There is a long list of new-age sales and marketing professionals who argue that cold calling is dead and buried.
Cold calling has been the preferred tool used by people in sales across multiple industries. Its quick response times and take-action-now result has made it a seller's favorite, even over cold emails. But it takes time and ample training to prepare a team of SDRs to call and spark interest among your target audience.
To help you bypass some of the pitfalls associated with cold calling, we’ve put together a collection of cold calling must-do’s along with a summary of what we’ve found to be important in order to successfully cold call. From the importance of adequate pre-calling lead generation to the power of follow-ups, this guide will surely help right wrongs and validate what you’ve been doing correctly.
Cold calling is the unsolicited act of calling a sales prospect on the phone for the first time. Its purpose is to lay the groundwork that can lead to the ultimate goal of making a sale.
It’s no secret that the task of cold calling is not well-liked by those who receive cold calls, and occasionally by those making the calls in the first place. The tactics for a social task such as this differ between salespeople, and it’s up to you to study your results and make the process work for your personality.
Mastering the art of cold calling is an uphill battle depending on the reaction of the lead you’re contacting. But the view at the top is fantastic once you get a few wins under your belt. We’re going to go through it all: mistakes you want to avoid, rituals you’ll want to adopt, how to conduct prospect research, and ways to mitigate common objections from prospects.
Cold calling has always been a topic of controversy. It requires heavy training and inherent confidence. But what are some of the common mistakes made by both entry-level and intermediate cold-callers alike?
Many organizations have their SDRs learn a script. These scripts serve their purpose but need to be constantly revised by the reps using them. No script can substitute weeks of product analysis and hands-on training. Start with why your organization got in the industry to begin with, who your product is for and why they should choose you. Once you have this, your reps will be ready to create their own scripts (more on this later).
Cold callers tend to skip listening altogether, simple as that. They've perfected their sales pitches but are only prepared for what has been rehearsed. Listening to your prospects will tell you if your call has added value or where you lost their interest.
We've all gotten that annoying sales call where the person on the other end is trying to brown-nose his way in. No real conversation begins with excessive praise so why should a sales call?
The main goal behind every cold call is to incite some type of action from your prospect. Many cold callers ask for this reaction rather prematurely. The prospect's tone and interest level on the call will dictate when to pull the trigger.
Confidence is the key to becoming a great cold caller. By confidence, we mean not just in the product you're offering but in yourself. Here are a few tips to boost up your confidence when cold calling a prospect for the first time – or for a follow-up call you really don’t want to make.
Experienced salespeople often adopt some pre-call rituals to will increase their chances of success, or calculated steps that will allow you to be best prepared for any objection thrown at you. Two extremely common ones that you can easily take on are preparing properly and walking through a call fully before actually hitting the dial button.
Prepping for a call, according to Joanne Black, author and Founder of No More Cold Calling, involves being crystal clear on the call’s primary objective. Focus on the call without any distractions. She says to “know the direction of the call and let the prospect take you there”.
Additionally, walking through a call in full will give you an extra layer of preparation. Before picking up the phone, have the information you need about the prospect placed in front of you. Go through the likely scenarios and have a few key questions that will engage the prospect, especially if the questions are curated for that person and their niche rather than canned questions you ask or deliver to all prospects.
Let’s go back to the early days of cold calling. Way back when anyone was a prospect and where we were all a bit younger and more naive. A call would come in, we’d be greeted by an individual offering to sell hurricane insurance in Maine. Sadly, this call would be a huge waste of time for both parties. This is precisely why lead generation is important.
Lead generation is the art and science of building razor-sharp lists for your outbound cold calling team. It requires a separate skill set from cold calling but it is just as important. Without a good lead generation strategy, you’re aimlessly hoping your SDRs stumble upon the right candidate instead of giving your team the tools to succeed.
Training a team of aspiring lead generators (business development associates) requires the masterful use of the right tools for your industry, buyer persona, and geography. Beyond just using tools, pay close attention to the people themselves and whether they’re still in the listed role at their company, or at the company at all. We’ve also found that human-verifying the phone numbers themselves by using teams to pre-call them to ensure they belong to the person in question goes a long way.
Every organization in every industry has a target customer. A person or organization that is considered the perfect candidate to offer your product or service to. Whether that candidate is identified by company size, location or service offered, lead generation is about the perfect prospect for your cold callers.
Using what you know about your target audience, tools like Google, LinkedIn and other database platforms will ensure you segment correctly. Look for traits in companies that are the best fit for your organization.
Once you’ve built your list, you now have a high-quality campaign ready for your team of SDRs. But before they get down to the actual calling, there is an extra step they have to take: the art of prospect research.
You’re probably thinking didn’t we just do our prospect research? Not quite. Prospecting is an individual 1:1 approach where you take the leads generated and study them individually. To put it simply, a cold call can’t be cold to an SDR.
Once an SDR gets a list of leads, they must then take a more meticulous approach to studying these leads. Who are the people within the company you want to speak to, what they do, look for trigger events that need to be highlighted on the call. A trigger event is something that has happened in the past few months that will be important to highlight. Jotting these things down will ensure you reap the full benefits of your prospect and call.
