I’d love to have £1 for every time I’ve heard that “cold calling is dead”, or “won’t work in my sector”.
Bad cold calling is … really bad. So much so, I’d go as far to say that it should be banned. But, done well, cold calling is potent, full of opportunity and is one of the most valuable tools available to your business.
If you’re trying to or are thinking about utilising cold calling to sell – stop, and rethink.
We’ve been using skilful cold calling successfully for over 30 years. We’ve utilised it in most sectors and always to contact very senior level decision makers. For example most recently campaigning directly to board directors of global financial institutions such as HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, Citi etc. and yes, it works for us.
So what do we do differently?
We follow some very simple and basic rules and we incentivise properly. If you’re taking the approach of burning through data and simply playing a numbers game you’re on the wrong track. Skilful cold calling is a time consuming process, and done properly will pay dividends and reward you with highly valuable business intelligence.
Before we look at the detail of the rules, let’s be clear, successful cold calling is highly skilful. There’s a reason why it is understood to be the most challenging part of the sales process, and why it is the natural preference of all entrepreneurs; they understand that the best opportunities are new ones and that cold calling is a learning opportunity – think of it as a two-way street.
From time to time or lots of the time, we are all time poor and because of this your target audiences’ time is increasingly pressured and protected – so being good at making the first call has never been more important.
The more your cold callers feel extra pressure, feel unsupported by restrictive scripts, feel over managed and manipulated, their ability to be natural and build rapport and trust is impeded and highly valuable opportunities will be lost.
Sadly, the majority of cold callers are not well trained, are under valued and doing an abysmal job. It’s not their fault; the responsibility rests with the people who put them in that position.
So, to begin with, attitude and the objective of the call are highly important – less is more. Making it friendly by asking someone “how they are today” doesn’t work, so don’t do it.
- Have a Clear Objective and Be in the Right Frame of Mind
What is the objective of the call? To open the door? To introduce a well thought out offer? Ask for permission to send something? Start a relationship? It isn’t to SELL something.
You wouldn’t approach someone at a party and mumble who you are and start reciting a script. Why do that on the phone? Be very clear about who you are. Give your name and the name of the company you are calling from and why you are calling. Be polite, professional and confident, but not arrogant.
Hello, my name is ___________, and I am calling from ___________. I am currently calling X type of companies in the X area to find out if they are a good fit (or have interest) for our product/service/event/demonstration etc.
A compelling offer here is essential. Once you have succinctly explained the offer, ask if it is of interest before you continue.
No is no and accepting it professionally will leave the door open for another approach. Sometimes it takes multiple approaches, as many as 10, before the relationship can begin. The first call is the beginning, not the end.
- Ask Permission to Continue
There is a very good chance that the person you are speaking to has stopped what they are doing to take your call. Ask them if now is a good time for a chat. If they say “no” re-fix a date and time, and call them when you said you would – try asking for their email address so that you can send a calendar invite (and don’t abuse it) – be helpful, not pushy. It will also show that you respect your own time as a fellow professional too.
- Do Your Research, Ask Relevant Questions and Qualify
Every business has its unique difference. Something in the news, something that has been blogged about recently. It’s easy to create a number of well-positioned and intelligent questions for your prospect that they will immediately identify with, and warm to you. Show an interest and listen to what they tell you, use it to steer the conversation.
We all know that it’s imperative to match what we’re selling with our target audience, otherwise we’re wasting everyone’s time including our own. Ensure your callers fully understand what they need to find out to qualify the prospect BANT is a good guide:
Gentle questioning techniques are also important to ensure that questions don’t sound like an interrogation, we follow TED:
- Tell me
A helpful and powerful phrase that really qualifies if someone is interested and allows you to begin the closing process is to simply ask if they are willing to … “would you be willing to let me arrange a demonstration for you and some of the key stakeholders?” It might feel strange to begin with, but with practice it’ll be like second nature.
You might also try something like:
- Does this sound like something you might be interested in?
- We need to plan for this event and will need to confirm numbers by x date, can that work for you?
- What is the decision making process in your company?
- Next Steps
Know what the next steps are, you are now leading your prospect on the first part of their journey with your brand – the clearer you are in explaining what will happen next the greater the level of confidence they will have in you.
Objections and Brush Offs
What about objections and the brush off such as “just send me some information.”
First of all objections are buying signals and if someone is asking questions they are interested. Fielding questions well is essential.
The most common objections are:
“Send me an email”
What if early in the call the prospect says they are too busy but can you send them some information? The first answer is “yes, I’d be very happy to that, please can I have your email address.” Once you have the email address you then need to add, “so that I can send you the right information are you and your colleagues more interested in X or Y?” This will give you an opportunity to open up more conversation. If the prospect doesn’t further engage, simply send some information and ensure that you follow up before you give up on it.
“I don’t have time to talk right now”
“No problem, when is the best time for me to reach you to have a very quick conversation. I’d like to see if what we’re offering if of interest (or a good fit) before we talk at any length/set up a demo etc. Once they’ve realised the call won’t be long, they’ll stay on the phone.
“I can’t make a decision right now, let’s talk in a few weeks”
Depending on the size of company and the number of people involved in the decision making process, if a decision can’t be made straight away, there will be a process that your prospect will need to follow. Understanding this adds to your market intelligence regarding this prospect so it’s essential to find out more, such as:
- Who will you need to talk to about this?
- When will that be?
- If there’s a meeting (committee) ask if you can be present
- What material do you need to prepare for the meeting, is there anything that I can help with?
Ensure that your prospect is going to their meeting armed with the right information such as the next steps in the process, contracts, payment terms, approvals etc. This avoids any further delays in the next call you have with them.
Great cold calling relies on a few key elements:
- Your attitude – must always be positive, interested, helpful and caring – it does make a difference
- Preparation and knowledge – the more you know about your prospect the better prepared your questions will be, and the more intelligent your conversation – that makes an enormous difference and will make your prospect feel that you care
- Listen, listen and listen some more – listen to the language, tone and content and learn to “read” voices, you’ll quickly build rapport and become more successful more quickly
- Do what you promise to do, when you promise to – help your prospect learn to trust you.