Do you love making cold calls? You do? OK, well, you’re a crazy son-of-a-gun, and I want you on my team.
For the rest of us, cold calling is the biggest necessary evil in all of Sales. If only we could spend 100% of our time delivering electrifying presentations, chumming it up on the golf course, and treating clients to overpriced sushi.
Why is making cold calls a necessary evil? Because as a sales rep, you are responsible for creating demand. You have to get there and spark interest with a prospect, connecting your product to their problem.
Unfortunately, thanks to decades of unsolicited and unprofessional telemarketers and robocallers incessantly spamming us with phone calls pitching products we don’t need, asking us to donate to XYZ cause, and addressing us by the wrong name, people have now been trained to shun sales calls. Corporate gatekeepers stand guard as you “Press zero to speak with an Operator.” And assuming you’ve found a way to bypass the gatekeeper and catch a prospect in a moment where they’re at the desk and able to answer their phone (a Herculean feat in itself), before you even speak one word, you are already at a massive disadvantage – the prospect has been trained by years of receiving low quality sales calls to instinctively say “No.”
It doesn’t matter if you have the best product for the lowest price and perfectly suits their business; you are battling against a now-hardwired instinct.
Making a cold call to a prospect is like walking into the kitchen of a Michelin Star restaurant at 7 p.m. (peak dinnertime when the kitchen workers are buzzing a mile-a-minute), strolling right up to the Head Chef in the midst of the culinary chaos, and saying, “Hey there, I know you’re busy, but I’m with National Cable Company and we have a promotion where I can get your business twice the WiFi speed for no extra cost. Are you interested in setting up a meeting to discuss in more detail?”
You’d be lucky to escape that kitchen without the Head Chef lopping you off at the neck with a cleaver, let alone having any realistic chance of making a sale.
What can you do to improve your cold calling odds and make the entire process of cold calling better for everyone involved?
THREE SELLING TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR COLD CALLING RESULTS
1. Communicate your Valid Business Reason for calling before you take your first breath.
Ever heard the old saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression?” In this situation, your first impression isn’t this initial cold call; your first impression is your first sentence. From the moment you being to speak, you are being judged. Your first 1-2 sentences are the most critical piece of this entire conversation. Plan exactly what you will say before you pick up the phone.
A good Valid Business Reason for calling will include three components:
- Show that you know something about their business
- Give the prospect a reason to meet with you
- Give them a reason to meet or take action right now
There’s a great write-up on how to craft an excellent Valid Business Reasons on the Center For Sales Strategy blog.
2. Anticipate a minimum of three objections, and know how you will address the concerns and return to the validity and urgency of your Valid Business Reason.
Remember, the prospect is trained to say “No” to anything you say or offer. Think through the likely objections they will toss out and prepare yourself.
Some of the most common objections for any cold call are:
- “Now’s just not a good time.”
- “We don’t have the budget for that.”
- “That decision isn’t up to me.”
- “We don’t do ____.” or “We don’t use ____.”
Write down how you would respond to these in a document, and keep that document nearby when making calls.
3. Before you call, define your desired outcome of the conversation.
Hint: it should be one of these three things:
- Further qualify the prospect beyond what you could find online
- Schedule a business meeting
- Close the sale
If you don’t know the exact purpose of your call, how is your prospect supposed to know? Before you start talking, they don’t know if you are trying to get them to buy something on the spot, take a meeting with you, or simply to have a conversation. Your prospect is trying to decide, as quickly as possible, “Is there any reason I should not hang up the phone right now?” Your well-crafted Valid Business Reason gives them a reason to speak with you for a few more minutes, but then you must progress into clearly articulating exactly what you want the prospect to do and what they should expect to get in return for doing it.
For example, “We’ve established your website is difficult to find for homeowners in your area who are searching for a plumber. What we should do is schedule a time within the next five days for a 30-minute business meeting. In this meeting you can expect to learn the 5-step process my team will take to improve your company’s visibility online, and we’ll discuss the results my team has generated for other businesses with similar situations. At the end of the meeting you will know what we propose to do for you, how we’ll do it, what it will cost, and what your company will get in return. When can we meet?”
Taking these three steps will drastically improve your cold calling game:
- Communicate your Valid Business Reason before you take a breath
- Anticipate at least three objections and prepare your responses
- Clearly define your desired outcome, and don’t shy away from telling your prospect exactly what your desired outcome is