Cold calling is probably the most psychologically difficult activity to begin doing if you have never it done it before. However, like anything in life the successful people tend not only to do what others are not willing to do but do it differently. Being smart, prepared and thinking strategically about who and why you are calling is critical. Not taking rejection personally helps too. By applying these techniques, I led a sales team to build a book of business from 1 million to over 10 million dollars for eCoast and be sold to private equity in 2009. When cold calling, my goal was to research just enough to have a good idea of the prospect’s pain and share with them successes I’ve with others like them.
The following points are meant to serve as a foundation for the non-sales person to make a successful cold call.
1. Set Goals and have realistic expectations.
A lot of telemarketing is identifying the right decision makers to market to in the future. It may take several call attempts over a period of weeks to have a successful conversation. When you begin focus on doing nothing but calling. Lock yourself in a conference room if you have to. Pick a day and time to do it. Mark it in your calendar. Just like working out at the gym, everyone has their best intentions but it rarely happens unless you make it a habit. Remember: You have 30 seconds to make a good first impression after you get past the gatekeeper but first you need to get to the decision maker.
2. Get to the decision maker.
You need to focus on getting to the decision maker as quickly as possible and not try and sell the gatekeeper. The gatekeeper’s job is to keep out the annoying salespeople from bothering the decision maker. However, they don’t realize that you are different as you have conducted your research on the company and may have something of value to add. Trying to convince the gatekeeper of this is futile. Trust me I’ve tried. The best approach is to be very brief, firm, professional and high-level. Say something simple like, “Hi Nancy, this is Will with eCoast. I’m trying to locate Jon Neil?” Attitude, voice inflection and choice of words matter. I would much rather you say “would you connect me to…? vs. can I speak with…?” It’s really a game, so don’t be discouraged if you get voice mail or screened.
3. You need to reference like clients.
Customize your message by discussing how you’ve helped their peers. Briefly highlight your expertise, problems you solve, industry knowledge and most importantly reference recent projects and name drop. You need to build credibility quickly, create some curiosity and position yourself as a “trusted advisor” not a salesperson. This will differentiate yourself from everyone else who’s calling the prospect. Try targeting a specific vertical based on a recent win or an area within your local geography. It’s amazing how easy cold calling becomes if you can spark their curiosity about what their peers are doing. The majority of people in business are competitive. No one wants to be left behind. SMBs especially are more interested and value what others have done. They seek safety in numbers.
4. Write out your introduction statement.
Write out your opening statement (less than 30 seconds) with the goal of putting the prospect in a positive state of mind and transition to the questioning part of the call. The intro statement should include:
- Who are you?
- What is your reason for calling?
- What problems do you solve?
- What’s in it for the prospect?
Keep it brief, your primary goal should be to build credibility quickly so you can get the prospect to open up and start talking. Avoid discussing your product/service and asking questions that will likely get a negative response.
5. Get them to say YES! Think about it.
Over the years, decision makers have been trained by annoying telemarketers calling their home to automatically respond to a cold call with an affirmative “not interested” no matter what. This psychology transfers to B2B calling and you must overcome their negative to indifferent state before you can effectively engage them. Get them saying YES to small things before you can ask for any type of commitment like agreeing to a meeting! For example? Ask something simplelike, Are you still located over at Bradford Office Park? By asking this question you indicating your knowledge of their local area, building a positive response and setting them up for the asking for a meeting. Make it a game. Get them to say yes 2-3 times before you ask for the meeting.
6. Be a doctor: Find the pain.
Briefly state how you’ve helped others overcome…(insert a few industry specific pains). Then ask them if they have experienced any of these types of issues. Get them talking. With any luck you’ve found some pain now you have to dive deeper into the pain to be sure the pain is bad enough they are willing to consider spending some money to solve it. Great questions to ask at this point are:
- Tell me more about that?
- How often does that happen?
- Why is that important to you?
Confirm that you were listening and paraphrase back to them what they said to validate to the prospect that you understand their problem.
7. Why you need to use a trial close?
So, you are having a great call because you have successfully engaged the decision maker and made intelligence comments and asked great questions. At this point 90% of the time, you will get the dreaded “send me more information”. This one is a momentum killer. Here’s the deal: You need to confirm here they weren’t just “being nice” to you and really have no intentions of pursing your solution. Your response should be something like: “Sure, I’d be happy to send you some more details. Let me ask you this, if I send you (that case study) and it looks good would you be willing to sit down with me for 30 minutes at your office? Be silent and wait for a response.
8. Be Assumptive and lead the prospect.
They are expecting you to! Be confident. It’s very important to show confidence but not to come across as a pushy sales person. It’s a fine line you need to walk. “Based on what you told me, I recommend we meet next week to conduct a ROI assessment/on-site demo and review your situation. How does Friday…”
Bonus tip: For hard to reach prospects try calling Friday afternoon. Why? They aren’t in meetings and many of them are at their desk regrouping. Further, the average sales person is not calling and everyone is in a good mood even the gatekeeper. TGIF.
By: Will Gibney, VP of Sales and Marketing, eCoast . To read Will’s Blog and more sales tips: www.willgibney.com