How To Convert Cold Calls into the Initial Sales Meeting
The mere phrase ‘cold calls’ give many salespeople a case of the cold sweats and makes the hair on the back of their neck stick up. Nonetheless, cold calling is still a very effective sales prospecting technique for qualifying prospects and setting up the initial face to face sales meeting, when done properly.
These five tips will help you and your sales team convert cold calls into more sales meetings.
1. Define Your Ideal, Target Customer
Instead of applying a shot-gun gun approach to your prospecting, begin by targeting very specific prospects that fit within your ideal buyer persona and your core competencies. Top performers know that their time and energy is best spent focused on prospects similar to their current customers in terms of industry, size, location, technology stack, solutions and those who face the same problems their existing customers face. Randomly cold calling any account willy-nilly no longer cuts it and yes, is a total waste of time. But there are way too many sales tools out there to help you turn cold calls into warm calls and narrow your focus.
2. Warm Up Your Prospects By Creating Call Plans
Top performers know that there is a plethora of data available for FREE from online resources including LinkedIn and company websites that allows them to turn cold calls into warm calls. Today, more than ever salespeople have the power to conduct pre-call planning research and learn important details about a sales lead or prospect before ever picking up the phone. In fact, today’s sales professional can be far more targeted and personalized with their their messaging if they take the time to create a call plan. By sharing with the prospect what it is that they know about their role and responsibility, their business and/or department, their current and/or future projects and goals, salespeople can quickly and easily demonstrate credibility and pique the prospect's interest. Your call plan will also provide context for your value proposition, the reason you're asking for the meeting and the value the prospect will get from meeting with you. This simple and straight-forward call plan can have a dramatic impact on the quality of your conversations and increase the likelihood for successful call outcomes.
3. Is Your Value Proposition Strong Enough?
This is where most IT staffing sales professionals struggle, because they don't have a value proposition or the value proposition they do have is weak. In order to have a value proposition that is strong enough to compel your prospect to commit to meeting with you-remember your prospects are insanely busy- one first needs to understand what it is that IT hiring managers and corporate decision makers value. Let's start with with what they don't value including some of the industry buzzwords and jargon that turns them off. These words and phrases include:
- "I'm going to be in the neighborhood next week, can I just stop in real quick to introduce myself?" This sounds really weak, desperate and needy.
- "I'd like to schedule a meeting with you for just 15 minutes to discuss your upcoming needs and understand your culture." This line or some variation of it has been used since the beginning of time so if you use it, just keep in mind that you're not doing yourself any favors to differentiate yourself. More importantly, what's in it for the prospect to meet under these terms? What value will they get out of the meeting? In this scenario the sales rep has made their personal agenda and self-serving needs the focal point of the call.
- "We're local, we're a small boutique firm and we're relationship focused. I'm also right down the street from you and we have the best screening and recruiting process and I would like to share with you how we only submit <insert any number> candidates and you will interview <insert any number> and hire one of them." Boooring! They've heard this all before and know that talk is cheap.
Your value proposition must speak to how you have helped other like minded customers solve the same or similar challenges your prospect is facing. In general, all IT hiring managers want to accomplish the following:
- Reduce costs
- Improve efficiency by utilizing their assets more effectively
- Increase revenue, profitability and/or market share
- Improve customer retention
In general the common challenges IT hiring managers face with accomplishing these objectives include:
- Managing IT projects
- Managing people
- Delivering products on time, to spec and under budget
- And a whole host of others
Your value proposition needs to speak to how you and your service help your clients solve these types of challenges and how your solution contributed these types of results (above). Finally, what corporate buyers and IT hiring managers are really interested in hearing from IT staffing salespeople is how they're working with their existing customers and approaching these types of challenges with them, and how their service is impacting the customer's business, department or project. Think about it, if you live in the north and your pipes freeze due to arctic cold temperatures and you're not sure how to go about fixing your pipes, what would you do? Most likely you're going to want to talk with friends, co-workers and family members not to mention a plumber! You're going to want to hear their input regarding what their experience has been in dealing with frozen pipes. You will want to know how they have solved this problem, and what their approach was to solving it. Why? Because it is valuable insight and advice. You want a solution, not to reinvent the wheel. Your prospects and customers are no different. There is real, genuine value in IT staffing sales professionals sharing with their prospects how they're helping their customers solve problems. If you want more meetings, you need to be able to share these types of stories. You need a value proposition.
