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Business owners today are spending too much time on digital marketing strategies. The internet opened a lot of new possibilities for marketing and growing a business, but in the haste to capitalize off this new frontier, historically tested sales and marketing strategies have been underutilized. Cold calling is a strategy primed for a comeback.
Cold calling refers to the act of calling a business or individual that's likely to use your product or service. Typically you have no relationship with the business or individual on the other end prior to the call. A successful cold calling campaign can be the difference between feast and famine. If cold calling makes any sense for your business you would be remiss not to take advantage of it. In the following we discuss the top 25 cold calling tips to help you crush it and dominate your competition.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SLAY THE GATEKEEPER
I you want to speak to the person in charge your're going to have to bypass or "slay" the gatekeeper.
DISCLAIMER, "slaying the gatekeeper" is a figment of speech. I don't advocate for the slaying of anyone!
A gatekeeper's sole responsibility is to prevent unwanted solicitation of upper and middle management. The good one's will take their job very seriously.
If you plan on being successful at cold calling, you must determine how to deal with the gatekeeper. I can't stress this last point enough. Since we're talking about cold calling, the gatekeeper is more than likely going to be your biggest obstacle.
There's no sale if you don't learn to slay the gatekeeper.
We have 3 recommendations for dealing with the gatekeeper, they are:
- call during lunch time or after hours
- build rapport with the gatekeeper
- find out more about the gatekeeper
To learn more about these recommendations, please take a look at this article entitled, "What's A Business Gatekeeper And How Do You Deal With Them?" The article details the Why's and How's of dealing with the gatekeeper and provides practical examples for you to use.
Your business model must be factored into your approach.
If you operate a business with tight margins, you might now want to spend a lot of time dealing with the gatekeeper. In this scenario, do your best to bypass them, but if unsuccessful move on.
On the other hand, if you have healthy and robust margins, and acquiring the client is profitable, by all means utilize these recommendations to their fullest.
It's up to you to know your business and decide what's worthy of your time.
CREATE A SALES CALL FRAMEWORK
If you want a successful cold calling campaign you need a Sales Call Framework. We recommend a framework similar to the following:
- value proposition
- small steps
The following infographic depicts the components of the sales call framework:
If you want this image for yourself, please link back to this page. Thank you.
Download: Sales Call Framework
For a detailed explanation of the sales call framework please have a look at this article, "How To Create A Sales Call Framework."
A note about the "small steps" component; if the call naturally progresses to a conversation with your lead, then have the conversation. Do not pass up an opportunity to close the sale.
In most cases, especially with cold calling, the lead will not make themselves available. For small or medium sized business you stand a better chance to speak to the lead. For larger businesses you will more than likely have to adhere to the "small steps" component.
Always be ready for anything. Don't be too rigid and inflexible. The most successful sales associates are those who fly by the seat of their pants and are ready for anything.
When you feel like you can handle anything, the client on the other end of the phone will sense that and have more confidence and trust in you.
Now that you have a sales call framework it's time to practice, Practice, and PRACTICE!.
When you think you have practiced enough, practice some more!
PRACTICE THE CALL FRAMEWORK
Don't memorize a script.
You want the words to flow off your tongue. Rehearse into a mirror and look at yourself! This might be hard to do but that's the point! By looking at yourself in the mirror you force yourself to speak as if you would when you are talking to someone. When you play a conversation out loud or in your head, you're not simulating the conditions of an actual call.
The self-conscious feeling you get when you look at yourself helps to create an uneasiness similar to a sales call. The more uncomfortable the practice feels, the more you learn, and the better your actual call results will be.
Another way to practice is to ask a friend to role play your framework out. If you have a friend willing to do that, get their feedback, but make sure they are honest enough to give you a critical opinion.
Focus on how the conversation felt. Did it feel natural or awkward? Keep practicing until it feels natural. When you start having dreams of your framework you're ready.
You certainly don't have to take this advice. Instead, you could jump right into calling. Perhaps you're the type of person who learns best by doing. If that's the case, you know yourself best, do what feels right.
But if you do jump in without practice you need to know that you're going to burn leads. That's just a fact. No one, and I mean no one, has ever become a master at something if they didn't first work long and hard.
So, if you want to jump right into your cold calling framework we recommend saving the best potential leads for later. Call some of your "lower pay-off" clients first. Save those "bigger pay-off" clients until after you've had some success and a boat load of confidence under your belt.
TRIAL YOUR FRAMEWORK
Try 20 calls in 1-2 days and no more than that. A call is defined as a call where you were able to speak to someone. No pick-ups and answering machines are not considered a call but call attempts.
After each call answer the following:
- What went well and why?
- What didn't go well and why?
When you complete these calls sleep on it. Give your subconscious a chance to reflect on them. The next day answer the following questions, and be as detailed as possible:
- What can I improve?
- How will I make those improvements?
Based on your answers make corrections to your framework. Rinse and repeat this process. Don't be afraid to give yourself as much time as it takes to improve your sales tactics. In fact, some of the best sales people out there will tell you they are constantly improving.
I promise you, if you stick to this process, and carry it out 10 times, yes that's 200 calls, your framework will be as perfect as perfect is going to get! Moreover, you will likely be an unstoppable cold calling machine!
