Is your organization struggling to get well-qualified leads from cold calling? Perhaps you find yourself wondering if cold calling is still a viable method for reaching potential clients and customers?
Here are the facts:
- 57% of C-level buyers prefer that salespeople call them; and about half of all directors and managers prefer a call, too.
- 69% of buyers accepted a call from a new salesperson in the last 12 months
- 82% of buyers say they accept meetings if a salesperson reaches out to them directly
As you can see, cold calling is still very much a great way to generate leads! Unfortunately, the issue lies in the fact that many inside sales teams simply don’t know how to perform cold calls successfully.
Many companies lack a standardized process (full of tried-and-true, time-tested techniques) for their sales teams to ensure success when speaking to prospects. This can cause uncertainty and anxiety among your salespeople, which leads to hesitation making calls; a lack of confidence when speaking with prospects, and worse; which causes low levels of success. In fact, studies show that an astonishing 80% of new salespeople fail due to call reluctance!
So how do you avoid this in your own sales team?
By creating and implementing an easy-to-follow process (with proven step-by-step instructions to boost success rates) for cold calling services, your inside sales team will feel more confident, better prepared & equipped, and less fearful to make calls.
Not sure what that process should look like? We’ve included 10 of the most time-tested cold calling techniques of all time below.
Let’s jump in:
1. Make Your Calls at an Appropriate Time
Timing is everything – this is true with cold calling as well
One of the simplest ways to improve cold call performance is to encourage your team to research prospects beforehand and contact them at appropriate times.
For example, use recent news or events about the customer’s company as a trigger to get in touch. This includes:
- New executive hires
(new leadership is often open to new ideas, vendors, and ways of doing things!)
- Announcements on winning large contracts
Did they recently take on a new project or win a notable contract that your company/solution could help support?
- Company expansions, Mergers & Acquisitions, etc.
Growth presents opportunity. This is especially true if one of the companies is already a customer and can give you a warm introduction.
- They’ve just secured funding
If you’re selling to startups, look for announcements of companies securing funding. They’re normally willing and able to make purchases or investments at these times. How can your product/service help demonstrate value to the new investors?
- Behavioral indicators
If a prospect has been clicking on your emails, website or LinkedIn page(s) & posts it’s a perfect time to reach out and make yourself known.
Next, know when in the day to place your call. Obviously, if you’re a salesperson in New York City trying to reach a CEO in LA, calling at 8 am ET (5 am PT) is not a smart decision. Decision makers are often in the office early and stay late (i.e., outside of the normal 8-to-5 grind), but try not to call during evening hours. People are much less likely to be ok with you interrupting their personal time.
Lastly, you should keep track of your outbound calling efforts (manually or in an automated fashion) to identify what day(s) your contact rates are best/worst; what day do you set the most/least appointments; which day you send the most/least emails; how does your average talk time vary by day of the week; etc.) This simple exercise will allow you to better target your decision makers.
2. Always Keep Your Goal in Mind
Are you trying to get your prospect on a demo? Book a face-to-face meeting? Get a second call?
If you’re not clear about the goal of your outreach phone call, your prospect won’t be either! Before you dial the phone, you must have a very clear, concise message – Why are you calling, what value does your product/service offer, what problem does your product/service solve, and what next step your prospect should take away from your conversation.
Not only will this help keep your calls on track, but it will make you more comfortable calling in the first place. In fact, setting goals is proven to increase motivation, and having a specific goal in mind for each prospect can decrease levels of anxiety, disappointment, and frustration.
3. Eliminate Distraction
One of the worst mistakes a salesperson can make on any call, let alone an initial sales outreach call, is giving the impression they are not fully engaged when speaking with a prospect. After all, if you’re calling them you need to be completely focused and well prepared for your conversation.
During your call, you should have call notes and perhaps a notebook in front of you. If you are calling from a CRM on your computer minimize email or chat message; and turn off your cell phone, to avoid untimely distractions.
Your team must be clear on this. As tempting as it is to multi-task to try and get things done, it’s counterintuitive to success when it comes to making cold calls!
4. Don’t Make it Too Easy to Hang Up
“How are you today?”
“Did I catch you at a bad time?”
“Is this a good time to chat?”
“Are you available for a quick conversation?”
All of these phrases are well-known tip-offs that you are a salesperson. In fact, gatekeepers are taught to screen for these phrases and not connect you. Using phrases like these with your prospects is a big mistake! Giving your prospects an easy ‘out’ straight from the start of your call is a surefire way to lose them. You must learn to ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
Most times a prospect will take any opportunity to get off the phone if they don’t know you, or understand your value proposition, or why you’re calling.
Avoid these phrases at all costs during your conversations. Instead, craft a strong opening statement that puts you on the same footing and conveys concisely why you’re calling and how the prospect will benefit from giving you 3-5 minutes of their time.
5. Prepare a Strong Opening
Research shows salespeople have about ten seconds from the start of a cold call to prove they are worth speaking to. In that instant first impression, a customer has already made up their mind whether or not they are going to give their time to the caller. Therefore, opening with a strong statement is key.
So, what makes a strong opening?
