What am I doing writing about cold calling tips in 2021 you may ask because if you believe what many sales and marketing gurus are telling you, cold calling is dead?
They argue that cold calling is inefficient, intrusive, and not sustainable because the way we buy things has fundamentally changed…but I beg to differ and in this article, I will talk about the reasons why cold calling is far from dead and it’s a strategy that every salesperson should employ, especially if you are a beginner and just starting out in your sales career.
If you are just beginning or are a seasoned cold-calling professional, then this article will definitely help you and to give you an insight into my cold-calling strategy, here is what to expect if you are a recipient of a cold call from me or someone I have trained:
- I will introduce myself and my company.
- I will state the purpose of the call and explain the outcome for you with regard to my product and/or service.
- I will make it easy for you to say “no.”
- I will offer you the opportunity to receive further information if you are interested.
It’s a far cry from the outdated, outmoded sales techniques which in my opinion, amount to nothing more than a verbal wrestling match with a customer, largely driven by the ego of the salesperson and starting with an aggressive cold call and ending with a hard “close” where you might just as well throw your customer to the ground and armlock them until they submit!
And my strategy has worked for nearly forty years and can easily be combined with other marketing techniques.
Cold calling falls into the category of outbound marketing and marketing gurus today will talk endlessly about creating inbound marketing strategies to draw potential customers to you in the hope of generating warm sales leads.
The way we buy has definitely changed and thanks to the Internet — we can now be far more informed before making a decision to hand over our hard-earned cash, simply because we have access to a ton of information.
Salespeople were, in a sense, a gateway to knowledge in the pre-Internet days, and customers would come to rely on them when it came to making the final purchasing decision.
Real selling is about influencing buying decisions and not using sleazy, unethical tactics to simply get your customer to sign on the dotted line, and unfortunately, there are many salespeople who still employ these tactics which in some cases, starts with an aggressive cold calling campaign.
If the customer is on the receiving end of an aggressive cold calling campaign, then, in my opinion, the chances of a successful outcome for the entire sales process are slim.
I am in no way suggesting that you should abandon your inbound marketing efforts in favor of cold calling — you need to use every available tool to succeed in today’s volatile competitive and uncertain economy and as you will hopefully see, cold calling done the right way is an extremely powerful sales and business development tool.
In this article, I am going to talk about telephone cold calling and it is aimed at the beginner, or someone who is just starting out on their sales career — you can easily adapt the process if you are going to make face-to-face cold calls.
“Sales Training: The Ultimate Guide To Help You Become A Key Influencer.”
Cold calling is defined as making an unsolicited approach to someone in an attempt to sell goods and/or services.
The technique has been around since the 1900s and it is still in use today.
As a coach and mentor, I often meet some serious resistance from people when I talk about the benefits of cold calling and I believe it is a generation thing — when I started out in sales, there were no Internet, social media, and no means of reaching someone in business unless:
- They responded to an advertising or direct mail campaign.
- They were recommended to call you or you were recommended to call them.
- You met them at a pre-planned event, or by chance.
- You picked up the phone or turned up at their office and contacted them.
Life was pretty simple in those days, at least from a sales perspective, and as a salesperson, you had no other choices if you wished to hit your targets and remain in your job.
Starting a business was also a much more difficult process and it was far more costly than today.
Today’s entrepreneurs can start a business from home and with technology that was unheard of compared to when I got started and if you are a salesperson, that is just starting out, you will have a multitude of lead generation options available to you that doesn’t have to involve the nerve-wrenching activity of calling a complete stranger, so why do it?
The main reason is that you have the chance of completing the entire sales process in one simple phone call.
If you are selling wine, for example, you can pick up the phone, call a prospect and get a sale.
That’s exactly what happened to me a couple of years ago and you can read about it in this article:
“The Fastest Way To Generate Business,” which is a much shorter article on the subject of cold calling that I wrote.
How I Started Cold Calling
I started my sales career by cold calling in the evenings, trying to gain leads for home improvements — I was trying to earn money while I was at college and the money was good.
The process involved walking up and down streets in the UK disturbing homeowners who were enjoying their evening meals, or watching the latest episode of their favorite soap operas asking them if they had any interest in receiving quotes for home improvements.
The responses ranged from a simple “yes,” to having the door slammed in my face and being told firmly to “go away,” and I am being very polite here with the words.!
But the process worked and I was good at it, generating way over the required minimum number of leads, and also having a good lead-to-sale conversion ratio.
The experience shaped my entire sales career, which saw me progress from selling door-to-door to selling into the boardrooms of some of the world’s leading companies — it gave me a tremendous amount of confidence and helped me to develop a skin thicker than a rhino, which is why I recommend the same process for beginners, as well as getting experienced salespeople who have lost their way, back on track.
