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Sales professionals not only need to be able to qualify prospects and pitch to them with all the required facts, but they also need to take care of the middle ground — booking the meeting. Despite the convenience of social media and email, personable conversations are crucial to making an introduction and holding attention. Due to this, cold calls take place prior to the majority of face-to-face meetings. While cold calling will always be a contentious issue for sales people and customers alike, when prepared for and performed effectively they are never a waste of time for either party.
The fundamental goal of the first telephone conversation should be to arrange a meeting. To accomplish this, there’s little need to run through specific functions or product specifications — it’s about opportunity. It’s about having a solution. It’s essential to show the lead’s indisputable need for your business and accomplishing this consistently requires methodical preparation and execution. The first spoken connection is often the start of a sale and it’s important to make the most of it.
The prospecting element should have been handled as thoroughly as possible prior to the call, taking away a lot of doubt going into a call, but there is more you can do. The materials and mental preparation done before a call can measurably improve the success rate.
The use of a script, at least in a supporting capacity, is optional. Beyond the concise introduction to your business, the impetus should be on asking the right questions and holding a discussion, rather than pulling any conversation back to a rigid plot. Pointers and reminders can be valuable, but knowing the important details to touch upon and note down during the call should be natural. At this stage, discussions win business. Lectures tend to fall on deaf ears.
To ensure you get all the information you require out of the call, it’s worth establishing what you need to know beforehand. Ask yourself what you’d like to know — the details around budgets, decision makers and timelines — then filter this through what’s an appropriate question for an initial call. You should already know details about the organisation itself, in terms of size, locations and recent news, the aim of this call is to secure a meeting and uncover a few more details. This requires a measured approach.
Knowing the intimate details of a business before even exchanging pleasantries will usually prevent being misinterpreted as a time waster. A cold call in the traditional sense may even be ruled out if prior communication takes place via email or social. To further assimilate the call into their working day, consider their environment. Targets have working days themselves and aren’t idly waiting by their phones. Analysis of your calls to date may show patterns in timings, days or even techniques that work particularly well. Anything to ease mental concerns and aid the sale should be considered before dialing in.
Cold calling magnifies the responsive nature of sales — isolates it into one extreme scenario where the prospect could have any range of reactions or questions. By knowing their business inside out, you are able to spot gaps and state their need for your solution but the success of the call ultimately depends on your delivery. How you begin the call, position yourself and react to objections or unexpected rebuffs are all pivotal.
Your introduction, to yourself and your company, and your reason for calling should happen early in the call. Be honest and straightforward — you’re calling as you feel their business can benefit from your product or service, but be an advisor rather than a sales person. Responses to objections or issues can determine a sales progress, even at this early stage. As such, don’t take any rejection personally, but don’t let prospects off the hook with a simple ‘not interested’ or ‘not right now’ either. It is always possible to dig deeper and make yourself more convenient. The emphasis should be on remaining relaxed and creating a relationship.
Your use of language, particularly problem and benefit words, is also important. While buying signals are much harder to identify over the phone, if you can identify a pitfall or offer an advantage and then reinforce this with a working example or scenario that hits home, your prospect will be interested. Confidence is essential when delivering the key questions to a prospect and building towards the endgame of the sale. When are they looking to hold a meeting or make a decision? Identifying the urgency at an early stage ensures the call is ended on a suitable note, with either a follow-up, an appointment or a memo to try another time.
While far from ideal, there are times you will only get through to a voice mail. So, how to react when met by a machine? The same as you would a person — a clear, short message that contains your reason for calling without really selling. Consider a different structure to the usual ‘Hi, this is [name] calling from [company]’, particularly if calling a lead you have no prior communications with, as even a slightly different opening will capture attention. Similar to a conversation, ensure the message ends with no doubt about their expected action and no easy get-out — that means remembering to give your phone number.
An effective cold caller has the gift of creating opportunity. They find success by holding a discussion, learning more about leads and exploring solutions, not overcoming objections at all cost and putting prospects on the defensive.
A well-prepared and targeted cold call will make it clear to the recipient that you have considered their unique needs thoroughly. An effective delivery of your potential solution and the surrounding benefits will earn the right for you to validate your call in a meeting.
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