I was having beers with my friend Sean Moss, owner of the sales consulting firm TelexSell. Around the third pop, we got on to the topic of how difficult it is these days to have an effective cold calling program. Let’s face it – in today’s world of voicemail, email, call screening, and text messaging, it is almost impossible to reach your audience over the phone and introduce yourself and your services. And on the odd occassion when you do get through, chances are the guy wishes he never answered the phone to get cornered by a sales pitch. Sean made some good points as to why cold calling is still an important part in generating leads. I asked him to share some of his insight on my blog and he agreed -we were on our fifth at that point. Have a read below:
As a sales person, there should be no question that making cold calls is or has been a part of your job. Many people don’t like it very much because it requires hard work, discipline & consistency. Let’s face it…closing the deal is a lot more fun. In my experience however, I have learned that telesales is an excellent training ground for further developing all aspects of sales. It is the most difficult part of sales to be comfortable with, master & involves the most discipline to get through. At times, it may feel daunting. On the other hand, when telesales is done right, the experience is most rewarding. In this article, I have pointed out some tips to make your telesales experience effective and rewarding as well.
Tip #1 Make effective use of your time
As it is said in business, time is money! Yes, it is, and that is exactly why it is important to set aside calling time to build your prospect list. When considering your daily calls to clients, prospects and everyone in between, it is critical to ensure that you prioritize when you make your sales call and absolutely stick to it. Great things happen when you take the time to manage your time effectively inside and outside of the workplace. We all know that we should do this, but we just plain don’t want to sometimes. I also hazard a guess that this is not the first time you have heard this. Oh, what a shock!
I emphasize this point a lot when I train because I know that during our busy day, we will either leave the undesirable activities until another day. Or, we will simply lose track of time and, oh no-can’t make the calls now because the day is done. That just won’t cut the mustard if you are in the business of Telesales or selling. So, take the time, usually in the morning to get the calls done. If you are calling head decision makers, you can typically reach these people in the early part of the day, around 8:00 am. Make a consistent effort to call for a set number of hours each and every morning…Routine and consistency are the terms of the day folks. Once you get this completed, you will have time in the afternoon to see clients and work on proposals. Spend that last half hour of your day to plan the next. This way you can come to work with an agenda to work on. With cold calling, there should never be a time where there nothing to do. When the calls are done, move on to the next task. So set a priority around making the calls on a daily basis.
Tip #2 – Always pre-plan your calls for success
Before you get on the phone, make a habit of pre-planning your calls to ensure that they are purpose driven. This means that you know what you want to say, and what direction you want the call to go in. This first step may seem obvious, but is often missed. I know this because people will fumble when I say, “What is the purpose of your call?” Many times, the simple answer is, “I am calling to make sales”. Yes, this is true, however, there is a lot more to making a call than picking up the phone and dialling for dollars. Every call should be a unique experience for you and the person on the other end. In reality, you want and need to know information about your client prior to the sale, so you can set the agenda for the sale. By taking a few minutes to pre-plan your calls, you will save time for the prospect and you.
Below is a guide list of suitable reasons to call a prospect:
- Introduce you & your company (Used to develop a business relationship, not designed to sell right away. This could be from a referral)
- Qualify, analysis of the situation (Used to identify prospects challenges with the current situation and buyer /seller fit)
- Set appointments (Self explanatory)
- Follow through call (Used after introduction, and or other discussions to move the sale ahead to the next step)
- Seminar/Workshop (Used to inform or book people to and up coming event)
- Combination call (Can be used in combination for any of the above for simple products, services or information seminars)
- Now, what are the specific reasons you have for picking up the phone? Once you have determined your purpose, the next step is to craft a script to better help direct your calls.
Tip #3 – Develop a Customized Calling Script
Have you ever had to read from a script that was prepared for you to sell a product or service? Did it feel natural to you? Did you feel in control of the conversation? How did it sound to you the last time you called someone? Were you prepared for all of the questions the prospect asked? Or on the reverse, what were you thinking when the caller read from a script to you? I can tell you a number of adjectives to describe this, but I’ll save it for the next time I accidentally call a fax machine!
The calling script is one of the most important components of the sales process. It is a guide for you to follow, which allows you to stay on track. It is a preparation tool that is designed to help you deal with the responses you will encounter during the calls you make.
The point is…your script must be well planned out, focused on the calling agenda and customized to the business of your call. Furthermore, your script must be flexible enough to allow for free-flow conversation, but, contain enough structure to get on track when you need to. There is one more thing-it must be practiced enough ahead of time so it appears like you are having a conversation, not something you are reading.
When designing your script, consider this. Decision makers do not necessarily buy products, they buy the solutions. So, what do I mean? They don’t buy a car per se; rather, they invest in a smooth ride that makes them feel good. They buy beauty, not the actual make up. They buy holes, not the actual drill. Essentially, people buy solutions to solve their problems. So, when working your script, think about the value in the eyes of the buyer that your solution will bring. Below are a few questions when crafting your calling script:
- How can my product/ service help the prospect?
