“The best cold call I ever overheard was 15 minutes of a sales development rep (SDR) discussing how the consolidation and vertical integration of the optical industry made it harder for new players to gain space on the board in the shrinking independent retailer market,” says Brandon Gracey, VP of Sales at Handshake Corp.
“If that leaves you scratching your head, it’s probably because you don’t work in the optical industry. Neither did the SDR in that call, but he booked a meeting with a prospect who eventually bought from us. In part because of that call and how we understood their industry and specifically addressed their challenges.”
Gracey says every buyer out there is receiving the same “Who should I talk with?’” email, going through the same screening, getting the same spin about “a product specialist who will be able to dive into that deeper.”
Fact: Successful B2B sellers use cold calls (not just email) to open discussions; not pitch.
Top sellers find prospects, qualify buyers and close them — using all available tools.
Want to consistently out-perform your peers? Become a superior researcher, be a diligent hunter and an exceptionally un-biased communicator. Don’t make calls biased to the meeting or demo you seek.
Don’t ask for the outcomes you want. Avoid having them on your mind.
Instead, use the phone to facilitate change-focused conversations that put customers in control.
An Absurd Debate
“Some CEO is in his office, busy running the company, a thousand things on his mind and suddenly … ring ring ring … ‘Want a demo?’ Some pimply faced SDR is pushing a demo on this dude,” says Noah Goldman, adviser to CEOs of early stage companies.
“Think of the absurdity of it … and you wonder why your cold calling sucks?”
“You wonder why your ‘opportunities’ (Hint: they never were opportunities) push or go dark?”
If you’re using the phone to prospect, successfully, you’re not cold pitching. You are helping buyers either qualify-out or get ready to buy.
What Is a Cold Call?
“If you ever walked up to a stranger at a bar and said ‘h=Hi,’ that was a cold call. But unless you were a total dunce you didn’t say, ‘Hi … want a date?’ right off the bat,” says Goldman.
There’s nothing wrong with cold calling — people do it every day.
“There’s a little preamble that is required. And you know that! So why would you treat your sales communications differently?”
Goldman says cold calls:
- serve to move you from unknown entity to known entity…
- do this in a way that is well received…
- over some medium that is well received.
However, he also says we endanger the entire process when we ask for things that are unreasonable — given that level of familiarity.
“So the next time you think of cold calling … and fear shoots down your spine … realize that’s a sign that, yes, you are doing it wrong,” says Goldman.
“You are asking for too much. But when you step back your asks … and things become more comfortable … realize that’s a sign you are doing it right.”
Proof: Calling Works in Most B2B Scenarios
Meet Mark Hunter of Omaha-based The Sales Hunter. He has a story of coaching a large national sales team, where his reps were selling to IT departments:
“We had huge success by integrating the telephone, email, social media and even in-person meetings together. The sales reps who had the most success were the ones that used the telephone the most,” says Hunter.
There were reps who claimed the phone didn’t work. In fact, they fought it.
“But it was a short fight,” says Hunter, “because their results were so poor. The phone worked because it was used in conjunction with other prospecting tools.”
The First Step to Better Cold Calls
Success in sales demands a facilitative communications technique. But where to start?
Re-frame it: What if the purpose of your call wasn’t to get anything? (e.g., information qualifying the prospect as a buyer)
What if you put the decision (to speak) 100 percent into the hands of your target? And what if you started the conversation in a way that didn’t expect, nor hope for, another call?
Josh Braun, of Sales DNA asks, “Are you tired of the debilitating feeling of rejection when cold calling? Don’t like cold calling because it feels bad to intrude on people? Don’t like getting cold calls because it feels bad to be sold?”
Braun says stress comes from the pressure of having to get something from the call.
“The root of rejection comes from assuming what you have is what someone wants. But what if the purpose of a call wasn’t to get anything at all?”
Indeed, what if your goal was to see if the person your calling is open to how you might be able to help them do something better? Even better, what if the purpose of your call had nothing to do with you taking information from the customer?
The idea is to align with customers earlier … during their pre-sales change management steps that drive the eventual purchase. But how best to insert yourself with a call?
There Is No ‘Getting’
When calling resist the urge to qualify customers based on their need, purchase capability, or timing. Because this ignores the many people who don’t know exactly what they need yet!
Braun says the purpose of a cold call is not to get a meeting nor demo. He’s right.
The purpose of a cold call is to see if your prospect is open to learning how you may be able to help them do something better.
“If the prospect has no interest, it’s because you’re not interesting to them at this moment in time, which is a perfectly reasonable outcome,” says Braun.
“There is no ‘getting’ or setting meetings because you don’t know if the person your calling needs your help. It’s the assuming that creates pressure for both you and your prospect.”
Tactically speaking, you mantra is: Don’t assume they do. And don’t try to place your solution. Just don’t!
Instead of starting conversations with “getting qualification information” in mind, take the pressure off. Qualify customers by focusing on their internal change. Research what may be happening before your call.
Put yourself in a position to help them manage it — if and when it’s what they want.
Focus your approach technique on how they will go about becoming excellent. Address what has likely stopped them until now. Focus on what will they need to do … to ready themselves for change you see on their horizon.
Until buyers are able to avoid disrupting their status quo, they will not buy.
What is your experience?