5 Key Tips for a Successful Cold Call
A post from our Sales blog
Written by Ashley Andrews
Ask 100 salespeople and I bet at least 80 of them will agree that making cold calls is the one part of the sales process that they all dread.
Despite your best interests, your prospects hate being cold-called, and most of them see it as an intrusion into their already busy routine. To stop this intrusion, many countries now have laws prohibiting unsolicited sales phone calls. In the U.S.A, for example, there is the National Do Not Call Registry and the UK has the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS).
But despite how salespeople and their prospects may feel about this tactic, good cold calling is an absolute necessity in sales. Whether in person or on the phone, cold calling is the best way to open up the door to a new relationship and get new business for the company.
Now, I can almost guarantee that while you've been researching about making cold calls, you've found some articles that say cold calling is dead. Am I right? If you haven't, you will, I promise!
So let me say something about that quickly, and then I'll get back onto the tips for cold calling.
The key reason that most people use when they say that cold calling is dead is based around inbound marketing. They say that these days, people can easily research what they are looking for, and so you need to design all your marketing towards inbound marketing. They say you need to focus on providing excellent content for your prospects, and then how to funnel them towards making contact, and then from there, you have a shot at selling to them.
Don't get me wrong. What they say is correct. You do want to do all of this. I believe in inbound and content marketing 100%.
But what about companies that are settled into a pattern of purchasing certain things? They may have one regular supplier, or a supplier list with a few organizations on it. These organizations are not doing research any more, and so no matter how good your content is, and how good your funnel is, they will never see what you offer
The only way to reach these people is to disturb the process that they are currently using, so you need to reach out to them. This involves how you advertise as an organization as well as how you have sales people make calls. Just think of the recent ads about shaving kits for men. Most are now typical examples of interruption advertising.
You simply can't afford to wait for it to be the other way round, and they decide to initiate further research. You're missing the chance to get their business every time they simply stick to using their preferred supplier list, which you're not on! So yes, practise content marketing and inbound marketing as an organization, but also practise intrusive marketing, or disruptive marketing!
By the way, the reason that most of these companies say that you have to drop cold calling and focus on inbound/content marketing, rather than do both, is because they have a vested interest in it. The chances are they provide some kind of tool or service that is used in the process of inbound marketing. So obviously they're going to promote the type of actions that require their products or services. If you were them, you'd do it too.
Now, let's back to those 5 tips.
Even knowing that they need to make cold calls, too many salespeople fear the rejection they associate with cold calling – and rightly so. This is because of the massively high proportion of calls that end in rejections. To make this process easier for you and dissipate this fear, here are 5 tips to help you make more successful cold calls:
1) Get your mindset right
When faced with a cold calling scenario, many salespeople immediately turn to a script. While there is a time and place for using this, that time is not on a cold call. Unfortunately, there is no magic script that will make a cold call as smooth as if you were chatting with an old friend. Not for an entire call. I'll cover a bit more about this later.
Successful cold calling relies on your attitude towards making the call. If you approach the call as being a numbers game, something you just have to plough through, making those calls will always be a slow and painful grind.
Flip your mindset to a positive one where you are focused on delivering value to every lead, and you'll generally find that cold calling becomes a much easier process.
2) Have a plan
Most salespeople's biggest fear when it comes to cold calling is being rejected. Preparing in advance and having a plan or a brief outline of the call will help you mitigate these fears and increase your effectiveness.
I mentioned that a script doesn't work. Here I'm talking about a full script from beginning to end of the call. Your plan should mean that you have little blocks of script, that you can pick and choose from, as the call proceeds.
If the call goes one way, you mention block of script A. If the prospect says something else, you use block B, and so on. While your role may not be 100% telephone based, I'm sure that you use the phone to generate appointments etc if you are field based, so people that are involved in field sales and key account management can still learn from the types of script building that gets done in courses on telephone sales
3) Get to know your prospect
Before you even pick up the phone, always prepare yourself by spending time to get a feel for your contacts. Through Google searches, LinkedIn profiles, company websites, or even social media accounts, you can piece together relevant information about your prospect.
Use this opportunity to learn as much as you can about the company, their industry, and the person you'll be contacting. The information you gather this way can then be used to craft call messages that are tailored to (and resonate with) the potential buyer.
Getting to know your prospect makes talking a lot easier. You at least have something to work with. Imagine a conversation with a person that you meet (even in a social environment). You both have nothing to say and are struggling about what to ask the person next. An uncomfortable silence occurs. You don't want that on this cold call, so having done some research will provide you with possible questions to ask. Then the conversation will flow more naturally.
If you're still not convinced, an independent survey by New Voice Media confirmed that doing five minutes of research before making a cold call can boost the closing of a deal or gaining commitment to the next step by 86%!
4) Approach gatekeepers with respect
For many salespeople, leapfrogging the gatekeeper is seen as the Holy Grail of sales. But are gatekeepers really out to get you?
We tend to see gatekeepers as the people who make it tough to meet our ideal prospects, but remember that it is their job to protect their bosses from unsolicited callers.
Getting irritated, rude or frustrated with someone for doing their job won't win you any favours and will only hurt your business. Gatekeepers are people like you and I, approach them as such:
- From your initial research, are there any current news about the company or industry? Use this insight as a conversation starter and try to build a rapport with the gatekeeper.
- Be respectful, pleasant and always act like a professional. It's in your best interest to make the gatekeeper an ally rather than an adversary.
- If these tips fail, remember that most high-level prospects are often very busy and work long hours. They can get to the office at 7 a.m. and stay till 7 p.m., but their receptionist or executive assistant probably doesn't start until 9a.m – see if you can contact the prospect during these off-hours. Or, over the usual gatekeeper's lunch hour, when their replacement for the hour may not be as thorough as the full time person.
5) Seek out a personal connection
Cold calling used to be so hard, but thanks to social media, it has become easier to seek out the prospects you need to talk to. On LinkedIn, you can also see if you have a connection in common with your prospect. This mutual connection can act as a referral, helping you to pave the way for an easy first conversation and getting past the gatekeeper.
And because you were referred by someone they already know, your cold calling attempt will not be automatically viewed as an intrusion. But always remember to ask your connection's permission to use their name as a referral when contacting a prospect.
So that's it. Use these 5 tips, and your cold calling will improve in terms of its productivity. I can't promise that you'll start loving cold calling, but when results improve, you'll certainly start to hate it less.
Are you one of those people who absolutely dread cold calling? Do you have any other tips on improving the way you handle these calls? Let us know in the comments below.