Whether you are a seasoned Account Executive or a Sales Development Rep just starting out, deciding on cold calling is a bold choice.
The fear of rejection is so strong that many salespeople choose to not develop this as a skill at all.
This can lead to many asking does cold calling still work?
Cold calling does work. It just takes time to perfect the skill. At the core, it is the strategy that matters. The amount of success you get from cold calling can vary depending on the tonality you use, the quality of leads and your skill level.
Many companies rely on cold calling for their business. It is one of the least expensive way to generate sales. And because of this cold calling is certainly still used.
It’s a skill you should have in your repertoire, but not solely rely on.
Let’s look at some strategies that determine the hit rate of cold calling and how you can start seeing more success with this strategy.
The State of Cold Calling
The truth is that most salespeople hate cold calling as much as potential customers do. Nobody likes to get hung up on or yelled at.
However, being a salesperson, you have to have thick skin. If you are unable to handle the word “no,” then you are in the wrong business.
A recent study done at the Keller Research Centre from Baylor University found that only one percent of cold calls become sales opportunities. But another study, done by Forrester Research learned that those who used social selling were 66% more likely to get that sale.
Social selling being the act of using social media channels to provide a means of generating new business.
The thing is, when you’re starting out in a start-up or you are working in an outbound sales team, social selling is just not an option due to it’s high cost.
Not the mention, those stats don’t mean that cold calling is ineffective.
In fact, with cold calling, the percentages may be off because 1 call can take 10 seconds before the prospect says no – and this would be deemed an unsuccessful call.
So, the percentages are influenced by the sheer number of cold calls that are being made, compared to social selling channels which don’t take into account unsuccessful encounters.
This points to a key problem with cold calling, and this is that people often don’t know their ideal buyer persona.
They are calling people who would have never been interested! No matter how good the pitch!
Cold calling can be more personable than social sharing.
With a phone call, you can use your personality and tone of voice to represent yourself in a more friendly manner than with a social media ad campaign.
Let’s look closer at diagnosing your ideal buyer persona.
Do you Know your Ideal Buyer Persona?
For the buyer persona, some of the information you should use to determine if the prospect is a good fit includes:
- Where they live and what they do for a living.
- Educational background.
- Their title and job role.
- Their income.
- The amount of website traffic.
- Their level of seniority at the company.
- Size of company by employee number or locations.
- Particular pain points or goals that your solution typically solves.
At the end of the day it really depends on what solution you are selling, but these kind of questions and information need to be briefly known before you choose to call the prospect.
Position yourself As An Expert
For cold calling to work, you need to frame yourself as someone who is worth listening to.
After all, if someone randomly called you unannounced are you going to listen to them because they sound nice? No, of course not!
Remember they do not really know you and they are unlikely to want to share personal details about their day or what they are currently doing.
Keep the conversation strictly about their business.
They will give you time if you are perceived as an expert, because at that point you sound like someone who can help their situation.
We have been conditioned from an early age to identify what an expert sounds like, and since cold calling ONLY includes the sense of hearing – what you say and how you say it will have a weighted impact in your success
Where many people go wrong is not executing the call with the correct tonality.
Are you trying to sound as friendly as possible on the phone whilst cold calling?
This is the wrong thing to do!
When being too friendly the prospect automatically has their guard up because they can sense you are trying to get something from them.
Instead, it’s important to use a fluctuating tonal pattern to begin with to capture attention. Then use what is called the ‘Neutral Tonality’ for the remainder of the call.
The ‘Neutral Tonality’ is one where we can influence, learn more about using it here.
In terms of what you say it’s important to have the right line of questioning whereby you are understanding the challenges the prospect is facing, whilst positioning your value propositions against their situation.
When done correctly your position yourself as an expert. This is when people are happy to offer you 5 minutes of their time.
The conversation turns from an up hill battle, to a place where they are genuinely listening to what you have to say.
You Need to Know Your Product
This is difficult for those who are just starting out, but it is essential to know what you are trying to sell. Learn as much as you can about the item or service you are selling because they are going to ask questions.
And the worst thing you can do is to admit that you don’t know the answer or tell them to hang on so you can go ask someone.
Nobody wants to buy something from you if you have no idea what it is you are selling.
Be ready to answer anything they may ask. If you are selling insurance, do your homework as if you were the one buying the solution.
Think of all the questions you would ask before buying and get the answers before making that first phone call.
Are their competitors or well known businesses currently using your product? Be sure to include them if so to raise the credibility of your offering.
They are more likely to ask you about the benefits, rather than specific features so keep the conversation within this frame.
Here are some other questions the consumer may ask you:
- Does your solution integrate with ‘XYZ’?
- How does it work on… ?
- Is there a warranty or guarantee?
- Can it be returned?
- What is the implementation time?
- What are the starting costs?
- Do you have payment plans?
- What businesses do you work with in my industry?
Make Use of a Script
For some salespeople using a script feels unnatural. They feel very robotic, and it comes across evidently in the way they conversate on the phone.
This may be true, but the key point of leveraging a script is that you don’t follow it to a tee. You simply use it as a guide.
Many people think that if a conversation deviates from the script, then they can’t go down the path the prospect is taking them, and such will force a conversation that doesn’t feel right.
This is the wrong approach!
When using a script highlight:
– Your opening.
A strong opening will establish yourself as someone worth giving 5-10 minutes of time.
– 3 pain points / 3 benefits your solution alleviates for your typical target persona.
