Perfect Your Cold Calling Skills in 7 Steps

We hear talk about inbound marketing and how we need to draw the customer to our business, instead of chasing them down. But think about it, how many businesses have ditched outbound marketing entirely in favor of inbound marketing? However, much it looks like outbound marketing is becoming obsolete, cold calls remain a reality of most B2B as well as many B2C sales profiles.

While cold calls are not going anywhere, the standard of your calls needs to get better, quick. With technologies like reverse phone lookup, customers can now use your phone number to track down details your business and send in legal complaints about being harassed with unsolicited sales calls. Not a happy place to be in, for sure.

The answer? Get better at making those calls. Don’t be a nuisance, be a solution for your customer.

1. Refine Your List

Too many sales reps make the mistake of landing a list of prospects and attacking that list without consideration to whether it’s a list of qualified leads or just a random list bought off of some vendor. Most organizations have clear criteria about what makes a lead a hot one, something worth pursuing. Figure out what those key factors are for your company and check if the people on your list make the cut. It could be anything from the industry in which the prospect operates to their geographical location to their annual purchase budgets.

Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads says data from the Annuitas Group. Make sure you’re not wasting your time barking up the wrong trees.

2. Do Your Research Before You Pick Up The Phone

In this day and age, it’s unforgivable to call up a prospect without knowing anything about them. The average sales rep has a ton of sources to begin their search. Check out your prospect’s LinkedIn profile, join groups that they are members of, initiate contact over social media as a means of getting a foot in the door.

According to a study conducted by the Aberdeen Group, 72.6% of salespeople using social selling as part of their sales process outperformed their peers and exceeded quota 23% more often. Steve Richard from Vorsight found that you are 70 percent more likely to get an appointment with someone on an “unexpected sales call” if you are in a common LinkedIn group than if you aren’t.

Social media is not the only option. Research their company website, read up about their competition, check if they’ve been in the news lately, see if there have been any movements in their industry lately, or even if they have ever purchased anything from your company before. Any bit of information can be mined to build a relationship that offers rich dividends in the long run.

3. Pick The Right Time To Call

Timing is everything for most critical things that you’ll do in life. Cold calling is no different. Inside Sales and the Kellogg School of Business found that the best time to cold call a prospect is between 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Calling before your prospect plunges headlong in to their work day also works well. 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. come runners up in the “best time to cold call” stakes. The one chunk of time you absolutely must avoid is late morning to afternoon – 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Thursday and Wednesday are the two best converting days of the week, while Mondays and Tuesdays are a bad idea for obvious reasons.

4. DO NOT Sell On Your First Call

The biggest mistake many sales reps do when they get a prospect on the line is that they dive right into selling their product to the prospect. Understand that whoever you are calling probably receives 20 calls a day like yours and probably could not care less about your product.

Remember that research you did before the call? Put that to good use by striking up a conversation about things that are relevant to the user. Talk about some awesome work you did with the prospect’s competitor. That will definitely get them interested. Alternately, talk about how your product can help in the new product launch that their company is planning. Or mention a recent problem their company faced and how you can help them fix it. You get the drift. Once you make a real connection with the prospect, they will want you to sell to them. Just don’t go at it right at the beginning and put them off.

5. Rinse And Repeat

No sales person has ever met their quota by making a cold call whenever they feel like it. Research shows that in 2007 it took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8 attempts. In short, perseverance is the name of the game, when it comes to successful cold calling.

Dedicate a definite amount of time each day to making cold calls. You know that only about 3 to 4% of calls result in a conversion. With that in mind, set a target number of calls you need to make every day. The more you call, the better you’ll get at it, and the more you’ll convert.

6. Follow Up

So you managed to get through to your prospect. They connected with what you talked about in your first call and set up a face to face meeting. Now comes the tough part. Don’t walk in expecting to knock ’em dead with your charm in just one meeting. As Robert Clay writes in the Marketing Donut, 80% of sales require 5 follow up calls after the first meeting. Trouble is, 44% of salespeople don’t go beyond 1 follow up.

A follow up becomes even more important when your first call did not succeed. If you could not get the prospect on the line the first time, leave a message. And then, try again later. If your prospect was busy and requested a call back at a more convenient hour, call back then. Don’t let inertia get the best of you. A request for a call back is a sign of interest. Not following up is like wasting a would-be sale. No good salesperson ever does that.

7. Learn How To Handle Rejection

The fact that not even ten people in a hundred are going to respond positively to what you’re trying to sell day in and day out, can get very tough. However you must remember, that it’s not personal. It’s not because you are a bad salesperson that you keep getting hung up on. Every single salesperson faces rejection on an everyday basis.

What sets the star salespersons from the also-rans is their thick skin and their die-hard perseverance. It’s a prospect’s right to say No. Don’t let that bother you. Just figure out whether it is a “Not right now” or a “Never” and proceed from there.

Parting Thoughts

Discover Org found that 75% of over 1,000 senior executives they spoke to had attended an event or appointment that was set up via a cold call or email. That’s proof that not only does cold calling work, it can work exceedingly well if done right. You have the tools now. Go get ‘em, tiger!