In recent years there has been a lot of debate about the merits of cold calling and much of it suggests that cold calling is dead; that there are more effective ways of generating sales than using the telephone to prospect.
People who fall prey to this myth tend to dislike cold calling. They look for any information that validates their decision to not use the telephone to prospect for new business and to avoid making cold calls.
But here’s the deal.
Attraction marketing, referrals, networking (face-to-face or via social media platforms), email, etc., are seldom enough to keep your pipeline constantly full with qualified leads. Plus, if you sell a complex product you usually have to reach beyond your local trading area to find new business opportunities.
Cold calling can help you achieve that goal.
Connecting with prospects
Connecting with prospects—especially if you sell B2B—is the most difficult aspect of cold calling. Decision makers are busier than ever which makes it increasingly difficult to connect with them. When you finally do reach them, they are reluctant to speak with you. And, many people hide behind voice mail and email.
To improve your odds of success consider incorporating these strategies into your routine.
Call multiple times
The odds of making one call in an eight-hour day and actually connecting with your prospect are slim. Prospects often run from meeting to meeting which means catching them at their desk is challenging to say the least.
Improve your results by making multiple calls to that prospect in a single day. For example, you might call at 8:15, 10:05, 10:20, 2:40 and 4:25. If you don’t connect with your prospect, wait a few days and try calling again.
Call early and late
Most senior executives start their day early and work late; however, their executive assistants usually work more regular hours. You can often connect directly with your prospects by calling them before 8:00 AM and after 6:00 PM.
As elementary as this concept sounds, I once coached a sales person who balked at this idea saying, “At 8:00 I’m getting my daughter to school and I’m not spending my evenings working.” Needless to say, she wasn’t as successful as she could have been. On the reverse side, another sales person connected with a high-ranking executive at 7:00 PM on a Friday evening and another one at 7:35 AM on a Monday morning.
The average executive has more than 40 hours of unfinished work on their desk at any given time and many of them work for several hours on the weekend. In fact, I have a few clients who send me emails on Sunday afternoons and evenings. Consider calling your most important prospects on a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon; you just might catch them in the office.
Improving your conversation
Once you connect with your prospect, there are several things you can do to improve your conversation, and your results.
Do your research
Before you pick up the telephone, it is critical to do a bit of research on the company you are calling. Do they fit the profile of your ideal customer? Do they need your product, service or solution? Do you know who to ask for and speak with?
Fifteen minutes of research can save you valuable time and help you better position your solution when you connect eventually connect with your prospect.
Develop a powerful opening
Forget the hyperbole about your company, what you do, the companies you work with, and the results you have achieved. Get directly to the point and tell people why you’re calling. Focus on a potential problem they may be facing or reference a significant change in a trend in their industry that may be affecting them.
Establish a clear objective
Do you know why you are calling this prospect? In most cases, it is to determine if they have a need in your solution, and if they do, to schedule a face-to-face meeting, appointment or demonstration.
Keep that objective in your mind at all times so you don’t get sidetracked and so you can determine if each call was successful.
Ask, don’t tell
The biggest mistake sales people make when cold calling is talking too much. Avoid falling into the trap of telling your prospect everything about your company and or product especially if your prospect starts peppering you with questions. The most effective approach is to answer their question as succinctly as possible and follow up with a question of your own.
Prepare a list of questions beforehand so you know exactly what you want to ask. These questions should focus on helping you better understand the prospect’s situation and how your solution will help them solve a problem or pain point.
Prepare for objections
What are the top five objections you will likely hear when you first connect with a prospect? What is the most appropriate response? Invest time planning and rehearsing how you will respond to objections.
The most successful cold callers are politely persistent. They don’t cave in at the first sign of resistance; instead they keep focused on how they can achieve their objective.
A friend of mine contacted a television station to pitch a program. The person he spoke with said, “Thanks, but no thanks” but Joe kept the conversation open and doggedly pitched his idea. Finally, the producer relented and agreed to give him a chance. Had he accepted the first no as gospel he would not have succeeded in achieving his goal; his persistence paid off.
Should you cold call? Unless you sell a low value product the answer is yes.
Ignore the pundits who claim that cold calling is dead. Although it’s not the most enjoyable task, telephone prospecting is still an effective strategy to generate new sales.