Cold calling is one of the mainstays in prospecting, especially among salespeople who deliver the best results.
However, common myths about this approach to appointment setting can mentally and emotionally derail salespeople from maximising the effectiveness of their calls.
The following are some of the myths about cold calling, and how your team can avoid them to produce positive results.
Myth #1: Many Calls Equals Many Leads
I have to admit up front that this is a pet hate of mine. The widespread myth that impedes efficient appointment setting is that a high volume of cold calls leads to a lot of appointments. This was ranked at the top of the myth list recently by both LinkedIn and SalesHQ.
There are companies out there that still focus on the quantity of calls as a way to measure the effectiveness of their sales people, and if your organisation is doing that, you really do need to address it.
Yes, sales is a numbers game, but it is about focusing on the right numbers.
I was visiting a company last year that had large whiteboards on the office walls with each salesperson represented on the board beside two columns of figures – a number of calls they had made that week along with their monthly call total. The person at the top of the board was proudly headlined. I felt like I was having a flashback to the 1990’s.
I asked one simple question: Who had brought in the most business that month? (I can tell you it wasn’t the person at the top). This is just wrong. Period. You are rewarding bad sales practices, approving the behaviour of those who need further sales coaching, not offering praise to those who are carrying out the correct way to perform in a sales environment, and most importantly, wasting company time and money.
Cold calling is important to most organisations, but again, you must focus on the right prospects.
Making a tonne of ineffective prospecting calls does little but restrict your time. Apply pure mathematics, and you realise that setting five appointments on 20 calls is more efficient than 10 appointments on 100 calls. By developing a consistent set of qualifying criteria targeting the strongest potential leads, your team can generate a better call-to-appointment ratio. And we all know that call efficiency leaves more time for face-to-face selling.
Myth #2: You Can’t Learn to Cold Call
Despite what some sales people seem to believe, cold calling is not necessarily an innate gift. Similarly, it is possible for an introverted person to succeed at turning calls into appointments.
In some cases, introverts perform better on calls because they aren’t overly pushy and are usually better listeners. They listen well to the needs and concerns of the prospect. Additionally, top appointment setters often go through extensive training, practice, and experience, before reaching peak efficiency. For example, all our appointment setters have a minimum of 5 years experience selling in a B2B environment.
The real key to getting someone interested during a phone call is to build rapport by making the prospect comfortable. In its simplest term – talk to people – but be natural about it! Once you can establish that there is a genuine value for both parties, you can take the conversation to the next level.
Myth #3: No One Likes Cold Calls
This one may be a half-truth rather than a complete myth. In reality, few people enjoy receiving the conventional phone solicitation, particularly if it is accompanied by a scripted sales pitch.
However, you can overcome this potential hurdle by ensuring you contact prospects only when you have a compelling value proposition. You can do this by ensuring you have done some background research on both your prospect and your prospective contact. Your belief in what you sell, and your ability to articulate that naturally, are also essential.
Another standpoint is to find ways to turn a cold call into a warm call. Something as simple as asking for help when you initially place your cold call instead of the usual pleasantries sales people attemp to use.
Phrases such as:
“How are you today?” [Who are you exactly and why are you being overly familiar with me?],
“Is this a good time to talk?” [No it’s not. Please go away.],
“Have I caught you at a bad time?” [Yes, you have. Now please go away.]
are not good openers [as you can see from my responses in closed brackets.]
It may seem obvious, but I’m always amazed at how many people dive straight into their sales pitch once they make the first contact. You need to make sure you are speaking to the right person. Otherwise, you are wasting both your and their time.
A simple “I wonder could you help me please” can work wonders. At the very least, you can confirm you are speaking with the correct person.
You can also identify mutual acquaintances for referrals via LinkedIn or other social networks, or other connection points between you and the buyer to help ease you both into a conversation. For example, I always check to see whether my contact has a Twitter account, know what they are tweeting about, and try to find something of interest we can both discuss.
Myth #4: Avoid Gatekeepers at All Costs
I’m sure you will have heard the phrase ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’? Well, this is 100% applicable to your sales efforts.
Even the label “gatekeeper”, often applied to receptionists, personal assistants or controllers invokes feelings of intimidation. The problem is that many sales people spend so much time planning how to work over, around or through a gatekeeper, that they lose sight of their potential influence as an ally.
When you look at the organisational chart of your prospects, gatekeepers are often one of the influencers. Never discount them.
Gatekeepers are people with interests, motives and fears. Building rapport with a gatekeeper, and treating him or her as an important human being, is a significant first step to avoiding rejection. The challenge is to come across genuinely, rather than someone masking kindness to get what you want. If you demonstrate sincere compassion and give this person some perspective on the potential value of your call, you can build strong momentum with the decision maker.
There are many times I’ve spoken with, and become acquainted with a gatekeeper before I managed to talk to the decision maker. I would always make a note of remembering their name so that when I rang the next time, I could address them directly instead of barging straight in with a request to speak to my prospect. Eight times out of ten, it would help me in setting up a meeting. Remember, the gatekeeper will also often have access to your prospects calendar!
Spending a few minutes talking to a receptionist without a script is effective at building rapport and avoiding a block. Photo courtesy of Nylon.
Many of the myths that people repeat about cold calling are simply excuses that impede an effective strategy. In reality, when you contact the right prospects with a strong message, you can succeed at appointment setting. Take the time to practice your delivery so you can come through naturally during dynamic calls. This is something you can do with your manager and peers.
Most of all, leverage your influence and go above and beyond what is expected of you.
(In case you were wondering which person had brought in the most business for the company in my example above, it was the person third from bottom).
Contact us for more ideas on how to improve the cold calling success of your team.