Sales Advice: How to Improve Cold Calling
For many business-to-business salespeople, cold calling is the one of the toughest aspects of the job. When executed well, cold calling can be fruitful in terms of gaining new clients and closing sales. When done poorly, however, cold calling can be frustrating and awkward for both the salesperson and the prospect. Cold calling takes a little gumption, a little knowhow, and a whole lot of practice to get it right.
Whether sales calls are made in person or by phone, some simple tips can help improve cold calling techniques and make the process easier. Here are five cold calling tips to keep in mind the next time you walk through that door or pick up the phone.
In an attempt to persuade your prospect that it is worth their time to speak with you, it can be tempting to focus the conversation on who you are, what your business does, and the value that your product offers.
It’s not only off-putting to launch directly into a sales pitch, but it’s also an approach that sets you up for failure. Instead of blindly pitching and hoping you’ll make a good impression, you’ll be in a much better position if you gather information first and earn trust before presenting a pitch that’s of any real value to your prospect.
Pre-planning before your sales call is so important. Do your research and learn all you can about the company. Who are their customers? What are some potential pain points in the industry or specific market they cater to? In general, sales is a highly personalized process, so the more prospect-specific preparation you do in advance of your sales call, the more successful it will be.
Prepare questions that will elicit as much valuable information as possible and organize them so that there’s a logical flow that narrows in focus from general inquiries to more specific questions about your prospect’s business. And try to anticipate common conversation-ending responses and give yourself some options for navigating choppy waters.
For example, what do you do when the prospect says, “Just send me your information”? Now, this is almost always the polite way of saying “I am not interested in a sales pitch right now and I want the conversation to end,” but there are some easy follow-up questions you can ask that can either keep the conversation going or, at minimum, ensure that the information you send to the prospect is as personalized and valuable to them as possible.
It will take some finesse to know just how much further you can take the conversation, but start by responding to their request with: “Yes, of course. Can I have your email?” Once you have their contact information, say something along the lines of: “I want to make sure that I send you the most relevant information. Can you tell me if you’re more interested in X or Y?”
The experts at Close, an inside sales CRM company, point out that this easy follow-up question is one that most prospects will answer, but it is “powerful because it will cause them to lower their guard, thereby shifting the conversation’s momentum.” Trust your instincts and carefully ask more follow-up questions if it feels appropriate, or end the conversation by thanking them for their time and provide the information they’ve requested.
Even when the conversation is going well, tread very carefully when it comes to pushing for a sale. Depending on the product or service you are selling, it may be fine to switch from interview to sales pitch, but if there’s greater benefit in earning long-term trust and building a strong relationship, it is best to focus your initial efforts on gathering important information and establishing yourself as someone who is knowledgeable and genuinely interested in your prospect’s opinions, pain points, and ultimately what they need to make their business better and more successful.
This is where planning out the sequence of your questions is important. Ultimately, uncovering exactly what your prospect needs in order to buy your product or service is what you need so that your future sales pitch will be appropriate and convincing.
According to recent research by ValueSelling Associates, Inc., 48% of business-to-business salespeople are afraid of making cold calls. Weldon Long, author of Consistency Selling, suggests there are two main reasons for this: salespeople are 1) afraid of failure and they are 2) afraid of sounding like a salesperson.
When it comes to reason number one, it’s mainly a matter of practice makes perfect. But when it comes to reason number two, Long suggests that “overcoming the fear of sounding like a salesperson is a simple matter of accepting that you actually are a sales professional… Mechanics sound like mechanics. Programmers sound like programmers. And salespeople sound like salespeople.”
Salespeople get a bad rap sometimes, but the reality is that they provide a highly valuable service. They help make their companies profitable and they help other businesses improve processes and performance. So, be confident when you pick up that phone or walk through that door! You are a sales professional and the service you provide is valuable.
Cold calling is a skill that takes practice to perfect. These tips are a good starting point to help take the chill out of your next cold call!