Monday, November 21, 2011

Prospecting & Cold Calling Advice

At the Erie Sales Club Workshop on Nov. 9, our group discussed Prospecting & Overcoming the Fear of Cold Calling. The attendees exchanged tons of good information. Here are some highlights and comments from that discussion that we hope you'll find helpful:

1. What are the reasons you hear why salespeople fear cold calling?

- Fear of rejection
- Don't want to appear "salesy" or pushy
- Believe they will eventually be more effective if they could just arrange a convenient meeting some other way (email, face-to-face, etc.)
- They're more comfortable maintaining current customers
- They feel like they're interrupting someone else and infringing upon their time

2. Many sales “experts” say don’t cold call. What do you say to those who say you shouldn’t cold call?

- Depends on what your definition of "cold" is. If it's "call someone who doesn't know you and bother them," then you shouldn't cold call. If it's "calling on someone we believe we can help, but we don't have a relationship with yet" -- then I'd defend that to the death. Why wouldn't you want to do that?
- There are a lot of so-called sales experts screaming that sales has changed and we have to do everything different these days. I think we have to look at what's changed and what hasn't changed. Today buyers are more informed than ever. They have the web, social media, and they get information from networking with their peers. They know a lot about our products and services before we ever have a chance to interact. As salespeople, we know a lot more about our prospects, because we have the web, social media, sales 2.0 tools like LinkedIn, etc. We have more communications options (face-to-face, mail, phone, mobile phone, email, text, social media, etc.) True "cold calling" is less effective -- because buyers have a right to expect you to know a lot about them before you call. What hasn't changed in the world of complex products and services is that you can't buy or sell effectively without a conversation. No matter how much they read our product brochures, advertisements, and websites, buyers won't know what they should know unless they interact with a professional salesperson. And, no matter how much homework we do on our prospects, we won't be able to provide the right solutions without a conversation. So it has to start somewhere and that's the first call.

3. What advice do you have for someone who fears cold calling?

- Don't make cold calls, make "warm" calls by doing your homework on the prospect.
- Understand your product and your industry. For example, a real estate agent should know about other houses in the area and where interest rates are.
- Use referrals and/or marketing that produces warm leads.
- Don't make your cold call your sales call. Advance the call but don't close on the first call. Determine 1 or 2 other basic outcomes for your cold calls (qualify, appointment setting, trial close, etc.).
- Build an action plan for these conversations. Not a script but an outline.
- Don't stick your toe in the water. It's cold and if you don't like cold water it'll just prolong your misery. Jump in and swim as fast as you can or you'll never get warm. Jump in all the way, give it a real effort.
- Have a strong belief (conviction) in your product and yourself. If you don't have this, get it.
- Practice: test and track what's working and what isn't working.
- Study and memorize your delivery and value -- own it.
- Look for trigger events to integrate into your call. For example, a newspaper article on the company.
- Start your day with a warmup call -- to your spouse, a good customer, even a co-worker -- to get started right.
- Record your calls and listen to them.
- Wear your company logo attire everywhere so people you call are more familiar with your company name when you call.
- Use brutal honesty: Tell the contact it's a sales call right off the bat.
- Discipline yourself: "At 10 AM every day, I will make 5 new business calls." Get an accountability partner to hold you to it. You don't have to like it, just do it.
- Work through all your fears. Successful sales reps live outside their comfort zone.

4. What cold-calling techniques have you seen that have NOT worked?

- "Let me tell you how great I am."
- "Bait and switch" or any other type of trickery.
- "Weather, vomit, close." How's the weather where you are today? Let me tell you how great I am! Buy now!
- Unprepared pitches -- the rep doesn't know anything about the company they're calling.
- Calling on a cell phone with poor reception makes a bad first impression.
- Bullying -- browbeating the contact and talking over them to force them into a sale.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of three leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, and VertMarkets.

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