Some sales reps can see cold calling as a nerve-wracking activity or a chore, but it can be an effective way of selling your product or service to customers. Our complete guide to cold calling will help you cold call in a way that eliminates the negatives associated with this task and builds positive relationships with customers.
So Why Does It Have a Negative Reputation?
When you are cold calling someone, you are reaching out to a potential customer who doesn’t know you to introduce yourself and your company. The potential client has no idea your call is coming, and you have to convince them to stay on the call. It can be a challenge even for seasoned sales reps, but when it works, it can be beneficial and gratifying for the sales rep and the customer.
What Is Cold Calling?
Cold calling will often be the first step you take in the sales process. It involves calling a potential business-to-business client you haven’t had any relationship with in the past.
In this call, you’ll attempt to gauge how much need or interest exists for your product or service, identify who would make the buying decision in the company and schedule a pitch meeting, if needed.
The reason cold calling often comes first and remains a sales tactic for so many companies is simple. Cold calling is a business enabler, generating revenue and fostering new connections with other businesses or individual customers. Businesses that fail to use cold calls on their own or in lead acquisition campaigns run the risk of not creating enough revenue to keep their business afloat.
Benefits of Cold Calling
Cold calling can produce a variety of positive effects, such as helping identify promising clients and gain insight into your ideal clientele. In the call, you’ll learn who the decision-maker is at a company and put yourself in a position to gain access to them. Additionally, you can learn from failed calls by evaluating patterns to see who is most interested in the product or service and how you can improve your message.
Another outstanding benefit is that you will put a human face on your company as you speak with customers directly, rather than through emails or ads. Also, you can increase your conversions by scheduling pitch meetings and putting yourself in the position to speak directly to a decision-maker.
Determine Your Objective and Identify Your Target
Your objective for calling should not be to make a sale. While you shouldn’t turn down the opportunity if a company wants to purchase your services immediately, you should be more focused on realistic goals. Use cold calling to make an initial contact with prospective clients, figure out if they have real potential to become a customer and lock down a pitch meeting to discuss your services and products in greater depth.
If you want to have a successful cold call, crafting a clear objective for yourself or your sales team is crucial. Not only can you set short-term goals for a single cold call, but you can also set long-term goals for your cold call campaign. For instance, you can aim to get 100 prospective customers on the line and convert 10% of those conversations into face-to-face meetings with prospects who need what you’re offering.
Other goals you could focus on include:
- Testing the level of demand for your product and services
- Improving how you communicate your product or service’s value
- Learning how much customers are willing to pay for what you’re offering
- Discovering who is going to be in the decision-maker’s ear for the sale
- Figuring out which decision-maker you should target
- Identifying potential clients who have the most need for your product or service
- Practicing fielding common objections
Having both short- and long-term goals will keep you focused and ensure your conversation remains on track.
After defining your objectives, you’ll need to identify who will be the most receptive to your message. Search for companies that are most likely to respond positively to you and help you know who you should try to contact within the company. You will want to research your prospects thoroughly, learning what you can about their core values, what they do and their potential needs.
Script vs. No Script
There are a variety of opinions on cold calling techniques, with some arguing scripts are a waste of time and others saying they are essential. Others take the stance that a middle-of-the-road approach is best, and will give new reps a script, but eventually let them ditch it and only use it as a guideline.
Regardless of whether you decide to follow a script, you should have a plan. If you don’t grab a lead’s attention in the first 30 seconds, you’re setting yourself up for failure. In your opening lines, you want to adequately explain who you are, what business you represent and why you’re calling them, all while highlighting areas of potential interest and need for their company.
The Benefits of Using a Script
Since there is so much to remember with a lot of information to state early on, many companies like to cover their bases by having sales reps stick to a script during a cold call. With a script, companies can create consistency throughout their sales department and make it easy to integrate new hires into their team. Overall, companies should be aware of the many benefits to using scripts.
- Consistent branding: Using a script, you can help your sales team keep the company’s brand and voice steady. You don’t want a sales rep to damage the company’s reputation with a potential client.
