How I make cold calls….
I’ve covered a few areas as they relate too cold calling listed below under: Mindset, Preparation, Strategy, Gate Keepers. These sort of complete the whole process and will make much more sense when you get the actual “script” that I use. After the “script” section I’ve covered a few more general areas relating to the stuff after a cold call like: Messages, Call Backs and How to handle not getting an appointment.
Mind set is so huge when cold calling. I get so frustrated every time I read a “Cold Calling is Dead” article. I honestly think these people simply don’t want to put in the work or unfortunately they’ve had a bad experience cold calling so they’ve ruined the party for everyone. Achieving the right perspective going into cold calling is so important. It will give you clarity and confidence. Part one of this cold calling post is about achieving the perspective going into cold calling. Read my other post on How to appreciate cold calling before moving on, it will make a big difference in how you absorb the rest of this post.
Preparation is the most underrated tool used in cold calling. It’s so simple and can save you so much time. Simply writing down the accounts and the phone numbers the evening prior or the morning of your calls can be a significant time saver. This will eliminate searching for phone numbers in between calls and therefore cutting down on distraction enormously. If you are searching for accounts and phone numbers in between calls you’re more likely to check email and waste time on the Internet. (And we all know when I say “Internet” I mean “Facebook.”) Cold calling needs to be continuous and fluid. Capitalizing on this momentum will make you smoother and less anxious as the calls progress
Cold calling is all about selling the meeting. Your goal should be to create enough value and curiosity that your prospect wants to meet with you. It’s as simple as that. It’s natural to want to say more and divulge more about your product or service. But resist at all costs unless asked to provide more. Trust me, sometimes I hang up my cell after a cold call with a meeting in hand and think, “that’s it?” But yes, that’s it!
Identifying the right person to call is also extremely important. This certainly varies based on your market and what you are selling, so do some research ahead of time and discover the key players. When I say, “key players” I mean the influential people within the business who can make decisions or move the sales process forward.
Being polite and sounding engaged when is a must when speaking to anyone on the phone and it’s no different when talking to the Gate Keeper. For those new to cold calling the “Gate Keeper” is the secretary or the receptionist responsible for taking the inbound calls. Influencing this person can be the difference in how much access you gain when calling your prospects.
Sometimes these Gate Keepers are worth getting to know, other times not so much. Eventually you’ll have to use your own judgment here. Some Gate Keepers can be a fountain of knowledge, ready to provide you with ample amounts of information that can help you during your sales process. They can also be a waste of time. Start simple and use this small script below:
Avoid asking if your prospect is “available.” For example:
“Hi. Is Dr. Jones available?”
This creates curiosity for the receptionist and you’ll likely get a return question like, “Who is this?” or “What is this in reference to?”
Stick with statements. Statements create authority. For example:
“Hello, please connect me with Dr. Jones.”
You’ll get very few return questions from receptionist with this type of verbiage and you’ll be connected to your prospect at a high rate. If you do get a return question like:
“What is the nature of the call?”
Be honest and direct here. Don’t give too much information away but don’t lie and don’t stammer. A receptionist can taste blood at this point so an inclusive or confusing response will get you sideways with them very quickly. At this point you need to influence the Gate Keeper and go through them, it’s too much work to go around them at this point. Just respond with the simple truth, like:
“I’m calling to set an appointment with Dr. Jones?”
If the Gate Keeper wants more information then she’ll ask for it. If not, you can leave more detail in the voicemail or in the message you leave with the Gate Keeper.
Below I’ve written out the script that I use for the company I work for. Obviously you’ll use your company information and put your own personal spin on things but I wanted you to see the structure. I’ve labeled each sentence with a number and explain why I use that specific phrasing and verbiage. It’s also extremely important to note that this is one fluid sentence. No stopping. No asking questions until the end. Just stick to the script. I explain why its crucial to not stop in section #2 under “Identify Yourself”.
Hi ________________ (1. Name Capture)
this is __________ with ___________________, (2. Identify yourself)
our company provides nutritional supplements for the long term care setting (3a. What are you about?)
