What are some key Cold Calling Techniques?

cold calling in salesWhile some sales experts argue that cold calling is dead, I believe that cold calling is very much alive and well – and needed, if you are going to increase your sales. While it’s great to receive inbound calls or make warm calls to prospects who are already familiar with your company, at the end of the day, you have to make your share of cold calls in order to survive.

Gavin Ingham, a sales motivational speaker, argues that cold calling will make you feel more control of your destiny and more empowered.

I agree. Sure, you can sit around waiting for the phone to ring. But really, is that a great plan? No. You have to be more proactive. While social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook) and marketing (e.g., trade shows) can help, you have to reach out to your prospects directly if you want to increase new business.

Mr. Ingham offers 10 tips for making cold calls. I will add some tips and insights of my own below.

1). Plan and prepare your opening statements. A good way of doing this is to tell the prospect up front who you are, why you are calling, and mention that you have a product or service that could help them (e.g., save money, improve productivity, save time). And then ask the prospect if you could ask him a few questions.

For example, you may say “Hi, I’m Bob Smith with ABC software company. We offer a software program that can help you prepare taxes for your clients more quickly and efficiently.”

Then you go on to say –

“We have helped our clients reduce their workload by 40%, so they can focus their time on other activities like seeking more clients. I’m confident that I can do the same for you. Would you like to learn how?”

As Mr. Ingham points out, put yourself in the client’s shoes – what will your product or service do for my business and why should I care?

All prospects have fears and concerns. Is your price too high? Are you a highly reputable company? What is the availability of your customer service or technical support team? What is the difference between your product vs. your competitors?

And also, what value are you offering your prospect? What makes you different compared to all the other vendors out there selling similar products or services? You don’t have to go into a long explanation, but find something that stands out that your client will remember you, and hopefully, he will be asking you questions.

What you don’t want to do is use deception or tricky when you reach your prospect. Do that, and you will be dead in the water before you had a chance to proceed.

2). Get in the right state of mind, and expect success. You don’t feel like making cold calls today? Too bad. Whatever negative feelings you have, bury them deep, think positive thoughts, and start calling. Maybe watch a positive motivational video on YouTube to get you in the proper frame of mind. Or take a short walk around the block to clear your head.

3). Know why cold calling is important to you – it’s unrealistic to assume that you are going to close a sale on the spot with the first call. So why are you making a cold call in the first place? Simple – to set an appointment. That’s it. Your goal is to set up an appointment so you can go into more detail later about what you have to offer. An appointment can be a face-to-face meeting, a phone conference or schedule a webinar (demo).

4). Practice delivery. You should have a couple of good opening statements written down. Practice them repeatedly until you feel so comfortable making your statements, that it sounds natural and unrehearsed.

questions for cold calls5). Plan and prepare relevant questions – I always have a list of questions to ask before making any calls. Also, it helps to do a little research on the prospect of contacting him. A great source is LinkedIn, the company’s website and industry newsletters.

At the end of the day, you have to find out if what you are selling is going to help solve your client’s problem. But sometimes your clients may not even know if they have a problem until you ask good questions to raise some concerns.

What you don’t want to do is ask lame questions like “How are you doing today?” – especially to high-level clients who are probably very busy, stressed out, and most likely are not doing very well at all.

And never ask “Is this a good time to talk?” – because you are giving your prospect an opening to end the call on the spot before you even have a chance to speak further.

6). Have your support tools to hand – don’t forget to have pens and paper handy for taking down notes. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to have a comparison sheet of your products and services vs. your competitors, or some other notes highlighting some of your key benefits. In short, be prepared to answer questions.

7). Divert calls and minimize interruptions –  If you are working in an office, from home, or in a high cubicle, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, it may be more difficult to do when working in an open space environment. Hopefully, your employer is using white noise to minimize the noise level, and you are sitting in an area where you are not going to be distracted, or dealing with a lot of multi-tasking projects.

8). Set clear objectives – don’t wing it. As mentioned above, your goal is to schedule an appointment to move the sales process further.

9). Don’t put your phone down or better yet, wear a headset. Personally, I prefer wearing a headset so it frees up both my hands.

10). Master your physiology. Sit straight. I know of some salespeople who use a small mirror to force themselves to smile while speaking to prospects.

I would also add that using scripts could help you when making calls. Eventually, you will develop your own voice and techniques and abandon the scripts altogether, but in the beginning, using scripts can help. Yes, of course, your goal is to understand the value that you can offer your prospect, understand his problems, and ask good qualifying or needs-based questions. But using a script in the very beginning can help you until you feel more confident speaking to prospects until you can get it down cold.

