Cold calling is dead, but still kicking. It's not to say that cold calling doesn't work, but everyone will agree, it's highly inefficient and very demotivating. Therefore, cold calling should go away, but it won’t.
I stopped at my Starbucks today and saw a vitamin or similar sales rep recruiting a new employee. I overheard some words such as "pitch", "benefits", etc. and thought about this new recruit. Obviously, the recruit needs a job, and more importantly, she needs money. So what if she takes on this new line? What will she do to meet her financial obligations? What will her manager do to help her succeed? How will the new recruit generate interest/leads that convert to sales? Well, I guarantee, cold calling will be her main thrust, at least initially.
Getting new customers is a common problem, not only among new recruits, but also among seasoned salespeople with established territories. We all need new customers, so what can we do? Cold calling, in one form or another, is our default tactic. It's what we do when we don't want to try, change, or venture into other tactics.
So since cold calling will not go away, let me help you with some tips, not to encourage you to cold call – because there are better ways -- but to make you more productive and less demotivated, if you and/or your bosses insist on cold calling.
1. Who Needs What You Have?
Don't say everyone. This attitude makes cold calling overwhelming, and you'll get lots of rejections. You must establish a list of criteria, and here's where your boss and other successful salespeople can help you.
Ask them, "What are the characteristics of our/your 3 best customers?" Get them to think deeply about the specifics -- the people, the environment, the circumstances of each customer. List these characteristics and notice similarities among these customers.
Then, asked them, "What are the characteristics of 3 prospects that never buy?" Again, try to get them to be specific and add these to your list.
These characteristics will give you an idea of the type of prospects that really need what you have and those that don't. Caution: Don't get sucked into, "should need what you have to offer”. Although many “should need” it, you will be successful when you find those that want it.
2. Approach with Sincerity.
People don't want to be bothered, and you know that. They are doing you a favor by talking with you. However, you may be able to return the favor by helping them if they have a problem, concern, dissatisfaction, or unmet opportunity.
So apologize for your intrusion -- "Sorry to bother you." Then say something like one of the following;
"Do you have any issues or concerns about XYZ?" Where XYZ is the general field you serve. In my case XYZ would be sales or revenue generation or salespeoples' productivity.
"Are you satisfied with your XYZ?" If they say “Yes”, asked them what they like about. If they say, “No”, asked them,"What are some things you don't like about it or are dissatisfied with?"
"Are you missing any opportunities because of XYZ?"
"Are you experiencing any inconveniences because of XYZ?"
Expect an "Everything is fine" because that's the easiest way to get rid of you. However, what you've done with this approach, and these questions, is to be polite and focused on the prospect. This helps to establish a modicum of credibility. Needs and wants, coupled with the salesperson’s credibility, are what makes sales happen.
You probably should start with an intro -- your name and the company you represent -- but quickly follow it with a customer focused statement. This, again, is to minimize the all about you effect. For example, "Hi, my name is Sam Manfer, with Sales Mastery. Sorry to bother you, but you or your company could be experiencing some challenges that we've help others like you eliminate. Can I ask you a couple questions?" Putting the second person, you/your, in the front of the sentence, and the first person, I/we, at the end of the sentence makes it more about them, rather than you. This is a subtlety that has a profound, unconscious impact on the listener.
3. Be Prepared to Expose and Entice -- No Pushing.
When the prospect gives you the expected " Everything is fine ", you must try to get the conversation going without putting them on the defensive. Therefore, have two or three issues ready to offer, one at a time that you think they should have. For example, in my business, creating more sales, shortening the sales cycle and cross-selling are three common issues among the prospects I pursue. So when I get the -- "Everything is fine." -- I might say, "Well what about sales cycles. Is this an issue?" If s/he says, "No", I then might say, "And cross-selling, is cross-selling meeting your expectations?"
I will do this for a maximum of three No's, and then I give up, politely leave and recycle this prospect for a future retry in three or four months. If however, one of these exposes and/or entices gets a "Yes", then I'll go into my selling mode.
The idea here is to see if this prospect has a need or want, that she realizes she has. If she doesn't, you're beating your head against a wall and setting yourself up for rejection. You'll think you're just not good at selling. Whereas, the prospect just isn't interested. Basically, the reward for her to change is less than the effort plus the risk to change. Think about that for a second. The key to selling is finding people that have an issue or want, and would like to do something about it. Give up on the idea that "I have to convince him or her." You need to find those that want help.
4. Cost Reduction Is a Low Excitement Benefit.
Revenue generation is a more exciting benefit. People want more money, more business and more customers to grow or just survive. If you can show them how your services can get them more sales or more customers, it is about four times more effective than cost reduction.
Many salespeople assume that the mere mention of cost reduction will get a prospect's attention. Prospects hear about cost reduction all the time, and unless they specifically tell you they have a cost problem, avoid it or use it as a low priority expose and entice.
Now, how can you spin revenue generation of some sort into your expose and entice?
5. Handling the Gatekeepers.
My website offers a free e-book on handling gatekeepers and avoiding blockers. So I won't go into it here.
However, voicemail is another form of gatekeeper. To get a return call, you must leave a message that hits an issue the person wants to do something about. Typically, you won't know this, and that's why your calls don't get returned. So when talking with admins and receptionists, ask what issues their head people are worried about today. The other reason your calls don't get returned is because you have little credibility at this moment.
6. Plans and Practice.
Before cold calling, you must practice what you're going to say to (1) be polite, (2) be sincere, (3) expose and entice to stimulate interest, and (4) handle gatekeepers. Practice out loud either with an associate or in front of the mirror so that you become expert in getting the words directly out of your mouth and listening to how they sound.
7. Avoid Drop–In’s While in the Area
Be careful cold calling in buildings or offices adjacent to a customer where you've just made a sales call unless you plan for these cold calls. Many, especially your bosses, will tell you to just drop in while you're already in the area.
Cold calling should be planned. In other words, if you know there are other prospects in a building or area that you'd like to cold call, just get the names and then plan your schedule to visit them when appropriate. It would be great to do a little research via the Internet. You can also make a phone call and probe the admin for issues and good times to drop-in. Some may call this a warm call, but not by me. Besides, drop-in cold calls can ruin your day. Your approach will usually be cavalier and self-defeating. They will also take away time and motivation from your scheduled appointments with bread-and-butter customers. Cold call prospecting for new clients is important but should be planned.
8. Once They Show Interests, You Must Switch to Selling Mode
If your cold call catches a live one -- someone that admits to a problem, concern, and/or opportunity, be sure to reframe from immediately going into your pitch. You have to dig deeper with this individual to find out more about the problem, etc. and determine what s/he wants to do about it. "Tell me more." Should be the next words out of your mouth, and this will move you into the selling mode. I strongly suggest you read some of my interviewing articles on my website.
Although I don't encourage cold calling, I know you will have to do it. So use these tips to help you move forward generating qualified leads. For more ideas on generating leads, see the prospecting and territory management articles on my website.
And now I invite you to learn more.
Bonus Tip: Free Book – “TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER$”– The Complete Guide to C-Level Selling - hardback version. Network, get past gatekeepers, interact with leaders and top executives, secure commitments and sell more than you ever thought possible. Click this C-Level Selling Book Link to learn more about this fantastic offer.
Sam Manfer is an expert sales person, entertaining key note speaker and author of TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER$, a book that gets C-Level and other influential decision-makers to meet with you and return voicemails. Sam makes it easy for any sales person to generate tons of quality leads, and become a 70% closer. Sign-Up for Sam’s FREE Advanced Sales Training Tips and Articles at http://www.sammanfer.com