Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of cold-calling done really badly, when a business you do not know pesters you pushily and repeatedly with something irrelevant and unwanted, when you’ve never consented to their contact, and you’re not even sure where they got your number in the first place…
Sound familiar? I think my worst ever experience was when I changed my registered (home) office address with a regulator, and somehow wound up on resold list of new offices opening in the local area — so as a business-of-one I then received about 8 cold-calls a day from people pitching me everything from security systems to office supplies, and I actually ended up changing my phone number in the end.
But done well, cold-calling remains a valuable and effective tactic for finding new prospects for your business, you just have to make sure you’re doing it right.
Getting your call answered in the first place is vital, and the following tips can help you connect with your customers and prospects successfully.
1. Get your mindset right — or don’t pick up the phone
Business owners and entrepreneurs, however much they believe in their product or service, can sometimes have emotional resistance to cold-calling. Ask yourself honestly if this applies to you — perhaps you have an aversion to calling people at all, this is increasingly common, or you’re overthinking your prospect’s reaction: “I could be interrupting something really important…” (actually, if you are, they probably just won’t answer your call anyway).
You might just think you’re naturally not very good at cold-calling — and the trouble is, you’re right — because if you have this self-belief internalised, it will definitely be true. You will be timid, reluctant, and oversensitive to their response. You won’t handle objections well, you’ll give up at the first hint of resistance, and waste good leads in the process.
The important thing to understand here is that it’s not a lack of skills holding you up, or even a lack of confidence in what you have to offer. What you’re struggling with is a lack of confidence in your ability to successfully conduct a cold-calling campaign, and there are a number of solutions to this, including:
Go back to the “why”
To get over your internalised resistance, remind yourself why you’re doing this. Your prospect NEEDS what you have to offer, they deserve it, it will make their lives/businesses/outcomes better. If you don’t believe this, then you have a problem — either with your product or your list of prospects, either of which can be fixed.
But if you know you’ve got what they need, then cold-calling is doing them a positive act of generosity. You’re helping them, sharing information which will benefit them. You have to believe that, in order to do this work.
Learn to do it better
Go on a course, read a book, watch a training video: The best sales agents definitely seem to have a natural flair for it, the people who could ‘sell fridges to Eskimos’ and were born with the gift of the gab, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us cannot improve.
Good training courses will include active role-play, letting you practice in live conversations, and work out effective responses to real objections that you might encounter. You might not become ‘sales agent of the year’, but you can definitely improve your effectiveness and personal comfort with this area of doing business.
Hire someone else
If cold-calling is definitely not for you, then it’s better to be clear about that, and instead hire someone to do it for you.
Growing your team and outsourcing the elements which are less of a fit for you makes sense in any case—whether that’s handling your accounts or delivering your product, you won’t be able to do everything yourself forever in any case.
Perhaps no-one knows your product as well as you do, but that too can be overcome, and the act of systematising and recording the features and benefits will help with your ‘why’ too.
Remember: good sales people are your greatest asset. They won’t come cheap, and most will prefer some kind of performance-based remuneration. If you find a good one, reward them appropriately, study and learn from them, and treat them well — because they will drive continual business revenue for you.
2. Call the right list
In the bad experience I outlined above, it was bad because I never should have been on the end of those calls. I wasn’t in the target market for what those people were selling — they had presumably paid for a list of new business branches setting up locally, not a writer changing their home working address, and the things they were interrupting my work to pitch were annoying and irrelevant.
This matters, because it actually detracted from their brand — the ones who called repeatedly I can remember to this day, and I would never trust them with my business or recommendation.
Calling the wrong people can therefore actively damage your business so ensure to qualify your prospect list well.
The wrong people could be:
Don’t try to sell a home-based writer a business pest control solution! Be very specific with your list broker about how leads are qualified — and feed back discrepancies, so their data can be cleansed, and you can get a refund on any lead that explicitly does not fit what you have ordered. Be ready to halt the process if you realise there is a mismatch between the list you think you’re contacting, and who you’re actually reaching.
If you are buying or renting lists, pay attention to the broker’s understanding of their responsibilities under GDPR and local data protection laws — you can learn a lot about this from how they handle your own data, incidentally. Remember that if you are making the contact, it’s your responsibility to do so compliantly.
If you are operating from your own CRM, make sure you cleanse it regularly, against gone-away lists and bereavement registers, before making unsolicited contact, particularly if it is after a gap of some time. This is far more important with phone calls than with email, which will probably just go unanswered, rather than reaching the wrong person.
