When you think cold calling, what springs to mind? 80s power suits and the Wolf of Wall Street? A sales tactic of years gone by? Since the 90s tech boom cold calling seems like a relic, along with shoulder pads and landlines. Between email and voicemail, cold calling has seemingly fallen by the wayside.
But the truth is that, even today, cold calling is the most effective tool a salesperson has in their arsenal. According DiscoverOrg, 78% of decision makers have attended an event or appointment that originated with a cold call or email. Not bad, right?
What is Cold Calling
Cold calling is the first phase of the sales process - your first point of contact with any potential client. It’s a sometimes scary, yet necessary step. You have to start somewhere after all!
And even by picking up the phone, you’re already ahead of the game. In her post “The Biggest Prospecting Challenges for B2B Sales Professionals (And a Way to Overcome Them)” on the LinkedIn Sales Blog, Julie Thomas reveals that fear is the biggest obstacle to cold calling, with 53% of respondents saying they quit cold calling quickly, and 48% admitting they were scared to pick up the phone.
However, once you get over your phone-phobia, you’ll find your sales will increase. In a 2017 study, DiscoverOrg found that 55% of high-growth companies reported utilizing cold calling, while companies who didn’t cold call reported 42% less growth than competitors. Who doesn’t want to see growth?
How to Cold Call
Okay, you might be thinking that you don’t need a step-by-step process for how to pick up the phone and dial it. And you’re right. But there are more effective ways to cold call. Ultimately, the way you come across on the phone affects how people view both you and your company, so it’s important to make a good impression.
1. Do your Research
There’s no excuse for being unprepared when it comes to cold calling. Between LinkedIn, social media, and company websites, you should be able to find out who you need to be talking to, aka the people who are making the buying decisions, along with potential pain points their business or industry may be facing. When you frame your cold call as a way you can help your prospect, rather than as a sale you need to make, you’re much more likely to get that sale down the road.
2. Make a Case for Yourself
Remember that first impressions count. Be nice. Not just to the decision maker, but also to the gatekeeper, whether that’s a secretary or assistant. Introduce yourself. Let your prospect know your full name, position, and company name, before letting them know how you can help. Tie a link between your company and theirs, and let them know how your product or service could improve their business.
3. Qualify the Call
Your research should have helped you figure out what a company and/or industry’s pain points are and whether the solutions you offer are a good fit. However, you still might not be able to get the whole story from just your research. Ask smart, open-ended questions to get your prospect to fill in the gaps. ‘Yes or no’ questions will stop your client in their tracks and won’t get you the detailed information you need.
4. Make Cold Calls a Little Warmer
Let cold calls be an introduction; to you, your company, and your product. You don’t need to “always be closing.” Make connections and build relationships. Most people like to work with people they enjoy spending time with. Establishing and maintaining rapport with prospects might take a little longer, but will pay off long term.
5. Follow Up
Since your cold call is just an introduction, you need to follow up. According to Marketing Donut, 92% of salespeople give up after four no’s, but 80% of prospects say no four times before they say yes. So, schedule a follow-up call or appointment — and then keep calling. This will allow you to continue building your relationship with the prospect and inspire trust needed to make the sale.
6. Be prepared to walk away
Cold calling is also about disqualifying a lead. Maybe your prospect had a misleading web presence or maybe they’re just plain and simple not a good fit for the products or services you offer. Figure out who is a good fit for your services and use your time to focus on those prospects.
Cold Calling Tips and Tricks
Once you’ve got the basics down, there are still ways you can up your cold calling game. If you want to reach new prospects and do it well, here’s some cold calling techniques to try out:
1. Practice Makes Perfect
New to cold calling or just need to brush up on your skills? You’ve heard it a million times, but it’s true: Practice, practice, practice. First, you need to develop or revamp your elevator pitch. Need help developing the perfect elevator pitch? Take a look at “Crafting Elevator Pitches that Sell.” Your manager and your team are great resources to practice with. Even though there’s friendly competition amongst you, you’re working together as a team, and when you get better, so does the team.
George Leith, Vendasta’s CRO, recommends practicing your elevator pitches until you’re “umm” free. There are lots of ways to practice, which George outlines in his Conquer Local podcast episode, “George’s Top Tips - Cold Calling.”
Practice doesn’t have to be a chore. Fun games and exercises help. Sit two chairs side by side and pretend you’ve just been upgraded to first class on your flight. Lucky you, you’re sitting next to the CEO of your dream prospect’s organization. How can you keep them engaged so they don’t put on their noise-cancelling headphones and tune you and your pitch out?
Another fun way to practice your skills is by thinking on your feet with games like Jeopardy or Scattergories; games that involve answering questions or speaking about different sales-related topics off the top of your head.
Not into games? Try roleplaying your cold call technique with your team or manager. Have them act as your prospect while you try out new cold calling tips. They’ve no doubt heard a lot of objections to their own pitches, so they’ll be able to effectively help you troubleshoot weak spots in yours.
