By Chris Beall,
Recently, I found myself prescribing a script to someone in the most powerful class of salespeople: a CEO/Founder (aka, a C/F). C/Fs, a kind of Big Dog usually given a certain degree of respect compared to, say, an Account Executive, regardless of how many adjectives one might put before “Account.”
Given that job #1 at any early-stage company is to get those precious first paying customers, an obvious question is, “Can the C/F systematically and efficiently translate this Big Dog power into the early wins that transform the company from a nice idea into a nascent business?” If so, any C/F wanting their company to survive and thrive should spend as much time as possible each day selling. If not, perhaps their young company won’t do so well.
But what should they say?
Here are five sentences that work. Of course, other sentences may work too — perhaps better than these. But this script, which I have prescribed to other Big Dogs, works well enough to be worth trying and, therefore, worth sharing. I will quote from a recent cold call by Noah Blumenthal, C/F of SavvyRoo, a new company with a system that magically turns frontline employees into innovation engines.
Sentences 1 and 2: “Hi, I’m Noah Blumenthal, CEO of SavvyRoo. I know I’m an interruption; can I have 27 seconds to tell you why I called?”
The purpose of the first two sentences is to engage. If these initial sentences succeed, the C/F can expect the next sentence to be listened to. The reasons Sentences 1 and 2 work are that:
• Noah is not hiding behind anything. He comes right out with his name and CEO title. This is unusual, and the unusual is worth listening to.
• Noah takes personal responsibility for being an interruption — a shared truth that is hard to disagree with.
Sentence 3: “I believe we have discovered a breakthrough in unleashing the innovation power of frontline employees.”
Why pay attention? Because:
• “I believe” is an arresting statement of fact. When someone else expresses simple belief, we need to hear the punch line. “You believe what?”
• “we have discovered” says clearly that whatever “I believe” was not cooked up for the purpose of making a buck; it is something true that has simply been found out. And not just by one person, but by “we,” who are less likely to be mistaken.
• “a breakthrough” goes out on a limb, promising not just incremental or temporary value, but potentially something game-changing.
• “in unleashing the innovation power of frontline employees” resolves the question of “What is the breakthrough?” by simply and clearly stating the nature of the breakthrough. If you are responsible in any way for either innovation or employee engagement, a claimed breakthrough of this kind is worth learning more about.
Sentence 4: “The reason I reached out to you today is to get 15 minutes on your calendar to share that breakthrough with you.”
Noah was offered 27 seconds to say why he called. In this sentence, he keeps his promise. In well under 27 seconds, the purpose of his call is clearly stated: he wants a brief, scheduled meeting to share this important breakthrough. Everything about his purpose is laid out clearly, directly, and respectfully.
Sentence 5: “Do you happen to have your calendar available?”
His purpose clear, Noah simply asks whether the means — the prospect’s calendar — are available to take the next obvious step: to set a date and time for a 15-minute conversation for the purpose of learning more about the breakthrough.
At this point, it’s easy for the prospect to say:
• “Sorry, Noah, …
o … we have no use for whatever innovation power you might unleash on our frontline employees, and here is why.”
• Noah can record that reason and decide whether it is something that might change over time, and if so, can set a task to follow up with the prospect in, say, 90 days to see if things have changed.
o … I’m not the right person to care about this compelling breakthrough.”
• Noah can then ask who that right person might be and set a task to follow up with this newly identified, more likely person.
o … I don’t have my calendar in front of me.” Or “I am too busy to check my calendar now.”
• Noah can offer to wait while the prospect gets access to their calendar, or if that can’t happen now, can get permission to coordinate through email, backed up by setting a task to call again should the email process stall.
• “Sure, Noah, …
o … does next Tuesday at 9 a.m. Eastern work for you?”
Just as with any sales conversation, any of the four possible outcomes — Yes, No, Not Me, Not Now — can happen. However, by simply expressing a belief about the discovery of an important breakthrough by a group of people and offering to share that breakthrough, Noah has avoided the dominant reasons why that crucial first scheduled meeting rarely happens, regardless of whether the prospect or their company is qualified.
Those four most frequent failure points are:
• Talking about your product and its features, which leads to:
o “We have a product like that already. We’re set.”
o “We don’t have budget for products like yours.”
o “I really don’t want to be sold something right now. Go away!”
o “Sounds like blah-blah-blah to me. I tuned out at the first acronym.”
• Talking about yourself and what you would like to have happen, which leads to:
o “I’m sure you would love all sorts of things. But what’s in it for me?”
• Applying pressure to consider a potential purchase, which leads to:
o “I gave you 27 seconds to tell me why you called, not to buy something from you.”
• Wandering without obvious purpose, which leads to:
o “You are wasting my time already. Why would I fork over even more time for you to waste?”
As a result of simply avoiding these failure modes, Noah’s success rate is outstanding, proving that the best use of a Big Dog’s time is to humbly set meetings for themselves. No one can do it better, and no one can do it cheaper either.