Earlier this year, we asked you to share your selling services challenges. You flooded us with your challenges and concerns, which included communicating the value of your services, client relationship management, cold calling, and qualifying leads. In this blog series we identify 12 of the major selling obstacles you are struggling with the most and offer advice and suggestions for overcoming them.
Today's challenge: cold calling.
Cold calling-what an appropriate name for calls to prospects unfamiliar with you. More often than not, the people you call are so chilly toward you that you feel like you should put on a parka. Previous bad experiences with sellers cause them to immediately erect a wall of ice when they receive such a call.
Fortunately there are ways to warm prospects up, get them to talk with you about their concerns, and get them interested in hearing what you have to say. You must, however, do it within the first few seconds of the conversation.
RAIN Group's Mark Fortune follows a five-step approach when cold calling. He starts by introducing himself, his company, and what his company does. Then, probably the most important step, he explains the value proposition for the meeting, describing in succinct but clear terms the benefit to the prospect in having the conversation.
Fortune also says it's important to always be honest, act naturally, and put the concerns of the prospect first.
"I always try to be business-like and focus on the value of the meeting, and to me that's one of the biggest difference makers in making cold calls," he says.
People who don't do as Fortune prescribes come off as self-serving sales people that people immediately tune out.
Buyers "don't care about you. They don't want to listen to you talk about your services. They want a solution to a problem. They want to know how you can help them improve their business," adds Kelley Robertson in his article, How to Lose a Prospect's Attention in 5 Seconds.
Before you start cold calling, ask yourself these important questions, advises Brian Carroll, author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale:
- What is the goal of the call? Are you looking to sell over the phone, schedule a demonstration or meeting, or offer to share written information with them?
- Who are you and what company do you represent? In 15 seconds, you should be able to introduce yourself, your company, and your company's value proposition.
- What can you offer the person on the other end of the line? Use your research to talk about the company or industry and how you can help address certain points of concern. If you have a case study or anecdote about a similar problem you helped solve for another company, tell it; just be sure it's crisp and concise.
- Why does your solution work? Describe what distinguishes your service and how you can help the executive meet company goals.
- What's the next step? Should you ask about setting up a meeting, forwarding an information kit, or following up via email? Find a way to continue the conversation you started in this introductory call.
Cold Calling Examples
Here are some cold calling scripts from RainToday's Cold Calling Strategies Kit to help you get started. Remember, you need to tailor the scripts for the prospect and your firm. And never read the script. Use it as a guideline and practice, practice, practice before you pick up the phone.
Example 1: My name is John Smith, and I am with Smith, Smith & Smith. We're a <insert type of firm>.
We've been scheduling brief phone calls to introduce ourselves and share best practice information. We'd like to tell you how other <industry> companies are...
- Protecting their global shipping operations and ensuring continuous cash flow
- Achieving the best possible efficiencies by connecting all <blank> disciplines
- Using to create competitive differentiation and capture market share
The information will give you a framework for assessing your situation at <company name>. I'm wondering if you'd like to talk with me and one of the partners here at Smith, Smith & Smith on March 23.
Example 2: My name is Jane Smith, and I am with Smith, Smith & Smith. We're a <insert type of firm>. As a part of that work, we have just completed a benchmark study where <industry> firms rate over 350 major suppliers in those areas critical in deciding who they will do business with.
What we've been doing as a way of introducing ourselves is sharing with select suppliers some survey details specific to you:
- How <company name> rates on six critical success factors
- Where your competition stands in relation to you
- What areas you can focus on that will have the greatest impact on increasing your share of wallet
That's it. Even if you decide not to pursue this any further than this first meeting, at least you'll have valuable intelligence as a result.
What does your calendar look like next Wednesday or Thursday?
You can also use a story to get a potential buyer's attention. For example, one reader used his interest in wine to get past the gatekeeper at a company that sold products and services to vineyards-and then interact with the decision maker.
"I told the gatekeeper that my wife and I had been in a wine bar having a glass of wine when I noticed an article in a wine magazine featuring their product. It appeared to me that they were using some of the services my company provided, and I wanted to find out if that was the case. I was immediately put through to the proper person to begin the engagement process. We landed that account six months later," he says.
Once you have a prospect's attention, it's important to keep the conversation brief and to the point. Your goal when cold calling is to set up a next meeting with them, whether it's in person or over the phone, so you can further explore their concerns and how you can help them.
As you make your calls, always remember to keep the prospect's concerns at the forefront. The more you focus on their situation and how you can improve their business, the more likely the person will want to continue the conversation.