Cold Calling Techniques: Are you doing these 10 things to improve your calls?
Cold calling can strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest of salespeople.
If you’re not doing it right, it could be a waste of time.
What is cold calling
Cold calling is a sales prospecting technique that involves calling people who haven’t interacted with your business on the phone and offering them your product or service.
It’s been used as a method of lead generation in a variety of different industries for decades.
Cold calling myths
There are plenty of cold calling myths circling around. In this section, we’re going to prove these myths wrong and show you why you should try cold calling.
It doesn’t work
A lot of people have tried to disprove the effectiveness of cold calling in recent years. You might have even read one or more articles which state that “cold calling is dead”.
However, the fact of the matter is that cold calling actually works.
69% of buyers have answered cold calls, while 49% state that they prefer a cold call as a first point of contact with a salesperson. Additionally, as much as 75% claim that they’ve scheduled a meeting based on a cold call.
It’s a numbers game
Another common misconception is that cold calling is simply a numbers game – the more calls you make, the better the chance of making a sale. That’s simply not true.
If you want to be successful at cold calling, you need to create a good contact list, as well as research each prospect before making a call.
By preparing for each call and creating a personalized pitch for every prospect, you’ll have the best chance of making a sale. This will also give you a better call-to-appointment ratio, which, in turn, will enable you to spend more time selling face-to-face.
People hate cold calls
There’s a cold call myth which claims that people hate cold calls. That might be true for consumers who receive calls from random salespeople trying to sell them “As Seen On TV” products, but it couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to business prospects.
Most small, mid-size, and enterprise business prospects would be happy to talk about anything that could help them grow their business’ revenue or reduce costs.
We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth mentioning again: 49% of buyers actually prefer cold calls as a first point of contact with a sales rep.
You need to be aggressive
While being aggressive is generally a good quality in a salesperson, that doesn’t mean that you need to be pushy in order to be successful at cold calling.
If all you think about is closing the sale, you’ll have a hard time gaining your prospects’ trust.
Focus on understanding prospects’ pain points and finding ways your product or service can help solve them. This will give you the best chance of converting prospects into customers.
Cold calling legality
While cold calling is legal, there are a few rules and regulations you need to keep in mind if you want to ensure that you stay on the right side of the law.
In the US, there’s FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, which states that:
- You mustn’t contact anyone who’s registered on the National Do Not Call Registry.
- You can only call people between 8 AM and 9 PM.
- You need to clearly identify yourself and state which company or organization you represent.
- You must explain the terms of your offer truthfully.
If you’re utilizing your time and resources in the most efficient way possible — cold calling could be an effective sales tool in your bag. But even still, we don’t fully recommend it. Before you even begin, try a different frame of mind: This call isn’t just some “cold” call. It’s the first conversation in which you’re just introducing yourself to a potential customer to see if they’re a fit for your stuff. Here are the 13 Cold Calling Techniques all good reps need to make quota.
Focused On Goals (The Basics)The art of cold calling isn’t just about making that final sale. It’s about getting your foot in the door to even make the sale. A cold call is an effective way to set up an appointment, during which you can make your sale. When setting up that appointment, ask for a specific appointment time. Rather than asking if you can speak at some fuzzy point in the future, ask if you can call at 10 a.m. on Thursday, etc. Pat Cavanaugh of Inc.com recommends asking for only 10 minutes of your prospect’s time. Using those pre-call methods beforehand could warm up a cold prospect, as well. If your company has a quota of how many cold calls you need to make a month, plan out your personal goals by week. That way you’re not spending the last week scrambling to get all of your calls in.
Strong Research Skills An effective salesperson needs to be making their cold calls to the right person at the right time. To utilize their time in the most efficient way possible, a good salesperson will use market research, focus on their target market, and get as much background on the decision maker up front. [click_to_tweet tweet=”An effective salesperson needs to be making their cold calls to the right person at the right time.” quote=”An effective salesperson needs to be making their cold calls to the right person at the right time.”] Connecting with the right person (the first time) can be a critical component of your cold calling success. Dig into the background of the company, the person you’re pitching to, and the industry in general.
Leverage Social MediaA good salesperson will look up the background of the person they’re connecting with and the company on social media. A connection as simple as a shared LinkedIn group could give you a 70% increased likelihood of speaking with a cold called decision maker.
Plan a great opening and lead the conversation
To ensure that you’ll have a productive call with your prospect, take the time to create an outline of what you want to say and where you want the conversation to go.
You’ll want to spend the most time planning your opening, since that’s where you’ll either gain or lose your prospects’ attention.
Start by introducing yourself and then switch the focus to your prospect by showing them that you’ve done your research and that you understand their pain points.
All the questions you ask the prospect should be carefully thought out and organized in logical order, starting with general questions and then moving on to more specific ones.
It’s best to focus on asking open-ended questions. These types of questions will help to avoid quick answers and awkward pauses, as well as enable you to have a more meaningful conversation with the prospect.
