Keep it quiet, but you need a Boiler Room to drive sales!
Recently we posted about why your current and past customers and contacts can be your greatest source of new business.
To exploit fully the opportunity, though, your whole team needs the discipline of following up on your relationships. For some people, this is natural behaviour. Some of us just love picking up the 'phone to catch up, with a genuine interest in finding out what's happening in the person's life, and with an ability to simply ask if there is any area we can help currently. For other people, however, it is a mortifying task - they can't see the immediate purpose in the call and are almost ashamed in offering help.
I was a co-founder of a consulting business some time ago where we had exactly this pattern. Indeed, twelve months in, all of our businesses had come from one or two of the original people, and none from the others, even though their existing relationships were arguably wider and stronger. (And, indeed, one of them was probably the most capable and client-committed consultant I'd met to that point or since).
We'd tried lots of things - weekly calls, implementing a mini-CRM system and more, but with little success : each Monday morning, there would just be another reason reported as to why the calls hadn't been made.
Inspiration on how to break the deadlock came from an unlikely source - the harrassment of one of our team by people promoting obscure shares on the stock market. He'd obviously somehow highlighted himself to these marketeers and had shown some initial interest, so his name was out there as a 'sucker' and the calls were coming thick and fast. Apparently, he explained, these so-called 'boiler rooms' comprise a team of crooks sitting in a small room continuously calling punters with the 'next big thing', working under enornmous pressure, with a tight script, stretch targets and an unrelenting culture of celebrating their successes with drugs and alcohol.
Not all great, clearly, for a highly-principled, client-centric management consultancy, but we did pluck a few ideas from the bad guys, and so our cleaned-up version of the Boiler Room was born, as follows:-
- all our team stuffed into a room once a month for a mandatory half day;
- the room set up with phone lines, food, entertainment;
- targets set by each individual at the start of the session - the aggressiveness being up to each person but the minimum standard being to actually make some calls! Meetings set up were great, request for proposals... rare but not unheard of (and fantastic).
- before and after each call, the opportunity to discuss, plan and debrief with the rest of the team;
- every success - no matter how small - celebrated by the team!
- a focus on the hits rather than the misses.
To say that this put some of our team outside of their comfort zone would be a significant understatement. It probably actually made things worse in the month or two, as at least one of the guys just couldn't make the calls at first. However, in time, he started to realise that though the sessions were by definition somewhat pressurised, we were genuinely trying to create a supportive environment. He started to observe - when forced to debrief - that most people he rang said they were happy to hear from him, and a number posed the question umprompted to whether there might be a way our company could help. Ultimately, he started to get what we already knew about him - there was no need for him to feel ashamed to offer his services when clearly his contribution was so highly valued.
And the Boiler Room overall?
As well as delivering a stream of opportunities and fun, it is not an exagerration to say that it actually saved the company during one particular savage down-turn. Importantly, the approach helped us treat selling as more of a team activity than a solitary one. I think this came across really well ultimately with clients too.
If you give it a try, I'd be delighted to hear how you get on.
Don't buy shares from someone who telephones you, though.