Cold Calling in 2021
James Buckley is the Director of Execution & Evolution at JB Sales. He draws on his vast experience of working in sales to teach teams how to create and leverage their personal brand to bolster pipelines, connect with key accounts, build relationships, and add value to the sales process. In addition to his role at JB Sales, James publishes the ‘Say What Sales’ blog and is also the manager, brand ambassador, and podcast host of the widely celebrated ‘Uncrushed Podcast’. James joined Predictable Revenue to offer help and guidance on the difficult task of cold calling.
Misconceptions About Cold Calling
Throughout his long career in sales, James has observed a number of misconceptions about cold calling gain currency amongst salespeople. To be a great cold caller, you need to be disabused of these misconceptions.
Misconception #1: It’s A Sales Rep’s Job To Sell
“Sales reps, especially SDRs, are taught that their job is to sell. That is not your job as a sales development representative. Your job is to create interest and get attention,” explains James.
By creating enough interest in your product or solution, you will start to find your prospects getting excited about it. This leads them to want to learn more from you and your team. “It is the AE’s (account executive) job to sell. Your job is to create enough interest so that you can open the door for that AE to sell.”
However, this dynamic between the SDR, the AE, and the prospect can throw up a significant issue that needs to be carefully navigated. As an SDR, you will be working for months to build a relationship with a decision maker. When this person then decides that they do actually want a demo, this is then provided by someone who “is not as invested as the SDR is after months of outreach and rapport building. So, they’re detached from the outcome, whereas the SDR is 100% bought-in to the outcome.”
Fortunately, there is a simple solution to this issue. “Attend the demos that you set. Show up, edify the AE. Introduce them. Give a little history on them if you can.” In doing so, you will facilitate a smoother transition and help these two people build a relationship.
“You’re going to find that you acting as that conduit helps that deal stay nice and greased, and people will feel comfortable doing business all the way through the sales cycle.”
Misconception #2: You Shouldn’t Leave Voicemails
The second misconception is that salespeople shouldn’t leave voicemails. Far from being an ineffective medium, voicemails are a great way to raise your profile amongst prospective clients. “People don’t leave enough voicemails. Voicemail is just one more channel that makes you familiar with your prospect.”
Indeed, the very fact that so many salespeople neglect voicemails as a channel means that you will stand out even more when you do use it. Further, you will find that voicemails work synergistically with your other channels. This will amplify the impact of your entire approach.
“Those voice messages will stand out for your prospects because they rarely happen. And because they rarely happen, if they are consistent enough, you will find that your emails get responded to more frequently. Your DMs that you’re sending on LinkedIn will get responded to much more frequently. And your follow back rate on places like Twitter and Instagram will improve.”
Misconception #3: People Care Who You Are And Who You’re With
“People don’t care who you are and who you’re with, and I know that that is a tough pill to swallow.” There is a natural urge to begin each call by saying “Hi, my name is X, I’m with Y, and we do Z.” But this is immediately off-putting to the prospect. “The moment people hear that, they’re done with the conversation. They’re looking for that window to say: ‘no thanks, take me off your list’.”
Instead, you should craft more effective openers that spark an interest and encourage the prospect to open up. Read on to discover some tips from James on how to approach this.
Tips For Improving Cold Calling
Example Of A Stronger Opener
One of the best openers that we use is: “Thanks for taking the call, do you have a moment?”
This is a really powerful opener because nobody gets thanked for taking a cold call. So, it has an impactful pattern interrupt. Additionally, when you use this opener, you can only get one of three answers:
1) “Yes, I have a moment, what can I do for you?” – If you receive this, then you can proceed.
2) “No, I don’t have a moment” – If the answer is no, then you say, “no problem thanks for the time, I’ll call you again tomorrow.”
3) “Who’s this?” – If you receive this response, you have been invited to give more information.
In all three of those responses, you have earned the right to keep speaking to this person, and that’s the name of the game when you’re cold calling.
Weaker Openers To Avoid
There are also a number of oft-used openers that you should always avoid as highlighted below.
1) “Is this a good time?”
This is a terrible opener, because nobody ever thinks it’s a good time to receive a cold call. Similarly, avoid opening with “Is this a bad time?” This immediately creates a negative connotation in their mind. It’s super easy for them to say: “yep this is a terrible time, I don’t want to have this conversation”.
2) “I’m just touching base / checking in / following up.”
Using any of these phrases as an opener will immediately be off-putting for the recipient. What that translates to for your prospects is: ‘I have no real reason for reaching out to you today.’
3) “I’m sorry to bother you.”
This is another phrase that will simply generate negative feelings for your prospect. It is signposting the idea that the interaction will be unpleasant or troublesome for them. “I hear that one a lot. Stop saying this. It’s like people saying, ‘oh this is going to be a terrible conversation’.”
When trying to speak with decision makers, salespeople often have to navigate their gatekeepers. The best way of doing this is to build a rapport with them. The first time you call, ask for their name. “That way, when I call again, I can say: ‘is this Dorothy?’ And Dorothy’s super happy.”
Then each time you interact subsequently, build on this positive relationship. “By the time it’s all said and done, Dorothy and I are tight. She knows who I am, she knows my number when I call.” Because of this, the gatekeeper will be much more likely to advocate on your behalf to the decision maker. “Dorothy will walk in and say: ‘James has called every day for a week, I take all of his messages, will you please call him back today when you have a moment?’”
Importantly, you need to think of gatekeepers as your ally, not a problem that needs to be overcome. “Don’t look at gatekeepers, at enterprise level or otherwise, as obstacles to be broken through. They are not. They are people too, just like you.”
How To Get Over The Anxiety Of Cold Calling
Feeling nervous about picking up the phone to start cold calling is an experience that many salespeople will be all too familiar with. However, it is often a vitally important part of the job. It’s a chance to build a rapport with a prospect. “You have an opportunity to provide value on calls that you typically won’t get when you’re sending an email trying to earn a conversation,” explains James.
You can also earn credibility in your customers’ eyes by doing it. “Anybody that’s afraid to dial somebody’s phone number, it’s hard to give you credibility in that space of sales. Especially if you’re selling to sales, which so many of us do.”
So how can you overcome that anxiety to become an effective cold caller? One way is to use empathy and look at things through your prospect’s eyes. This allows you to understand how they do things, and what’s important to them. In turn, this helps you to forge a connection with them.
“Lots of people are going to talk to your prospects, but very few people are going to connect with them. That takes real knowledge of who they are, what they do, what they’re responsible for.” To achieve this, do lots of rigorous research. Go to their About pages, their LinkedIn profiles. Understand how they like to do things, and what their priorities are.
“If I’m cold calling somebody and they’re data oriented, I need to talk to them about data. If I’m calling them and they’re more cerebral, I need to make this person feel good. Knowing that alone changes everything about what you say to them, and that’s how I got over that anxiety. I started to actually give a damn about who I was talking to.”
For more tips and guidance from James on cold calling, watch the full video with Predictable Revenue here.
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