Business to business
When I eventually left the world of door-to-door selling and entered the commercial world, I found it so much easier because from having to knock on doors in all weathers, I now simply had to pick up the phone and call from the comfort of my own desk, in a nice warm office and surrounded by others doing the same.
Sure, I got the phone slammed down on me, plus a few choice words from people who were not impressed with my efforts to interrupt their day, but nowhere near as many as I had when I was physically knocking on doors.
I was great at putting things into perspective — although having the door slammed in my face and the phone being put down on me were unpleasant experiences, they were hardly life-threatening over the course of, say, a day, or a week, they were far less than the successful calls that led to successful outcomes.
If you are worried about the negative aspects of cold calling, then get over it!
Cold Calling Advantages
The main advantage that I found concerning cold calling throughout my business career was that I could target specific, key executive leaders who I knew had specific customer problems and challenges that needed solving.
I also knew that they were incredibly time-starved and in today’s world, would not spend too much time on social media.
Cold calling gave me the chance to get to them directly and with a short, sharp message that showed my understanding of their business, their job role, and all the challenges that came with it.
I also used to target their executive assistants so as not to disturb their valuable time and also to involve the assistant in the process and gain valuable feedback with regard to my proposition.
So in a sense, the only “cold” part of the call was to the executive assistant and I simply contacted them to ask for help and their opinion as to what they thought their boss would think about my proposal.
I always contact prospects at the highest level — the ones with the real-time problems and who can make decisions, just as you should as well.
Don’t waste your time calling prospects who will only have to refer upwards in their organizations to get a decision and don’t leave your fate in the hands of an intermediary.
The Human Touch
Inbound and other outbound marketing are powerful activities that should be employed by everyone in sales or business.
You are creating content that will allow customers to find you and if you have done the right research on your target audience, your content will be specifically targeted to their business, the specific problems, and challenges they face.
It allows the customer to react and to choose how and when they engage with you…but that is also a potential problem.
Marketing campaigns, no matter how good they are still require your prospect to take action, so in a sense, it is reactive.
It’s the same with cold calling by the way because after you introduce yourself and state your purpose, you will then wait for a reaction…but you have far more chance of being able to influence that reaction because the interaction is occurring in real-time.
A cold call is an interaction with a prospect…and a human one, which is rare these days.
The other problem of inbound and some outbound marketing techniques is that if your message is not specifically tailored to your target prospect or audience, you will run the risk of simply pushing your customer to do more research and that means lining up more competitors.
I’ve seen many marketing strategies that produce beautifully crafted emails, landing pages, videos, and automated funnels that simply do not give the right message to the target customer, based on the right research and addressing the right problems.
A well-researched cold calling campaign will create an immediate, actionable process that will give near-instant results and valuable feedback.
So the best solution would be to launch a well-researched inbound marketing campaign and support it with cold calling to provide the “human touch” in a world of increasing automation.
And that is exactly my prescription.
The key here is research and you have to make sure you know your industry, your target audience, and the problems and challenges that they are facing…and they are likely to face in the future.
One more thing…please make sure you are passionate about what you are selling as it makes life a lot easier and it greatly enhances your chances of success.
Take a look at the link to the sales influencer article to get more information on this.
Cold Calling Essentials
Before you even contemplate picking up the phone, it is essential that you have covered the bases, so to speak, and build a framework that will prepare you for the experience and give you the best chances of success.
I am cold call regularly and I always take the calls — I know how difficult the job is and every salesperson has to start somewhere.
But I am amazed at how unprepared the callers are, how they blast straight into a sales pitch, and more importantly, continue to try to pressure me to stay on the phone when I am clearly not interested.
I am all about getting the fundamentals correct before moving down into the detail — it is vital, especially as a beginner, that you learn good habits fast as they will pay you dividends for a long time in the future.
It’s a lot easier to call a complete stranger if you are at the very least, passionate about what you do.
When I started cold calling in the business world, I absolutely hated what I did, but I needed a job. Learning all about office equipment and the benefits to my target customers did little to excite me and even walking the streets selling home improvements came out on top by comparison.
Later, when I found the recruitment and staffing industry, I found my dream job and cold calling was easy…and enjoyable.
Do Your Research
You simply cannot conduct enough research about your industry — learn as much as you can, which can seem like overkill for cold calling, but I am guessing you want to progress from it and into a full-blown sales career.
Information is one thing…knowledge is power and intelligence takes it to a new level…profitability.
The more you understand about your potential customers, the better. You need to be able to have meaningful conversations and to express your opinions, as well as knowing your own product inside out.
