When is the last time that you were cold called? Think back.
OK, so how did you react to it? As a salesperson myself, I always think that I am steeled for someone calling me out of the blue and asking me for something. I always assume that it will go something like that pretty awesome scene from Boiler Room where Seth coaches the sales guy selling newspapers. But, in reality, when I’m trying to get work done, a cold call can catch me completely off guard and sometimes even be disruptive, too. Let’s take a look at the transcript from the last cold call I received, from a fellow salesperson:
Cold caller: “Hello there, I’m X from Y company.”
Me: “Hi, how can I help you?”
Cold Caller: “I’m trying to reach John. He’s your VP.”
Me: “Listen man, I’m so far removed from power. I can’t help you.”
Cold Caller: ***Laughs*** “I’m in sales; you’re in sales. Why don’t you just patch me through to your boss?”
Me: “Sorry, I can’t help you.” ***Hangs up***
I sat there reflecting for a moment. Did he think that I was just sitting there next to my VP, and that we were both just waiting around to be called? Did he even look at my LinkedIn to see what my position is in the company and what my potential relationship to the VP may be? I felt upset with how he had expected me to give him something just because he called. The key here is that he totally missed sharing a value proposition that John or I would want. To my surprise, he called back the next day, only to have basically the same conversation all over again…really?!
The problem with the cold call I received is that the sales guy forgot that there was an actual person on the other end of the phone. I suspect that lots of salespeople out there are falling into the same trap. As a salesperson, if you’re just dialing randomly through a list of numbers like a machine, that’s a shame. When performed tactfully, cold calls can be a very effective way for salespeople to break through the noise to start an engaging conversation and a real relationship…which will go a lot further in the long-run.
Let’s take a quick look at the mistakes he made and how you can avoid them, improving your sales approach:
1. Do your homework
With the availability of information online nowadays, it’s inexcusable not to know someone’s role and recent job history. A better way to approach me would have been: “Hey, I noticed that you’re an account executive. Do you work under John?” With this more personal approach, I would have wondered “Does he know John?” and would have felt inclined to continue the conversation.
2. Ask for permission
Being forceful doesn’t work when someone can just as easily hang up on you. You’ll need their consent to get the outcome you want. Try, “Have I interrupted something here? Do you have a moment so I can explain why I called?”
3. Explain why you’re calling, and have a good reason
Until proven otherwise, the person on the other end may think you’re a cheap telemarketer and so they’re just looking for an excuse to hang up. Give a concise value proposition like, “We help companies like yours increase revenue. Is that something that affects your role?” If you’re not up-front with your reason for calling, then people will suspect the worst and assume that you have bad intentions.
4. Build rapport before asking for something
People like people who are like them, and you’re going to be much harder to turn away if there’s a connection between you. Try something like: “I couldn’t help but notice that you went to State University. I went there, too! What did you study?”
5. Provide value
I can’t stress this enough: Without providing an element of value, you’ll get nowhere with your call. People have to clearly see how you will be helping them to gain something they don’t have or to alleviate one of their pain points: “We drive revenue for sales teams, so we’ll help you hit your number. Do you think John would be interested in that, too?” If I want to hit my number (I do), I’m at least willing to hear more.
6. Respect getting a firm “no” and preserve that bridge
There are hundreds of reasons that your prospect doesn’t want to talk to you right now, including just being tied up or even in a bad mood. Gather more information on why they don’t want to talk and be prepared to call again another day with a line like this: “I understand that you’re not interested right now. I can respect that. I have to ask though, is my timing just off, or are you flat-out not interested? Either way is totally fine. I don’t want to bother you if I’m way off the mark.” Show that you’re human and understand that there’s a real person on the other end who wants to be treated the same way you would.
Can you see the difference? The improved version empowers the prospect to accept the conversation, to understand why you’re calling, and see why they would want to keep talking rather than rush toward ending the call. This is the only way you’re going to see genuine success with cold calling.
So now you may be wondering, when your sales team performs cold calls, do they sound like the sales guy who called me, or are they more in line with the improved script? If you’re not sure, you better go check. If it’s the former, you’re leaving leads and, ultimately, revenue on the table.
Have you ever received a cold call that impressed you? What did the caller do well? Share your story below!