In this day of phone screening, email and mobile phone use the cold call is becoming less and less attractive to salespeople (not that it had much of a popularity to begin with). Especially young salespeople who are just starting their careers that may or may not have a history of conversation without using their thumbs. When I started selling the first thing my manager, and really the only thing, did was give me a phone book and a pat of the back with a, “go get ‘em champ”.
What Is It?
Well… I hate even writing this section because I can’t believe there would be a salesperson out there that didn’t know what cold calling was. In an effort, however, to not leave any educational stone unturned, cold calling is the art of talking with a perfect stranger about your offering. Cold calling can be done in a few different ways. It can be over the phone, which is the most cost-effective and common of the chilly variety and there is also an in person cold call, like the old door to door salesmen. The difficult part of the cold call is you have no idea if the person you are calling is the right person and if they have any need at all for your product and services. What gets into sales people’s heads is the idea that these calls are an annoyance, you know like a bother.
I think it is easy to answer this questions yes, because cold calling is one of the most despised tools of selling. However, from a pure “best use of time” and most cost-effective means of activity it is still very alive. There is nothing that can get a more immediate response and solid activity in the pipeline than picking up the phone and calling someone. The problem is the person doing the picking up and calling is poorly trained because their sales leaders hates cold calling too.
I truly believe that a salesperson is directly measured on how much money they bring into the organization (shocker). The money the salesperson brings in, however, is directly correlated to how well that salesperson prospects. The core tenet of that prospecting is cold calling. Here are a few techniques to keep in mind to improve this skill.
- What are you selling? This is the most difficult part of the call. Where reps go wrong is when they finally get someone on the phone they start trying to close the sales. I coach and teach reps this is an impossible task (it does depend on what you are selling… in the software as a service world this is impossible). Don’t sell you product on the first call… sell the your first most natural step. For me, as a cold caller, my first step was to send them information about my offering… just so they can evaluate it. The next week, I would call all of the people that agreed to evaluate the information and ask for a demo. At that point they were in my sales process, and the smaller decisions lead to the bigger decision later.
- Every call is a successful. If you define a cold call as a success by having a conversation with someone, you are setting yourself up for failure. The outcome of a cold call is to get someone on the line, however it can also be to get information (especially about how you should call) or to learn more about the company. When I hit a dead-end with a company I would typically call their sales department (which was different because I called on HR or accounting departments) to see if they could give me a better angle on the company or how to call. If you talk with someone and they say, “Call me back in three months”, the success there is you are building your list for the future. Every call is a success.
- Voicemail. Knowing you only have about 2 ½ seconds before they delete your message, do yourself a favor and leave the elevator pitches for parties. When coaching someone in cold calling, I always ask for them to give me their opening line and their voicemail pitch. Both usually are way too long and completely self-serving. I am always socked that the main point of a voicemail for the untrained rep is… “I would really appreciate a call back…” I am sure you would like a call back, but next time give them a reason better than your appreciation. I always just left my name, number and the initials of my company and asked them to call me back. Let’s face it… that’s what I really wanted was a call back, so that’s the only voice mail I left. (There is a lot more I can write about this, but don’t over think this).
- Never give up! As I am writing this I am thinking about the great speech Jim Valvano gave where he said, “don’t give up. Don’t ever give up”. Even though he was talking about life and fighting cancer, a truly knowable fight, reps will call once maybe twice and that’s it. I found that it takes eighteen months to two years to establish a powerful, thick cold call loop that is productive. I would call people seven, eight (and more) times before I got someone. I didn’t leave a voicemail every time, and I would call at different (by the way – in the middle of writing this article I received a cold call from my mortgage company… it was terrible – just awful) times of the day, and as they would push me out I might get one of two sentences about what was going on in their world and I would make a note about it… even personal stuff so when I called them back I would refer to those things. Now, this is not a technique… this is me being genuinely interested in people and they could tell, that’s why it worked for me.
There is a lot more I could say about cold calling. I hope that this article has given you renewed interest in the art form, that’s right it’s an art form. One last piece of advice is what I like to call two o’clock time. When I was a cold caller I made fifty dials per day. I usually got finished about 1pm. After a little lunch and sending out my information (that’s right, if someone wanted information I would send it out after my calls) at 2pm and for the rest of the day I would start building my list for the next day. This was a very important part of my success, because when I got in every morning, I would turn on my computer, log into Salesforce and start dialing. I didn’t stop dialing until my calls were done. I did that every day until I simply couldn’t make the time for it because I was too busy with all of my clients.
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About The Author:
Christopher Elmore has written 8 books, countless articles, lectures at UNC – Charlotte and travels around the country speaking on the topics of startup success, sales, presentation skills, change, entrepreneurship, accounts payable and payment automation. Having deep startup and entrepreneurial experience, Christopher was one of the six people who started AvidXchange in 2000 and continues to work in the business today. If you hire Christopher to speak or teach at your company or event… you won’t be sorry! Request a media kit or contact us for more information
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