The world of sales looks radically different today than it did just a decade ago.
There’s a new buying journey—with the internet giving buyers access to any kind of information they want and the recent trend of inbound marketing, consumers now come to you rather than you seeking them out.
Given these changes, there’s a need for a shift in the way businesses obtain their leads and customers. But I also know how successful cold calling can be when it is done well.
I realize executives and managers are busier than ever and don’t want hundreds of people calling them each day to tout off their products and services. (Really, I don’t want that for myself!) But I still believe there is something valuable in studying a company, identifying specifically how you can benefit their business, and reaching out to them to kindly (and patiently) help them come to the same conclusion.
Because we still believe cold calling is valuable, we’ve shared a lot of tips over the past few years. Now we’ve put our best cold calling tips into one resource to make it simple for any salesperson to improve their sales calls.
27 Of Our Best Cold Calling Tips
Dealing With Anxiety
1. Identify why you’re anxious.
Is it because:
- You don’t like talking on the phone?
- You’re afraid of someone thinking you’re annoying and pushy?
- You don’t want yet another person to hang up on you?
Nailing down the actual reason for your anxiety lets you tackle it head-on.
Often, the anxiety comes from taking the situation personally. For example, instead of realizing that your company’s proposal was rejected, it feels like you were rejected. Or, when someone makes it clear they are aggravated with another potentially pushy, annoying sales call, you hang up feeling like you’re pushy and annoying.
When you know why you get anxious, you can teach yourself to think about cold calling more positively and realistically.
2. Change the way you think about cold calling.
Instead of thinking your call is an interruption and a waste of time, think of it as a way to inform your prospect about a valuable opportunity for their business. Stop thinking about you—how you sounded, how well you presented the information, how long (or short) the conversation was. Just focus on educating and helping the prospect.
3. Practice, practice, practice.
The more you do something, the more natural it becomes. So practice your sales calls! Actually hold the phone in your hand (or put your headset on—whatever you use) and do “dry runs” of your calls. Go over your greeting, transitional statements, and questions until you’re comfortable with them. If you feel prepared and confident before the call, you’re more likely to retain that confidence during the actual call.
4. Track your progress.
It can be easy to beat yourself up when you only remember how many failed calls you’ve had. When you record how you’re doing, you have unbiased documentation of your actual performance. Your results may surprise you!
Use your marketing automation software to see who is looking at your content. Today, people don’t want to be interrupted by cold calls. But doing this kind of research is almost like gaining the prospect’s permission, since you’re reaching out after they’ve “reached out” to you.
5. Choose the right time to make calls.
You need to be intentional about when you make your calls, because the goal isn’t to just call someone—it’s to actually reach your prospect. So, don’t call on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons or once the business day is in full swing. (InsightSquared did some research on the best times to make sales calls.) Once you’ve decided your block of time, just make the calls. Soon it will just become a normal part of your day.
6. Research the contact and their business.
Learn as much as you can about the company, their industry, and the actual person you’re contacting.
- Who are your common connections?
- Have you worked in similar industries before?
- What are their roles and responsibilities?
When you are familiar with the company’s unique services and products and your contact’s challenges and pain points, you can research tangible solutions tailored to their specific area of work.
7. Learn who the decision maker is.
The contact who has been downloading all your white papers and requesting consultations may be thrilled about your product or service, but they may not have the authority to purchase it. Who you really want to talk with is the company’s decision maker—someone with authority to contract with you. To identify who this is, you may have to call the company and do a little discreet investigating. Once you have a name, use LinkedIn and other social media networks to learn as much as you can about them. These facts will be a great help when you actually talk to them.
8. Send a teaser email.
If you know who the decision maker is, you may decide to email them a “teaser.” You know, introducing yourself and your company, hinting at something that may be of interest to them, and telling them you’d like to call back to discuss it soon. Doing this puts your name and your company’s name on their radar before you even get on the phone with them. But remember, don’t provide details of what you are proposing to discuss. Make the content a little vague and make it intriguing—you need to pique their interest without giving away your intentions.
9. Get moving.
If you sit at a desk all day, every day, you’re likely to get tired, distracted, or sluggish. To combat these issues, get up and get moving! If you have a private office, do some jumping jacks or high knees. If you’re on a sales floor surrounded by colleagues (in which case jumping jacks may be distracting), head outside for a quick jog or run the stairs in your building. Getting your blood pumping has been proven to make you smarter, sharpen your focus, and improve your mood. And take my word for it—your leads will notice!
10. Make yourself “big.”
This may seem like an oddity, but it really works! Right before you make a call, do something that makes you seem bigger or stronger. This could be flexing in the bathroom mirror at work or making grandiose gestures with your arms. You can also spread your materials around your desk, making your workspace larger. By doing this, you can, for all intents and purposes, “trick” yourself into having more confidence. Watch this TED talk by Amy Cuddy for more information on how your body language and “power posing” makes a difference.
11. Express gratitude if they agree to speak with you.
These days, many people find sales calls to be frustrating—even if they aren’t “cold calls.” Everyone has a busy schedule, so if your lead agrees to give you his or her time, that’s a precious gift. Acknowledge that their time is valuable and be sincere. Let them know that in exchange for their valuable time, you’ll offer them a wealth of information. If your lead feels as though they are gaining something by speaking with you, you’ll be in a good position to convert.