4) Asking For The Meeting-What's in it For Me?
When it comes time to ask for the meeting, make sure that you clearly articulate the goal or objective of the meeting and that you clearly articulate the value the prospect will receive from meeting with you. Very rarely do I ever hear salespeople articulate the actual business purpose of the meeting they're trying to set. They just say things like "I'd like to come by and introduce myself," or "Let's get together to meet, to build the relationship." These statements are fluffy and clearly not strong enough to get the meeting. You might say something like the following:
"Mr. Prospect, we recently helped <insert client name> overcome the challenge of <insert relevant challenge> and as a result they been able to increase (or reduce) <insert metric or statistic to quantify your value>. What do you say we get together and I can share with you in more detail how we approached the problem including lessons learned and how the solution impacted the project. This will help you gain a better understanding of the value we have to offer and how we partner with our customers."
When presented in these terms it clear to the customer what value they will get from meeting with the salesperson.
5. Three Scenarios to Scheduling Initial Sales Meeting
After you introduce yourself and ask the prospect for the initial face to face sales discovery meeting you will likely encounter one of three scenarios.
Highly Skeptical Prospects: If the prospect seems highly skeptical of you, your company, offering or your value proposition you will need to acknowledge and ask probing questions to uncover the reason for the skepticism. After uncovering why the prospect is skeptical of you and meeting with you, you will also need to provide a credible rebuttal that address the concern before they will commit to meeting with you. Skeptical prospects will meet with you off of the cold call but the salesperson has to be persistent with asking asking probing questions, offering a credible rebuttal and asking for the meeting multiple times. Don't back away just because they said no the first time. After you overcome their concern, reiterate the value they will get from meeting with you and ask for the appointment again. Make them say no three times before conceding. You will get them next time and you don't want to turn them off.
Neutral Prospects: A second subset of prospects will appear neutral or noncommittal. You won't know for sure what their interest level is in meeting with you because they're "holding their cards tight to their vest." In these cases you can take a soft, disarming approach by asking in such a was as "how do you feel about getting together for an introductory discovery meeting to learn more about how we're helping other like-minded customers achieve similar goals to the one's you're trying to achieve?" Notice that by using this question I'm not actually asking for the meeting but instead I'm asking how they feel about meeting with me based on what has been discussed up to this point. The value of this question is it allows me to "get a read" or "take the temperature" of this neutral prospect so I can understand where I stand with him or her. How they respond will tell me exactly what I need to do next. If they don't agree to a meeting then I will need to ask probing questions to uncover their concern.
Enthusiastic Prospects: For prospects who are openly enthusiastic and engaging, you should just be straight forward and ask them for the meeting. You might say "when would be a good time for us to meet to discuss this in more detail?" Or, you can give them two options, neither of which is a no by saying "How does Tuesday at 10 or Wednesday at 1 sound to meet for an introductory discovery discussion?"
Just remember that prospects don’t have time for long-winded and complicated sales pitch but they do need to see the value in taking time out of their busy day to meet with you. Instead, provide your prospects with practical information to demonstrate that you understand their situation, and then share with them how you've helped others solve the same or similar problems they're facing. Use you business acumen and industry knowledge to share fresh ideas, insights and ideas including third third party ebooks and white papers to help them do their job more effectively. This make it easier for them to see the value in meeting and working with you. You can learn more about our methodology and training approach here.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.