The first time you get on a marketing call with any prospect, competitor or potential business partner might be somewhat intimidating for some people. I recently had a first such call and found that it required certain preparations to increase my confidence. I’m not referring to sales calls or to cold-calling, but to a pre-scheduled call with another party that you want to learn about. If it’s your first call on the job, or your first encounter with a new party, here are some tips that will help you steer your way through the call successfully:
Plan Your Goals
Or, in other words, start from the end. What do you want to accomplish from this call? What, in your opinion, would be deemed a successful call, and what would be considered a mediocre result? What assessments or learnings would you like to come out of the call with? What key numbers or statistics would you like to know from the other side? If you ask yourself these questions beforehand, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to talk about and where to lead the discussion.
Set a Discussion Framework
Usually when you get on a call with another marketing/biz-dev person and you’re past the hellos and intros, you want to take the lead and layout in several points the main things you’d like to discuss. Imagine this as a short table of contents – just like you’d expect to have a TOC for long articles in Wikipedia. This sets a framework for both sides, a mini agreement if you may, of the call’s agenda. It clears the smoke and helps the other side get a clear idea of what to expect from the call, and it also puts the reigns in your hands for initiating the framework. Another valuable effect of setting the discussion framework is that it nonverbally emphasizes that this call has a time boundary. The person you’re talking to is just as busy as you, and neither of you want to get caught in an endless conversation. Here’s a rather simple example –
“What I’d like us to do today is to discuss your company’s product – X. I suggest you start by presenting yourself and <your company>, I’ll follow and tell about <our company>. Then we can discuss what plans you guys have for X during 2015, and we can talk about some mutual opportunities there. I’ll elaborate about our new initiative Y and how it’s relevant for your company, and we can wrap up by talking about some ideas for reciprocal content publishing.”
Present Yourself and Your Company
Since we’re in a first-time contact with the other party, it’s only curtious and fair to the other party’s satisfaction that you present yourself and your company. This isn’t exactly an elevator pitch, you do have more than 30 seconds, but don’t make it too long. I’ve learned that people (including myself) have an easier time digesting numbers and names rather than understanding exactly what your product does and what technologies you use. So assuming that your company and the other party are operating in the same industry and share the same “lingua franca,” there’s no real need in to dive into details. Here are some bullets I usually use for presenting:
- SOOMLA was founded in 2012.
- We’re an open source company – all of our code is freely available on Github.
- We have 500 multi-game studios and more than 4000 live games using our open source framework.
- We’ve raised $1.4M till date and are raising another round these days.
- Some notable publishers using our technology are Disney, Sega, Gumi, Chillingo and Kabam.
- We’re a team of 7 strong and growing.
Let The Other Side Talk
This is actually basics of human psychology more than it is marketing. People like to talk. People especially like to talk about themselves and their work. You should be generous and give the other person significant time to talk about themselves in order to build trust and to let them feel comfortable in the discussion. As the conversation develops, you can support this by asking more “door-opening” questions to new subjects the other side is eager to talk about. An interesting thing that happens many times is that the person you’re talking to will disclose more information than what you thought would be accessible to. This is great because new learnings are being achieved serendipitously.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Consider that one of your goals from a marketing oriented call is information discovery. If you’ve planned the call’s goals, then you should know which key learnings you’d like to uncover, and this should drive what questions you ask and how. When you pose open ended questions, you’re empowering the other side to choose how they want to answer your question. What this technique does is usually gets the person you’re talking with to answer with much more detailed responses than asked, which can open new “threads” to the conversation. An open question also avoids falling into the selection bias trap. What I mean is that you don’t offer the other side both the question and the possible answers. What you really want to learn about is the answers you didn’t even think of. An example of an open-ended question could be:
“So tell me, what are your goals for project X in 2015?”
Offer Shared Initiatives
Eventually, you’d like to take action with the other party in a way that creates value for both sides. Many of these initiatives can be from content marketing. Some things that come to mind are guest blog posts, shared articles and hosted webinars that show how to use both companies’ products together.
Keep Things Cool
People will remember you for the best if you were nice to them. Make sure to be polite and friendly during the call. Consider preparing some icebreakers before the call as well. Check up on the person you’re calling in social media, learn where he or she is from and what they like to do. It’s always useful to be able to spark up some small talk about any common interests when you first get on the call. Having backpacked in a lot of countries, I personally find that praising peoples’ hometown or country and sharing my experience there a nice icebreaker.