There is a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater when new selling strategies are introduced. When “thought leadership” and “sphere of influence selling and strategies” were introduced as a way to engage prospects, many sales gurus and trainers touted the end of cold-calling. I believe they were sadly mistaken.
First, let’s define what cold-calling is and is not. Cold-calling is the act of reaching out to someone who does not yet know you or the value you offer. Unfortunately, far too many sales professionals reach out without first having conducted research on the prospect, their industry or their business. That’s not cold-calling, it’s stupid!
According to a 2014 Insidesales.com study on optimizing business communications 61% of executives say they are likely to respond to a voicemail at work. And, according to a DiscoverOrg survey of more than 1,000 senior executives, 75% of decision-makers have taken an appointment or attended an event based on an unexpected sales call or email.
So, if cold-calling isn’t dead, what strategies can you implement to increase your effectiveness when reaching out to a prospect?
Do Your Research
If you’re reaching out and trying to connect with a busy CEO in order to learn something about their business, well…. don’t bother! Instead, spend time researching your prospect, understanding the challenges that someone in their position may face, and gain insights into what’s happening in their industry and specifically within their organization.
When you have an understanding of the challenges and risks facing your prospects you have something to talk about and an opportunity to effectively position yourself and your products and services.
Take Advantage of Voicemail
Far too often producers hang up when their prospect doesn’t answer and that’s a mistake. Voicemail is the equivalent of a blank piece of paper. You have the opportunity to share your message, uninterrupted and when done right, effectively. The challenge for many producers is that they fail to leave a purposeful message. Instead of outlining the purpose of their call, which by the way shouldn’t be to introduce themselves, but rather to share an insight, they hang up.
Before a call is placed, it’s critical that you are clear on the 2-3 insights you want to share, and how they connect to risks and threats your prospect may be facing.
To increase your effectiveness, we strongly suggest developing scripts. If you want to make the best use of your time and be consistent in the messages you share, scripts are a great way to help you stay focused and in control.
Let’s assume you are trying to make 10 calls per hour and you want to follow up each call with an email, wouldn’t it be more effective to have the purpose of your call and the insights you want to share written out in front of you? Wouldn’t it be easier to customize a follow-up email rather than write a new one for each prospect?
Scripts are a great way to keep you focused, on message and make the best use of your time.
Don’t Give Up
If you expect your prospect to be aggressively sitting by the phone for your call you’re in for a rude awakening. It can take somewhere between 12-15 messages touches before you’re likely to engage in a dialogue. Be prepared for the long haul.
Instead of preparing for a single call, layout a campaign with a series of insights that align with the risks and threats your prospects face. Your persistent, value-focused messaging demonstrates that you understand their business and you have depth of knowledge in areas that are important to them.
Cold-calling isn’t dead. Conducting research, developing a plan and consistently executing on that plan will help you convert cold-prospects to effective 1st appointments. Give it a try!