One of my most successful sales opportunities came from a very unconventional open. I’d identified a Dallas-based PCS provider as a potential prospect. I tried on a number of occasions to reach the firm’s engineering VP with NO success. On a visit to Dallas to meet with other clients and prospects I decided to roll the dice on a very unconventional cold call. It was a hot, late-spring day (there are lots of those kinds of days in Dallas).
While I’d hope to take one of my clients to lunch after a late morning meeting, other commitments kept us from dining together. I decided to use some of the free time I had before my next scheduled appointment to make a cold call on this engineering VP. I stopped by a local super market and picked up two half pints of #benandjerry ice cream (a Cherry Garcia and a Chunky Monkey). I showed up at the prospects office with no appointment. Upon checking in with the receptionist, I placed the two points of ice cream on the receptionist’s desk and asked to see the VP. I’m not sure if the ice cream was the key to seeing her, but the VP agreed to see me and she gave me 15 minutes to share the reason for my cold call. (She went or the Chunky Monkey and I had the Cherry Garcia.) At the time, this company’s PCS footprint was focused in top 25 markets throughout the US. Their network infrastructure was largely made up of Lucent PCS base stations and switches and Tellabs and Alcatel transcoding equipment.
During that time Lucent had restricted channel access for most clients so that they could only buy direct from Lucent; these agreements made it virtually impossible for them to source Lucent equipment from our firm or any other reseller. With this door closed (and the drawbridge lifted), I looked for another point of entry. As I questioned and listened for other opportunities, I learned that the prospect was building additional network capacity in their Fort Lauderdale market; she readily shared that their existing contracted with Alcatel and Tellabs would allow them to purchase refurbished equipment through third party resellers. She indicated that the market engineering team had specified the need for a Tellabs 532 class system – either new or refurbished.
To my knowledge, we were the only vendor of refurbished equipment that was allowed to quote on this opportunity. We learned that both Alcatel and Lucent would be bidding new equipment – Tellabs a 5320-class system and Alcatel a comparable system. Armed with this information and contact information for the Fort Lauderdale-based engineering team, we reached out and began preparing a quote for equipment, installation and configuration services.
Since we knew we’d be the only ones quoting refurbished equipment, we spent lots of time focusing on our technical skills and our world-class warranty for refurbished equipment and our ISO 9001 certifications. After iterating the initial quote, we were awarded the opportunity. We were able to save the client over $250,000 by buying through us versus with our nearest-priced competitor; also important, we had great margins on both the hardware and installation services.
By focusing on what we could do and not what we couldn’t, we were able to create win-win with the client. The entire opportunity started with what I’m now calling the “Ice Cream Open”. Have you had success with unorthodox cold calling or prospecting techniques? I’d love to hear about them.