Why Your Sales Reps Have To Get Better at Cold Calling

Don't be fake when cold calling. It just upsets prospects.

Don’t be fake when cold calling. It just upsets prospects.

Cold Calling Isn’t Dead?!

I wish cold calling were dead. I really do.

I don’t like making cold calls and I don’t like being on the receiving end.

But according to today’s guest, Mari Anne Vanella, the problem isn’t cold calls; the problem is bad cold callers.

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And if you care about customer experience, you want to start off on the right foot with prospective customers. Asking “How are you today?” or “Is this a good time?” are not promising ways to start. Nor is lying to the assistant who took the call, or pretending on my voice mail that you are something other than what you are.

Crazy though it sounds, sales reps are still doing these things all the time. According to Vanella, they don’t all work for two-bit operators either; some of them represent huge companies.

Note the word “represent” there. Your sales reps represent you to prospective customers. Make sure the way they are behaving is truly representative of your brand.

Why Do We Even Need to Cold Call Anymore?

I wish we could just rely on inbound marketing but the reality is that it’s a big, noisy, competitive world out there.

It is true that customers do a lot of research before deciding what to buy and who to buy from. But without monumental marketing budgets there’s a good chance they won’t even know that you sell it.

So if you want your company to grow, you are going to have to suck it up and do some cold calling.

10 Tips For Sales Teams

Since I’m a reluctant caller, I took advantage of the opportunity to grill Vanella about how to be better at cold calling. Here are some of the tips she had. For more, listen to the podcast.

  1. Involve the sales team in your customer journey mapping process. These days most prospects will already have researched your type of offering at least a bit before you call them, so don’t assume they are ignorant. Teach your sales staff how to identify where in the journey the prospect is.
  2. Get you marketing automation right. Don’t send the same thing to everybody. Have different streams depending on where they are in the purchase cycle. And make sure that your sales reps are aware of where somebody is before they call them!
  3. Think from the point of view of the person receiving the call. Why should they want to talk to you? Can you really offer something that will help them, not just you?
  4. Do your homework! Develop systems so that in 10 minutes you can research a prospect and their company well enough to be able to offer something of value in that call or phone message. Use LinkedIn. Check company news releases. Be able to show that you’ve taken the time to learn at least a bit about them.
  5. Treat administrative assistants as allies, not roadblocks. If you treat them with respect and are open about what you are hoping to accomplish, they will often help connect you with the right person. The CEO is not always the right person.
  6. Be prepared to leave a good voice message. Good means relevant to the prospect’s situation, brief, and non-demanding. Don’t expect the prospect to call you back. It’s not their job to try to connect with you.
  7. Make a test call. Record the message you plan to leave, and then listen to it, imagining you were the prospect.
  8. Be persistent, but in the nicest possible way. This is the one I really struggle with. They say that it takes an average of 8 “touches” to make a sale. I’ve heard lots of buyers say they won’t even consider taking your call unless you’ve already tried at least 3 – 5 times to reach them. Even those who aren’t playing that game often need repeated attempts just because they are so busy. As Vanella put it, “When there’s fires, the first thing that goes out the window are vendor calls!”
  9. Make it super-easy to record what interactions staff have had with a prospect. If the data entry system is difficult or time consuming, it won’t happen, and then you’ll end up losing business because things fall through the cracks or sales calls get duplicated and make you look amateur.
  10. Don’t obsess over whether they have a budget. Yes, obviously at some point they will need to have money. But often they have no idea what they should be paying, and their budget is for a year’s worth of activities and not specifically allocated to your type of product or service. Even if they don’t have the budget right away, they may be open to letting you help them plan how they can make the case for it in the next budget cycle.

Being Good At Sales Takes Experience

Too often companies hire junior, inexperienced people and throw them into the line of fire with sales quotas to meet and little experience or training. That’s when bad things happen. When your company’s reputation gets tarnished by cold calling gone bad.

But there’s hope for those of us who think we’ll never be any good at making such calls. It does get better with practice and training.

“Being effective at cold calling isn’t either you’ve got it or you don’t,” says Vanella.

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