- Rebut objections: Often, customers will have objections to buying a product. Instead of asking your sales staff to come up with new, compelling arguments every time they receive an objection, a script can help sales reps use tried-and-true responses to push-back from potential clients.
- Decreased stress: For sales reps, especially new hires, a script can help reduce their stress about how to cold call. They might not know how to correctly communicate the benefits of what you’re offering. A script eliminates this stress by giving them everything they need to know to make a sale.
- Team success: Since everyone is using the same script, if you find one that works well, your entire team will benefit. A less structured approach may make for remarkable individual success, but could fail to achieve more substantial team success.
An Alternative to Scripts
Though sales scripts can be helpful, especially when a rep is just starting, they can bring a host of issues. A common problem is salespeople sticking so close to the script that their voices seem robotic and unnatural. Also, scripts can frustrate the rep if they aren’t flexible enough to allow on-the-fly customization for the prospect.
To counteract these problems and make the call feel more like a real conversation, companies have begun to transition their scripts into a discussion framework. A discussion-based script will be more of a guideline than an inflexible script. This format can increase trust with the prospect and create a space for a genuine conversation.
These scripts also underscore a crucial point for a phone conversation. The cold call should be a give-and-take. While you need to share information with the prospect, you should be listening to them and making sure you’re responding authentically to their questions or concerns.
Rather than pitching your product to the customer, in a cold call, you are trying to discover if you should even spend the time pitching to this company. Your goal is to set up a future meeting, not close the deal, so your talking points should reflect that. If you use a script, it should employ questions that dig into the company’s needs and helps you connect with a decision-maker.
Prepare Yourself Mentally
Mindset is crucial for a successful sales call. Don’t come into the call with the mentality that you’re trying to make money by closing a deal. Instead, remind yourself you are calling to help the customer, to make their life better by solving a problem.
One way to change your mindset is to find a personal reason to believe in the value of the product or service you’re selling. If you’re not passionate about the product and the way it can help people or companies, the customer will be able to pick up on this. Changing your attitude to one of service versus one of selfishness can only help your ability to sell.
Along with not having a service mindset, reps face another common problem of worrying that they are going to annoy a prospect by interrupting their day. While it’s true that you are interrupting them, you can be a pleasant break in their daily routine, someone who is bringing fresh air into their life. This fear of annoying a prospect goes back to one’s mindset. If you believe in what you’re selling, you can feel confident you aren’t wasting their time and, instead, benefiting them.
What Story Do You Tell Yourself?
Everyone has a story of themselves playing in their minds. These stories are important to us, making up our identities and helping us define ourselves in a big world. However, problems can arise out of these personal narratives if they hold you back from reaching your potential.
For instance, say you’ve had a down quarter as a sales rep. What story are you going to make up in your head to explain it? Will you tell yourself you didn’t get enough promising leads or that it was a slow quarter for everyone in your firm, or will you tell yourself you could have tried harder and you should have spent more trying to improve?
Whichever story you tell yourself will influence your future. If you believe sales were outside your control, you are not likely to try to fix any mistakes you made in that quarter, while if you believe you could have improved, you will seek out opportunities to do so.
To help you remember to tell yourself a growth-oriented story, you can borrow from psychology to better understand it. To help us make sense of the world, we often adopt an external or internal locus of control. Those with an external locus of control will attribute their successes and failures to luck or factors that are bigger than they are. Someone with an internal locus of control will attribute their failures and successes to themselves.
To succeed in sales, you want to try to foster a belief that you have an internal locus of control. While either locus of control has its tradeoffs, an internal locus of control links to higher achievement and confidence. In sales, these qualities will only help, and with an internal locus of control, you will push yourself to improve.
Discuss Next Steps
When it comes time to close a cold call, you are going to want to remember not to try to close the entire sale based on that one call. Odds are you aren’t even speaking to the decision-maker, and even if you were, the prospect is likely not ready to make a decision.
