Cold calling was probably invented the day after Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. This sales technique has been around for a long time.
Salespeople, always hungry to close deals, have spent their entire professional lives calling up strangers, hoping that someone would listen to them long enough so they could pitch their product or service.
The whole point of cold calling is to grow a business. Cold calling was used for decades because it was considered a reliable formula for scaling a business. Cold calls would help you acquire new customers and generate new leads. And that’s still true to a certain extent. Nowadays, however, with other channels like social media and email, is cold calling still an effective technique?
What exactly is cold calling?
"Cold calling" is a sales technique that involves calling people you haven’t made a connection with before to sell them your product or service.
Cold calling has plenty of detractors. It can be a negative experience for busy prospects who might feel like you’re wasting their time pitching something they aren’t interested in. And it can be a painful experience for your salespeople, too. The fact that “sales jobs without cold calling” is a category on Indeed.com shows that many sales reps don’t enjoy getting hung up on all day.
There are instances, however, where cold calling makes sense. For example, if you don’t have enough inbound leads to fill your pipeline and meet your targets, cold calling may be a perfect fit.
Does cold calling work?
While not easy, cold calling can work. Sometimes you have no other option but to make an outreach phone call, as sales expert Stephan Schiffman writes in his book, Cold Calling Techniques (That Really Work!):
“You can use social media as a way to expand your networks and to find potential leads. You can use email creatively to get in touch with prospects and follow up on appointments. All this is valuable and important, but we still come back to the basics: To sell, you need to talk to people, and to talk to people, you need appointments. And to get the appointments, you need to cold call.”
Cold calls also can work because they provide immediate feedback on whether your product or service is of interest to a prospect. They can also provide crucial data that will help you improve your sales pitch for future sales calls. The more feedback you can get as a sales rep, the faster you’ll improve your sales skills and ability to close deals. Lastly, phone calls are much harder than emails to ignore. Even if a call only lasts a few minutes, you’re likely to have the prospect’s full attention, which is incredibly valuable.
If you’ve decided that it’s worth cold calling your prospects, make sure you follow some best practices to make it worthwhile.
Tips for cold calling
Cold calling is both science and art. Here are some tips so you can increase your success rate every time you pick up the phone for a cold call.Do your research
First, you want to make the person at the other end of the line feel like you did your research. This call—like every good sales call— is about your customer’s challenges and not about you hitting your sales quota (that will come later in the game). Spend time researching your prospects before picking up the phone. Have a clear approach for how you can present your services in a way that will sound interesting to them.
At the end of the day, it’s about letting them know that you have a viable solution to their needs.Reach out to the right person
This tip is connected to the previous point: you need to research your prospect. It’s much easier to close a sale if you’re speaking to the person that has the power to make a purchase – or can connect you with confidence to the person that does.
There’s nothing more inefficient than delivering a great pitch to, say, an engineer at company X when your goal is to sell them accounting software. While maybe the engineer has felt the pain of their crappy existing accounting software, you’d need to speak to someone in the finance department for that call to be worthwhile. If you’re speaking to the wrong person, you’re really just wasting both parties’ time, which can also damage your company’s reputation.
LinkedIn can be a great place to start your research, because it enables you to see the job titles of people working at a given company. Their Sales Navigator tool exists to help salespeople target the right buyers.Follow a structure and iterate it as you go
Your cold call structure can be simple, but make sure you have one. Here’s a simple example:
- Opening line
- Quick agenda
- Qualification questions
- Clear next step
You get your prospect on the phone, tell them why you're calling, ask them questions, and move to the next step, be that setting an appointment or sending over more info.
As you put your approach into practice, pay attention to which of these sections you can improve upon. Where are you losing callers? When do they tune out or hang up?
Maybe your introduction isn’t strong enough and people are confused about why you’re calling. If so, tweak your approach and try again. You don’t need to change your entire approach if an element isn’t working, just that broken piece.
If you’re in doubt, ask your manager or colleagues to review the calls to provide more feedback on where you can improve.Track your numbers
Tracking your success metrics is another way to see possible areas of improvement.
For example, you might notice that you’re more effective calling early in the morning and late in the day when your prospects are more available. Or maybe it’s the opposite, and your target prospects are more available just before their lunch breaks.
You can use a CRM or a spreadsheet to track your activities and success—whatever works best for you. What’s important is that you pay attention to the numbers by tracking the conversion of all your phone calls. It’s the only way to differentiate what works from what doesn’t.
Cold calling can be a successful source of prospects for a salesperson – but make sure you use it wisely. It shouldn’t be your only strategy. Instead, you should combine it with other sales tactics to get the best results.
Make your outreach call an opportunity to understand your prospects' problems and goals. Showing the person at the other end of the line that you genuinely care about what they are saying will contribute to the idea that your product or service is the solution to their challenges. This is ultimately what makes cold calling work.
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