3. Get into a rhythm
Watch a good cold-caller, and you’ll notice they’re right ‘in the zone’.
In fact, they can be a joy to watch. They have a cadence and flow that maximises time spent on the phone, because that’s the only time they’re making money. There’s no multitasking or giving in to distraction, no wondering what to do next. It’s a rhythm born of practice, mindset, and a range of tactical tricks you can also implement, such as:
Preload your calling list
Using a tool like Ringover’s Power Dialer, set up your list to call right in your phone software.
Import a CSV list from your broker or CRM, so that each call is automatically dialled for you, a fixed period after the previous one, whether that is successful or unsuccessful — preset according to your preference to ensure time for notes etc, but avoid the interruption of having to find and manually dial the next call.
Have a blueprint for your process
Nothing will snap you out of the zone more quickly than uncertainty, so cover all bases in advance of a calling session. This is even more important when you’re working in a team.
What do we do when a call goes unanswered? When we get a voicemail — do we leave a message, what then? What’s the next move when someone says they want to receive more information..?
Map out your cadence of actions in advance, so you don’t have to make ad-hoc decisions on the fly. For example, you might decide that you will leave a voicemail after the third unanswered call, so then you draft a quick script for that message, and have a system to then suppress that number for the following four days (they probably won’t call back, but you need to leave a suitable interval before you call them again, and also adopt a different opening to the next call because they should already be familiar with your name/company from their messages).
Whether you manage this process within a bespoke piece of contact centre software, via a shared spreadsheet, or on a piece of paper on your desk, will depend on the scale of your operation. But whether you’re a one-person-band or an international sales centre you need a consistent blueprint for sales operations, and you need to stick to it — while also keeping it under review and tweaking appropriately, in response to the results you get.
Have a blueprint for your conversation
Rigid scripts are history, and part of the dark ages past of robotic call centres. Good morning-afternoon-evening, sir-madam… line-by-line scripts sound stilted, unnatural, and non-spontaneous. A sales call is a dialogue, it needs to evolve as the other party responds, and flow in a human to human way.
A sales call is not a chat with a friend though, it has a specific objective, and as such it will go much more successfully if you follow a structure. You can analyse what works in your organisation, with your product, and develop an appropriate blueprint for your call, which needs to cover:
- An introduction — to quickly create context and build rapport
- Qualification questions — are they in the market, where are they at right now, etc
- Your pitch — once you know you’re pitching the right person!
- How to manage objections and questions — with these prepared in advance, they won’t throw you off-balance (and you’d be surprised how infrequent genuinely new objections are)
- A call to action, or close. Don’t forget this bit! The ultimate endgame of the sales call is to ask for the sale, and that is your first priority. If you cannot do that on this call, your next best call to action should include arranging for a follow up, eg “when is a good time for us to connect again, when you’ve had time to discuss this with your team?”
Set yourself goals, like “X more connected calls, then a 5-minute break”, or “Y more outright rejections, then I can check social media”. Delayed gratification, knowing that your reward awaits after your work is done, can keep you pushing ahead.
Or get the Ringover Power Dialer on your side, by loading up the complete list of calls you intend to execute on in a given session — then blasting through without a break. By presetting your intervals between calls, and immediately dialling the next number when you don’t get through, this tool can help you maintain flow and stay on top of your game (or, help you maximise the effectiveness of those expensive sales staff you are paying to do that for you).
Cold-calling in 2020 is a numbers game — you won’t get through to a live conversation in perhaps a large majority of cases, so its absolutely vital that you don’t waste time on those unsuccessful calls. Even though everyone has a phone in their pocket, they’re simply harder to get hold of than they once were.
Automation makes a big difference, as does focusing on the metrics which really matter. Having the right tools also propels your cold calling success even further. Forget the number of unanswered numbers or mailboxes you hit, don’t reward yourself for those! All that matters is conversion and outcome when you do actually speak to the right person on your list.
To your calling success
Don’t believe anyone who tells you that cold-calling doesn't work any more. The very fact that some people believe this and no longer do it opens the field for you and your business, to gain the attention of new prospects.
This article from Forbes, 5 Interesting Lessons From 150 Cold Calls Per Day, confirms from direct experience that cold calling does work well, if you do it right. It further confirms that decision makers do take calls — including C-suite level execs. And it reminds us that you learn a lot through talking to people on the phone, or perhaps more importantly you learn through listening.
So, power up your lists, and smile and dial!
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