This is the difference between a productive call (cold or otherwise) and simply burning oxygen over the phone.
When I cold-called some of the world’s leading tech companies about recruitment, I knew everything about them and had identified the key problems and challenges they faced.
My calls were intently focussed and I got straight to the point as to how my services could help them…and I was passionate about the industry and what my company provided, which made it so much easier.
The right research may also give you the opportunity to tell your prospect something that they don’t know, which makes you more valuable as long as it’s in context of course!
Understand What You Are Selling
Although the objective of a cold call is to generate further interest and maybe an appointment for a more experienced salesperson, the more you understand, the better.
When I was cold calling, I knew enough about the product to be able to sell it, which made sure the lead was far more qualified for the salesperson when they attended the sales call.
This not only made the salesperson happy to work my appointments, but it accelerated my sales career.
Here’s a tip — don’t obsess about the features and benefits of your product, you must focus on the outcome for the prospect or buyer.
If for example, you are trying to arrange appointments for a new software product, you can reel out all of the features of what it does, the benefits to the user…but what the customer is really buying is the fact that you are speeding up the process of something they already do (as the software will probably serve to automate an existing function), improve the efficiency and accuracy of the process and reduce the cost of doing so.
It’s a lot easier to open up with the outcome and then work back through the features and benefits as the customer has additional questions, plus it’s a lot harder to say “no” to the outcome that I’ve just listed above.
Prepare a call list
You have to be prepared when it comes down to cold calling and that means dedicating time and having a list of prospects to call.
Your research should have given you the basis for this list and I always liked to write a call sheet down on paper and then check off each person as I got through to them — I also took brief notes which was added into the system later and never while I was on the phone.
The golden rule of a cold call from my perspective is to make sure you introduce yourself and your company, state the purpose of your call clearly and explain the outcome of what your product and/or service will do for your prospect.
At the end of the call, you should also offer your prospect the chance to receive further information, just so you can keep in touch because you never know!
By all means, write down a few prompts about what you are going to say, but please do not script your call.
Nothing sounds more unnatural than a scripted call and when you are de-railed from the script, it wreaks havoc on the process.
You need to keep the process as natural as possible and I used to practice the structure of my call in relation to me meeting someone in a bar who simply asked the question “what do you do?”
Now, I am in a reactive situation here because I was asked a question, but it is easy to put a couple of opening sentences together to open a conversation.
I would play around with different examples, but I always made sure to anchor the entire call around the outcome of what the prospect would enjoy from what I was selling…plus I would always begin my conversation with an introduction and a purpose.
You have to get creative.
Give Your Prospect the Chance to Say “No”
One of the easiest ways to get a “yes” is to give your prospect the chance to say “no.”
Let’s say you are walking down the street and you see a frail, half-starved dog and you take pity on them by trying to offer them some food.
As you walk over with the best intentions the dog backs away, but you pursue them into a position where they are backed into a corner or fence and then lashes out and bites you!
You have only aroused the natural survival instincts within the dog and now let’s say you took the approach of walking slowly toward the dog and just allowing them to smell the food, which you place down and then walk away.
You have given the dog the opportunity to refuse or take food and you may find that you have that dog as a friend for life.
People have instincts and don’t like to be forced, strong-armed, or coerced in any way — think about that when you are offering those “too good to be true” deals and those discounts that have been added on to the original price before being miraculously taken away.
If you work for a company that operates in this way, then find another one!
Respect Time and Get Off The Phone
Nothing is more irritating than having someone not respecting your time.
I used to be in business with a guy who was always late for appointments — business and social, simply because in his own words, “I hate to be kept waiting.”
Being late is one thing because it clearly shows you have little respect for the time of the person you are keeping waiting, but taking up too much time, especially when time is precious, is just as bad.
When you are making a cold call and you have finished your process and got the result, whatever that may be, get off the phone and give the person back their time.
Cold calling is far from dead.
The success of cold calling is determined by how you do it and it should be run in conjunction with inbound and other outbound marketing campaigns.
Make sure you are passionate about what you are selling.
Be natural and be yourself…because you cannot be anyone else.
Research your industry, your market, and your customers so that you can have meaningful conversations and not only understand and address the problems and challenges of today, but also what they are likely to be in the future.
Make sure you clearly introduce yourself and state the purpose of your call.
Be upfront, honest and explain what you are offering and be sure to let the customer give an answer.
Give your prospect the chance to say “no” — it’s the best way to get a “yes!”
Be respectful of your prospect’s time and never waste it.
Once you have determined the outcome, then get off the phone.
Now get dialing!
Last modified: April 2, 2021