A business-to-business client we at RAIN Group work with recently closed a mid-six figure deal that started with a cold call.
But it started out rocky. Indeed, about 20 seconds in to the cold call it almost fell apart.
After the prospect answered the phone, Jim, a sales person that works for our client, began speaking and the prospect immediately said, “I’m not interested.” This is where many salespeople give up.
He knew that this was just the first of three common cold calling objections. He persisted and, as a result, he got our client on the prospect’s radar screen and ended up winning a major deal.
If your initial attempt to capture attention and create interest on a cold call doesn’t work, don’t just wilt! It’s easy to say “okay” and just move on, but, then again, it’s easy to fail at cold calling.
All is not lost. You can overcome common objections and make saves.
Here are the three common cold calling objections along with examples for how you can overcome them.
Cold Calling Objection 1: “I’m Not Interested”
Prospect: “I’m not interested.”
You: “Okay. I’m curious to know though. What could I have said about this topic that might have actually interested you?”
Prospect: “Nothing, really.”
You: “Then if I hear correctly, it’s not that the topic’s not interesting to you, it’s that you’re not interested in talking at all right now. You’re focused on something else.”
Prospect: “You got it.”
You: “Then let’s not talk right now, but is it your area to focus on improving marketing returns at your company? Are you the person who that would fall under?”
Prospect: “Yes, I am.”
You: “Well, when I speak with companies, even those that don’t think there’s the ability to increase their e-mail marketing efficiency by 10 percent at least, the opportunity is usually there. Whether it’s there or not, I think you’ll get some value out of the conversation because I’ll share with you some best practice research about how it’s been done at places like (big industry player name here). Can we talk at another time, maybe on Friday at 2 or 3? That way you can give me a few minutes to pique your interest, and if I don’t, all you risk is the time in exchange for insight.”
Prospect: “Okay, sure. Let’s talk at 2 PM this Friday.”
Cold Calling Objection #2: “Now’s Not a Good Time”
Prospect: “Now’s not a good time.”
You: “Do you mean for talking about it, or is it that increasing your sales performance just isn’t something that is a top priority right now?”
You: “Why is that? Sometimes when that’s the case it’s because the company isn’t looking to grow revenue for one reason or another. Is that it?”
Prospect: “Oh, we’d like to grow revenue, but it’s just been so tough with the merger happening that all of our attention is focused there.”
You: “You mean merging the two sales forces from Caprica and Kobol, yes? I saw that on your website. It’s one of the reasons I called. Has that been a challenge?”
Prospect: “Yes, it has, and we’re having a heck of a time moving past ‘merger mode’ and into ‘action mode.’”
You: “I’m going to guess that one sales force is still selling their old area and same with the second, yes? And perhaps there are other issues distracting the sales forces and making them focus less on sales, and more on, well, internal gyrations.
Prospect: “That and more.”
You: “We focus on sales-force integration with mergers. Again, that is the reason I called. It’s common that two sales forces, when merged together, mix about as well as milk and Pepsi. At least at first. But we’ve been able to turn that around. Would you like to hear how?” (PAUSE)
Prospect: “Okay, well it’s still not a good time, but later in the week might work.”
Cold Calling Objection #3: “We’re Already Working with Someone”
One of the most common push backs is, “We already work with another provider to do this, and they’re doing well.”
If you’re like many salespeople, you politely say, “Thanks for your time. I understand. Have a great day.” And you move on to the next prospect, marking this one as a “no” because they’re locked up with a competitor. However, you should know that buyers switch regularly, and often times the buyers are thinking about it when you call.1 They’re just not saying it.
Your job is to start planting the seeds of why this prospect should buy from you. Here are three ways you can respond to the “we work with someone already” cold calling objection:
“Good to hear. I’m curious, what do you think makes the relationship work so well?”
This is a relatively nonthreatening way to get key insight into the buyer’s mindset. It gets the prospect talking. And based on what she says, you can probe further and uncover areas where there may be issues with the current provider or holes in the current offerings that you can fill. After the prospect talks for a little bit, you can ask a series of “I’m curious to know” questions.
Let’s say you’re selling network and data security technology to banks. You can say, “Great to hear. I’m curious to know, though, if they have 24-hour support if something goes haywire on you?” or “I’m curious to know if they talked with you about the best papers from the last industry conference and the trends that are sweeping through the industry?” or “I’m curious to know if their most recent release will allow you to access all of your intrusion detection data in real time?” If you get any “no” answers, that leaves you room to explore more.
You might ask, “What topics do you cover in your monthly meetings with your current provider?” In most cases, the answer to that question is going to be, “We don’t have monthly meetings.” This gives you an opportunity to demonstrate how working with you is different. For example, you might say something like, “Oh I didn’t realize that. Would you like to know what we typically cover in the monthly meetings we have with clients?
"It sounds like things are pretty good. But you didn’t say they were doing an amazing job. What would it look like if a company was doing an amazing job by your standards?"
By asking that question you get the prospect thinking about where the current provider may not be meeting expectations. It also gets them thinking about what it might be like if they did switch.
“Glad to hear that things are going well. While I am not too familiar with their process, I do know it’s always worthwhile to have a second set of eyes to look things over. The next time you have something like this, I’d be happy to give it a quick review to see if we’d approach it any differently. If nothing else, you’ll get a different perspective and we may even be able to find you some additional improvement.”
When you offer to be a second set of eyes it helps deepen the relationship and allows them to experience firsthand your service orientation and expertise.
The idea is to start building the relationship even though there is an incumbent. Remember, many prospects are looking to switch providers in a year or two, but they don’t start the call off by mentioning that. By building the relationship early, you give yourself the inside track for when they do switch. And you can create the impetus for making a switch happen now, not later.
If you want to get this far, though, the first thing you need to do is talk now, not later. Overcoming these three common cold calling objections should help quite a bit.
1 In our How Clients Buy research, we asked several hundred business to business buyers if they would consider switching to new providers in the next two years. While results varied depending on the seller’s industry, on average 52% of buyers indicated they were open to switching.