Coke or Pepsi? Yankees or Red Sox? Mac or PC? With options like this, people typically sit squarely on one side or the other. (I mean, how many Yankee fans can even tolerate the mention of the Red Sox??) The same concept holds true in the world of sales, especially when it comes to cold calling. Reps either recognize the value and remain loyal to the benefits of cold calling, or scoff at the idea of using such an antiquated approach to sales.
Cold calling isn’t dead. But when cold calling is executed poorly, it’s as good as dead! It’s critical to understand its place in the sales prospecting process and more importantly, what to do and what NOT to do.
Cold Calling, Email Marketing, Social Selling, Oh My!
In the age of millennials, cold calling has been largely overshadowed by the explosion of social selling and email marketing. With more and more people buying products and services online, it makes sense that salespeople would switch their focus to the digital realm. Nearly 70% of a buyer’s journey is completed digitally.
However, this doesn’t negate the fact that 92% of all customer interactions occur over the phone. It would be irresponsible to renounce cold calling as an asset to all salespeople. If anything, a combination of email, social selling and cold calling can often yield the strongest results.
Cold Calling Mistakes to Avoid
The issue isn’t that cold calling is dead. It’s not. It’s just that too much of it is done incorrectly. Many salespeople oversell during their first phone call or don’t follow up enough with their prospects. These common mistakes are what lead salespeople to disregard the value of cold calling:
- Calling Without a Plan: Making a cold call without some form of prepared script is a prospecting foul! No matter how confident you are as a salesperson, your nerves can cause you to forget key details, rush your call and even make you sound disorganized. Make sure that you memorize what you plan to say or have a physical list of bullet points in front of you before you sit down to make your sales calls.
- Overselling: When your prospect picks up the phone, they weren’t expecting your call. So don’t launch into full sales mode the moment they say hello. Instead, treat your first cold call as an introduction and use your value proposition to interest them in setting up a time for another call when they are fully focused on discussing their challenge and your solution.
- Not Following Up: From introductions to setting up a sales pitch meeting, closing a deal is a process. Making it to the finish line will require resilience. Approximately 80% of sales require five follow-up calls, yet 44% of salespeople give up after just one. Be part of the successful group that pushes all the way through the sales process.
How to Make an Effective Cold Call
Succeeding in cold calling requires adequate preparation, stellar phone etiquette and persistence. External factors such as timing can also make a positive impact. Keep these aspects in mind as you begin cold calling:
- Practice Makes Perfect: It takes plenty of practice to become comfortable with cold calling. It’s important that salespeople be prepared for any situation that could arise – from happy responders to annoyed prospects. Using a training tool such as a call simulator can help prepare your sales team to respond to every possible scenario.
- Timing: Studies show that the best days to cold call a prospect are Wednesday and Thursday. These are prime working days in terms of productivity, making leads more receptive to your call. The best times during those days to cold call is 4 to 5 p.m., followed by 11 a.m. to noon. But we like to say that the best day for cold calls are the weekdays that end in ‘y’! If you limit calling to ‘the best’ days, the consistent cadence of follow-up is interrupted and reduces your chances of success.
- Speak First, Sell Second: Keep in mind that B2B sales isn’t about ‘selling’. It’s about introducing a solution to a targeted prospect, with the intent on helping them solve a business challenge. When you keep the focus on the business, and not your product, you demonstrate sincerity in being a solver, not a seller. The key is interesting them in a call to learn more.
- Respect the Gatekeeper: No matter who answers your call, whether it’s a receptionist or CEO, you should treat him or her with respect. The fact that someone is taking the time to listen to your offer should be appreciated – not expected. Don’t neglect gatekeepers during you’re a cold call, because they can be the bridge that connects you with a decision-maker.
- Be Persistent: Being a salesperson means you’ll face a lot of rejection. You need to grow a thick skin and remember that your prospect didn’t wake up saying ‘I need to buy from this company today!’ It takes an average of eight calls to even reach your prospect. Before that, you could be speaking to gatekeepers or leaving voicemails. To truly succeed in sales, you’ll have to persevere.
With the success of cold calling relying heavily on preparation, it’s crucial that you provide your sales team with thorough training. Arm your team with the proper skills to succeed with FRONTLINE Selling’s combination of practice tools, sales training and technology.