If you have a positive call, where the prospect indicates they’d like to learn more about the product or service, you’ll want to lock down any next steps. As the sales rep, you’ll want to take on most of the responsibilities, as you don’t want to bog the prospect down with extra work. They could lose interest or become too busy to complete their tasks. Do whatever you can to make sure they have as little to do as possible. As part of wrapping up your conversation, you’ll want to schedule a future call or meeting.
A successful end to your call could sound like the following:
“I’ll send you an email with a meeting invite, along with more information about how our product could benefit you. Could you reserve a conference room at your office, and I’ll come meet with you there?”
In this example, you’ve given them the straightforward task of arranging a place for you to meet, while offering to do the bulk of the work in driving to their office, sending an email with an invite and providing more information. It should be a goal to close a cold call like this with an interested client so you have the best chance of making the sale.
In addition to ensuring you will take on the primary responsibilities of setting up a meeting after the call, you’ll want to leave the client wanting more. You don’t have to close with every piece of information about your product if they show interest. Whet the prospect’s appetite for your service or product by presenting intriguing information, but let them know they’ll be able to learn even more at your next meeting.
By giving just enough information to intrigue them, but not enough that they know everything about your product, you’ll create a feeling of value for your upcoming meeting.
Writing Your Notes
After you’ve hung up the phone, you still have work to do. You’ll want to jot down any information you gained from the call to help you create a plan for your next moves. If your next stage is a pitch meeting, you can base your strategy around the pain points and discussion points you found in the call.
A CRM system can be a massive bonus to your note-taking progress. A system like the one we offer will help you document all the details you gain in a meeting, use a central hub to view all your relationships in one place and collaborate with the rest of your team. A client wants to feel like you’ve heard and understood them, and a CRM system keeps you from forgetting any essential information, showing you value their needs.
3 Tips for Qualifying Cold Calls
Before you lock down a meeting and even before you pick up the phone, you should be trying to qualify your leads to figure out how much time and energy you should spend on them.
Below are techniques for weeding out dead-end leads and focusing on the promising ones.
1. Qualify Before You Call
Before you call, examine the prospect’s buyer persona and see if it matches with your ideal customer. What’s the prospect’s job title? What are their daily job responsibilities? Is their company the right size for your product? You can find most of this information quickly online without having to speak with someone at the company.
Along with looking for the answers to those questions, you may also be able to see if the lead has taken any actions on your website that indicate they were interested in speaking with you. Your marketing team may have this information ready for you, along with other details like buyer persona and website behavior data. Use this data to your advantage to learn how much the customer knows about you and if their behavior indicates they would be interested in your product or service.
2. Discuss Problems
When you get on the phone with a prospective client, you’ll want to try to find out what problems they are currently having, and explain how your product or service can help solve them. Instead of a salesperson, think of yourself as a problem-solver. If you can get them to tell you their struggles, and you have a way to solve those, your value will increase.
If you find they don’t have any problems you can address, you will at least discover that early in the initial phone call. When you take the time to get to know the prospective client, you will save time in the long run, as you will be able to qualify leads and cut out those that are unlikely to turn into sales.
3. Use a Popular Qualifying Method
Choose a popular qualifying method like BANT to qualify leads. BANT stands for budget, authority, need and timing, as in:
- Do they have the budget for what you’re offering?
- Does the person you’re speaking to have the authority to make purchasing decisions?
- Do they need to purchase the product or service you are offering?
- Can you expect to close the sale in a reasonable amount of time?
Other popular models like CHAMP and GPCTBA/C&I offer different priorities and qualifying strategies. For example, CHAMP — or challenges, authority, money and prioritization — emphasizes trying to learn the lead’s pain points, while GPCTBA/C&I — or goals, plans, challenges, timeline, budget, authority/negative consequences and positive implications — places the salesperson in an advisory role, where they must understand the lead’s goals for the product.
Whichever technique you choose comes down to what best matches your company’s business model. One-time products are best for BANT, and customer retention is best for CHAMP and GPCTBA/C&I.
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