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  • Writer's pictureCiaran McGuigan

7 Quick (and Easy) Ways to Improve Your Cold Calling

Reach for that snuggly knitted jumper and scarf because it's time to talk about cold calling!

It's no secret that cold calling is difficult. It takes a certain personality and skillset to do it successfully and most of the time you will probably feel like you are trying to chip away at an ice sculpture with a toothpick. But fear not, here are a few simple tips to help you avoid the frost bite...

1. Manage expectations and know your objective

Think of your first conversation with a prospect as the business equivalent of meeting someone you like the look of in a bar - they may not want to go home with you on a first date! You will probably need to have some drinks, make small talk, get to know each other a little bit get the idea.

It's estimated that it takes five touch points to get a prospect to trust you enough to close the deal, that could include phone calls, emails, engagement on social media, meetings etc. Take your time and don't pressure people before they're ready.

Use the first call as an opportunity to introduce yourself, find out more about them, their challenges, and get permission to leave the door open for future contact (another call, an email, or maybe a Linkedin connection.) Focus on gathering information and building trust, and remember, now they know who you are, the next time you dial them it won't be a cold call!

2. Work smarter, not harder

Rather than just dialling constantly until your fingers go numb, take a minute to think about how you can work smarter. For example, if you already have a sales meeting booked at XYZ Company on 123 Street, why not call up the businesses that are in the same office block or on the same street? Mention that you are popping into to see Bob Smith at XYZ Company and ask if you can pop in and introduce yourself to them while you are in the area.

The fact that you are already meeting with one of their neighbours may generate an element of trust and you'd be surprised how many of them will agree to meet with you on this basis alone.

3. Know your prospect

This is really important. Ideally you will need to know who you're calling, i.e. their full name and job role. Utilise Linkedin and Google searches for information. It also pays to do a little bit of research into the company and what the person's role entails. This will give you a clearer indication of exactly what their challenges and priorities are likely to be.

Here is a simplistic example: a Financial Controller's priorities are likely to lie in number crunching, statistics, figures, cost cutting. Whereas someone who works in a division of Human Resources is going to be more focused on the 'people' side of things, attracting good staff and retaining them. These may seem like generalisations, but this sort of knowledge will guide the direction to steer your pitch in.

Not only that, but by doing a bit of research you can capture some great details about who the prospect is as a person, what they care about, what their professional goals are and target your pitch accordingly. Remember, people do business with people they like, and if you can find some common ground to use as an ice breaker, use it!

4. Ask Questions

Don't go barrelling in with your sales pitch before asking questions and taking the time to understand your prospect's needs.

Ask them open questions (who/what/when/where/how), to find out what their problems are, what they want to improve, what tasks take up most of their time etc. Let them do most of the talking so that you can pinpoint where your business, product, or service may fit with what they are looking for. This will put you in a much stronger position to pitch once you know where their key challenges lie.

And bear in mind, despite what a lot of over-confident sales reps (the ones that insist, 'I can sell ice to the eskimos!'), your product or service may simply not be suited to someone and that's fine.

For example, you may be the owner of a sausage company, you are convinced they are the most delicious sausages in the country...and that may well be true! However, no amount of charm or persuasion is going to work if you are pitching your product to a life-long vegetarian.

Hear them out and if it's genuinely not a fit then be polite, thank them for their time and move on.

5. Listen

Probably even more important than the last point, listen! There's little point in asking questions if you do not respond accordingly or just reply with the customary 'yeah' 'sure', 'that's great' and then start talking about yourself, your business, or how great your product is.

People want to be heard and the best way to let them know that you have listened to what they have to say is to prove it. Repeat what they've said back to them in a different way, or reiterate the point they have made by adding your own to it. Then ask them to agree with you.

Simple example:

Prospect: 'My biggest pain point is that I just don't have the time to do everything that I need to get done during the day.'

You: 'Yeah, how annoying! Well let me send you an email to look at our software and you can see how fantastic it is and why you should buy it'

A better response may be:

Prospect: 'My biggest pain point is that I just don't have the time to do everything I need to get done during the day.'

You: 'I understand, how frustrating! So ultimately you would like a solution that will take away some of the time-consuming, manual element of your job so that you can focus on other tasks...and maybe even have time for a lunch break too! Have I got that right, Sandra?'

They are almost guaranteed to respond with yes and this will reinforce in their mind that you have heard them out and that you are both on the same page before moving forward. It also reminds them that you are human, rather than a robotic selling machine and that you can empathise and relate to their problems.

6. Get them to say 'Yes'

Get the prospect to say 'yes' as much as possible, this reinforces a positive opening to the conversation and subtly lowers their default defences to a ‘cold call’.

This can be as simple as asking them questions to which you already know the answer is yes. For example: 'am I speaking with Julie Smith?', or 'Julie, I believe you're the Finance Manager, is that correct?' or 'your offices are on Pitt Street, if I'm not mistaken?' Once they have said ‘yes’ several times, this subconsciously puts them in a more positive mind set and less likely to be defensive later in the call.

Not only that, getting the prospect to answer 'yes' to your questions also gets them engaging in the conversation early on. Next time you make a cold call, time how long it takes from the second that they answer the phone 'Hello, this is Julie speaking' until you actually give them a chance to speak again. You may be so focused on telling them who you are, where you're calling from, the reason for the call, and your pitch, that it may be a good minute or two before they are given a chance to respond to you.

My rule of thumb is to get them to respond with 'yes' to something (anything!) within 7 seconds of speaking. Remember, it's a two-way conversation, so get them engaging with you as soon as possible!

Give it a try, next time you are cold calling, aim to get them to say 'yes' three times before getting through your pitch and see the difference in the way that they respond to you. The questions can be easy and simple, use the ones above for ideas.

7. Accept Rejection

Did you know that J K Rowling's manuscript of the first Harry Potter book was rejected 12 times by different publishing houses before finally being picked up. Now (at the time of writing this) the Harry Potter franchise is estimated to be worth around $25 billion. Moral of the story - rejection isn't always a reflection on you or how good your product/service is. Keep going and eventually it will pay off!

Being told 'no' is part of the job and it's going to make up the vast amount of calls that you make. The old fairy-tale phrase that 'you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince/princess' ring very true for sales calls, but eventually you will find one that is a perfect match.

The most important thing is to not take it personally or let it discourage you, especially if the prospect is rude or hangs up on you. Maybe you caught them at a bad time, maybe they've had a stressful day, or the timing was off (perhaps they had just received three cold calls prior to yours from people selling a similar product). Don't let bother you, shake it off and move on to the next call with a smile on your face.

Hopefully these tips have defrosted some of your worries about cold calling! Good luck with your prospecting, let us know how you get on and share your favourite cold calling tips with us in the comments below.

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