We’ve all been taught somewhere along the line that sales is a numbers game, particularly when it comes to dialing for dollars or cold calling. The premise is that if we make lots of calls, we’ll be able to get in front of enough decision makers to hit or exceed our quotas. And while this is true, there is another side of the equation that’s more important. It is not just about making a gazillion calls, hoping that a few will bear fruit. It is about making the right calls to the right people with the right message. Quality becomes more important than quantity. Even so, the sales process often starts with that first call.
Do you like cold calling? Most salespeople don’t. In fact, many people avoid or prematurely leave a sales career because the idea of cold calling is so distasteful. And many more salespeople fail in sales or never reach their true potential because they have never mastered cold calling.
While we’re on the subject, let’s clarify a few things before we continue. You may be thinking that you don’t cold call now and you don’t want to learn how to because that’s not the way you get your business. For example, you may prefer to get your business by referrals instead. We actually applaud and encourage that. However, mastering the skills to cold call will help you be more effective with warm calls as well. You still call people that have been referred to you, don’t you?
The skills and proper language of a good cold call will help you even when you’re meeting with a prospect face-to-face at a networking event or industry trade show. Also, the same process that helps you overcome your fear of cold calling will help you overcome other obstacles because when you strip it all down, being good at cold calling is all about your attitude, your preparation and your determination to be successful. So while you may not cold call in the traditional sense, pay attention if you want to improve your overall sales skills.
The first thing to understand about cold calling is its purpose. Many people misunderstand the purpose of cold calling and therefore they are disappointed with their results. When they get disappointed they quit calling.
The purpose of cold calling should be to determine interest from the prospect. If a prospect is interested, an appointment or sale might result, but it isn’t the reason you’re calling. The reason to make a call is to see if the person on the other end is open to further exploration.
Once you realize that cold calling is just an efficient and effective way to determine interest, it becomes much easier to pick up the phone. Your job simply becomes to call through your list and separate the calls into two groups – interested and not interested. Those who are interested will likely set an appointment and those who aren’t, won’t. That’s all there is to it.
Some of you, though, are still going to be a little hesitant to cold call. Let’s dig a little deeper and see why. Let’s start by looking at the act of cold calling in its simplest form. Cold calling is picking up the phone and calling someone you don’t know. Most of us don’t have any problem picking up and using a phone; in fact, we do it all day long. We’re also able to talk to people. So, the “stigma” of cold calling has nothing to do with the physical act of picking up, dialing or using the phone. It also doesn’t have anything to do with talking to someone.’
To begin understanding what prevents you from making cold calling an effective prospecting tool, we have to look at who is involved in the process and what their positions are. Let’s start with how buyers have changed and then look at how salespeople have not.
Buyers are more educated, more skeptical and busier than ever before. They have more information at their fingertips today. Buyers are savvier and better equipped to make decisions without the input of a salesperson.
Buyers are also skeptical. They’ve been harassed and harangued by manipulative salespeople in the past. They’ve seen all the tricks and gimmicks and they’ve had enough. They just want someone to be upfront and honest with them. Why should they expect you to be any different from the dozens of “really bad” salespeople that came before you?
Buyers are busy as well. Demands on their time are at an all-time high. They’re constantly being challenged to “do more with less.” Quite frankly, they don’t have time to waste, so they’re going to guard what precious time they have. Can you blame them? Listening to a salesperson is probably not high on their daily “to-do list.”
On the other hand, most salespeople have not changed with the times and still make two common mistakes; they “assume” and they “exert pressure.” Most salespeople assume that everyone they call in their target market has a need for their product or service. Most haven’t even bothered to define their Bull’s Eye Market. These salespeople try to bulldoze through their interactions with prospects with their assumption that if only their prospects understood and could be educated on what they have to offer, the prospects would want what they’re selling. The reality is that not everyone needs or wants your solution, even if what you’re offering is great. Your offerings are not going to be the right fit for every prospect’s situation.
In addition to assuming a need, most salespeople also exert pressure in the sales process. That means your enthusiasm and interest in moving the sales process forward often comes off as being overly aggressive or pushy. Haven’t you ever said “no” to a cold caller and been forced to listen to a list of reasons why you should reconsider your position? That is pressure. Remember, your goal should be to get to the truth; nothing more, nothing less.
There’s also another huge internal factor that prevents many salespeople from picking up the phone; discomfort, anxiety and fear. Discomfort centers on a fear of rejection, fear of failure or fear of the unknown. We’re afraid someone is going to be annoyed with us, be mean to us, or won’t respond in the way we want. So, you must recognize that your fear is self-imposed and is likely preventing you from taking action or causing you to be less confident when you do call.