Cold calling techniques should continue to be a valued sales skill and be included in any sales training program. Cold calling has evolved from a standalone blunt prospecting activity into a tactic that when combined with social selling and data is a powerful customer recruitment method. Not every business can rely or wait for inbound marketing to produce enough leads to grow revenue, so more outbound sales tactics need to be implemented, to reach out and engage potential customers. It may surprise you but 1000’s of buyer meetings and webinar attendance have come about as a result of “cold calling techniques”, in fact the success rate of cold calling is improving not declining.
Cold calling is NOT DEAD but it has evolved.
The reason for the improvement in cold calling success is that it has become more data driven, more targeted and blended to work with social selling and social media. Cold calling techniques now form part of a planned sales prospecting strategy and not just a numbers exercise. Remember that selling is fundamentally about conversations and commitments. Cold calling has a big part to play in starting conversations with prospects.
So, the goal of cold calling is for salespeople to have meaningful conversations with various customer profiles and adapt their value proposition to the unique situation of each prospect.
Cold calling techniques needs to help accelerate the essential learning needed by buyers, so that they can “move” to where they need to be, rather than where they are today. It’s about breaking down the prospects status quo and current thinking.
Cold Calling Techniques – Overview
- Firstly, when approaching a prospect, it’s about them, their challenges, their interests and information needs.
- A cold call conversation should help paint a picture of a better future for the customer.
- A prospecting call is NOT about promotional messages and the salespersons self-interest.
- Approach each prospect with the idea of helping them to solve a problem or achieve a goal, not of selling a product or service.
It is important to understand that sales prospecting and cold calling is primarily focused on “Create Opportunities”. These are the sales opportunities where prospects are not actively looking because they aren’t aware of the problem. Plus, in all likelihood, they will have no plan, no budget and no owner for the problem the product or service solves. Create opportunities are the business problems, challenges or issues that haven’t been flagged to a high enough level where awareness leads to a decision to act. Which means the cold call needs to paint that picture of the better future so after listening they will act.
Create opportunities require both the prospect and seller to identify core causes of the problem that if addressed, will resolve the problem. It’s about the salesperson getting the prospect to understand the magnitude of the impact of the problem on the business so it gets attention. In cold calling, salespeople can only create real opportunities when they help buyers understand their options and agree on a specific solution approach. The salesperson must help define and prioritize capabilities that relate to their unique or high value features for the prospect. You see, unless and until new and compelling insights are introduced, the tendency is for the potential customer to remain in their “status quo” position.
Ultimately, the cold calling techniques deployed needs to help the buyer to understand how to buy, deploy, and get results from the solution the salesperson is proposing.
Cold Calling Techniques – the 3-sale step
The first “sale” (and the most critical) is to get the prospect to listen and talk long enough to ascertain if the problems a business addresses exists within their organization.
The 2nd “sale” is to get the prospect to work internally with stakeholders that may have different objectives, biases and viewpoints to agree on the nature and cost of the problem.
The 3rd “sale” is to gain consensus from the prospect or buying committee for the proposed solution, which maps to the seller’s key features and capabilities.
Cold Calling Techniques – Mindset
A great cold calling technique is to adopt a buyer’s mindset as cold calling is 80% mindset and 20% techniques. The mantra is “I am not trying to sell, but to acquire the information I need to decide if a prospect meets my buying criteria.”
Cold Calling Techniques- Talk and Listen
Research shows most successful sales prospecting calls have on average a 46% to 54% talk to listen ratio. To get prospect engagement early in the call, have a list of rapport-related topics that gets the prospect to yield, listen and talk. It is important to practice and measure “the speaker switch rate” – as the salesperson and the prospect take turns discussing issues. Salespeople need to practice Active Listening. This is the ability to really listen to what the prospect is saying, to understand their motivations on a deeper level.
Cold Calling Techniques- Discovery Questions
Successful cold calling avoids spreading the prospects focus too thin. Deep dive targeted questions should be limited to 2-4 prospect issues the salesperson has researched that their solution solves. Then they should use “emotional labelling”. After they have asked the prospect an effective discovery question, “call out” an emotion that has been observed from the prospect when they were answering discovery questions. Examples:
“It seems like you are personally frustrated by this challenge”
“It looks like you __________________”
“It sounds like you ________________”
Discovery Questions that are specifically focused on the customer’s business issues, challenges, goals, and areas of relevant concern have a direct correlation to successful next steps in the sales prospecting process.
Cold Calling Techniques – Rapport Building
Personalized. Asking highly specific questions shows genuine interest in the answer (and by association, the customer).
Unique. A discovery question should be a little unexpected and intelligent, it will return a more honest answer — and honesty breeds intimacy.
Appropriate. Even though the question should be surprising, it shouldn’t make the prospect feel uncomfortable. Avoid anything that could be seen as out-of-bounds. Make it a positive orientated question.
Example “I was reading your companies blog, your CEO stated that [direct quote], how will this affect your business moving forward?
To wrap up, cold calling techniques should make engaging a prospect should feel like a tennis match. Carefully use of data, insights, news, information and social selling will provide the path to call the prospect, get them to listen and talk. If selling is fundamentally about conversations and commitments, so is cold calling.