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Sales Training: Cold Calling Techniques
By Mark Blezard
In a typical sales organisation, you ‘cut your sales teeth’ on cold calling and generating leads for the more senior sales consultants.
On the face of it, this may seem like a risky strategy. Why burn potentially great leads with a rookie salesperson? Why let a senior sales executive mellow or become lazy with a select group of regular accounts? Why cold call at all if you are using referrals correctly? (See our Double Your Sales Force for referral tips & inspiration.) In actual fact, cold calling, lead generation and referrals all have an essential part to play in a healthy sales cycle.
However, cold calling has a unique element that no sales professional should forget. You see, cold calling keeps you sharp in a way that no other element of selling can. Done well, it will keep you focused and alert to the benefits your portfolio offers. This in itself will serve you well when a key account starts to go stale or wrong-foots you with apathy.
How? In sales, you are considered to be ‘really rocking’ when you are at the top of your game, ‘in the zone’, ‘on a roll’, ‘on fire’… However, all too often, the measure we use for this is your sales volume or number of orders, which can very easily mask poor sales technique.
When you are cold calling you need all of this, plus a bag load more technique and energy, all wrapped up in your opening 10 seconds. Think of a rocket heading up to space. 99% of all its fuel is exhausted in this first 0.00005% of the journey (physicists please note I am illustrating a sales point here, not planning my fuel requirements).
The same should be reflected by you when cold calling. Basically, you will have 10 seconds, perhaps just 5, to prove to a new client that you are worth speaking with, so if you’ve just asked a meaningless question such as “Hi, how are you doing today?” your fuel is burnt!
It doesn’t matter how good – needed – or revolutionary your product is. If you don’t get the client to engage in the first few seconds, you are done!
In your first 10 seconds you must:
control tonality: your voice must rise and command interest to draw your prospect in;
use an introductory line that ends positively, upbeat and ‘logically a good idea to learn more’; and finally
convey a first impression that oozes ‘interesting and intelligent’.
Okay, this perhaps requires sharpening but I guarantee you that it will gain better traction than “How are you doing today?”
There is no denying that cold calling can be tough, so it is important to plan your sessions and break them up:
Exercise before a session, like an athlete– warm-up physically.
Stand up. How many concerts have you attended where the lead singer sits?
Prepare. Plan in advance what you want, number of leads, appointments, pitches. What will ‘good’ look like and how will you know when you are done?
Track your session. Everyone will have a conversion rate, perhaps 5 dials for a contact, 2 contacts for an appointment. Great, so if 10 number-dials means you get one, now you know the other 9 dials, with a couple of rejections, are simple steps towards your goal. Keep track of your conversion rate.
As for your intro pitch, write, practice and record it. Change and tweak your ‘killer intro’ as you go along. Monitor what works best and try to improve upon it. Have a group session with colleagues and compare how they work. Treat your intro pitch as an alternative close: it is about when they speak with you, not if. And your ‘tonality’ is going to urge them to take a little bit more of you on board now rather than later because you sound interesting and intelligent!
This is why we don’t do…
“Hello, I’m Steve from XYZ corp. How are you doing today?”
and do do…
“Hi, I’m Steve from XYZ corp., we’re the company that improve production flow in your sector, sometimes doubling it. You got a minute?”
And you finish your opening pitch with upwards tonality. You raise your voice.
Sure, you want more than a minute but this is all about grabbing their attention with these three snippets of information: “I am – I can – in 60 seconds”.
Finally, make the calls! Sounds obvious but you would be surprised at how many sales executives avoid cold calling simply based upon a couple of past rejections they recall over the many wins. This is why it is so important to keep a record of your calls and know your conversion rate.
A great sales trainer, Martin Limbeck, once said that he would “accept poor activity over no activity any day.” It makes sense when you think about it. The best sales executive in the world is useless when locked in a closet. But the point Martin was illustrating is that it is far better if you can hook activity and skill together. If your conversion rate is 18, set yourself a goal to bring it down to 16 or perhaps 14. Making 13 dials for a hit will soon seem like child’s play.
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