There will always be a place for cold calling in any sales strategy and knowing how to do it is a critical differentiator in all market segments. For many sales people, cold calling can be the best and most effective way to build a pipeline but only through determination and polite persistence.
To be a good cold caller it’s key to understand the environment. Cold calling is interruptive and not permissive. Therefore from the second the call is placed, the people on the other end of the line have their defenses up and are NOT receptive until you give them a reason to let you in.
Because cold calling is interruptive and not permissive it requires 4 things to be executed flawlessly:
1. You have to know who you are calling – have a list.
Before you pick up the phone and start making calls, you have to know who you are calling and why. Let’s call this pre-qualifying. Pre-qualifying means creating a key customer profile that outlines the traits of a company that is the best possible fit for what you are selling. Build a list of pre-qualified companies to work from and make it as long as possible before you start calling. Don’t do research while you call, it slows down the process and makes it difficult to get into a rhythm. A calling list is the most valuable asset a cold caller can have and spending the time upfront building it will make all the difference.
2. Know what you are going to say
You have less than 10 seconds to capture someone’s attention. If you don’t know what you’re going to say, you’ll look sound like a rookie. I’m not a big fan of “scripts” and actually I consider them constricting, impersonal, and don’t always align with the flow of the call and what the person on the other line wants to hear. I prefer improvisation and agility. This doesn’t mean wing it, it means you have a set of key messages you know you must get out, but how you communicate them and when is driven by the person on the other end of the line.
Create a set of key messages you think are critical to your customer and to make sure they impact the key business elements of my target customers. I don’t talk about my services, but rather how my services can positively affect their business in the next 30-60-90 days.
3. Set Goals
Set daily cold call goals since the hardest part of cold calling can be just making the calls. Setting goals you know based on past success will ensure you can make your numbers. Know how many new calls you need to make in a day and know how many return calls you will make. New calls are calls made to someone on the list you’ve never called before. Return calls are someone on the list you didn’t get a hold of the last time you called them.
Overtime, as you call more often, your call back list is going to be as equally as big as your new call list and the most important thing to remember is to not quit until you reach someone. Make the call, leave a message, set a reminder to call them back, but never quit calling.
4. Don’t stop until they say “NO!”
This is where determination and stamina come into play. Do not stop calling until you get a no. Without a no, you don’t know why they aren’t calling you back. My rational is this; if they’re not interested, they’ll let you know because they may be too busy to do otherwise. For every prospect that will tell you to stop calling, I bet that you will have five that will thank your for your persistence and were glad you kept on them as they wanted to talk but were so busy they never got around to calling you back. – Don’t stop until they tell you to stop.
Cold calling is not dead. It maybe warping, but, regardless of what it’s doing or not doing, doing it right matters and will have an impact on your income.
One of the most dangerous mistakes a salesperson can make is to go without activity because it will cause major problems in producing results later. As much as a salesperson may want to resist activity goals and metrics, they are necessary, and as much as the sales manager may not want to measure or enforce activity goals, it is necessary that you do so even when the numbers are being made.
The great game of sales is not very different than an athlete maintaining peak performance with the right activity (training). Without the right sales activity (prospecting) for even relatively short periods of time in sales, your pipeline starts to look a little light. Without face-to-face meetings, your deals start to stall and your pipeline looks even weaker. Eventually, your numbers will not be sufficient for the company to consider you a value to the organization, your commissions will sufferr, and a change will have to be made.
Maintaining momentum requires that you keep some standard of activity level, just like an athlete. Your activity goals and metrics are an indication of your future sales results. Your activity metrics are a snapshot of your fitness level as a salesperson and without them it easy to underperform and miss your numbers.
Build a “Model” Week for Momentum
The best way to maintain momentum is to create a “model” week with specific activity goals with prospecting calls and prospect meetings. Every week is not going to look exactly like the “model” week, and some are going to look very different based on the demands of the business you are in. One week of poor activity isn’t likely to make or break your quarterly or annual sales results, so it’s better to look at the averages since some weeks are naturally going to be more productive than others. Activities like prospecting calls and first sales meetings are good metrics and it is important to review your results and make changes to your activity levels as necessary.
Selling is one of those endeavors where it is very difficult to make up for lost time. You can train in the off season and perform during the season. You can also train like crazy in the season but you are guaranteed to produce nothing but a sense of frustration and panic. Activity goals and metrics are what keep you deliberately training for the season and in sales, the season never ends.
Customers are disappearing, buying habits have changed, profit margins are shrinking, marketing budgets have been stripped, and the competition is entrenched. To compound the problem, your sales team is only selling 20% of the time, call reports are fictional, sales are unpredictable, and the training seminar that was purchased has had no impact on results whatsoever. In this day and age, more production is needed from the sales team and they need to be held accountable for results.
To truly hold sales people accountable, organizations have a responsibility to have certain things in place. These responsibilities include:
- Having a lofty goal in place
- Aligning the company on the lofty goal
- Knowing their “ideal” client
- Having current marketing materials
- Knowing opportunities exist in the market
- Being market-oriented and customer-centric
- Being able to measure success
Once these responsibilities are taken care of, the next step is to design a sales system and create a roadmap that is reverse engineered on the lofty goal. This road map should include clearly defined expectations such as:
- Specific activity metrics
- Weekly sales plans
- Public activity calendars
- Expected funnel size and velocities
- Structured reporting mechanisms
- Time bound results
Once an organization has taken care of their responsibilities, developed a sales system to follow and fully communicated what is expected, only then can the sales people be held accountable