12. Believe in what you’re selling or promoting.
Just because you tell your lead that your product will “change their life” doesn’t mean they will believe you. You have to actually believe that your product has value in order to effectively communicate that value to others. If you sound like a cheesy used car salesman––or worse, you couldn’t care less about what you’re promoting––don’t expect your lead to convert. It’s that simple.
13. Say it with a smile.
I certainly don’t mean you should glue a smile to your face and speak fakely through your teeth. Rather, be animated. Move around while you’re talking. If you’re on a headset, move around your workspace. Speak to the person on the other end of the phone like you would speak to someone standing in your office. No matter how frustrating the person you’re talking to is, don’t ever roll your eyes or shake your head––those non-verbal things will come across in your speech.
14. Be a human—not a robot.
All too often, salespeople get stuck in their script. Their sales calls then sound robotic, unfriendly, and impersonal. Who wants to talk to someone like that over the phone? Certainly not I, and I doubt you would, either. So, be personal! Know your talking points inside and out, so you can regurgitate the right information at the right time. If you really need something to keep you on track, make a rough outline (and notice two keywords: “rough” and “outline”). You want this to be an aid and not a crutch, because all of your sales calls shouldn’t sound the same. Every person is different, will have different needs, and needs a different type of nurturing. As the salesperson, you are responsible for providing that!
15. Highlight customer benefits.
Don’t make your first call a “sales” call where the objective is to hang up with a deal. Instead, make this an educational call. Learn more about your prospect and help your prospect learn about how your products or services can benefit their business.
16. Use your manners and your ears.
When talking with your prospect, use your manners. Address them as “Mr.” or “Ms.,” and be professional. Then, use what you’ve learned through LinkedIn (or however you researched them) to begin a dialogue. Ask open-ended questions and listen. Let them do the talking. You’ll learn much more about them and their business by listening.
17. Be gracious if they hate you.
Let’s face it. Not everyone you call to is going to be thrilled to speak with you. Some leads will be snappy or snarky, and some will be downright rude. Regardless, if you want to be seen as a respectable company with excellent customer service, you must be prepared to take a verbal beating every now and again. Do not hang up the phone or get an attitude with the customer, even if he or she is calling you words you have to Google to understand. Empathy is one of the most important features that a salesperson can have––stockpile it deep, grow some very thick skin, and understand that the customer could be going through something tremendously difficult at the time.
18. Lock in the next step.
Set up an in-person meeting or the proposal walk-through meeting while you’re still on the phone with your lead. If you closed them right on the phone, set up the kick-off call or the appropriate next step. There’s no time like the present, and setting up the next step in advance will show that you’re organized and efficient.
19. Record your calls.
Not for quality assurance purposes! Instead, record your calls so you can listen to them, identify weaknesses and problems, and then correct those things.
20. Use referrals.
If you have a connection’s permission to use their name as a referral, use that reference while leaving a message or while in conversation with your prospect. When you are able to use a referral, your prospect is much more likely to call back or listen in.
21. Be convincing.
When you call, use an assumptive tone. Make it seem as if you are calling back to continue a previous discussion. Don’t open with something like:
“Hello, this David Mackey from 365 RPM Group. I would like to speak to the CEO John Smith please…”
Try it this way instead:
“Hello, it’s David Mackey here for John Smith…”
Use an assumptive and matter-of-fact tone. The assumption you need to transmit is that John knows who you are and that you have already spoken to each other.
22. Make friends with the gatekeepers.
If you reach a receptionist or secretary, be kind! They’re called “gatekeepers” because often they are the ones that ultimately decide who gets through and who doesn’t. But, no matter how friendly you get, don’t leave a message to be forwarded to your prospect. Just say you’d like to call back at a better time, possibly drop a vague hint about needing to talk to them about a business idea they may be interested in, and ask when they might be available.
After The Call
23. If you didn’t get through, try again.
There’s no shame in a second or third call (so long as you’re not literally pestering the poor person). Or, if you’ve sent an email, use that to get yourself “in the door.” Say something like, “Actually, I’m calling in regard to our email…”
24. Follow up.
The whole idea of sales calls is to move your leads down the sales funnel. So, if your lead finishes a call with you and is interested in learning more about your product or service, capitalize on that. Send them the information they want. Go above and beyond, and beat the expectations they have about you and your organization.
25. Make a proposal.
After the initial phone call, follow up with a personal note or an email thanking them for their time. Be sure to include some of the points you covered in your conversation. And, because you know exactly what their challenges are and how they’d like to solve them, offer them a relevant proposal.
26. Learn from your successes (and your failures).
One of the biggest mistakes in sales is to continue to do the same thing again and again (even if it’s working). Why should you fix something when it isn’t broken? I’m glad you asked. Until you attempt to try something new, you’ll never know how much more effective your sales process could be. Is there a way you could delight your leads even more than you are now, positively affecting your conversion rate? Could you be opening your sales calls with a different line that promotes more positive conversation? You need to understand that your processes probably aren’t perfect, and learn from them.
27. Log everything in your CRM.
You want all of your notes and your next appointment logged into your CRM so you can easily pick up where you left off with the prospect. This will help you properly track every lead down the sales pipeline and ensure that your customer relationships are nurtured in every way.