Anyone who is even tangentially involved with business-to-business sales understands that building and maintaining trust is paramount to booking new business. For better or worse, people hire other people they like. I don’t care if you have the best product in the world; if you’re a jerk you don’t have a shot in hell in getting that deal.
So why do sales folks bother making cold calls? I think most of us would agree that telemarketing feels intrusive; and from the salespersons’ perspective modern technology makes it entirely too easy your calls to be avoided. Further, when was the last time you built a friendly rapport and trust with someone you don’t know who just picked up the phone and called you?
The meme is that cold calling is dead. Well, as someone who makes his living selling and helping companies increase revenue I’m here to tell you I’m not buying it. When part of a well-rounded sales strategy – one that includes inbound marketing, (more on that in a future blog post), targeted advertising and professional networking – cold calling is an effective method for getting your foot in the door with a hard to reach prospect.
Here’s how to do it right:
1. Research, research and research some more. Before you even pick up the phone spend no less than 20 – 30 minutes researching the company. Find out about their new products, recent announcements, new hires and stated challenges. Research their industry as a whole and their competitors. Educate yourself as much as possible so you can speak with the prospect from a position of confidence.
2. After you’ve completed your research make sure you have a product or service that can actually help your prospect. If you’re only calling them to make yourself more money you will not get far. The days of selling features are over. Sell benefits and solutions – and be genuine about it.
3. Write down 3 to 5 key questions to ask the prospect. Don’t make these fluff questions; make them substantive. The more you can get the prospect to talk about themselves the more they’ll like you and feel you’re helping them. Yes, really.
4. Write yourself a short script as a way to think through your talking points; but don’t read from it when you call. You want to sound natural. Make sure in two or three sentences you clearly communicate your name and your company, the solutions you offer and that you’d like to schedule a 5 to 10 minute conversation to ask them a few questions. 90% of the time your prospect – if they’re the right person at the organization for you to speak with – will be willing to speak with you immediately.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. More often than not if the prospect isn’t the correct person they’ll be more than happy to tell you who to speak with, and even give you their correct phone number and email address.
6. If you have to leave a voicemail, keep it short and sweet. Give you telephone number at least twice and spell your email address. And speak slowly. You’re not the Micromachines guy.
7. If you do get the prospect on the phone, and they are the right person to speak with, whatever you do don’t try to sell them anything on the call. Ask your questions and suggest providing them with follow up materials via email or snail mail. Share with them one or two short, easy to digest pieces of information about your company. Be friendly and personable. However keep in mind that the entire point of making that first cold call is to establish familiarity and make sure this prospect actually has a problem you can solve. Once you’ve spoken with them the next call won’t be cold. You’ll be on your way!
Ultimately, cold calling is only one step in the sales process. Yes, you will occasionally run into a rude prospect. However if you focus on providing value and don’t over reach, cold calling can be an effective way to get a pre-qualified prospect into your sales pipeline.