In the world of professional sales and business development, cold calling is quickly becoming a lost art form.
Prior to the advent of the internet, finding qualified prospects to present your product or service to meant picking up a phone book or professional directory, locating the warmest prospects, and simply calling them out of the blue. This was and is remarkably difficult, for three principal reasons:
- Cold sales calls are almost always viewed as a waste of time by the person being called, unless the product or service being sold is something they need.
- Choosing the right words to use during the call is incredibly difficult and requires extensive planning.
- 75-90 percent of all cold calls result in rejection, and most salespeople cannot cope with constantly hearing ‘no’ over and over.
The reality is that cold calling doesn’t have to be a painful crucible to endure. It can actually be quite fun, especially when the prospects say ‘yes’ more often than they say ‘no’!
A Plan for Every Call
While some salespeople are better at cold calling than others, there are a few key approaches to placing cold calls that, when implemented, will increase the ‘hit rate’ of the cold calls that are made, resulting in more leads with qualified prospects. Consider how to integrate these three cold calling strategies within your own organization, and watch how quickly your sales numbers improve.
Keep in mind that these three strategies can be combined and modified to include aspects of each other, giving you even more freedom to craft a cold calling strategy that works best for your sales efforts. Also, these strategies presume that you’re not placing cold calls to sell a product or service in one call. Rather, it’s understood that your goal here is to locate a qualified prospect, present yourself and your company to them, and have clear, defined action items as part of the call.
The Three Cold Calling Strategies:
Do Your Research, Make the Connection, Make the Call
Each of these cold calling strategies is crucially important to the success of the overall cold call. Leave out any one of them, and the entire call falls apart.
Do Your Research
When we use the phrase, “Do your research,” we’re referring to the qualification part of the cold calling process. Given the mass amount of information available on most decision makers that you might be targeting (say, Information Technology Directors at Fortune 500 companies), it’s fairly easy to use tools like LinkedIn, Manta, and other industry-specific websites to find the person or persons who match your ideal customer persona. Once you locate the individuals you want to call, it’s time to dig deep into their respective companies to learn as much about their challenges as you can.
The reason for this is because when you’re able to match your product or service directly to the challenges that are being undertaken by your target prospect’s company, you stand a much higher chance of piquing their interest. Everyone wants to be a champion with the next great idea, and if you can give your prospect a genuine opportunity to become a champion within their organization through the use of your product or service, you’re going to get the sale.
Try to spend between 5-10 minutes doing research per prospect. Once you’ve done this for about an hour, you should have a list of a solid 10-15 prospects ready to move to phase two: Making the Connection.
Make the Connection
Making the connection means tying the value that is inherent in your product or service with the challenges or goals of your target prospect. In the ‘Do Your Research’ phase of this approach, you should have learned at least a thing or two about what your target prospects are trying to accomplish. Your job now is to position your product or service as an ‘enabler’ that can help your target prospect get what they want. That might be more sales, lower operating costs, or something else entirely.
When you’re making this connection, be as specific as possible. For example, if you sell legal services to businesses, identify a specific legal challenge that your target prospect is likely to have. Perhaps it’s reducing the costs they incur for settling lawsuits. Then, match your company’s offerings to this challenge in a solutions-oriented way.
Once you’ve made this connection, map it out on a piece of paper. Do this for every one of the target prospects that you identified in the ‘Do Your Research’ phase. In total, the time you should be spending on these first two phases shouldn’t be more than an hour and a half for 10-15 qualified prospects.
Make the Call
Once you’ve done your research, made the connection between your company’s products or services and your prospects’ challenges, it’s time to pick up the phone and make the calls.
Before you do this, set aside time in your day during that you will not be interrupted. It shouldn’t take you longer than about an hour to make these calls; try working that hour into your calendar beforehand. This will help to keep you on track as you proceed.
Once you get your prospect on the phone, deliver the narrative that you’ve been building in the first two phases. Using our legal services example mentioned earlier, a cold call might go something like this:
“Hello, [Prospect], my name is Keith with Five Star Legal Services. I was reading about your recent cost-cutting initiative and wanted to give you a call. Five Start Legal Services saves our clients, on average, 20-35 percent in legal fees when settling lawsuits. I thought we might meet sometime soon to discuss how we could help you do the same.”
In this example, we’ve got the right person on the phone, we reference a known challenge, and we match that challenge with the value that our product or service provides. But, we’re not done yet. We still have action items to develop in the form of next steps.
Suggesting Next Steps
At the end of every cold call, it’s vitally important that next steps are identified and clearly communicated to the prospect. These might be:
– A scheduled meeting at a set time and place
– A promise of an email with more detailed information
– Agreeing on a better day and time to call back for a more involved discussion
When suggesting next steps, try to take the burden off of the prospect and place it onto you. You are the one who is trying to sell the client, not the other way around. So, instead of asking them to send you an email, offer to send one to them. Instead of asking them to tell you what day or time works best for a callback, offer one up. Make their lives easy by doing the work for them, and you’ll be rewarded with their attention.
If you’ve done all of the homework involved in phases one and two, making the call and suggesting next steps should flow easily. If they don’t, go back and refine your research and connections, experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. Before long, you’ll arrive at a customized approach to each cold call that works for you and your business.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
As a reminder, don’t forget to track your cold calling activity. Every single cold call should be logged into a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) or, at the very least, a sales journal of some kind. This serves two purposes:
1. It includes specifics about the call that you might forget.
2. It creates a record that you can refer to later for honing your cold calling skills.
As mentioned earlier, cold calling can be seen as a kind of art form. No single cold call is going to work identically well for every salesperson. So, take your time in crafting the ideal cold call approach for you, using the strategies set forth in this article. With the right diligence and attention to detail, you should get your hit rate for cold calling up to a solid 50 percent or better.
Remember that there will always be prospects who will say ‘no’ regardless of what you say on your cold call. You could have the perfect cold calling script all laid out, and you’re still going to encounter rejection. It simply cannot be avoided. Know this going into your cold calls, and expect to be rejected at least half of the time. This will make the sting of rejection a little easier to deal with when it does happen.