Imagine yourself to be a salesperson in 1979. Let’s say you are selling brokerage services. How do you think you would go about getting clients? You would surely have to try something other than references to meet your numbers. In all probability, you would pick up a telephone directory (yes, a physical one) and start cold calling some numbers.
Depending on your style, you could try a relationship building approach or a direct to the point approach. As a trained salesperson, you would already be aware of the funnel. Try calling 100 people and 1 might actually buy. Very exciting, not!
Now, cut to 2019 – four decades later.
Let’s say you are selling cloud based CRM services (wink, wink). Can you imagine calling people directly from the telephone directory (well, to begin with, you will have a hard time finding one!). Today, you would have the resources to collect as much information / data about potential buyers before you actually contact them. You could also potentially build a relationship with a potential prospect without even speaking to them.
That actually sounds attractive, doesn’t it?
Cold Calling Is Reinvented
The approach to selling has changed a lot over the last forty years – the key tool then was charisma, the key tool today is technology.
Today, cold calling does not just mean calling on the phone. Connecting with the potential customer via email and social platforms is another channel.
What has not changed is that a B2B buyer will still want to talk to a salesperson before making a purchase. And let’s face it: building a business relationship offline is no substitute to having a direct conversation. To build relationships at scale, even less.
You still have to pick up the call and talk to the person on the side of the table which make decisions.
Sometimes, you already have a relationship. More often you do not. At most what you have is a permission to call when you have engaged via the digital channels. Often that may not be the case as well. You would go on a hunch, pick up the call and go.
Unfortunately, but not for the wrong reasons, cold calling or reaching to customers directly in this form receives a lot of flak. In fact there are a world of statistics which claim that cold calling is not effective any more.
However, we would like to believe that it is not the case.
Cold Calling is not dead. It is reinvented.
The New Approach To Cold Calling
In the age of marketing qualified leads and social selling, there is still place for cold calling.
In fact, the customer may consider it cold calling but you are actually calling with a lot of data. If done correctly, with a mix of traditional charisma and modern technology, your conversion rates from cold calling can increase dramatically.
Here is how to make cold calling more effective
1. Reaching out digitally first is a good approach
Approaching prospects on social or email is considered an acceptable first step today. In fact, it is an expected behaviour. There are tons of tips on how to write an effective cold email: make the first paragraph count, show genuine interest in their work and provide value are some examples.
When you are sending a mass message, say via LinkedIn InMail Ads or auto responder via Twitter it may be difficult to personalize. In this case, provide valuable material.
2. Make the first 30 seconds count
Like in every interaction, first impressions matter here as well. You can either be direct with your objectives or make a personalized relevant statement. Being personal will require you to do proper research.
If for some reason, you cannot add a personal touch, do not feign interest. That will do you more harm than good. In such scenarios, you can come straight to the point. You will be seen through if you do the former and appreciated if you do the later.
3. Listen more than talk
One of the best ways of keeping a conversation going after the first 30 seconds is to spend that time in listening more. Do remember that you know your solution well, but you may not know the problem well enough. Your prospect knows and will be happy to tell whoever listens to their problem in detail.
Here are a few tips on how to listen better:
- If you are well prepared, you can ask the correct questions. Try and keep them short.
- Listen patiently.
- Avoid completing their sentences unless they get stuck. Everyone likes to talk about their problems.
- Do not ask more than 2 follow up questions when it is your turn
4. Offer a relevant solution
I had a great chat with a salesperson selling social media analytics services. During the conversation, it was discovered that what we required, was not something that they even considered a use case. However, he considered that as an opportunity and offered me an extended trial of the product. He was transparent enough to mention that they would take our learning and enhance the product.
I was happy to get an extended trial for a product which was not required at that time because the salesperson provided a custom offering.
The takeaway is to be flexible when possible. You are not there just to sell your product but solve a problem for the customer. Even if you realize that you cannot offer something concrete, offer advice based on your experience. SOmetimes it may not be a bad idea to refer a competitor’s product.
5. Close with a call to action
It is very rare that a sale would happen in first interaction. Getting a trial by itself would be a win from the call. However, before you call, you should be prepared with 2-3 closing and / or action you would want the prospect to take at the end of the call. If not sale, then a demo or a trial or even another follow up meeting. The objective if to keep the conversation going. Needless to say, you cannot push the action down the customer’s throat.
What are some of the ways you would approach cold calling in the current sales environment?