From Cold to Client: Part 2 – Smile while you dial!
Let’s talk about cold calling. Have you ever bought anything over the phone? I have. I was very effectively sold-to just a couple of weeks ago by a charming and determined chap at the B2B Sales and Marketing Expo. I’ve never run my own exhibition stand. I’d no plans to. And yet, it’s happening.
I’ve heard whispers that outbound sales methods… telemarketing… cold calling… might be in their death throes. Old fashioned. Last century. Inconsistent with the digital age in which we all increasingly function. The way we conduct business is evolving and as such, our framework for engaging our target audience has developed a new, modern form.
While the development of our online existence is undeniable however, I do find it makes rather a convenient excuse to hide behind the safety of our computer screens. Be honest – would you rather send an email or pick up the phone? The overwhelming instinct is to recoil from any potential rejection that a real human interaction may afford.
Yes, digital developments give us a multitude of new potential shop windows. Inbound channels are plentiful and offer some really effective methods for raising your profile and catching the eye of your prospective clients. So why, when you’ve gone to all that trouble to engage your audience and generate leads, would you not go the final stretch and pick up the phone?
I’ve met more than a couple of organisations who would gladly hang up their running shoes and let all of their prospective clients come and find them. I’ve met some who never had their running shoes on in the first place.
If you are not from a sales background and the idea of outbound prospecting sets your cringe glands aflare, then I can understand. But you’re missing a trick – and your competitors will be benefiting.
It could be that all you need to do is reframe your own perceptions of the traditional cold call…
It’s only words… but many traditional sales terms have the same effect on me as they do on non-sales fanatics. ‘Cold call’ along with ‘telesales’, ‘telemarketing’ and even ‘lead generation’ are just desperately unappealing terms. It sounds cheap, basic, unskilled. It sounds like something I don’t want to be doing. So I don’t think of it in those terms. If I’m picking up the phone, it’s to approach a fellow businessperson with a legitimate view to exploring opportunities of working together. Removing the words and phrases that hold negative connotations will help to break the association you currently have between those words and the act of picking up the phone to a stranger.
Authority – Not many people like cold callers. The initial instinct people have when faced with a cold caller is to run. Cold callers therefore, are usually met with hostility and rudeness. With this in mind, most cold callers – whether they realise it or not – are starting the call with the assumption that whoever they’re calling won’t want to talk to them. As well as making the task even more unappealing, pre-empting the rejection becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your belief that you will be faced with a negative response will inevitably affect your approach. Your approach will be what determines the outcome. As soon as I removed the label ‘cold caller’ from around my neck, I gave myself the authority to pick up the phone and have a legitimate business conversation with my prospect. I remember the moment when this epiphany struck me. I was about a year into my sales career and I felt that some prospects were still ‘too big’ for me – that I had no right to be calling them. They were senior, important business directors. I was a graduate sales trainee. Why in the world would they want to talk to me? I decided to ‘act as if’ I was also a company director. It worked. Whether you are or you aren’t, never ever believe that you don’t have the right to pick up the phone and talk business with a potential prospect.
It’s not personal – Following directly on from my last point, don’t fall into the trap of believing that you’re ‘bothering’ someone or apologise for yourself. Business calls are not personal. You’re not calling their home number. You’re not calling them during The Bake Off to sell them PPI. You are a business that sells to other businesses. The person you are calling has business conversations all day every day. It’s their job and they’re paid to be there. You are not bothering them, you’re offering them an opportunity to work with you – you, who has an incredibly valuable and relevant product or service that they should consider. If anything, they’re lucky that you thought of calling them. You could be the person who revolutionises their processes, or saves them a ton of their budget or helps them make the impact they needed to secure that promotion.
Don’t be a robot – “Hello, my name’s Trish and I’m calling from Cranberry Tortoise. Are you the best person to speak to regarding marketing?”
Who in the world talks like that in real life? Don’t do it. Stop right there and lets look at what’s going wrong…
To begin with, cold callers have a robotic tone. I don’t know if it’s a defence mechanism - something to help hide from the anticipated rejection - or if it just becomes ingrained after following the same old tired sales script for the gazillionth time. Openers like this make me want to peel my eyelids off. I’m making my excuses and as soon as I hang up, I’m blocking your number.
Another regular violation against effective communication is the ‘monologue.’ As soon as cold callers pick up the phone they lose all track of their usual social skills – where conversations are an interaction between two parties. Where listening forms at least half of the dialogue. Listening is the key to understanding, and when you understand your client, you can help them. So when you call a prospective client, remember that you are a human talking to another human. Be intelligent, be humorous, be direct. Don’t be a robot.
Know your objective – How often do you climb into your car and begin driving without knowing your destination? Like most of the actions we undertake, there is usually a known objective. Somewhere we want to end up. Why would a phone call be any different? So before you pick up the phone, work out your objective. What are you hoping to get out of the call? Is it a sale, a meeting, an opportunity to send your creds? If you don’t know what you want from the call, you risk finishing the conversation without an agreed next step. Before I dial, I list in my head every desired outcome there could be and I rank them in order of preference. If for example I were calling a brand new contact in order to explore a potential opportunity, my list of preferred scenarios would look like this:
A) Book a meeting
B) Schedule a time to talk on the phone in more depth
C) Send my creds and agree a time to follow up
So if I can’t get scenario A, I’ll go for scenario B. If I can’t get scenario B, I’ll go for scenario C.
Having an objective means you can be far more direct and clear about what you’re calling for. People appreciate this. It removes ambiguity. It also makes you look more focused and authoritative.
I believe that contact is crucial in sales. The more time I can spend with my prospects building relationships and understanding their needs, the better. I will never turn down the opportunity to meet with or speak to someone that I plan to do business with.
So forget everything you thought you knew about cold calling. The phone is your friend. The phone wants you to be proactive and take risks. In return, the phone will empower you to open doors, qualify leads, discover opportunities, develop relationships and ultimately, close deals.
And remember… Smile while you dial! ;-)