and marketing. But there are better ways of engaging.
Here are the best four approaches I've seen.
1 Play the long game
Play the long game and foster relationships that bear fruit for the service provider and the end user.
Years ago, a fit-out company offered to take me to lunch - the usual wining and dining experience of the '90s - but I asked for a tour of a building they were working in to show me what they were doing and to get an introduction with the client - a fellow FM.
I didn't use them initially, but they never gave up, inviting me to site visits where I met more and more FMs. Then recommendations came from other FMs, so I started to use them. And they never let me down.
2 Create a community
The same fit-out company formed an FM club that has been established for 20 years and has 50 facilities managers and directors of allied trades that meet twice a year and usually throw in a building tour.
The company has prospered by investing time to bring like-minded people together for conversations on relevant workplace topics. Their financial investment in this has been relatively small, but a lot of their work has come from personal recommendations.
3 Engage end users
Smaller companies, especially, can also highlight their service offering by sponsoring round-table events, connecting with a professional body - IWFM, CIBSE, RICS, etc - to bring together end users to debate workplace matters. End users take part because they know they will meet other end users and can discuss challenges that they are all having.
The topic is usually but not always relevant to the company sponsoring the event. They sit around a table also gleaning end-user viewpoints and feedback to use when selling their services to other companies.
So everyone wins: workplace managers meet each other, relevant topics are discussed and everyone present is aware of the sponsor company because its people are round the table with them.
4 Attend trade shows
I go to trade shows for two reasons: to find a solution to a specific challenge and to see what's new in our world. Sales people, we know you have a tale to tell and a sale to sell. We will be responsive. My visits to trade shows save me time, money and effort. I advise people to attend a trade show at least every other year.
All of these approaches rely on face-to-face meetings. Even with advanced technology, there's no substitute for people meeting people. Selling is hard, so spend your money where people are actually listening.
Ian Jones is director of facilities at ITV