The world of professional selling has changed and will no doubt continue to change. That sentence may more closely represent Captain Obvious than Nostradamus but hear me out. For today’s sellers, the real question has to be, what does “change” really mean? When it comes to opening doors with new targets, some experts will tell you that change must involve what you do, others will argue it’s how you do it. For the record, I am more of a “how you do it” guy. What you do is important for sure but my experience has shown that doing the proverbial wrong thing the right way has won more business than doing the right thing the wrong way. Taken a step further, doing the right things the right ways equals success multiplied!
The pronouncements of the death of cold calling are pretty common. Volumes have been written detailing how futile picking up the phone and calling a prospect is. As this noise has increased so has the proliferation of other sources of prospecting, namely email marketing and social selling. The goal being to create enough intrigue that targets will reach out to you. In my world, which is complex B2B sales, waiting for the phone to ring is a recipe for extinction. Believe me, I’ve lived it. My premise within this post is simply this, cold calling is not dead and to presume that it is would be a recipe for failure. It is as necessary as warm calling and inbound marketing. If you don’t pick up the phone, you are going to lose. Below are a few tips to make outbound calls the right way.
The first step in any productive prospecting plan is understanding what is needed. When thinking about revenue goals, what do you need to close yearly? Quarterly? Or Monthly? What is your conversion ratio? What do you get currently from referrals and Inbound Marketing? Once you understand where you are versus where you need to be, you can reverse engineer all the way down to understanding how many calls you need to make to generate the activity needed to hit your revenue numbers, consistently and predictably.
Know your targets
Once you know what you need, it is important to focus on the “who” to contact. This is also a very important step and understanding who your offering makes sense for will help eliminate the “why are you calling me? What has really given outbound prospecting a bad name through the years is sellers calling on people who are not a good fit for what they are selling. Pitching a reduction in staff costs to a member of the staff will not create a champion within the account.
Provide Value - repeat - PROVIDE VALUE!
Once you know who you need to call, have something of benefit to offer. I can’t stress this enough. Clearly stating a reason for calling that makes sense to the contact will help them not be annoyed by the fact you called. The argument that cold calling is dead was born from the displeasure of the call recipients with self centered people interrupting their day. In the information age, it is even more important that you have an idea that is useful and state it clearly and plainly. All communication must be direct and to the point, this is especially true for outbound calls.
Know your desired outcome
A major reason cold prospecting goes so poorly is in part due to a lack of discipline. That applies to a number of aspects, from setting the time to make the calls, to actually making the calls. Having realistic expectations also help. In B2B sales, you are not going to “close” someone on a first call. Having a desired outcome is key, that may range from getting them to accept something from you, to meeting for coffee at an event they plan to attend. It also helps to have a fall back position, if you can’t get the ideal what would be a reasonable alternative? Maybe it’s getting them to subscribe to your newsletter or blog or agreeing to consume something you will send to them. Those things help you win the initial call and that will be infinitely important in moving prospects to leads and ultimately getting them to know, like and trust you.
There are a number of ways to approach prospecting, everything from building an in-house sales development function to outsourcing it to a trustworthy source. Whatever the approach, outbound prospecting has to be present for your efforts to be successful. Cold calling is a must have ingredient. Without it, the hope of success is diminished.