Speed matters too. I don’t mean speaking fast, I mean have a process and system in place that allows you to make a lot of calls on a daily basis.

Here is Mr. Ingham’s video below –

5 mistakes to avoid when making Cold Calls

avoid cold calling mistakesCold calling is a fact of life in sales. Despite all the books and blogs announcing that cold calling is dead, the reality is that you will be making cold calls throughout your career. That being the case, here are 5 mistakes you should avoid when making cold calls –

Mistake 1 – Not having a goal in mind:

It’s not enough just to pick up the phone and start dialing. While “dialing for dollars” is a catchy phrase, the fact remains you must have a goal in mind.

Are you trying to set an appointment?

Are you trying to get the prospect to trial your service?

Are you inviting the prospect to watch a webinar?

Know why you are calling before jumping on the phone.

Mistake 2 – Not using the direct phone number:

Vorsight, a sales consulting firm, has an excellent blog post on the importance of using direct lines. See “Direct lines: the often overlooked element of sales prospects”.

(Full disclosure: I took sales training from Vorsight).

In a nutshell, Vorsight argues that you can dramatically increase your effectiveness by using direct lines as opposed to going through the nightmare of calling the prospect’s main phone number. As we all know from experience, when you dial a main company phone number, you could literally spend several minutes going through options before you reach the decision-maker. That’s the time you simply don’t have when working on commission.

There are several lead generation tools on the market that you can use. For example, I’ve used Data.com (formerly Jigsaw from Salesforce.com). While not 100 percent accurate, it’s still very helpful. If you work in the IT industry, consider using RainKing. DiscoverOrg.com is also good if you are working in both the financial and IT industry. Sometimes I’ve been successful in finding a prospect’s direct phone number by using Google.

Mistake 3– Not doing some research in advance:

You are not a telemarketer. You are not using sales scripts. You have to put a little thought into making each call. You should try to be a little unique in order to stand out from the rest of the salespeople making calls to your prospects. How can you do that? By doing a little research before making each call. You don’t have to spend hours researching a prospect or his business. Just go to LinkedIn – read his profile. Maybe check out the company’s website. Find some nugget of information that could help you. Example – if your prospect worked at one of your current clients, mention that. If you know for a fact that your prospect is having a problem that your product or service can help, mention that too. Being a little original can go a long way to helping you increase your sales.

Mistake  4 – Phone calls are not enough: 

With all the noise and business in the world, you can’t rely on your phone anymore to generate sales. Cold calling isn’t just picking up the phone and making zillions of calls every day. You have to use a combination of tools to get through, including email, voice mail, and direct marketing pieces. Sometimes sending out unique swag like a magnet or mouse pad with your company’s logo and contact information may be the trick.

In advertising there is any old saying when trying to reach an audience – “you have to advertise on different days in multiple ways.” In cold calling, you have to contact your prospects on different days in multiple ways.

Mistake 5 – It’s not about you:

The focus should be on the prospect – not you. Doing a product or benefit dump doesn’t make sense until you learn if what you are offering has any value for your prospect. Your prospect isn’t buying products and services – he’s trying to find a solution to his problem.

Cold calling can be hard work. But it can get easier if you have a plan, get to the point, and focus on your prospect.


CRMs, should you switch?

I recently wrote a three-part series about Customer Relationship Management (CRM). I came across this great article written by Gene Marks in Forbes called “11 Terrible CRM systems for your Company.” I would encourage you to read it.

Among other things, he makes a valid point that CRMs are great tools to use, but you need to ensure that your sales team is properly trained to learn how to use the systems.  I would take it a step further and add that you also need to find a CRM that your sales team likes to use.

I once worked for a division that was required to convert from its existing CRM to the main company’s CRM. However, there was a problem – people in my division didn’t like the main company’s CRM because they found it to be too cumbersome to use. In addition, it was difficult to generate accurate reports. Within a matter of a few months, my division switched back to their old CRM, and essentially told the main company this – “once you improve your CRM, let us know and we will consider using it again.”

Some employers don’t realize that a CRM can make or break you if you don’t select the right one. All CRMs have strong and weak points. While I personally like salesforce.com, there are certainly other tools you can use. Each tool has its strengths and weaknesses.

When selecting a new CRM, what are some factors that you need to consider?