Another great idea is practicing by yourself. Whether you’re behind the wheel or in the shower, there’s no one around to judge you, so you don’t need to feel self-conscious.
Conventions are also a great place to practice your elevator pitch. You’re meeting lots of new people in a short time frame.
You’re walking up to people that you don’t even know, and it’s a great place to hone those elevator pitches to learn how to be able to pivot right on the spot, have your head on a swivel, and to just move that presentation.
The bottom line? Practice until you nail your elevator pitches. You need to be able to effectively explain how your company can help, and you need to be able to do it quickly, yet personably.
2. Start Strong
Now that you’re all warmed up, let’s move onto the real thing. When cold calling, your introduction is everything. A bad intro and you risk getting hung up on.
So do your research. Use LinkedIn, social media, and company websites to find some interesting details you can work into conversation, whether that’s a mutual alma mater or LinkedIn connections. Can you work that into your elevator pitch? Take a second, think about it, and figure out your best approach.
Introduce yourself. Be friendly and confident… people can smell fear through the phone. If you’re not confident in what you’re selling, how can you expect a prospect to want to buy it?
3. Show Value
Your confidence comes into play again here. Prospects need to feel that confidence in order to buy what you’re selling. George Leith tells salespeople to “own the value proposition you are bringing to the customer.” Part of this is knowing that cold calls don’t always follow a script or have the same outcome, so you need to be able to adapt.
Tell stories to your prospects about customers in their industry to demonstrate how your products or services have helped them overcome or reduce their pain points. Better yet, have existing customers ready and happy to vouch for you and your services.
A great tool to use to show prospects value is Vendasta’s Snapshot Report. Run a report on any small to medium local business to see what their online presence is like and where their pain points are. Having this marketing needs assessment in your back pocket is like having a cheat sheet for cold calling. Use this information to engage and inform customers of areas they could improve on and let them know how you and your services can help.
Want to optimize your cold calling? Timing is a large factor in your success. There are many variables that can affect the outcome of your cold calls. First of all, be mindful of time differences. If you’re calling cross-country or internationally, you’ll want to double check what time it is there.
Try to call between 9 and 4, the first and last hour of the day are usually eaten up by other tasks. Weekday afternoons are considered the best time to call, with the exception of Friday. No one is making a big buying decision right before a weekend! Peak Sales Recruiting notes that the same goes for Monday morning. People are just getting settled in for the week, so it’s not ideal.
5. Learn from Mistakes
You can’t win ‘em all. You got into sales for a reason, and that’s because you love to win. Unfortunately, you are going to get rejected when cold calling. What you can do is learn from your mistakes.
An incredibly helpful tactic is to record your calls and listen back. Analyze where your calls go wrong and figure out how you can improve. You can either do this alone, or with your team and manager. You’ll learn to adapt your technique.
Another thing you may notice when listening back to your calls is the tone of your voice. Your voice might sound shaky if you’re nervous. Practice will help. Also, you don’t want to sound bored, monotone, condescending, or aggressive. Find the right tone, be enthusiastic and confident, and keep that energy throughout your call.
Saving the best tip for last here. Yes, you have your elevator pitch, which you’ve now perfected. But ultimately, it’s more important to listen to your prospect. Listen closely, so you can truly understand your prospect’s needs. No two businesses are exactly the same and no two calls are going to go exactly the same way. By listening carefully, you’ll be able to deal with the objections that come your way and address them, instead of just barrelling on with your pitch.
Connecting with people is also important. Genuine connections will take you a long way. So be nice to everyone you talk to, especially to the gatekeeper. If you’re rude or condescending to them, you might not get through to a decision maker. Once you’re talking to your desired target, build rapport with them. Show them you understand their industry.
Scripts can help you during a cold call, but you don’t want to sound scripted. Sounding scripted is a surefire way to not make any connections. By staying in the moment and having an actual conversation with your prospect, you’ll be able to adapt as need be
How to Win Clients and Influence Cold Calls
Though the basics of cold calling haven’t changed over the years, there’s so many resources at your fingertips to make cold calling easier today.
Vendasta offers great tools, like our CRM Sales & Success Centre to help you stay organized when cold calling, in addition to qualifying your leads. Sales & Success Centre will rank your leads based on their recent activity on your website, letting you know who will be the best qualified leads. Sales & Success Centre also keeps a log of all your emails and calls with a prospect, so you’ll be able to track your progress in closing the sale.
Sell Smarter, Not Harder
Sales & Success Centre is a CRM and Pipeline Management Software that lets you know when businesses are ready to engage.
Cold calling is still alive and well, helping companies grow. While there is a science to cold calling, it’s also just as much of an art. The only constants you’ll experience when cold calling are confidence and change. You need to be educated enough to sell your product confidently, and adaptable enough to face any objections you come up against. With enough practice and persistence, soon your fears will be left behind and you’ll be cold calling successfully.