Customer Experience News & Trends

Conquering cold calling: What is and isn’t working

Even though many salespeople dread it, the simple truth is that cold calling is an absolutely necessary part of the sales process, and it pays.

Despite its importance, cold calling is the weakest part of many salespeople’s skill set and routine. They put it off as long as they can. They’d rather do paperwork or volunteer to go get coffee than commit the time and effort it takes to cold call.

The simple truth is that cold calling pays. It’s one of the few ways for salespeople to find customers who are unhappy with their current situation and are willing to listen to better offers.

Research shows that 10% to 15% of customers are actively looking for new vendors. And another 20% to 30% are willing to listen to someone who can promise a better product, cheaper product, faster delivery or superior service.

To make cold calling a reliable way to keep the pipeline filled with new business like this, salespeople have to actively embrace it and incorporate cold calling into their weekly routine and planning.

Time plus discipline equals sales

It’s always easier to procrastinate and put off prospecting until a later day, when circumstances will supposedly be better. But the time is now.

Top salespeople give cold calling the time and discipline required. They routinely include cold calling appointments in their daily and weekly routine. They make cold calling a priority, often treating it the same as meetings with important customers.

Create a plan

Good salespeople use a time plan to get beyond procrastination. By setting specific times and dates to work cold calls, they put a structure in place that increases their effectiveness.

To create such a plan, salespeople should:

  • Develop a road map to organize cold calls in a systematic way. Calls should fit into daily or weekly call plans. But keep it simple. A salesperson shouldn’t spend more time managing the plan than implementing it.
  • Prioritize activities so the cold calls that offer the most promise get the most attention. Listing calls in the order of importance allows the salesperson to shift less important calls to other times or eliminate them entirely.
  • Set daily goals for making cold calls. Organizations that make cold calling a key ingredient in performance reviews have greater success. It’s also key for sales managers to regularly make cold calling part of their sales meetings and discussions.

Overcoming cold call reluctance

Salespeople who excel at cold calling have an important quality that separates them from those who struggle with cold calls: They have the courage to fail. They recognize that rejection can transform failure into a powerful tool for success that can help them develop the skills to find new prospects and turn them into customers.

They understand that by avoiding failure they’re avoiding new challenges and opportunities. Salespeople who can’t accept failure quickly lose their enthusiasm for making cold calls.

Research shows that 40% of salespeople will experience episodes of call reluctance, despite their years of experience, product knowledge or current income level. All types of call reluctant salespeople have one symptom in common: procrastination.

These tips can help overcome procrastination, the No. 1 enemy of cold calling:

  • Set priorities and focus on one call at a time. Without priorities, salespeople jump from task to task, ignoring major responsibilities while wasting time on trivial matters that cut into prospecting time.
  • Set personal deadlines. The best way to beat procrastination is by setting a deadline and sticking to it.
  • Don’t avoid the difficult problems a prospect may raise during a cold call. Attack the toughest problems first. Dealing effectively with difficult problems is the best way to spark a prospect’s interest during a cold call.
  • Don’t wait for things to happen. Waiting wastes time and money, and contributes to call reluctance.
  • Be willing to take risks. Risk is the basis of success in making cold calls. For salespeople to make successful cold calls, they have to be ready to take risks.
  • Expose yourself to what’s new. Remember, if you’re not learning every day, the competition is. New information is essential to success. How much time do you spend each day learning something new? How will you use this information to make better cold calls?
  • Become valuable. Become known as a resource to prospects, not a salesperson. A salesperson’s value is linked to his or her knowledge and willingness to help prospects.
  • Have the answers prospects need. The more salespeople can solve problems, the easier it is to get in front of even the most reluctant prospects. Prospects want immediate answers in a cold call.
  • Recognize opportunity. Look for situations that create opportunities. The key is to have and maintain a positive attitude. Attitude allows salespeople to see possibilities when an opportunity for a cold call arises.

Types of cold call reluctance

There are five types of reluctance that can sabotage cold call prospecting efforts:

  1. Over-preparation. Characterized by salespeople who spend too much time preparing what to say and how to say it, while spending too little time trying to find qualified prospects. The salesperson becomes an encyclopedia of technical information with no one to make presentations to.
  2. Yielding. Characterized by salespeople being unable to assert themselves, particularly when it comes to making cold calls. They’re afraid to incite conflict or risk losing approval. Yielders become too polite for fear of appearing pushy or intrusive.
  3. Doomsaying. Characterized by energy being diverted away from contact with prospective buyers. They habitually worry about the worst-case scenario.
  4. Telephobia. Characterized by fear of using the telephone for prospecting purposes.
  5. Stage fright. Characterized by avoiding or bypassing opportunities to prospect because salespeople consider it beneath them.

Preparing for the cold call

Some things in cold-call selling are crystal clear. One of them is that prospects will not even see you unless they believe they will get what they want.

Great cold calls generate the maximum opportunity to motivate prospects to buy, which centers on three things:

  1. Getting a clear picture of the prospect’s objectives and showing how the product or service will meet them.
  2. Getting a feeling for the prospect’s motivation to buy. Do prospects believe they can buy, believe that buying will lead to promised outcomes and believe that the outcomes will be satisfying?
  3. Getting a sense of the prospect’s behavior style and selecting a sales approach that matches the way the prospect likes to be sold.

Developing a powerful cold-call presentation

Here are seven tips to develop a powerful cold-call presentation:

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Nothing turns a prospect off faster than an ill-prepared salesperson making a cold call. Try to find out as much as possible about the prospect before you decide to make a cold call. Prospects respect a salesperson who shows a genuine interest in their business and takes steps to understand it before making a cold call. Once you understand a prospect’s criteria, you can customize your presentation accordingly. It’s a good idea to make a list of key questions to ask during the presentation.
  2. Review carefully before the call. Go over the points you need to make. Read your notes and the product benefits you can offer the prospect. Research should tell you what the prospect cares about. Providing these answers may help you get an appointment. Salespeople become indispensable to prospects when they demonstrate they understand the prospect’s problems and goals, and have the ability to solve and fulfill them.
  3. Visualize a successful outcome right before you make the cold call. Good cold callers run through their entire presentation in their minds. They review the steps they’re going to take and the points they want to make.
  4. Listen 80% of the time and take notes throughout the presentation. Prospects, especially during cold calls, appreciate salespeople who think enough of their feelings to write them down. They find it flattering to state their opinions and have someone carefully listen to them. Present ideas from the prospect’s point of view. Make connections between your product and its benefits for the prospect crystal clear.
  5. Use clear, descriptive language. Say things as simply as possible. Insider terms and technical language can confuse the prospect. Use phrases that include them, so prospects can imagine themselves using your product or service.
  6. Make presentations interactive. Ask questions throughout the presentation. Good questions sustain a prospect’s interest, stimulate their thinking, and modify their concept of you and your product or service. Questions also shift the focus from you to the prospect where it belongs, especially during a cold call.
  7. Prepare for objections. No matter how thorough a presentation is during a cold call, the prospect will normally have unanswered questions and concerns the salesperson will have to deal with before moving to the next step.

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