If you don’t like cold calls (like most people), it’s easier to claim that cold calling doesn’t work than to figure out how to make it work. Some cold calls, admittedly, don’t work. But not all cold calls are created equal. Some work.
How do you move your calls in the category of “cold calls that work”? You break down the barriers to reach decision-makers on the phone and then engage them in a consultative, two-way conversation.
- Break Down Barriers and Reach the Decision Maker
Corporate decision-makers are hunkering down behind protective walls, guarding their scarce time closely, and taking calls sparingly. The first challenge of cold calling is to break down the barriers that stand in the way of a meaningful conversation.
There is often a gatekeeper who can unlock the key to reaching a decision maker. Treat them with care and respect. They can help you by, for example, telling you the best times to reach someone, or transferring your call to them. So the moment you reach the gatekeeper, they become the most important person to you. Make them feel that way.
Listen when they say their name, and use it. Ask how they’re doing or how their day is going. “Hello Mary, how are you?” After they respond, tell them you’re trying to reach, for instance, Donna Smith.
Now Mary, the gatekeeper, will probably set up one of several hurdles. Be ready for your athletic maneuver over them.
- Hurdle 1: What’s Your Objective?
If Mary’s a good gatekeeper, she likely wants to know what you’re up to. Explain what you want, but talk just an iota above Mary’s head. The purpose is to make her unsure of whether she should be keeping the gate closed. If you’re calling about some software, use the lingo. For example, “I’m calling about a marketing application that could streamline operations.”
- Hurdle 2: Just Send an Email
If Mary suggests you zap off an email, there are a couple of scenarios. Either you’ve done this already or you haven’t.
If you’ve sent an email, tell Mary about it. For example, say “I’ve sent an email a couple of days ago about marketing automation software that could increase productivity and results. I’m sure she’ll be interested in having a quick talk about it.”
If you haven’t sent an email, let Mary know you’d be glad to send one, but first you’d like to learn more about how Donna is tackling marketing automation today and what issues she’s facing.
- Hurdle 3: No Sales Calls
Mary might tell you the decision-maker doesn’t take sales calls.
In most cases, when you’re selling a complex B2B service or solution, you’re not making a sales call. You’re certainly not expecting to make a quick call to a decision-maker, tell them about your service that costs thousands a year, ask for their credit card and walk away with a sale.
You’re actually calling to do a consultation. You want to discover the prospect’s problems and see where you can help. So tell Mary it’s not a sales call. You have some ideas that may be able to help Mary.
Of course, you may simply encounter the ubiquitous voice mail. If so, persist. And if you’re unable to get through after several attempts, leave a message that arouses curiosity—pointing to the benefit of what you’re offering.
- Engage the Decision-Maker in Conversation
Let’s say you’ve jumped right over the hurdles and now you’re in contact with the decision maker. The more you can engage them, the more likely your long-term success. Here are some rules for success:
- It’s All About the Prospect
Keep your focus at all times on the prospect. Be curious. Ask questions to discover the problems they’re facing, the opportunities they want to exploit, and see how you can help.
- Be Prepared
You need to be ready for a peer-to-peer, two-way conversation. Make sure you’ve done your research on the company and know your company’s services or solutions inside out. This will help you ask the right questions to engage them, and, more importantly, help them find the optimal solution to their problem.
- Slow Down
If you’re already buried in paper work, and under pressure to achieve results quickly, it’s likely you’ll push too fast for sales, and as a result, your efforts will backfire. That’s because if you introduce your product or solution too quickly, the prospect is more likely to close down.
Think of your first call as if you’re the doctor and the prospect is your patient. You want to ask a lot of questions to develop a picture of their health and plan a course of action for the future. Plus with that image in mind, you’ll gain confidence you’re there to help—not simply to interrupt their busy day.
Make it Real….Not Rote
You don’t want to read from a script because it’s like listening to a pre-recorded tape of a sales message—people just want to find the eject button. Prospects want personal and sincere conversations. So if you’re not comfortable yet with what to say, practice your questions. Practice answers. Role plays with a fellow sales person can be helpful. And, of course, the more calls you make, the better you’ll get.
Jeff Kalter is the CEO of 3D2B, a global business-to-business telemarketing company that bridges the divide between marketing and sales. He leads customer acquisition programs for Fortune 500 companies, and is passionate about building strong business relationships through professional phone conversations.