1). Why are you switching to a new CRM? Write down a list of all the problems you are having with your existing CRM. Can you fix those problems yourself or have the vendor fix them for you? Weigh the pros and cons of fixing those problems yourself or with a vendor versus buying a new CRM. Remember, buying a CRM is not like buying a new laptop computer. You have to consider investing time and money in converting your data from one CRM to another. You have to weigh the pros and cons of perhaps losing data during the conversion, and then having to still rely on your old CRM for archival information (this actually has happened to me twice in my career). You have to consider the expense of training your sales, administrative and other staff members in learning how to use the new CRM. You also have to pay a license fee to the new vendor. You have to ensure that your data will be secure in the new CRM.

2). Should you create your own Homegrown CRM? I once worked with a company that was using salesforce.com. While everyone liked the tool, the biggest problem was that the company couldn’t integrate salesforce.com with their order entry system. The order entry process would take between 20 to 30 minutes – a lifetime in sales. To make both the account management and order entry process go a lot smoother and faster, the company decided to create its own CRM. The obvious advantages of having your own Homegrown CRM is that it is tailored to your company’s needs. You can also upgrade the system on your schedule and you don’t have to pay a license fee.

3). Will your employees like the new CRM? It doesn’t make any sense to go through the time and expense of buying a new CRM if your employees don’t like it. I’ve actually heard of salespeople quit their jobs because they found the new CRMs to be too difficult and time-consuming to use, and thus, was hurting their abilities to generate more sales. I’ve gone through CRM Model T, CRMconversions where one day I felt I was driving a Porsche and the next day I felt like I was driving a Model T. While I didn’t quit my job because I was now using a lousy CRM, it certainly made my work more difficult and definitely slowed down my selling process. So before selecting a new CRM, bring your sales team and other employees into the decision-making process. Get their input and advice. If they can trial a new CRM, please have them do a test run before you make a huge investment.

At a bare minimum, the CRM needs to be user-friendly. As a general rule, if it takes more than two days to train your staff, and they still find the new CRM cumbersome to use, you will have a serious problem on your hands. You may have bought yourself a lemon. That applies not just to off the shelf CRMs, but also Homegrown versions too. For example, I once used a Homegrown CRM where it literary took 15 minutes to enter callbacks. Everyone on the sales team became so frustrated with the callback feature, they finally gave up and started using Post-it Notes and Outlook calendar to schedule their calls.

Finding the right CRM for your company is tough. Take your time. Do it right. It will save you an enormous amount of time and money down the road.

photo credit for Model T: Don J Schulte via photopin cc

CRMs, Brief Background, Part 1

Most of us have used a wide variety of  Customer Relationship Managers (CRMs).  But in case you are new to the sales profession, a CRM is a software system designed to maintain and update customer and prospect records. Those records would include basic information such as names, company names, phone and fax numbers, and e-mail addresses. More sophisticated systems would include order history, sales notes, billing information, and a call-back schedule to plan your upcoming calls or meetings. Marketing tools may be included to help track customers and prospects using social media. Still, others will allow you to develop and keep track of marketing campaigns.

CRMThe major purpose of a CRM is to maximize your time, set priorities, and target those customers and prospects you believe will generate the most sales. In short, it is designed to save you time and money.

I have used seven different CRMs in my career. Some of them are homegrown, and others are off the shelf tools like Advantage,SalesLogix,TeleMagic,Salesforce.com, and Microsoft Access. While I have never used them, I’ve heard positive feedback from salespeople who have used Act! and Goldmine.

The Homegrown databases were created specifically by my employers and are not available in the open market. Some employers believe that developing their own CRMs tailored to the needs of their sales, marketing and billing staffs are worth the expense. In the long run, homegrown CRMs are easier to maintain and upgrade and no license fees are paid to a vendor. If the employer decides to convert from his homegrown CRM to another one, he doesn’t need permission from a vendor or has to deal with the hassle doing a conversion within a limited time frame. I once worked for a mid-size publishing company that was forced to dump all its records from one CRM to a new CRM on a strict deadline because the vendor was upset about the switch. The fast conversion process created a total mess of records in the new CRM that took months to organize.

My favorite off-the-shelf CRM is Salesforce.com.  I find the interface easy on the eye, is user-friendly and does a great job of maintaining customer records and call-back schedules.

If you glance at most help-wanted ads these days, you will find a lot of employers require you to have experience using Salesforce.com. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to use the database. Most employers will train you. I was able to learn how to use the basic features of the program within a couple of days. There are also several books on the market to teach you how to use Salesforce.com if you want more detail.

No matter which database you are required to use, take some time to learn how to use it properly. Any of these tools will save you an enormous amount of time and make you a more effective and efficient salesperson.

In part 2 of this post, I will discuss the common mistakes of using CRMs.