Is Cold Calling Still an Effective Sales Technique?
Cold calling can still be an effective sales technique when it’s done the right way. Sadly, most salespeople don’t. I’ve had the unique opportunity to be on the giving and receiving end of thousands of cold calls over my career and I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. Here are some insights from my experiences and tips for improving your cold calling techniques.
Full Disclosure: I Hate Sales
Correction, I love sales but hate cold calling. Building relationships with clients and providing services which make a difference in their businesses are what I love most about what I do. Unfortunately, cold calling is a necessary evil when developing new business.
Why do I hate cold calling so much? I consider myself a very empathetic person, so how can I do unto others which I would not want done unto me? It seems like every time I get cold called, I end up wanting to spike my phone. You’re telling me I have to do this to other people to develop new business? Yuck.
Before starting my own company, I was a successful Account Executive at TV and radio stations in Northeast Ohio and Columbus. The irony is, I was successful despite struggling mightily with cold calling. I would procrastinate, hide, call in sick, whatever it took to avoid it. When I inevitably stopped sobbing, sucked it up and picked up the phone, I made damn well sure my effort was maximized. Therefore, I always had a plan to get the most sales for the least amount of calls. Here’s what you can do to increase the effectiveness of your cold calling…
• Build a master list: The idea is quality over quantity. Only target prospects who can benefit the most from what you’re selling.
• Build an even smaller Top Prospect list: these prospects are the blue-chip prospects that you know have the potential to be a great partnership. Needless to say, they get additional effort up front.
• Research EVERY prospect: Most salespeople won’t do this. As such, if you actually get to speak with a decision maker, your preparation will make a great impression.
• NO SCRIPTS: When you do your research, you don’t need a canned, one-size-fits-all script. By being prepared, you can have a real conversation about the prospect’s business and a thoughtful reason for contacting them. Scripted pitches scream, “my manager told me to make 100 calls today and you’re one of them.” This is not a good way to compel a prospect to hear what you have to say.
• Respect the prospect: Actually getting to talk to a decision maker is no small miracle. Don’t blow it by hammering this person with manipulative tactics and clever ways to overcome objections. You did your homework. Now show them you’re prepared, clearly and transparently articulate your motives and be respectful of the prospect’s time. Cold calling in The Wolf of Wall Street (Warning: Rated R) was entertaining to watch, but that brand of selling is what gives salespeople their atrocious reputations.
• Have a clear objective: What do you want out of the call? For me, it’s always to schedule a face-to-face meeting. The phone is no place to sell complex services.
If the prospect agrees to a meeting, make sure it stays that way. Send a follow-up email confirming the details of the appointment. If there is more than a week between the cold call and the meeting, send a confirmation by mail. Let’s face it, the more time goes by, the more likely it is that the prospect will back out. Proper follow up will help reassure the prospect that sitting down with you is not a waste of time.
While there might not be a cold calling strategy out there which makes it fun (at least for me), utilizing the strategy I outlined above will certainly increase sales and decrease frustration for all parties involved. Ultimately, effective cold calling depends on selecting the right prospects, being prepared and being respectful. Time to smile and dial!