You may know us from the Pro Source line of proteins (3b. Highlight familiarity)
I’m calling in reference to our more nursing oriented nutritional items. We cover areas
like Bowel Management and Wound Care (4. How does this relate to me?)
and we typically get some great outcomes while reducing cost and pharmacy interventions (5. What’s in it for them?)
I would love to share what we’ve done with other nursing homes in the area and certainly get your nursing feedback and perspective on things. I’ll be in the area next week, do you have any openings Tuesday or Wednesday around 10am? (6. Close it up)
1. Name Capture:
Even on a cold call, if you can find out your prospects first name it can make a big difference. Executing this is an easy way to build instant credibility because everyone responds to their name favorably. It can set your prospect at ease and I’ve also found that it actually makes me a little more comfortable saying their first name when I call. An easy way to do this without spending a lot of time is to simply ask the receptionist the name of your prospect before she transfers you.
2. Identify yourself:
In reality cold calling is an interruption. If someone called you out of the blue, you would want to know who is calling and where they’re from, right? So skip the pleasantries and get to business! Avoid little questions like, “How are you?” or “Have you heard of our company?” It’s natural to want to ask these because that’s how human interaction works but in a cold calling scenario it does not help your cause and only makes you feel better. These little questions direct attention away from you and shift your prospects mindset elsewhere. You need your prospect focused on you because they will soon need to make a decision to meet with you or not. These pleasantries also tend to make prospects defensive, by making them believe they are in for a very long phone call with someone they don’t know.
Your goal when cold calling is to secure a meeting based on the information you provide in a limited amount of time. So doing anything other than identifying yourself immediately reduces your chances of getting a meeting.
3a What are you about?
A brief synopsis of the services your company provides allows your prospect to quickly place you in some kind of context. For example:
“Our company manufactures drones and military aircraft.”
“We build software for restructuring payroll”
“We consult for home builders in the residential market”
Specifics are good but we are still on the first sentence of the call so we don’t want to overload with detail. This portion is really the first point of detailed engagement. It’s important to find the right amount of detail because this may be the spot where your prospect decides whether or not to continue their engagement.
3b. Highlight familiarity
This is an optional technique but if you feel your prospect is aware of your products or your standing in the market place I think it’s fine to mention why they might know you. Even if they don’t know your standing in the marketplace, it gives the impression you’ve done work that’s worth taking a meeting for.
4. How does this relate to me?
This is where you get specific about the services your companies offers or areas of coverage that are important to your prospect in relation to the position they hold in the company. Providing this type of information will let your prospect know this call is specifically targeted for them and it’s crucial for their continued engagement.
This action ties directly into your sales strategy. You can begin to tailor this section specific to your needs once you have identified your target and who you need to meet with. In my example above I’ve tailored this section to what is important to a Director of Nursing at a nursing home. So I made sure to stick with areas that would be of interest to someone in that position. (Bowel management, wound care etc).
5. What’s in it for them?
So far you’ve introduced yourself and your company. You’ve told them what your company does and highlighted areas that relate to them in their role. Now it’s time to give your prospect reasons to meet with you and identify areas where you can potentially help them. This section can vary greatly based on who your target prospect is but as long as you are focusing on the outcomes your company provides, you’ll be fine. However, these outcomes must relate to what your prospect needs or what they would potentially want to hear. Broad language about your company benefits will kill you here. The benefits you display at this moment need to be as targeted to your prospect as possible in order for them to invest their time to meet with you. In my example I focused on hot button issues I know Director’s of Nursing are always looking to improve like cost reduction, reducing pharmacy interventions and speeding recovery of illnesses.
If you are having trouble coming up with something specific for the person you are calling on, just put yourself in their shoes and think, “Does this person understand my issues?” “What’s in it for me?” “How can this person possibly help me?”
6. Close it up
You’ve made it! Finally we can ask for the meeting. And yes, just like the other sections there’s an art to this. Specific language here is more important than in any other section. We must remember that “sales” is something we do with someone not to someone, as the late Zig Zigler taught us. We want them to be a part of the process and we want to share with them what we’ve provided for other similar customers while taking their input as well….all while asking for the meeting. I like words like, “Share” “Perspective” and “Feedback”.
