Selling (vi) – why cold calls still generate business & 6 ways to get them right.
This summer I went to Marrakesh (it’s not all work people 😉 – it was the best trip I’ve been on for ages and truly surpassed all my expectations
If you’ve been, you’ll know that there’s a myriad of amazing, must-see sights and the souks are definitely one of them. They’re Intense but kinda just have to be done.
I’ve never seen so much STUFF in one place – everything from the most stunning detailed antiques to electric toasters and hair extensions. I confess I found it pretty overwhelming because as soon as we saw something we liked, we were placed in a charming but awkward verbal headlock. We just wanted to look a bit first, but this rarely seemed possible.
These men and women really know their stuff, but I responded much better to the more laid back stall holders, that just welcomed you or said something nice or helpful.
This really got me thinking about sales techniques in general – what’s worked for me and what hasn’t. Obviously, there’s no templated, ‘one size fits all’ – selling a leather handbag and trying to get a creative agency onto a preferred supplier list – very different – or are they really?
It’s nearly 10 years since I started my business development journey. High time, I think, for me to share some of what I’ve learned with our cherished network.
LinkedIn says cold calling is dead – well ‘pish’ (as my Granny used to say) no matter how much online networking you do, eventually, you’re going to have to call someone you’d don’t know personally and – in a nutshell, see if they want what you’ve got to sell. I can assure you, if you do it well, it can start the sales cycle and yield results.
Also remember that Marketers at a company have a responsibility for keeping up to date with new suppliers, products and services and the latest tech related to their industry sector. You in fact just saved them a lot of time as you brought a new solution directly to their door.
We all have times when the warm leads and referrals have nearly dried up and we have to open the fridge door and go cold again. So here’s what I do….
Put your call through the ‘informed prospecting’ filter – e.g.
- is what you’re selling really a good fit for them or their brand?
- is this contact the right seniority to have buying power?
- what problem are you attempting to solve for them?
- pronounce their name correctly – say it aloud to yourself before you pick up the phone. If there’s receptionist, check with them – I have one of those surnames that people verbally scramble on a sales call and it puts me off before they’d even started their pitch.
- LinkedIn – can you reach out to your prospect via a connection?
- Aim to be self-assured, not pushy, unapologetic and personable – sit up straight and ‘own’ the call.
- Don’t ask them how they are as an intro if you don’t know them
- *Pick up on hesitation and ask if there a better time to call? – if they give you a day/time – call back exactly then – they might postpone again but demonstrating you are listening properly and committed at this early stage, will help you make a connection.
Absolutely crucial! I am often really amazed when I hear a new client or contact say, I called or sent them something or emailed and they never got back to me, so I left it. Really? – Statistically – (**see Bob Milani’s pearls below) it takes a minimum of 8 attempts to reach a prospect which indicates the tenacity required. I have converted new business opportunities for MSPA and for my clients, from a completely cold call start – so if you are prepared to call/email back 8-10 times without quitting (over a reasonable period of time of course), you’ll reach that person and then you can make stuff happen. You just need to be highly agile and have a good list of other prospects to contact too.
- ‘It’s a bad time’ – (*see hesitation above in point 2) Style / Approach)
- ‘I really don’t like cold calls’ – ok, I’m sorry you feel that way, from my perspective, I have to start somewhere and I am simply doing my job. I have done my research into whether my product or service is a good fit for you / your brand so I don’t see this as a cold call.
- ‘We already have someone /enough suppliers’ – ok, will you be having a supplier review? – can you tell me when and I will re-contact you then?
- ‘I’m not the right person’ – ok understood, I wonder if there’s a more appropriate contact I could speak to and if you’d kindly give me their name?
Sometimes we simply call this ‘going for a no’ – If you’ve spoken to a prospect quite a few times (4 or so over a 6-9 month period) and they keep putting you off e.g. call me in a few months – you could just be very open and say ‘look is this actually just a no – it’s really fine if it is. I don’t want to miss an opportunity but likewise, I don’t want to be a pest, so please just be honest with me.’ Sometimes your confidence in pulling back actually moves things forward. If however, they do say no, then everyone knows where they stand and less time is wasted.
6) Next Steps…after any positive initial call, always aim to agree on the next action – whether it’s a follow-up call, diary dates for a meeting, send them something. Ensure there’s a clear reason to keep in touch (KIT)
Finally – here are some pearls of wisdom from a brilliant LinkedIn post (**which I have also referenced above)
From ‘Interesting Stats about Selling’ that every Sales Rep should know – Bob Milani – VP of sales at StimLabs
- The best time to cold call is between 4-5pm. The second best is 8-10am. The worst times are 11am and 2pm (InsideSales and Kellogg School of Business)
- Thursday is the best day to prospect. Wednesday is the second best day. Tuesday is the worst day. (Inside Sales)
- In 2007 it took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8 attempts (TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group)
And of course, an integrated approach is the way forward – more on that in Selling (vii)
At MSPA, clients whom have come to us for business development support fall into 2 clear camps;
a) They hate making calls and don’t feel they are good on the phone
b) They’re just too busy with client work to look for new business – they know the value of this work and are ready to outsource it.
Either way, we can help. No big sell 😉 – just the help you need when/ if, you need it.
If you have any ‘pearls’ of sales acumen to add to this post – you’re most welcome. Please do add them below.