In order to have the right information about your prospects, we recommend that you get in the habit of LinkedIn and Google research. Find out who the leaders within the organization are, where they’re located, current events (often displayed on LinkedIn) as well as the occasional personal info you can find to build a rapport. An example of this would be alma mater, favorite sports team, hobbies, and other similar information.
Many organizations, whether in-house or outsourced sales teams, work tirelessly to sum up weeks of training into a written script that aims to grasp the attention of the prospect. If done correctly, scripts are powerful tools but if an inexperienced SDR doesn’t have the product knowledge to address pain points, it decreases your chances of success.
SDRs need to go through a full two weeks of training where they learn everything from why your organization was created, who you serve and who your competitors are. A simple script will not substitute this training and it is important that after training, your reps come up with their own scripts.
After a few weeks of training, allow your SDRs to put together mock calls and scripts where you test what they’ve learned. Not only will this give you feedback on how your training is perceived by aspiring reps but also possibly learn a thing or two about prospects that perhaps you didn’t know.
Once you have a solid list of leads, have researched the ones you’re going to be calling for the day and what you’re going to say, it’s time for the moment of truth.
There might not be a perfect time to call a prospect who has no idea who you are but there are lots of bad times to call. Similar to how there are metrics that indicate the best times to send out newsletters and to post on social, there are recommended times to cold call.
For starters, most organizations and decision-makers work standard 9 to 5 hours, which means you have a wide window to try and get two minutes out of their precious time. Make it count. Monday mornings tend to be the busiest time which is why you’re likely to run into the time objection as well as anything that will get you to hang up.
For instance, if your prospects are doctors, chances are they’ll work longer hours than office workers, so try and squeeze a few minutes before or after office workers start their shifts.
Here is where the self scripting and real conversation comes into play. Where you put together call goals, information about your prospect and all of the knowledge about your organization. You have seven seconds to keep them engaged before they decide that you are wasting their time. Here are two examples worth looking at.
Hello, is this Robert Green from Cedar Rapids Tours?
Hi, Rob this is Jovan from Organization X.
Rob, do you have a few minutes to talk about how I can help your business grow with an outsourced sales team?
We’re not interested, thank you.
You’re not interested in making your company more profitable? What’s your email, I’d like to send you a demo.
We’re all set, thank you *click*.
As painful as that sounded, in that scenario, Jovan was salesy and pesky. Almost to the point of the person on the other end wanting to hang up from the get go. It also sounds like this call was way too generic, meaning Jovan just read from a script.
Hello, this is Robert.
Hi Robert, this is Jovan from Organization X, how’s it going today?
Good, good, I’m sorry who is this?
Glad to hear that, Rob, Jovan from Organization X. We actually work with agencies in the tourism industry looking to get back some of their recently lost business – would you say your company suffered from loss of business?
Yeah, I mean it’s slowly moving but I can’t complain.
That’s great! I’ve actually spent some time in Cedar Rapids, and I really wish I would’ve heard of you guys before. So, anyway Rob, my organization helps tour agencies get back lost business with X product or service we offer. After researching your agency, I think we can collaborate and do great things.
I don’t have the time right now to continue on the call 'cause I have some work to finish, but shoot me an email at email@example.com. I’d like to see what you guys are offering.
BAM! Just like that, not only do you have an aspiring customer but you also provided them with a real conversation out of the potential dozens of phone calls they receive daily. Engaging in real conversations will allow your prospects to be able to remember you.
Although the conversation above proved to be beneficial for Jovan, we can’t promise that it will work for you. Which is why we’d like to highlight a few key components every cold call needs to have.
A pattern interrupt will be your way of ensuring that your call doesn’t come off as that typical scripted phone call.
For instance, the second they know it’s a cold call, prospects will often resort to that first “we’re not interested” objection without knowing what the call is about. To combat this, salespeople have been forced to anticipate and make minor adjustments to their own scripts. It can be something as small as “hey, did I catch you at a bad time” to something as self deprecating as “Hey, I know you get annoying calls like these all the time but I wouldn’t be calling you if it weren’t important”.
Another fundamental aim with every cold call is to leave a deposit before you take a withdrawal. Humans inherently want to know the value we’re getting out of anything we do. For instance, unless they’re extremely polite, no one wants to listen to you rant on the phone for five minutes about your company. Unless, of course, there’s something in it for them.
This is the very reason why you don’t call and right away ask for an email or schedule a phone call with your AE. You want to ensure your call is adding enough value to have them pursue getting more information.
So before you ask them for something, what are you leaving them with? Here is a great example of a deposit and withdrawal concept.
“There's an article that states that 74% of B2B sales have decreased in the past few months; we have brought 5.5x ROI in the time since. Let me ask you a question before we call it a day: what are your top 3 ICPs that you'd like to have a meeting with? (Let them answer)
If I can get you an SQL with any of those three companies, would it make sense to talk with me to see how we can grow your pipeline and ROI?"
Last but not least, like the proverbial troll under the bridge, there is a person preventing you from speaking to your prospect: a gatekeeper.
