I had just finished speaking in Bozeman, Montana and was sitting in a delicious little breakfast cafe (think cowboy truck stop). That's when I was asked to explain how to maintain control of a cold call. Well, the environment screamed rodeo, my inner voice yelled riding and taming a bull, but my voice of reason began talking about the concept of flow, patience, listening and staying in the moment.
There are really only three primary things required to keep a call going long enough to get a disinterested prospect engaged:
- Road Signs. Where I live in Massachusetts, we call them rotaries, but in most places, they are called traffic circles or roundabouts. The premise is that there is no such thing as a wrong turn in a traffic circle. The world is round, so instead of fighting to reverse direction, simply follow the path until you eventually return to the same traffic circle. On a phone call, that means allowing the prospect to turn onto Put-Off Place, Disinterested Drive, Stall Street, or Hate it Highway. Instead of wrestling with them for control, just go with the flow and at some point you'll have a second chance to turn onto Success Street. That is when you must use...
- If-Then Logic. If you have ever written software code or even used formulas in Excel, then you have used if-then logic. In sales, use if-then logic by writing out some formulas that you can use with confidence, whenever a prospect responds in a particular way. For instance, if the first thing you hear is, "We're all set." you can respond with, "I expected you to say that...so I assume that [insert statement that assumes some version of perfection relative to what you sell]. If you are selling software, that might sound like, "So I assume that the latest efficiencies have allowed you to trim staff." A series of if-then statements will work effectively if you have the proper...
- Tonality. The most important thing on a call is to sound like someone who your prospect would choose to speak with. When prospects try to get rid of salespeople on the phone, it's usually because they sound like salespeople, act like salespeople, and suck like most salespeople. The calls don't sound like they will be much fun, prospects already know it will be a waste of time, and the salespeople are talking about themselves instead of their prospects.
When you utilize these three concepts to listen, stay in the moment, exercise patience, and succeed, your calls will improve. Those are the three primary elements to getting a prospect's attention, keeping it, getting them engaged, and converting the call to a meeting.
Experts who sell marketing tools will tell you that cold calling is dead and to them, it is. But they're wrong. Even a follow-up call to a lead is a cold call. Why? If the person you are calling does not know you or expect your call, it's cold. Today's leads - those where people must complete a form in order to get what they want - aren't any warmer than yesterday's leads. They're only fresher.
The real problem is that fewer salespeople are making phone calls and when they do, they aren't reaching as many prospects as they used to. It now takes 8-10 attempts to reach a prospect and 10-20 attempts to reach a CEO. If that's not discouraging, then their awful calls will be.
It doesn't have to be this difficult. Salespeople can be trained and coached to be effective at both cold calling and today's modified version of lead follow-up. It's just that things have changed so much in the past 5 years that most approaches are outdated and ineffective.
If you or your salespeople need to build a bigger, better pipeline today, then the phone is the fastest, most effective way to achieve that.