I leave messages every time someone doesn’t answer because you just never know if your prospect is actually looking for your service or product. I don’t do anything really special or different from my script. I try to be straight-forward and brief. Rambling messages will get deleted, so identify yourself, why you are calling and how you can help.
I’ve read other sales books that have specific “tricks” to get call-backs but most of them involve trickery and dishonesty. If you’re truly in sales to learn, grow, help and make money, then you’re playing the long game. And in the long game integrity, honesty and simplicity win out! Trickery and dishonesty will get you nowhere.
There is one tool I do use successfully but it only works if you follow up religiously on it. If I’ll be in the area on a specific day that week and I know I’ll show up to the company, I may do my normal message off the main script above and then end the message with:
“I’ll swing by @ 10am this coming Thursday, if you’re available maybe we can chat briefly and set something up in the future.”
This only works if you actually show up. If you don’t show up you put yourself at the risk of damaging your credibility. And there are not many things worse for a sales person than a bad reputation. If you are near by the account and you can show up briefly and do have the time to meet in the event your prospect does meet with you, it can be a fantastic tool. Things always seem to happen for people who consistently show up. I’ve been able to set countless appointments with prospects using this method and have taken several meetings because the prospect got my message and decided to make time for me! This is a low risk, high reward activity and should be adopted by every sales person who wants a high levels of success.
Not getting Call-Back?
Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t getting calls backs. There are so many variables at play:
-Did they get the message?
-Are they still in the position?
-They just didn’t get around to calling you back.
Try calling at different times in the day based on what you know about your prospects schedule. For example: I never call nursing employees in the morning because they are always in “morning meetings”.
Another classic example is calling senior level positions early in the morning prior to business hours or later in the day after business hours. The theory is that the people who hold these senior positions (CEO, COO, CFO) are often in the office very early and very late. During the day you’ll most likely get their secretary so these “off hour” times are a great way to connect directly to these types of prospects during a less busy time while by-passing the Gate Keeper at the same time! These examples are popular because they do actually work! I’ve tried them with Administrators, Hospital CEO’s and Doctor’s and have had success. The more you call the sooner you’ll start to figure out the patterns for your industry.
Remember that cold calling is a numbers game. Not getting call-backs is par for the course. Think of it this way, if you are getting as many call backs as calls you are making….YOU’RE NOT MAKING ENOUGH CALLS!
So you didn’t get the appointment….. Get something out of it!
Cold calling can also be an amazing way to attain information. If you get someone other than your prospect on the line you might ask questions that could benefit your strategy moving forward. Information is very valuable. Even if your prospect turns you down for a meeting, it’s still possible to glean some valuable information out of them. Below are some examples of where you can gain an edge by extracting information from your prospects.
- Maybe you can sell someone else within the organization.
- Maybe the person you thought made the buying decision is someone different.
- Maybe the person you are cold calling is leaving the position soon.
- Maybe your prospect has information about the industry that could benefit you.
- Maybe you can gather information on your competition that will help you the future.
- Maybe there are conflicts within the business you are calling on that make meeting soon difficult.
There’s no right or wrong way to go about this but I do know it can be uncomfortable to push and ask the additional questions to get the information. Push through that uncomfortable feeling and don’t assume that the person on the other line is annoyed. And if they are, who cares!? Your time is just as valuable as theirs! Try practicing a couple of the lines below. You’ll start to get the hang of them and then you can make them your own.
“I understand you’re not interested in meeting now. Just for future reference, can you give me an idea of your buying cycle?”
“Before I leave a message for the CEO, can you help me out real quick? I’m wondering who else you think might be important to meet with regarding my product or service?”
“Thanks for your help. Can you tell me what your company uses now for your services now?”
At the end of the day cold calling is just one piece of lead generation. It’s a shame that it’s been publicized as a negative tool. Please don’t buy into the hype and give it a try. But more than that, give it a try and stick with it. It’s time to take control of your lead generation!