There are many people out there that think cold calling is dead. With email taking over as the principal form of communication, it certainly may seem that way. But when done correctly, cold calling can be highly effective—and yes, even more effective than email.
So that begs the question: just what makes an effective sales call?
That’s exactly what I set out to answer in this blog post. Here’s my advice on the matter…
1. Know whom to call
First and foremost, you want to make sure that the prospects you are calling actually have the potential to turn into customers. Do they fit your target audience or have a reason to be interested in what you’re selling? And if so, how far along are they in the sales process?
Before wasting your time and energy on prospects that aren’t going to go anywhere, make sure that you are targeting the right people.
2. Find the right time to call
Once you have narrowed down your list, determine the right day and time to call. This will of course depend on your industry.
Ask yourself: What does my prospect’s day-to-day look like and how can I fit in it? This might take a little trial and error to nail down.
3. Take advantage of holidays
On that note, don’t neglect the holidays. In High-profit Prospecting, Mark Hunter talks about the importance of prospecting during holiday season. When he encouraged the sales force of a company he was working with to do that, “Sure, the number of prospects the team was able to reach was lower due to the holidays, but the people with whom the sales team did speak were absolutely amazing. Leads and prospects they did reach on the telephone were in a more laid-back mood and willing to talk about their business. They were shocked a salesperson would even be working! The end result was the prospects viewed the salespeople in a favorable light and were far more likely to agree to a meeting.” Chances are, other salespeople are taking this time off, so use pre-holiday seasons to your advantage.
There are many different scenarios that could result. Your might reach the prospect’s gatekeeper, instead of the prospect. You might reach their voicemail. You might reach the prospect on the very first ring. Your prospect could get angry and yell at you for wasting their time. They might interject and say they don’t have time. They might ask you questions that you were unprepared for. Or…everything could run very smoothly. You have no way of knowing, so be prepared for every possible scenario.
Have multiple outlines or scripts ready for what you are going to talk about and how you are going to respond in each situation. Have a FAQ list on hand. But whatever you do…don’t read directly from a script! This is the easiest way to tune out your callers. Not to mention, it makes it seem like you aren’t too interested in the product or service that you’re offering. And if you aren’t interested, then why should they be?
5. Use a headset
Hunter also notes that salespeople who use a headset have more success since “we are more effective in our communication when we speak with our hands, even when the other person can’t see us.”
6. Show your personality
Nobody wants to talk to a robot. Be humorous. If that’s not in your nature, at the very least, try to be positive and upbeat. The more excited and confident you sound, the more people are going to believe in what you have to say and want to continue talking with you. Do you believe in what you’re selling? Hopefully the answer is yes. If not, you might want to practice faking it.
It’s amazing the difference that body language can make. Try smiling. Research shows that the act of smiling can put you in a happier mood. Similarly, if you stand up straight and hold your shoulders back, you will feel more confident, and that will reflect on the call.
7. Don’t provide them with an excuse to hang up
This may seem like the polite thing to ask, but as Hunter also mentions, “never ask if it is a good time to talk.” Why not? You are calling them out of the blue, and most people are busy, so chances are, it’s never going to be a good time to talk. If you ask this question, more likely than not, you will be hung up on shortly after. Instead, find a way to keep your prospect interested in what you have to say (within the first 15 seconds) so that they will want to continue talking with you.
8. Don’t call to “check in”
In similar fashion, Hunter says to, “never make the purpose of your call something like ‘I’m just checking in’ or ‘I thought I would see how you’re doing.’ Your objective with each call is to bring value. Remember, it’s about them, not about you.”
9. Climb into their head
What is your prospect thinking about when you call them? What types of things are they interested in? How do they spend their weekends? Why might they be interested in what you’re selling? This will require you to do a little research beforehand to find out more about your prospect. Once you can see things from their perspective, you can determine how exactly you can help them. And once you determine how you can help them, you’ve won half the battle.
The key is to get to know your prospect as much as possible, and then based on what you find out, provide them with value. Remember that what’s valuable for one person might not be valuable for someone else. For instance, one person might love going to a particular coffee shop for the coffee, while another might love that same café for the atmosphere. One person might love the act of reading because it makes them feel relaxed, while another might love reading because it’s how they gain knowledge.
Find what makes your prospect tick. At the very least, make an educated guess. This could be something as simple as an interesting and related news article. From there, you just might spark an interesting discussion or a healthy debate.
10. Cut to the chase
Your prospect doesn’t care about what your business is or when you were founded or how many awards you have won. As far as your phone conversation goes, they care about one thing and one thing only: how you can help them. Be brief. Don’t ramble on about your credentials or other pointless information that doesn’t help your prospect.
11. Talk about the benefits of your product or service (not the features)
Features are the superficial things that define your product or service, whereas the benefits are the emotional results that come from using it. For instance, a feature of the iPhone is that you can use FaceTime to video-chat with people. A benefit is that you connect with friends and family all around the world, wherever you are. How can your product or service connect with your prospect on an emotional level?
12. Think about possible objections that your prospect will have
Now that you know all of the reasons why your prospect will be interested in what you have to offer, what are some reasons why they won’t be interested? Make a list of some possible objections that your prospects will have. Know how you will address and respond to those objections.
13. Ask about your prospect. Listen.
It’s a little known fact that everyone loves to talk about themselves. Ask your prospect a question about their business. Get them to talk about themself somehow.
14. Personalize the call
If you do your research ahead of time, you should know about the person you are calling. The more you show that you know about your prospect (without sounding like a creepy stalker), the more impressed they will be and the more likely they will be to stay on the call. For instance, you could mention a point from one of their company’s recent blog posts. Show that you are interested in them somehow.
15. Define your call-to-action
What’s your next step once you’ve persuaded your prospect to take action? Make sure that each call ends with a specific and pre-determined call-to-action. For instance, this could be a meeting, a free quote or a trial of your service.
16. Ask for referrals
Now, of course, you’re going to want to feel this one out. You aren’t going to ask every caller for a referral. But if you happen to make a connection with your prospect, at the end of the call, ask them if they know of anyone who might be interested in what you’re offering. Worst-case scenario, they say no. Best-case scenario, you might just gain a new customer.
17. Know when to end the call
Don’t push it. Know when it’s time to hang up. Feel it out and if your prospect really isn’t feeling it after the first few minutes, move on to the next.
18. If they didn’t answer…leave a brief voicemail
Key word here: brief. Plan out what you are going to say if your prospect doesn’t answer—and stick to it. Your voicemail should be no more than a few sentences long, stating your name and company; the value that you are offering your prospect; and your phone number. Just don’t expect a call back. The key is to get your foot in the door and make your name known, so that the next time you call, you won’t completely throw your prospect off guard.
19. Be persistent
When it comes to sales prospecting, the name of the game is persistency. If the first (or second, or third, or fourth…) prospect didn’t answer or didn’t work out…keep calling! It’s easy to lose hope when you are rejected time and time again—but don’t get discouraged. Keep your eye on the prize. And eventually you’ll be rewarded.