Report 103

“How can we make cold calls more effectively and generate more interest in our products and processes?” There are a number of components in this problem. Which do you see?

I see several:

1. Identifying what is interesting in your products and processes.
2. Who are you calling? Obviously some prospects are better than others. Focusing on better prospects will lead to better results.
3. Who is doing the cold calling? Can they be improved, perhaps through training?
4. How are you communicating? Are you reciting a script? Are you smiling? (research shows that when people smile while talking on the telephone, they sound friendlier)
5. What are you asking the customers to do? Order something directly? Make an appointment to meet a salesperson?
6. What follow up are you doing to help make the sale? Are you calling the customers again in a week or two?

I am probably the world’s worst salesman. A professional could surely break the problem into further components.

Once we have broken down the problem, it may become clear that the problem is with a single component. In the above example, it is possible that the company has never really analysed their products and processes in order to determine what makes them attractive to their existing customers. Clearly this information would be extremely helpful in selling to new customers.

Alternatively, the company above might realise that they are doing no follow up on their cold calls. As a result, people who would buy their products are not being offered an easy chance to do just that.

When breaking problems into components, it is useful to establish several small creative teams – each of which is briefed on the overall problem and assigned a component for which they should brainstorm solutions. Give them time to work on solutions (this could be a half hour or it could be a week depending on the nature of the problem) and then bring the teams together to report on their results.

Those results can be impressive, often groups will have complementary ideas that fit together like puzzle pieces, thus providing a big solution which can be applied to the problem. At other times, one team will come up with a solution that can be applied to all of the components of the problem.

So, the next time you are facing a problem. Break it into pieces. Not only will doing so make problem solving easier, but it should result in better solutions.