This person was hired specifically by your target to limit the number of calls they personally have to attend per day. Just like you there are dozens of organizations looking to pitch their million dollar idea and in many cases, someone standing in the way of this.
We don’t mean this in a pejorative way, gatekeepers have a job to do. So instead of being rude and petulant when they don’t send you through, you need to best acknowledge the fact that being friendly for two minutes is the only thing stopping you from getting through to a valuable prospect.
Here are a few tips for dealing with – and getting past – gatekeepers:
Now that you’ve gotten past the gatekeeper and you’re speaking to your prospect, what should you do next? Many salespeople make the mistake of bombarding their prospect with questions trying to get them to close on a first call. The point of a cold call is to incite just enough interest where your organization and service is appealing to them.
It's important to not worry too much about whether or not they’re interested in your service, get enough interest going so that your account executive (AE) can do the rest. Sell the discovery call.
The method we recommend is simple, once you’ve got them pulling out their calendar, then take the time to ask the right questions to ensure your AE is best prepared.
BANT is the oldest recognized qualification method. Developed by IBM, in the 1950s. Bant determines whether or not the person/organization you’re speaking to has the budget, makes the decisions, has the need for your service/product and how soon would they be looking to take action.
In order to qualify your prospects using BANT you will need to ask a series of questions. Questions in no particular order that will allow you to (by the end of the call) learn how imminent closing them will be. Here are a few sample questions you can ask using the BANT method:
CHAMP prioritizes challenges above budget, highlighting pain points above whether or not they have the money to move forward. Here are a few questions that highlight the process:
In the end, it’s all about what questions your sales team deems most importance for a discovery call. It could just be their challenges because you’ll get some prospects who will open up right away while others will be wary of any initial call where you’re asking for a budget.
Dealing with sales calls on a daily basis will have your prospect do or say pretty much anything to tell you they’re not interested. Things from “I don’t have the money right now” to “we had a bad experience with a similar service provider”. Luckily, we know enough about customer objections to be able to anticipate what’s to come. Here are four common objections you'll inevitably face while cold calling prospects.
Money seems to be the number one objection when it comes to making a decision. Whether it’s they don’t have the budget right now or they’re not at that stage yet, money will always come up, which is why we recommend you don’t dwell on the money factor.
Going down this route will only have them looking to hang up quicker because they are convinced that they can’t afford it. Ask questions about how much value they give to the business they’re losing out on for not taking action. It will be more expensive in the long run when they realize their competitors are making the right moves to address this issue.
This is a prospect saying that you had a great conversation but not enough to have them wish to learn more. Overcoming this objection won’t happen right away but it will be a good time to pick their brain on how your call went. Ask them what they liked/disliked about what you were proposing. If perhaps there is a better place to have them receive more information. Remember, closing is a marathon, not a sprint – and even if this wasn’t the call to close, leave the door open for a second call.
This says your call wasn’t important enough to have them pursue learning more. Either that they’re happy with the business they’re getting or they plain and simply didn’t listen to you. Here is where you poke holes in this objection.
This is where the self deprecating comments from a few sections ago can come in nicely. If a prospect says they’re good, you tell them that normally you’d ask for an email where you can send more information. But this time you’re not going to because they don’t have the time to look over product details. Ask a few more questions about what they got from the call and whether or not the solution you’re offering sounds like a fit.
Let’s face it, this is a competitive world we live in and can’t get discouraged just because someone got to these guys first. A contract with another company also doesn’t say that they’re happy either.
Here, instead of going the okay, thank you route, ask questions about what they’re doing to help. What they like and dislike about that company and how long they’ve been with them for. Surely they won’t tell you everything but you will have some insight on your competitors.
If you’re making between 50-100 sales calls a day, you need to focus your attention on proper note taking. Not every call will be successful but even if 20% are, that’s 10-20 prospects you need to remember to continue to reach out to. Staying organized with these calls can be the difference between closing and risking them going with your competitor.
It takes on average half a dozen touches before a prospect is closed therefore your follow up game needs to be on point in order to succeed. Have a notepad handy where you write down not just names and phone numbers but important points covered in every phone call. You need to have a rapport with all of them and staying organized is the only way to make sure this relationship continues to be beneficial to your prospect.
The debate of the effectiveness of cold calling has been going on for quite some time now. Many get discouraged with the increase in gatekeepers but with the rise of sales emails and retargeting ads, the occasional real conversation can spark up real interest. You also need to have a great customer support team, whether in-house or outsourced.
Marketing teams push for cold outreach campaigns that ensure exposure to a wider audience but nothing beats the immediate response and interaction of a phone call. In the end, cold calling doesn’t have to be just about selling. They can be about building relationships, and even if a prospect is not the best fit, a partnership can be just as valuable.
Jován Medina is a content marketer at CloudTask. He feels weird referring to himself in the third person but in his free time enjoys watching the Dallas Cowboys lose and playing amateur tennis. A fan of the Boston Celtics, 90s Saturday morning cartoons and McDonald’s chicken nuggets.
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