Used to hook the attention of the prospect.
– Questions you will ask the prospect to learn about their situation.
With the correct line of questioning you will be able to diagnose the situation of the prospect like an expert
– Closing out the call with a next step.
Helps to safeguard the chances of securing the next step of the sales process.
Challenges and benefits are used in a cold call to hook the attention of the prospect.
If you know what will be most relevant to the person you’re going to call you can be sure to include it in your script. The point is the script is never the same every time.
There are key elements that need to be said consistency, but to achieve success you need to be able to flow where the conversation goes.
Don’t Always Sell on the First Call
Even though your goal is to sell, you do not have to sell on the first call.
Be persistent. It can often take six to eight calls before someone answers. And once they do answer, do not be too pushy. Build a relationship with the person you are calling on the first call so the next time you call, it will not be a cold call.
It may sound counterproductive, but sometimes you should not even try to sell on the first call. Make that be the “welcome” call so the next one will be a callback and not a cold call.
This strategy is something you need to assess based on the prospect’s response.
If they seem really busy, or can’t make a decision then and there, be sure to stop using your script and just have a 20 second conversation.
In doing so, you build the relationship a little bit more and this means the prospect associates a positive call with you next time you call.
You and the customer will both feel more comfortable the second time around because you feel like you know each other more – and that this stage they may be in a better position to hear your solution.
Try to get a feel for whether they are just trying to get rid of you or if they really want you to call back.
It’s important to not always sell initially.
You may have to span your approach across multiple calls, with every call build the relationship a little more.
Eventually you’ll get to the point where you can sell your proposition with no push back and progress the deal through the sales process.
Active Listening is Key
It is important to be a good listener as well. You cannot just start talking and try to get your whole spiel out before you let them say a word.
Doing this will likely leave you with an empty phone line when you are done talking. Introduce yourself and say why you are calling.
Be aware you have a script outline to follow, but do not let your script take over.
The key is the ask the right questions and be attentively listening to the answers of your prospect.
You are looking to hear for problems, challenges, or pain points they are currently experiencing.
Never rush the person or try to get them to answer if they are not sure. You can lose the sale quickly if you are inconsiderate or come across too pushy.
Be sure to repeat back their answers so they know you are listening to their situation. This is a great way to build rapport.
At the core, active listening is critical because it shows you aren’t just selling a product they don’t need. You are listening to their situation and tailoring your message against the information you have got from them.
This takes the dynamic to a place of consultative selling, rather than pressure selling.
Optimise the Time You Call
Calling at the right time will drastically improve the overall success of cold calling as a method of generating new business.
The idea is to call when people are not busy in meetings, or already pre-occupied with work.
The recommend days to call is between Tuesday and Fridays, avoiding Mondays as people tend to be busy catching up with tasks from the previous week.
The best time of day to call tends to be from 8 AM to 9 AM and from 4 PM to 5 PM. However, this can vary depending on your target calls. Make note of any time differences so you can call them at the right time.
If you end up calling when someone is busy be sure to make the conversation brief and ask for another time to call at the convenience of the prospect.
It may take up to 6 times before you have success. Remember to maintain a positive engagement and be empathetic to the person you are calling.
Evaluate With a Data Driven Approach
If your cold calling strategy is not working, or even if it is, you must evaluate the results you’re getting.
That way you can double down on what is effective and remove what is not.
Some of the areas you should be analysing include:
- Is your prospect list fitting your ideal buyer persona?
- Are you using the correct tonality?
- Are you calling at the optimum time?
- What pain points/benefits are resonating throughout conversations?
- Are you getting through to the prospect, or stopped by gatekeepers?
Summary of Do’s, and Don’ts
Here are Things you Should Do
- You must identify yourself and the company you are calling from.
- Use the correct tonality to attract attention.
- Position yourself as an expert.
- Be helpful and curious in whatever they are saying.
- Keep it brief, but use a tailored messaged for the prospect.
- Do some research on the prospect beforehand.
- Prioritise active listening, over strictly selling.
- Book in a follow up call at the convenience of the prospect.
Here are Things you Don’t Want To Do
- Sell multiple value propositions of your solution on the first initial call.
- Interrogate the prospect with multiple questions before building their trust.
- Talk about price too early in the conversation.
- Pressure them into taking another call with you.
- Crumble if they ask to send an email.
How to Warm Up Your Cold Calling
Calling a prospect without having any prior understanding of who you are, what your solution provides, or who your company is, can make cold calling success much harder.
There are ways by which you can warm up the prospect before going directly for the call.
Send an email or video to your prospect. This will give them an indication of who you are and can help the conversation get to the productive aspects faster.
Adding a visual element to your email communication can really help the prospect understand your product offering.
What should you include in the email, or video email?
- A clear value add specific for their business – Make it clear why they should spend time learning about your solution. Don’t just send a generic email that could apply to 1000 different prospects.
- Keep it brief – People don’t have a lot of time throughout the day so keep the message brief. That way, if you do open your email they can clearly see your proposition; less is more!
- Add a visual element to explain the concept – Some people are visual learners so take a screenshot of client results, or if you’re a designer show them a concept that could help their situation.
- Showcase a case study, or similar clients – This builds credibility in your offering and can help cut through all the competitors who are also reaching out to them.
- Let them know you may call – Close the email with a CTA stating you may give them a call to discuss further, that way it’s not a shock when you do.