Cold calling. Love it or hate we have to do it. It’s just part of sales. It’s certainly not the only prospecting tool in our toolbox but it sure is an important one. At the end of the day you really can’t build relationships without actually talking with your prospects. I spend a lot of time working with sales reps on cold calling including their approach, technique and preparation. The one trend that I have noticed is that everyone’s goal on a cold call is to get a meeting with the prospect. I think that is a pretty lofty expectation and usually a recipe for disappointment and frustration.
Think about it for a second. If you get a cold call from someone who sells carpet, home mortgage, windows, landscaping services or home alarm systems, how likely are you to grant them a face to face meeting off of that cold call? Not very likely. You don’t know them and you don’t trust them. Here is where most sales people go wrong. Sales professionals continue to push and push and push for face to face meetings, before they have earned the right to that meeting. Let me share with you the problem this (the pushing) creates.
First, I’m NOT suggesting you shouldn’t be asking for meetings. Of course we want to get face to face meetings with our prospects. We just need to be smart about when and how we go about asking for meetings. What I am suggesting however is that we shouldn’t be asking for a meeting BEFORE we have qualified the prospect, BEFORE the prospect has given us some sort of verbal indication that they are interested in our service (listen to your gut instinct), BEFORE the prospect has told you that he or she thinks there is fit between your two organizations and/or BEFORE they have told you there may be an opportunity to do business together. If you’re pushing for a meeting before you have discussed these items with your prospect well, (your prospect thinks) you’re just another pushy salesperson who doesn’t listen. Here is the typical cold call that I hear in the industry:
Sales Rep: “Hi Mr. Customer, Jim Smith calling from XYZ Solutions. How are you today?”
Prospect: “Good, how can I help you?”
Sales Rep: “I’m calling today because we’re an IT services firm that helps customers… ” “We provide……” “I would like to schedule a meeting with you to talk about how we can help you and strike up a relationship. How does your schedule look?”
Prospect: The prospect now goes into their “bag of objections.” In response, the sales person goes into objection handling mode trying to deflect the prospects objections and get the meeting. Eventually they run out of rebuttals for the prospects objections and the call ends.
Does This Sound Familiar?
Even worse….IF the sales person has the courage to call that prospect back (statistics show only 48% of sales people follow up with a prospect), where are they going to take the call? The follow up call actually becomes more challenging than the original cold call because in the mind of the prospect the sales person is the stereotypical pushy sales rep who doesn’t listen. There even more clammed up now than they were on the cold call! Not a good place to be.
So when you push for the meeting before you and your prospect has agreed a meeting is the next logical step, you unintentionally create a wall between you and your prospect. They freeze up, and they see you as the scary sales person. This is when they cross their arms and put on their poker face and offer nothing but very short, cryptic responses. Who in their right mind would want to make cold calls if they got this response all day long? Not me!! And so the downward spiral of call reluctance begins.
Every interaction with this prospect from this point forward becomes that much more difficult because they are even more reluctant to open up and share information with you. Imagine climbing 1/2 way to the top of Mt. Everest and then your guide tells you the 2nd half is going to be 10X’s steeper. Ouch!
So instead of “tearing down the wall” that stands between you and your prospect on that initial cold call, we’re actually building it up. In the example above, we’re actually reinforcing that wall with thick steel!
A Quick Note To Sales Managers
If you are pushing your sales people to get face to face meetings off of cold calls, make sure you understand the sales behavior that you’re reinforcing. Not only does that create the challenges mentioned above (and no customer wants to hear from a desperate sales person), but you end up having a sales team who goes out on meetings “for the sake of meeting.” They want to pad their sales report on Friday afternoon to make you happy. What are they really accomplishing in the end?
So What Should I Focus On When Making Cold Calls? When Do I Get Face To Face Meetings?
When you call a prospect for the first time, I suggest you keep it really simple. Your goal should simply be to make them feel comfortable in speaking with you. I was given advice years ago to think of it as just trying to make a new friend. There are lots of ways to do this. Use humor, be humble and make them feel in control of the call. Remember, building trust is the heart of soul of sales. You’ll never earn someone’s trust if they’re not even comfortable speaking with you. If you make your prospects feel comfortable in speaking with you (and qualify them as mentioned earlier) than I guarantee you will have an easy time landing face to face meetings. Landing those meetings will most likely come off of the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th phone call. But were in this for the long haul to build relationships, not be a transactional sales rep, right?
When cold calling you should first understand and appreciate what thoughts are most likely running through the mind of your prospect. Take a look below and ask yourself if your approach and what you say is addressing these concerns on the mind of your prospects. Practice with your co-workers.
- Do I even want to listen to this sales person?
- Are they different?
- Are they sincere?
- Do I want to share information with this person?
- Have they earned the right to my information (what they are asking for)?