Yes, you read it right. I'm most definitely talking about picking up your phone and making those ‘dreaded’ sales calls to prospective customers in the pursuit to arrange a sales meeting, which we all hope will result in a sale, and bag a new customer/client for our team.
Such face-to-face telephone calls made by sales reps for the first time without any appointments, goes with various names in the marketing and sales world; telephone canvassing, phone prospecting, ‘door-knocking’, or the much talked about: cold calling!
The advent of emails, online marketing, inbound tools and CRM softwares have clearly ushered in a new age of sales strategies and processes, that have completely dwarfed and negated the possibility of a good ole’ outbound telephone sales calls.
The ‘word’ which has been around, for almost two decades now is: “Cold calling is obsolete”; “No more cold calling” or, “Cold calling is dead!” – is it really?
Well, if you’re looking at the way sales reps operated up until, say the ‘Mid 90s - when one armed with a random list of phone numbers (without the slightest clue of the prospects’ company, industry, or their needs) started dialing for most of their working hours, with the belief that “if you knock on 1000 doors, one will most likely open”- then ‘cold calling’ is most definitely ‘dead’!
But make no mistake that it is the ‘cold’ bit which has died. Those rudimentary practices that jump right into ‘pushy’ sales tactics, without qualifying the prospects, identifying their needs, or drafting a ‘sales script’ – is most certainly ‘dead. In fact such practices should not be kept alive.
However, contrary to ‘cold’ calling; ‘smart calling’ is very much alive and kicking!
Jill Konrath, an expert in B2B Sales says, “People tell you that cold calling is dead, but that’s not true. Lots of people are still doing it - but they’re no longer dialing for dollars.”
Jill says, “Today’s savvy seller is actually making very smart prospecting calls, calling on people who they know have an opportunity to use their product or service where they can make a difference”.
Sales expert and trainer, Bob Etherington, in his book Cold Calling for Chickens makes a claim that “In any market 85% of the available new business goes to the 5% of sales people who know the secret of successful cold calling.”
And one of the secrets is being diligent about scheduling and follow ups – Studies have suggested that 80% of sales require five follow-ups in order to close.
Another research from TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group says, it took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect in 2007, but by 2016, the average rose to 8 attempts.
What other secrets do we know about ‘smart calling’? Today we give you 4 key insights offered by sales coach Mike Weinberg, to leverage your phone prospecting strategy:
1. Mindset & Attitude
Mike believes it all boils down to your mindset and attitude about your job. If you ‘deep down’ believe that it will work, then you are sure to succeed with the prospects – contrary to just going through the motions of picking up and dialing the phone, and giving a half-hearted talk.
If you don’t put in your heart and mind to the job, and actually believe that phoning prospects is not going to yield much, then that will be your self-fulfilling prophecy. Clearly, if you think you’ll fail to engage well with a prospect, you will most definitely succeed at that.
The right attitude which Mike prescribes is to think of you and your team as; experts, problem-solvers, solution-providers and value-creators. You need to truly believe that you and your team can actually address the prospects’ issues, remove their hurdles and deliver a great value for them.
2. Voice & Tone
Here’s another gem - The way you sound!
Most reps, who sound perfectly normal and authentic, suddenly take on the ‘Sales Voice’ as soon as a prospect answers to their phone.
An annoying, kinda ‘manufactured’ and ‘unnatural’ voice which comes as overly enthusiastic and somewhat cheesy. The voice that seems someone is emulating the role of a stereotypical salesperson from a movie scene – an immediate put-off, a ‘cringe-worthy’ voice.
The trick is to drop the ‘sales voice’, the best in the industry as Mike says, ‘talk like humans’. He suggests that one should be calm, casual yet confident, and talk as if you’re speaking to a friend.
Another tendency amongst newbie sales reps is to be highly respectful, almost to the point of being apologetic or subservient – this too should be clearly dropped out. If you sound ‘scared’ or less experienced, or if you're constantly using ‘mister’ or ‘sir’ like a child addressing his friend’s father, then the prospect will immediately take you as ‘less professional’ and will easily block you out or intimidate you, even before you offer anything of value.
3. A great start to the call: Two kick off phrases
Let’s face it, after all we are interrupting someone in the midst of their busy schedule with a sales call.
Now if we don’t get off with a good start that keeps the prospects all engaged and ‘all ears’; then the prospects can outmatch us very early in the call, and throw us off guard with their ‘anti-sales reaction’.
Mike suggests that sales reps should use these two starter lines to open up conversations:
a) ‘I Head Up’
As in: ‘Hi Jill, this is Mike Weinberg from ABC Consulting; I head up…..”
This opening immediately makes the caller feel important and it builds confidence in them, while simultaneously it leads the prospects into feeling that someone important is calling them to share something of value, rather than feeling that ‘yet another sales rep has interrupted their busy day.
b) ‘Let me take a minute’
The next step would be to calmly and confidently say ‘Let me take a minute to…”. The tone needed is of an ‘executive one’, who ‘apparently heads up some important division’ and is calling to grant something of value, to another important person.
This starter, as Mike says is in a way more confident (isn’t asking for permission but already taking a minute) than the all-too-typical ‘Do you have a minute’, or ‘Is now a good time?’ or the overly used, ‘I’m reaching out’’. Mike suggests that if the prospect is extremely busy, you can right away respect his/her time and let him/her go, and promise to call, saying, “I’ll give you a shout Tuesday morning”.
This will help you earn brownie points with the prospects and your follow up call will be much easier.
4. Anticipate the first ‘No’ and be prepared to ‘Push’ past it.
A key lesson that every sales person should learn is that the first answer is almost always a ‘no’, says Mike Weinberg.
However, that should be nothing personal, but is an automatic response to a sales call that has interrupted their busy day. The trick here is to not shy away from such rejections and throw in a ‘sorry to have bothered you… “Or something polite and pull out – this, as Mike says is only going to make the sales reps ‘starve’.
He actually suggests that it often requires three asks in the same call to secure a yes. You must be mentally prepared to ‘push’ after the first automatic ‘no’ response; and remember you are pushing to ‘sell’ the meeting and not your solution. Mike says one should resist the temptation to ‘pitching’ at this time, but be polite yet persistent enough (at least three times) to make that sales meeting.
Phone prospecting or (dropping the ‘cold’ now…) ‘smart calling’, is a key technique that many seasoned salesperson use to establish connection, build rapport and mutually beneficial relationship with their prospects.
What other techniques do you think are needed to work an effective phone prospecting strategy?
If you'd like further assistance or would like to discuss anything covered today, we'd love to hear from you.
Call Andy Fox (me) on (03) 5249 5570 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Website is element7digital.com.au