- Who am I selling it to?
- What message am I trying to convey?
- What is my unique selling proposition?
- What objections will the prospect have & how will I answer them?
- What makes my product/service different?
- What is the next step in moving the sale ahead?
Sound like fun yet? Well, you are not done. You still have to make sure that you can position the call to control the flow of conversation yourself & move the sale ahead. Essentially, the list below is a guide to the order of how your script will unfold.
- Qualifying questions
- Anticipating objections and answering them
- Next step to move the sale ahead
Tip #4 – Leaving the right message
There is a big debate in the sales world regarding the best time to leave a message. In my opinion, I avoid leaving messages if I have had no prior contact with the person on the other line, or, in other words, a cold call. Some believe that it is important to get the message out at all cost, and that includes the initial cold call. Getting the message across is true; however, it should be left to the marketing department. Upon analysing this question, I had to consider what the person checking the messages was thinking when they get a call from someone they do not know, and in most cases do not have time for. I tested this question with colleagues, associates & other decision makers too. I came to the consensus that decision makers, will be most likely to delete the message without a second thought, unless, on the rare chance they may actually be looking for the exact solution you are providing. Even in this case, I still believe that you should at least have made contact with the decision maker first before leaving your message.
Now, here is the good part. When you leave a message ensure that it is absolutely…focused and purpose driven. (Do you see a common theme here?) Since decision makers are busy individuals, they will appreciate your diligence and professionalism for getting to the point quickly. Use the steps below as a guide…
- Introduction: (Introduce your name, company name & phone number)
- Benefit: (Why should the person pay attention, what does your company do to improve the buyer’s situation)
- Purpose of message: (What is the specific reason you are calling)
- Contact information: (Repeat your name, phone number and the best time to reach you).
The message should be no longer than twenty seconds.
Tip #5 – Practice Role playing
Role-playing, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term is a method of re-enacting a particular situation, as realistically as possible, for a real life situation. It is much like the dialogue of a play, where one character says a line and the other responds. However, in this situation it is based on the most realistic outcome possible for a telephone sales call. For most people, role-playing can be one of the least desired tasks in preparing for a telephone campaign, or any sales presentation. The reason for this is because it affords the opportunity for our colleagues to discover holes in the thinking process of our otherwise, well thought out telephone promotions. Generally, we do not like when people play devil’s advocate to our ideas. Also, we tend to experience a heightened anxiety during this process because it “almost” seems real. However, that is the point. We want to experience the discomfort before the call so that when it comes time to make the call, we will be rehearsed enough to handle the situation as it unfolds before us.
Although uncomfortable, role-playing is an excellent method in discovering and rectifying concerns before the real life scenario. As we role-play with greater regularity, our learning curve of real life telephone dialogues is exceptionally increased, which allows us to generate more effective scripts and increase our chances for success at the time of the call. With role playing as a regular part of my training, I was prepared for the real deal. Utilize and master this skill and you will experience successful results. In addition, practice role-playing with a variety of people to uncover different points of view. This will help you learn about and deal with situations that you had never even thought of before.
When conducting your role play sessions, have the “prospect” throw every possible objection at you and think of answers to these objections. Take note of what worked and what didn’t. After time you will have complied a number of useful ideas for executing and handling your telesales calls.
Tip #6 Rewards your self for a job well done
Ok, you have been diligent in executing your calls. You have been disciplined in setting the time requirements necessary to stay on top of the game. Let’s say you have also done so with true purpose and wasted little time in the process. Because of this, the calls are easy to do and positive results are starting to come in. Great!
Will you be able keep up this furious rate forever? I doubt it, unless you are a computer. Nobody can work at this rate each and every day without going through burnout. I experienced burnout in my early career, and want to help you avoid this. You can avoid burnout when you give yourself a much-deserved break after a job well done. This type of reward will help energize you so that you will be more productive more often. There is a time and place for everything, and a well timed break is a necessity.
How do you know when to take a break? I don’t call any longer than 3 hours at a time without stopping. A break does not have to be twenty minutes long, however. Your break only needs to be a few minutes. Take a five minute walk outside to clear your mind. Have a small snack or drink some water. Be sure to distract yourself so that the break is well utilized.
In addition to taking short “power” breaks, reward your self in other ways. Your reward can be as simple as buying a good meal out, or going for a relaxing massage on your day off. Rewards can be motivating & help maintain healthy productivity. It reminds you of a job well done.
When cold calling, stay on task, but don’t forget to have some fun. I believe that we all learn better when we have a laugh here and there while learning to be better at what we do!
Rajan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BIG Marketing for Small Business. He's an award-winning marketing strategist who is passionate about branding, digital marketing and social media. He spent nearly a decade as the marketing executive at global IT firm Peer 1 Hosting and was instrumental in their explosive growth.