Be Prepared: The ScriptJust as you wouldn’t go into an interview empty handed, you shouldn’t plan to wing the rest of the call after the introduction. The best cold calling scripts should include the following:
- Benefits of your product
- How your service solves a problem in the industry or their business
- Why they should buy from your company and not your competitor
- Any (nicely worded) rebuttals they may have that you can counter
Pick the Right TimeWhen choosing a time to set up a meeting, be strategic about the when and how. A quality salesperson will entice the prospect with an email, before setting up their actual phone call. And providing some information beforehand can give your prospect background on your company, and that can help to warm them up to you and (eventually) your sales pitch. This technique can help transition you from a random stranger, to a work acquaintance they just haven’t quite met yet. Tips for success:
- Never book an appointment a couple days before a major holiday
- Thursdays are usually the best days to reach decision makers
- Call early in the morning (before they’ve had a chance to be buried under work)
- …or in the late afternoon (once they’ve caught up on the day’s work)
- Your prospect might rather meet face-to-face, or via video chat, or phone call — see what works best for them, and adapt
Know how to deal with common objections
One of the many skills you’ll need to develop to be good at cold calling is objection handling. You’ll hear one or more objections from prospects on every call you make so it’s crucial that you know how to handle them.
The first step to dealing with objections more effectively is to start looking at them as opportunities to engage your prospect further and learn more about their business.
You should also try to make a list of the most common objections you hear during calls, and then prepare an answer for each specific objection. Make sure to note any new objections as they come up and prepare answers for them that you can use on subsequent calls.
Practice Makes PerfectI know it may be awkward at first, but practice. Practice on your coworkers, your family, your cat or dog, your friends — it doesn’t matter who, but practice. Make sure to practice your opening pitch, practice your dialogue, practice how you ask for a client meeting. Many people are uncomfortable with cold calling — but the more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll become. And in the end, that will make you a better salesperson. Practice ensuring your tone of voice is upbeat, and that you’re not speaking too quickly. 38% of verbal communication is understood just by tone of voice, so make sure you’re engaged, upbeat, and aligning yourself as an ally of the company’s success.
Don’t try to make the sale on the first call
It’s very hard to make the sale on the very first call you have with the prospect.
The goal for your cold call shouldn’t be to make the sale right then and there, but to introduce yourself, explore the prospect’s issue, learn more about their company, and find out how you can help them.
Focus on building a relationship with the prospect during your first call. This will help you have an easier time making the sale later.
Don’t make the mistake of spending most of the call talking at prospects. You need to be listening to them and learning as much as you can about their issues and challenges.
Try not to interrupt prospects while they’re answering your questions. Structure the conversation in such a way that prospects are talking more than you are.
Actively listening to prospects and giving them the opportunity to express their thoughts, opinions, and concerns will help you build trust and develop a more meaningful relationship with them.
Remember to follow up
If you don’t hear back from a prospect, you should always follow up with them. You don’t have to restrict your follow-up to calls, either.
Try emailing the prospect or even sending direct mail to grab their attention. Voicemail messages are another way to keep yourself and your company top of mind and increase the chances of the prospect getting back to you.
You should strive to add more value with each follow-up you make. Don’t follow up with prospects just for the sake of following up.
Provide them with new information or try to learn more about their needs with each follow-up you make. Introduce them to an educational resource that could help them deal with their pain points more effectively.
This could be a resource you’ve created, or one you discovered during your research. Remember that 80% of sales happen after the sales person follows up with the prospect five times or more. If the prospect has expressed interest in what you have to offer, keep following up with them until you close the sale or get a definite “No”.
Don’t See Rejection As A Bad ThingRejection can actually be a tool to improve your cold calling skills. Whether it’s learning what pain points you didn’t address, or discovering you didn’t do enough upfront research, or maybe your approach wasn’t quite right — whatever the reason for rejection is, try to view it as a launchpad for your next call to be even better. [click_to_tweet tweet=”Rejection can actually be a tool to improve your cold calling skills.” quote=”Rejection can actually be a tool to improve your cold calling skills.”] If possible, ask why someone doesn’t want to buy your product or service. Learn from your mistakes, and aim to do better each and every call. Don’t see your first call as your only call — try to frame it as the beginning of a conversation. Plan a follow-up call in which you go more in-depth into your products or services. Gather information from the prospect as much as possible so that, even if they pass on the first call, you can come back from there with a second call that more accurately addresses their needs.
Take A BreakCold calling and rejection can induce nervousness. After every 10 to 15 calls, try taking a break. Stretch your legs, grab more coffee, or refill on snacks. Play with a fidget spinner, if that’s your thing. Just try to relax, and give yourself a couple of moments to mentally prepare for the next round of calls.
In the next part, we’re going to give you a step-by-step guide for effective cold calling, along with a few cold calling tips. We’ll also be sharing some cold calling examples to help inspire you.
Here’s A Detailed Step By Step Process for Effective Cold Calling
STEP 1: PREPAREThe term cold call implies complete lack of preparation (no script, lead data, nothing). If your prospect feels blindsided by your call, you have not done your homework. Start with social media engagement. Your social media efforts can explain to your prospect why you are reaching out, provide you with discussion topics for the call (call ammunition), and warm your prospect up to an exploratory conversation. Most sales reps either prospect and build their own lead lists or have lists given to them by a manager. The lead lists are often created with a tool like LeadFuze. Although valuable, lists like these are not enough to transform your cold calling process.
