Cold calling has a bad rap these days. Inbound marketing and sales experts might tell you not to waste your time— The buyers of today want to research products and investigate solutions on their own time. Cold calling is too interruptive. But the fact of the matter is, cold calling may still be vital to your business, especially if you provide a B2B product or service that requires a high degree of targeting busy executives and forming interpersonal relationships.
Yes, it's true that buyers today are more empowered, and it's harder than it's ever been to grab their attention. Some of the bleakest statistics show that as little as 2% of all cold calls end in advancement conversations with actual decision makers. With such a tight window of opportunity, sales representatives must be equipped to speedily steer the conversation forward, establish a connection of trust and authority with the caller, educate soundly, and clearly articulate the next phase in the buying process to both the lead and the sales team at large. How? We asked a few sales experts and gathered four vital tips to cold calling.
1. Knowledge is Power
"Know who you're calling," said Wendy Weiss, Sales Coach at ColdCallingResults.com. "They may not know you. But you need to know about them. What are the challenges that these types of prospects have that your product or service can solve? This is 'make or break'. Prospects have less and less patience so it's important to be relevant."
Cold calling is very interruptive, so it's important that the conversation relevant and helpful. If there's anything busy professionals hate, it's having their time wasted by sales reps that do not seem to understand who they are, or what problems their business may be facing. Blanketed statements, canned lines, and vague suggestions simply add to the marketing chatter that people automatically tune out when they see ads online, on TV, or in magazines.
To truly grip a prospect, a sales representative must cut through the clichés and half measures and clearly articulate what a specific product can do for the decision maker, sooner rather than later. Most importantly, the sales representative should discuss the how the product could benefit a given business, but sometimes the true value comes by simply being the first smart, competent choice that has contacted the lead with a viable option (hence saving the decision maker time and effort).
A sales representative hardly has to exert extraordinary effort to tailor a unique message to a prospect. Detailed CRM is ideal for creating well-crafted pitches, but a significant portion of the legwork can be done by simply Googling the business, gaining a basic understanding what priorities are important for the organization, and researching the individual decision maker to get a better sense of what his or her background is.
2. First Words First
"Put your focus and energy on your opening," said Rudy Joggerst, Digital Marketing Manager at the Janek Performance Group. "According to our research, a sales rep has 10 seconds or less to make a positive first impression, and this initial impression will set the tone for the rest of the conversation. To maximize the impact of this 10-second window, be prepared with a value-leading opening statement. You need to establish right up front exactly what's in it for the customer and provide a reason why the customer should continue staying on the line with you."
Rudy's observation comes back to the concepts of research and readiness, but he also touches upon another crucial point: succinctness. Prospects often judge the competence and trustworthiness of a sales representative a few seconds after picking up the phone. By coming out with a strong and condensed message early on, sales representatives can potentially get a prospect interested, and establish a confident rapport, mere seconds into the call.
3. Be A Conversation Starter
After enticing the prospect with a solid opening, the best sales representatives try to foster a relaxed, conversational vibe for the call. The human element is always key in any sales call: no matter how enticing a product or service may be for a potential customer, there is always the possibility that the messenger (i.e. sales representative) will simply fail to win the trust of the prospect.
This unfortunate scenario can be easily avoided by affording the prospect the warmth and consideration of a friendly acquaintance. Idan Hershko, Head of Sales at dapulse.com, suggests some tips on establishing conversational continuity:
Say hi, I'm X from company Y, I saw you signed up to our service. Just wanted to give you a quick call to see if you have any questions I can help with.
If they say No, we'll say 'can I just ask one quick question... what are you trying to achieve with our product?"
Whatever they answer to that question, is an open door to making conversation. If they say "I'm managing a project in Denver CA" then you can say: "My grandmother came from Denver" or "I can recommend a burger joint in Denver". Anything, as long as it's true.
Just keep the conversation going, until you have enough data to make them the best offer for their needs.
4. Make The First Impression Count
Warming up cold calls is a critical skill that the best sales representatives have mastered during their careers. There is an art to the process that can only be learned through trial and error, but key pointers like those listed above are good starting points (or refreshers) for anyone looking to improve their over-the-phone game.
Cold calling is a challenging process, sometimes even for veterans, that sometimes leaves little room for error. But with the obvious advantages, why would a sales representative not want to build this initial rapport? It takes, on average, 8 cold call attempts to reach a prospect in today's market.
But by doing adequate research, tailoring a unique message to each specific business, using a good opening statement, and building conversational energy, sales representatives can turn cold calls into fluid interactions that move (what was) a cold call towards a warm customer relationship.