Many are of the opinion that Cold Calling is an antiquated method of instigating new business and is obsolete in today’s world. I know we have all been pestered by callers that don’t know our business and needs; however I don’t believe it is dead. (Hey! I wouldn’t have a Headhunting Business if I didn’t cold call potential candidates). I believe in many organisations it is an essential business skill, which is not to say all do it well, or professionally, or are even successful. There is an element of process, certain key things to do to enhance your chances of success.
1. It helps to Prepare: Now I am not saying you need to dive into endless pages of market research and company data, studying the company’s website (which often is more misleading than helpful), reading executive bios and such. Statistically, if you make 100 cold calls a day, it will be a great day if you actually speak to the people you are trying to reach, 25 times in a day. A good day would be 20 times, and a fair day would be about 15 connects. Most of the time you will connect with the admin/gate keeper, or you will get voicemail, and about 20 will be either a wrong number or the person is no longer in the position or with the company. Don’t use preparation as an excuse to not call, or to postponing calling. Go with what you have.
2. God gave us two ears and one mouth: This is so as salespeople we would listen twice as much as we speak. Good salespeople are good listeners (bad salespeople do too much talking). We should ask good, open ended probing questions, let the prospect speak, and listen for what their need is and what value our product or service can provide. There may be 6 or 7 key benefits of our product or service…but typically only 2-3 are relevant to any one buyer. Over selling may overwhelm and hurt your goal… to peak their interest only.
3. The more refined your calling list, the greater the likelihood is that you will relate better to the person you are calling. It is better to call all CFOs one week, all CEOs the next week, all CIOs the next week, than to try to call everyone and anyone with no particular focus. People in an industry, and in a profession, have a language they speak. They can quickly decipher if you might know enough to be credible. Tailor your message to each audience, everything from your intro, to the body, to the close, and even your voicemail if you need to leave one. First time through, don’t leave a voicemail. Leave the voicemail after the 3rd attempt without connecting live with the intended person. But only count the call as successful if you spoke to the person for whom the call was intended. Speaking with their assistant, or being cut off and redirected to an underling does not count as a successful call. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Never accept NO from anyone who does not also have the authority to say YES”.
4. it’s all about THEM. Make no mistake about it…your call should be focused on the buyer, not rattling off some mundane, irrelevant specs about your offering. That’s like shooting in the dark hoping you hit something. Learn to ask open ended questions. Those are the ones that encourage dialogue and show interest. Once your prospect is qualified, and there is a need you can satisfy, you will be able to focus the conversation on what is important to THEM.
5. Know your value. Too many salespeople that I have known and interviewed through the years, are feature heavy, merit light, and benefit void. If you cannot translate the features and the merits of those features into the value the buyer is likely to receive, then you might as well just recite the phone book. Don’t list features hoping the client will draw their own conclusion as to the value and how your company and its offering are uniquely differentiated. Your role is to make the product/serve relevant.
6. Email, mass mailing and direct mail is the tool of choice for those who are afraid to engage. Bean counters like it too because it is a relatively cheap solution…and like the lottery, if you get lucky it will have a good payback… and you won’t have to pay for salespeople. It is anonymous…you don’t have to face rejection. Taking a few man days to craft an award winning email, it is blasted out to the masses, waiting for the phone to ring with buyers from the 1-2% that actually read the email and didn’t just delete it when it appeared in the Outlook Preview Pan. Waiting for the interested buyer to call is not selling, it is order taking.
7. Social Media is a great tool for enhancing your cold calling…but it does not replace it. People are not ordering deals, potentially sourced in another country, or without an understanding of the ROI, just because you had an intriguing Tweet, a slick Facebook page describing your product or a LinkedIn banner ad. But used correctly, Social Media can be a great resource to enhance your cold calling success…a force multiplier.
8. I have done my fair share of cold calling and have also worked with some who do it better than me. So, best not to judge the merits of cold calling by the 95% of salespeople who do it dreadfully. If you are looking for gold, you don’t get discouraged by the tons of dirt you have to move to find those few precious ounces of gold.