Here are the steps you need to take before picking up the phone:1. Check out your prospect’s LinkedIn profile. This will be the first way you passively introduce yourself. You should spend 3 minutes collecting 3 relevant notes on your prospect that may become valuable discussion points during your first call. (also known as a 3×3). It is important that you DO NOT invite them to connect. It is too early since you have not previously engaged with your prospect. 2. Follow your prospect and their company on Twitter. This is a GREAT opportunity to passively interact with your prospect prior to the call. If they’re sharing interesting content engage with them by commenting, liking it or retweeting it. These small touches will generate a conversation before you ever pick up the phone. 3. Take advantage of tools like Team Link on LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator. You may know someone in common with your prospect and can ask for an introduction or referral. Just because your prospect came to you on a cold list doesn’t mean you have no existing connection. Leverage your network. 4. Set up Google Alerts for their company. This provides you with a daily digest of news relevant to your prospect’s company. With above steps, this will make you 99% more prepared than other callers pursuing your prospect’s business. This will make you 99% more prepared than other callers pursuing your prospect’s business. Click To Tweet
STEP 2: PICK UP THE PHONEYou’ve completed the prep and are ready for the smart call. Since you are prepared, you are removing the potential for awkwardness and this really is no longer cold calling. Your prior social media engagement will earn you a “Hi Chris, what can I do for you?” instead of a “Chris from where? Did you say PandaDuck?”. My reps simply introduce themselves and wait silently. It goes something like this: *Ring* *Ring* “Hi this is Bob”…. “Hi Bob, this is Chris Bryson with PandaDoc”…*wait in silence*. While this seems like an awkward move, it produces positive results. Typically, the prospect will do one of two things: a) they will respond to you with familiarity or b) they will presume that the two of you have previously interacted, and will respond with some variation of “Hi Chris, what can I do for you”. Obviously there are outliers, but this consistently produces results. Now communicate the value and purpose of the call. Tone here is key – be the expert that your prospect wants to talk to. Project the 3 C’s: Comfort, Confidence, Coolness. Now use everything you’ve gained from your preparation. You know why they are the person you want to talk to and what you can discuss that will bring mutual value.
“Bob, I realize I’m catching you out of the blue here, but I was hoping I could learn a little bit about how [company name] is currently doing X,Y, and Z – I saw your post on LinkedIn about sales management and figured since you were the VP of Sales you would be able to help or at least point me in the right direction.“This proves that you’re not just calling down a list. You found them through the content THEY shared. THEIR content peaked your curiosity and inspired you to reach out. This is a huge compliment and is a better way to start a call than rattling off a pitch. If you interrupted them, it’s no big deal – give them an “easy” out and by getting an appointment. “Bob, am I catching you at a bad time?” If they say yes, great.
“How does 3 PM on Tuesday work for you? No? How about 10 AM on Friday? Great – I’m sending you a calendar invitation now. Talk to you then, Bob.”Be polite but persistent and make sure that something is scheduled. If you’re an AE – these are the seeds for your pipeline. If you’re an SDR, this is building up your month with warm calls. The next time you speak with them will be a lot easier because you have an actual appointment.
STEP 3: QUALIFY DURING SMART CALLSThe qualification phase can be three different tranches – early, mid, and late discovery. Early Discovery phase is qualifying their basic ability to use your product. You’re also confirming you understand their business. Collect information that will help you build pain in the next tranche. You want to accomplish one of two things – unqualify them because they’re a bad fit or move on to building interest in taking a meeting. Mid Discovery is dedicated to building pain and creating holes in their current process. If you’ve found out how things work at their company, you can start “twisting the knife” on some of their pains. Use techniques like Negative Reversing, a Sandler technique that’s useful for getting prospects to correct you and move the conversation in your favor. You stand to gain key information, and can build a ROI proposition for your prospect. You need to create urgency about their real problems – that fortunately you can fix. Now you have leverage to ask some serious questions in the third phase – Late Discovery. Ask them powerful questions that compel serious consideration of your solution. These questions depend on your buyer personas, ideal customer profile, and product but they should be extremely potent and in line with the type of questions touted in The Challenger Sale. Once you’ve communicated value, move onto the final stage of the prospecting process, closing. Ask them powerful questions that compel serious consideration of your solution.CLICK TO TWEET
STEP 4: CLOSING THE SMART CALLAn appropriate ‘close’ may sound like this: “You don’t know how much revenue you’re losing because of mistakes, have no way of accounting for it, and you’ve never tried to fix the problem – have you heard the saying ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure?’ We can help you do it.” After you’ve hooked them, set up the meeting immediately. Try to get it set for as soon as possible and verify their contact information. If possible, have them stay on the line as you send them the calendar invitation and accept it. Congratulations! You’ve successfully called with meaning, provided value, and fattened your pipeline using these cold calling techniques.
Are you a successful sales professional who cold calls? What are your best techniques? Let me know in the comments.