Do you struggle to pick up the telephone and book a meeting? Do your salespeople avoid cold calling? Would your business benefit by more face-to-face meetings with prospects?
If the answer is yes, then you need to read this!
For years I absolutely hated cold calling. Even though I thrived in face-to-face sales environments the telephone filled me with dread!
No more! I learned a better way!
My personal record for booking face-to-face business appointments, using absolute cold calls, is 22 in one day. That is 22 confirmed appointments with business decision makers in a 7-hour day. My normal conversion rate is 50% – that is I generally book 1 out of every 2 calls made – on a good day the conversion rate has been as high as 90%.
How do I do this?
Well, I will tell you that the first thing you need to do is forget everything that anyone has ever taught you about cold calling. I spent years doing what other people did and my results were poor and I learned to hate cold calling! I then invested an entire week trying different approaches until I got it right! The change was amazing!
Here are the cold facts about cold calling.
Scripts don’t work!
Smooth banter doesn’t work!
Tricking the gatekeeper doesn’t work!
Gimmicks never work!
The ‘accepted’ method of cold calling is mechanically making call after call, reading from a script, which drives prospects away and is soul-destroying for the salespeople.
Here is what works!
1) Start with your list – calling the entire telephone book is rarely a good idea. Unless you are certain that every business can realistically use your product you are wasting your time. A bit of research can result in a good, current list of businesses in your target sector and geographic location. The City of London Business Library at Guildhall provides public access to some very expensive business databases and it is 100% free. Most cities will have a similar service.
2) Get the direct line of the person you are calling. This doubles your chances of the person answering the telephone.
3) Separate cold calling activities: prospecting to find the right person, and call blitzing to get that person on the telephone. Cold calling benefits from developing a rhythm and being in an ideal state of mind – better to support focus on one activity.
4) Throw away your script! Just a moment, first you write a script that is short, tight and has a highly compelling reason your prospect should meet with you. Spend some time on your script – get it polished, read it aloud until it sounds great – then throw it away! The moment you start reading anything the person on the other end of the line will know it and will shut you down. NEVER read anything and be so clear on your message that it sounds exactly like normal conversation.
5) Be present! Listen, you’re not stupid and so please don’t expect stupidity in others. Think about telephone conversations you have with friends. You’re chatting away with your friend and they start to watch television, work on the computer, use the toilet – whatever – we ALWAYS know when we are not the main focus of the conversation. Don’t you always know? Once we move from giving 100% attention to the person at the other end of the telephone to doing something else, or thinking about something else the other person knows instantly and will begin to shut you down. Be absolutely 100% focused on the person on the other end of the telephone or don’t bother making the call. Effective cold calling takes intense focus.
6) Get engagement! Now this might well be a 2-minute conversation and so I am not talking about making a deep, personal connection. I am talking about being completely real and completely in the moment so that you know the other person is also present and involved in the conversation. The best way to set up engagement is get 100% focused on the other person, be humble, be friendly and smile. Think about someone you really respect and enjoy speaking with (hold that feeling) and then make the call.
7) Gatekeeper won’t let you through? Well, 90% of the time engaging with the gatekeeper will get you through. My favourite phrase here is ‘I wonder if you could help me?’ Think humility! If the gatekeeper is a stone wall then you need to get creative. Using LinkedIn to find names, or try calling unrelated departments and ask for your target. Sometimes calling just after the switchboard closes is a way to get through to somebody. A Google search will often produce a direct number or mobile number – make it a game and be relentless if the prospect is worthwhile.
8) Know what you want. Most cold calls are not about selling, they are about getting a confirmed meeting (in person or on the telephone). Cold calling is almost NEVER the time to sell the product or service – leave that for the presentation. The cold call is to get an appointment – only talk about that! Keep your mind focused on getting an appointment – only. And, only talk about that. If the person asks for more detail tell them that the information can only effectively presented in-person. Be strong.
9) Ask for the meeting then shut up. Selling is always about controlling the customer conversation. As humans we are trained from a young age to say yes and silence after the request puts stress on the other person to say yes to you! Once you get a yes confirm any required information and get off the telephone as quickly as possible. The longer you talk the better the chance you will talk yourself out of a yes.
10) Ignore all requests to email detail. Virtually 100% of these requests are a strategy to get rid of you – don’t do it! Instead say, ‘I do have literature, however, a 10 minute meeting is all it takes to present the offering and answer any questions. At the end of 10 minutes we will know whether we can help you and you will know if we can deliver any value.’ The same is true for most requests to call back later – don’t get diverted!
11) Never leave messages! A message puts you in a corner and leaves you nowhere to go. When you leave a message you are chasing the prospect – desperate. Unless you have an incredibly powerful message that will make sure your prospect picks up the telephone to call you leaving a message only has a downside.
12) Know the difference between persistence and annoyance. Some leads might take days, weeks or even years to develop. Don’t burn a good quality lead by pushing too hard or calling too often.
Cold calling is essential to business. Even if your business is well established eventually you will need to pick up the telephone and get a meeting with someone. A bit of effort and you can develop the skill to book a meeting with anyone that might help your business move forward.
A last note for those who thing that cold calling is about numbers and if you need to make 1000 calls to get one appointment that is what you should do. Wrong! Why would you waste time, energy and investment making low-grade cold calls that give very little return on investment?