There’s cold calling, and then there’s Cold Calling. If you don’t know the difference (hint: it’s not the capital C’s), then you’re probably not doing it right. Here are 5 tips from a cold calling “target” you can use to increase the effectiveness of your prospecting and sales.
In technology companies, there are two people that get the most cold calls: the IT/Data Center guy and the Marketing guy. In addition to pitch emails, I get about 3-5 cold calls every day from different vendors trying to pitch me some new service, product, ad network, etc.
Being in Marketing, I’m certainly sympathetic to what sales guys are trying to accomplish every single day: fill out their pipeline, and keep deals moving. As a professional courtesy, I try to take most of their calls, and I reply to their emails – even if it’s just to tell them I’m not interested (the exception to that rule are email list “companies”).
I also take the calls for a selfish reason: I want to see myself what makes a good sales guy sell. It’s highly educative to see a great sales professional go about their job. Particularly on a cold call – that’s a very hard thing to do.
Some people say that cold calling doesn’t work. Well, I’ll tell you – it does work, sometimes, but you need to do it right. While we don’t do Cold Calling at Zoho (we’re way too busy handling incoming calls), I have spent marketing dollars with more than one company that came to me through Cold Calling. Why? Well, they got something I needed.
So here are 5 tips you can use during your Cold Calling. While these are directly related to phone sales, most of them also apply for emails/LinkedIn. Sure, there’s a lot more that you need to do, but you also need to make sure you get the following five areas down to a science.
1. Find a target
When I say “find a target”, I don’t mean to say “get a phone number”. But that’s how vendors come to me. They call our main line – they ask for whoever runs Marketing (sometimes our receptionists don’t screen well enough!) and voilá, they end-up in my phone. That’s how you do cold calling. And it doesn’t work – I’ll usually be ending the call within 15 seconds. Cold Calling, on the other hand, means that you’ll use social media, LinkedIn, or just plain Google (it takes 2 seconds to find my LinkedIn profile) to find out who you want to talk to. So when you hit that phone, you ask for that peson, by name. When he answers the phone, you greet him by name. And please, please, pretty please, don’t ask stupid questions like “would you be the person responsible for Marketing?” as an opener! If you did your research right, you know I am. Get to the point.
You’ve got your prospect, alright. You know their name, you know their title, you can find a phone number to start hunting them. But hold your horses! Don’t touch that phone just yet. First do a little bit of research about your target company.
For example, just today I got a lady on the phone. She was very courteous and professional. She wanted to invite me to some event for “Technology Resellers”. WTF? If you spent even 5 seconds on our website, our LinkedIn page, our Facebook page or our Twitter profile, you would know that we are not a “technology reseller”. We sell online software.
Some other times it is not as obvious. Some time ago I got a call from a company whose name I’ll omit. This company is in the business of enabling through-the-web trials for companies that sell old-school (installable) software. It’s a very neat thing. And if we sold installable software, I would want to talk to them. But we don’t sell installable software. We sell online software. That company is totally irrelevant in the world of SaaS.
3. Speak at their level
So you’ve got a name, a number, a title – you’ve done a bit of research. Next thing, you need to be able to speak at your target’s level to make sure you are pressing the buttons that are important for him/her. This is just sales 101 yet still most salespeople fail miserably at this.
This includes not only talking about the right topics – but also talking about them in the right context, and in the right wording. Yes, this stuff matters a lot.
I just had, not 10 minutes ago, someone call me pitching me SEM/PCC services. It was going ok… then I asked some question and the person on the other side started reciting to me the differences between the “organic results” and the “sponsored results” on Google.
Listen, if I’m the owner of a local small business, maybe you should check first what’s my level of expertise in the arena. But… I mean, really? We’re a technology company. We’re an online company. We spend a LOT of money with Google every month (there’s multiple ways you can check for that), and you give me that pitch? I can tell you that call didn’t end up well.
4. Know your pitch – but not too well
In a previous life I had the opportunity to work with a very efficient, mature outbound sales team. When we were preparing an outbound campaign, the sales manager told me: “Just do me a favor, don’t give our guys a call script. Instead give them some pointers”. What she meant was that sales reps needed to apply their own creativity, wording and style to the campaign.
So if you’re a sales rep and someone gives you a script, reject it. Come up with your own version that makes you feel comfortable. And please, please don’t memorize it. It’ll make you sound less sincere.
Likewise, you need to be prepared to adjust your pitch on the fly. If you are doing Cold Calling right, you’ll be asking some questions. You’ll need to adjust your pitch depending on the answers to those questions. Maybe you see your prospect already knows about the topic – engage him with a more advanced conversation.
5. Be prepared for the next steps, and be prepared to discuss ballpark prices
The goal of Cold Calling (at least for most B2B product/services) is not to do an outright sell, but rather to just take the conversation forward to the next step. Yet, many sales people don’t know this, and they shoot themselves in the foot by rambling and not going for a strong close.
The very best sales people I’ve gotten are very smart about this. Once they sense some interest, instead of keep expanding on the topic, they’ll suggest a follow-up conversation, or an online meeting, or something of that sort.
It amazes me how some sales people won’t discuss pricing on the first call. I just don’t do business with them. Listen guys, discussing pricing (ballpark, of course!) is a very good thing for both buyer and seller – it helps you check that neither one of you is going to loose your time with a deal that is out of range. So be prepared to give some estimates or ballpark numbers about what you’re selling.
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Right, I know what you’re thinking: these points are so basic. Yet, about 95% of the cold calls I get did not do their homework on the points above. Sure, it saved them a couple of minutes of research, but it also meant they lost a valuable prospect within the first few seconds of the call. Likewise, if you did your homework, you’ll be able to qualify your prospect faster – and then you can move on to the next one on the list.