There are those who feel that cold calling is cold. And maybe dead.
We've all been there. You go through your leads, research a prospect, grab your script, and make the call. The person at the other end either slams the phone down or cuts you off in the middle of your script. In the rare scenario where you get to the end of your script, the prospect politely declines.
Is this what happens to everyone? Is cold calling dead?
Not quite. There are those who have polished cold calling to an art form. Who, even in today's time-poor environment, manages to eke out positive responses and get their toe in the door… starting with a cold call.
And the numbers back this up.
Approximately 7 out of 10 buyers accept cold calls from providers they haven’t worked with, and 8 out of 10 accept phone calls from providers they have worked with. 69% of buyers accepted a call from new salespeople in the past 12 months
According to 43% of salespeople, getting higher quality data is their biggest challenge in cold prospecting
71% of reps said the most challenging aspect of cold calling customers is reaching and engaging key stakeholders and decision-makers
So, maybe your problem isn't so much the call itself, but who you're calling. Something to think about.
In this article, I've pulled together tips from the best people I've had the pleasure of working with, on what makes cold calling worthwhile, both for you and for the person on the other end of the line.
Do your detective work to build a targeted prospect list
In the past, cold calling meant sales enablement teams would adopt a 'spray and pray' selling approach: spend time making a huge number of calls, and hope that the message resonates with someone out there.
Obviously, it doesn’t help. Not only is it a waste of your time and energy, but you also end up facing far more rejection than you normally would (which can be immensely demotivating). Plus, prospects get jaded. So, spay and praying is not the way!
Learn a little bit about who you’re talking to. If you’re smart about who you reach out to, you’re going to get rejected a lot less. In most cases, there’s a huge amount of information available about your prospects on social media. Hit up LinkedIn and view the prospect’s profile. Also spend some time researching the prospect's role/title, department, past experience, who they report to, who reports to them, etc. Don't limit yourself to LinkedIn however, do some research into the company: industry, size (revenue, employee count, number of locations), tools they use, etc.
Understanding the core business of the organization, and the part of the business that this prospect undertakes in their department is key to starting the conversation right.
Grab their attention with what's most relevant
Now that you know what kind of work they do, and what tools they use, you most likely know what their key challenges are (If not, talk to your Sales Engineer or Sales Consultants for insight into various tools and their white spaces). Start the conversation with a pain point, and you'll distinguish yourself from most callers and establish your expertise in one swoop.
There are limits to what you can find out online; it's unlikely that you’ll know everything you need to know about the prospect, and what ails their process. Ask specific questions that fill in these knowledge gaps.
Open-ended questions elicit more than just a monosyllabic answer and get the prospect talking — once the prospect is at ease with you and gives you more information about their challenges, you can use it to personalize your pitch. Questions you can ask:
I see A, B and C trends in your industry. Are you being affected by it?
Several of our clients have mentioned struggling with X and Z. How is your company dealing with it?
Can you tell me a little about this business scenario you're struggling with?
Who exactly is your target audience? Which businesses do you target?
Which areas in your business are you looking to improve? How do you plan to measure this improvement?
What solutions have you already tried? Can you help me understand what didn't work?
Open-ended questions create conversation. As you get the prospect to open up about their organization, role, and situation, listen closely for current struggles, points of contention, or problems they may be experiencing.
This will give you the "I can help with that" moment you are looking for. Talk in context about other customers who have benefited from your solution, and offer to share case studies and testimonials. This is also a great time to pitch the demo.
The script is good but a guide is better
Successful cold calling is about creating relationships — and you can't build a relationship when you're reading a script. Think of cold calling like a performance: actors use scripts but don't sound robotic - they have flow. Use your script as a guide, and talk like an actual person. This is easy to do once you personalize it.
Practice till you’re blue in the face
The easiest way to not sound robotic? Listen to yourself. Record yourself doing calls and listen - you'll know exactly where things went wrong. Get a colleague to pretend to be the prospect: Do this over the phone so you closely mimic reality, and then ask your colleague to start with a zero objections scenario, and gradually move to one that is more hostile to your script.
Each time you counter objections, just focus on winning the next step. This action alone will yield incredible results.
Set the next steps
The whole point of a cold call is to get your sales process rolling. Set clear next steps so that you and the prospect agree on how to proceed. Depending on your process, you can say:
"Great, I'm glad to hear this will help you solve a problem. I can get you set up for a product demo so you can see how it works."
"I know I've taken up a lot of your time right now, but I'd like to understand your problem a little more, so I can come back to you with a really strong solution. When can we talk next?"
“Could I give you an overview of our product sometime this week? Once you see what it can do, you and I can talk some more about how we can create a solution that's just right for you."
Prospects don’t want to be ushered through your selling process. You’ll have better success if you instead help them through their buying process. Getting your prospect's agreement on the next steps, and even letting them adjust and give feedback early can make a big difference in deal flow.
Master the art of leaving an effective voicemail
Research shows that, on average, cold-calls result in a voicemail over 80% of the time. You need to have your voicemail script ready to go. Here’s how you get their attention:
Decide what you want your prospect to know after they hear your message. Is it that you’ve been recommended by another client? Do you want them to know that you can help them solve a problem you know they face? Or maybe you just want them to know who you are? You can avoid long, rambling voicemails by choosing just one message. You know you'll probably call this person again, so best to leave something for the next voicemail!
Next, write your scripts. You should have a few scripts ready, each of which communicates a different, specific message and maybe leaves each of the following impressions: “I come recommended by somebody you know.” “I understand the challenges you face, and I believe I can help.” “I believe I can help with the problems you are facing because I have helped others with similar issues.” Provide just enough information to pique their interest.
Keep it under 20-30 seconds, and use an upbeat, friendly, and energetic tone of voice. DO NOT try to sell via voicemail.
Now that you’re regularly leaving great voicemails, make sure you keep track of which scripts work best (and what messages you've left with whom!). Do some testing and continue to improve them!
Cold calling is not dead, and anyone who says otherwise is clearly struggling with it. There is no one size fits all script for selling in SaaS (how we wish there was!) — but the tips I've gathered here can lead to higher-quality interactions with your prospects. As with all things, what you get out of it, is what you put into it.
Rejection is hard, but it is also what teaches us. Don't let early failures put you off. These failures are teaching you what isn't working, and each one is valuable if you apply the principles of Deliberate Practice. As Barbara Corcoran once said, "What's the essence of any sales position? It's not how well you sell or talk, it's really how well you can take a hit and how long you take to feel sorry for yourself. Insecurity can be a great motivator."
I couldn't agree more. The most successful sales reps and account executives I know are the ones who take the hits and keep on going. They have something to prove, and people to prove wrong! :)
So take all that negativity, and use it as fuel. The way I see it, there are two choices: let rejection blow your confidence to shards, or let it fuel your meteoric rise.