First, immediately state your full name (first and last, as this commands respect) and the name of your company. Don’t leave your prospects on the other line trying to guess who they are speaking to. And don’t ask them how they are doing today before you introduce yourself. These things build distrust with your caller and leave them feeling frustrated right from the start.
Once you’ve stated who is calling and why, ask them a question to get them engaged and to begin to build rapport and trust.
After the full introduction, get right to the reason for your call. Remember, your prospect’s time is valuable, so keep it short and sweet.
Using the steps above, your call opening would look something like this:
Hi Susan. This is Terry calling from X Company. The reason I’m calling is that we help companies like (input company name) reduce their cost of customer acquisition and increase their sales team’s close rate. Are either of these a concern for you?”
One recent study showed that this format for a cold call opening increased call success rates by 6.6x! Feel free to give it a try and measure it against your own call success rates.
6. Ask Open-Ended Questions to Get Prospect Engaged
Most salespeople know the golden rule of sales: Listen more than you talk! Keeping your prospect involved in the conversation helps to keep them engaged. In fact, on an initial sales conversation, you should be talking 20% of the time while you let your prospect talk 80% of the time. Anything less puts your initial conversation in danger of failure.
By starting your question with ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ ‘when,’ and ‘how,’ you give your prospect more room for response. And longer calls are proven to lead to more successful outcomes.
7. Listen to Your Customer’s Answers
While it’s a wonderful idea to go into your cold call with a prepared script, it’s important to also be prepared for sudden changes! Perhaps you had one solution in mind when you were calling your prospect, only to find through the conversation that another solution may be better for them. This is the reason I am a bigger fan of a documented ‘call flow’ than a call script.
This type of situation often happens during cold calling, and it’s a golden opportunity to win a customer’s trust. Not only will they know that you’ve been paying close attention to what it is they need, but they’ll also feel you have their best interest in mind in finding the best solution.
Of course, neither of these things can happen unless you are truly listening to the prospect. Stay very focused on their words and their needs. Let them know that you want to be a partner in their success not a salesperson trying to hock another widget.
8. Monitor Your Tone of Voice
Speaking of listening to your prospects carefully— this also includes reading between the lines of what they’re saying. Research indicates that 38% of spoken communication is comprehended by tone of voice. For a salesperson, being able to pick up on the feelings behind that tone is crucial for success. We often use the phrase, ‘Did I just hear what you didn’t say?’ during our internal call review sessions.
For example, does your prospect seem annoyed? Maybe you need to get to the point more quickly. Hesitant? Perhaps it’s time to work on some social proof (which we’ll discuss below). Interested? Maybe you should elaborate on a certain detail that caught their attention.
Personalizing calls by listening to your prospect’s tone will make the call more engaging for them, and hopefully, lead to more successes.
9. Share Success Stories
Include success stories and social proof in your cold calls as a proven way to build trust and credibility with your prospects.
This includes proving your own successes by pointing to other people or organizations you’ve worked with that your prospect already knows about. This is by far one of the fastest ways to go from a random call to a person they trust (and may want to work with).
If you’re not currently working with any of the prospect’s known vendors or partners, try to find where that 6th degree of separation is between you and your prospect. Perhaps you are both alums of a certain educational institution or organization. Or perhaps you have a friend who is working with a company they do business with. Any relevant and honest connection you have can be leveraged!
There are three levels of social proof that should touch on to increase the trust of your prospect:
- Company credibility: Who have you worked with in the past that the prospect may have heard of?
- Product credibility: What quantifiable results have you created for other customers with your product?
- Personal credibility: Who are you as the caller and why should they trust you? More specifically, the previously mentioned problem you solve for them and how it will make their life better. This demonstrates personal knowledge and understanding of their business and the challenges they are facing.
The best trust is built by addressing all three levels, but if you can only get to one or two, that’s better than none at all!
10. Let Rejection Motivate You. And Don’t Take it personally!
Rejection can be tough. It’s the main reason cold calls are so hard to make in the first place. As humans, we can relive and experience social pain more vividly than physical pain, so it’s easy to get discouraged by a bad call or a frustrated prospect.
Rejection can also be a very positive thing if it’s used for growth and learning, and not taken too personally! Here are a few steps you or your team can take to reframe your rejection:
First, remember that statistically, only 2% of sales are made on the first contact, but 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact. This means just because you got a ‘No’ from a prospect now, doesn’t mean it will still be a no in the future!
Instead of getting down about how your call went, simply evaluate how you can pull valuable lessons for the next call. Ask yourself:
- Did I listen more than I talked?
- Did I have a concrete and realistic goal?
- Did I introduce myself swiftly?
- Was my initial message clear and concise?
- Did I highlight what problem we solve and how it will make my prospect’s life better?
- Did I provide social proof?
- Did my prospect understand what the next steps are?
After you have concrete lessons for improvement, set goals for yourself.
Perhaps resolve to reach out to that prospect 3-4 more times before the end of the quarter. Or make it a point to reach out to them every time you see their company name mentioned in the news.
“Rejection” only has emotional power over you if you allow it to. When you approach it from a confident and educational standpoint, it loses the ability to discourage you.
Following these steps will lead to more confidence, and more confidence will likely bring you more success!