PLACE YOUR CALLS AT A TIMELY HOUR
Now this is going to depend on your industry.
For business to business (B2B) make calls in the morning between 9:30 am and 11:30 am. Everyone is fresher in the morning. Call after people have a chance to check e-mails and talk at the water cooler.
Don't call too close to lunch. They won't be listening to you if you do. After lunch is digestive time. It takes time for people to transition back to work after lunch. If you have to make calls in the afternoon, do so from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. After 4:00 pm they are in going home mode. Don't waste your time.
For business to consumer (B2C) make calls when your clients are likely to be home. The time could vary greatly. If your business focuses on homemakers, during the day is fine, but if not, evenings will work.
Today few families adhere to a strict dinner time schedule. What can I say, the culture is changing. I wouldn't be too worried about dinner time calling. A good rule is to have dinner yourself with your family and when you're done, get to calling. If they are busy eating dinner, apologise and call back.
MAINTAIN A DO NOT CALL LIST
Most countries have a do not call list regulation. If you are asked not to call back, don't! This means keeping careful records of requests not to call back.
Wikipedia has some rules and regulations listed here: Rules and regulations for cold calling.
Following this point is for your own sanity. People can be rather difficult at times, but they can be downright hostile if you call them after they've asked you to add them to the do not call list. On top of that, it's a waste of time.
Have a do not call list and keep it updated regularly. The best way to manage this is through software. We may have a software recommendation for this in the future. Stay tuned.
CREATE A RITUAL OUT OF COLD CALLING
Make a ritual out of cold contacting every workday!
You read that right. EVERY WORKDAY!
I've never seen a business that makes too much money and doesn't want more clients. Sure you'll have growing pains if you grow too quickly, but that's a problem you shouldn't mind having.
For smaller businesses, set aside time each day to cold call without failure. Never blow off your ritual. Take pride in it. Cold calling is a numbers game. You may have to talk to 10 or 20 people before you get a glimmer of hope.
The faster you cycle through the numbers the better. It's very easy to get discouraged so you have to power through the failures to relish the victories. Consistency over time is the key!
If you are anything like me, when facing a repetitive, low success task, your mind desperately looks for anything to distract it. Know what I'm talking about? I bet you do.
You MUST do whatever you can to cut down on the number of distractions and focus on the task. Try doing the following:
- turn off your mobile phone and put it in a drawer
- turn off TV's or non-essential computers within your field of view
- close or shut window blinds (You don't need to see how nice it is outside!)
- do not chew gum (that's a distraction for the person on the other end of the phone)
- remove food or drink from your work top (eat and drink before calling)
I know some of you are going to disagree about the water. If you must have water, store it in a sports bottle with a nipple. Do not use a water bottle. Water bottles can be a huge distraction. Water bottles are made from such cheap plastic that lightly touching it can cause a real ruckus, and more importantly, draw your attention away from calling.
Before you know it, you'll be stabbing the water bottle with your pen wondering how long it will take to puncture it. 5 minutes passes by during your very important contribution to science.
Just thinking about it annoys me as a business owner. They should ban water bottles. When I'm done writing that's exactly what I am going to do.
TAKE A BREATH AND CALM DOWN
There is nothing more off-putting than listening to a person ramble on and on.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone that seems to be living their life on fast forward? You know what I mean... for that person, the universe is operating at 1.5 times normal speed. They talk too fast. They take uncomfortable, quick gasps of air before launching into more verbal diatribe.
Forget about trying to converse with them. Either they don't give you a chance to speak, or when you do manage to say something, they continue on with their own thoughts as if they didn't hear you at all.
Don't be that person!
Take a breath and be calm.
If it helps, say to yourself, "be calm." Breath. Calm your mind. You are as cool as a cucumber. If yoga is your thing, breath in deeply and let it out slowly. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
I am not one for yoga, but I do like meditating from time to time. Meditation is great because it helps your mind slow down. It can be grounding. Sometimes it's important to see yourself as an observer.
This point is important because others don't respond well to high strung, manic individuals. You want to be trusted and respected. Be that calm authority figure a client will listen to.
FIND A MENTOR
Seek out a salesperson who is successful at cold calling and ask them for advice.
Here is a HUGE secret...
Stop talking. Just listen.
Here is a strategy that works well for me. Compliment the person. Ask for advice. Sit back and listen intently. Based on what they say ask follow up questions. If you need to, write down the information. Reflect on it. Try the strategies they impart. Reflect again. Do your best to strengthen the relationship with that salesperson.
In effect you want to turn competent salespeople into mentors. Not only will they help you become more successful, but surrounding yourself with winners has a lot of unintended positive consequences.
As Dale Carnegie wrote in his book entitled, "How to win friends and influence people," people like to do business with people they know and like. Aside from becoming a better cold caller, a quality mentor could bring about additional professional opportunities.
That was a lot of lecturing about why you should seek out a mentor. You become more skilled and build a valuable network. That's true but that isn't what's most important.
What's most important is becoming more cognisant of your ability to accept new ideas and different ways of interpreting experiences.
You never want to become stagnant. Even successful salespeople fall into this trap. I did.
What seems like a life ago, I worked as a sales representative for the largest financial institution in the world. I was a retention and sales associated who was responsible for saving credit card accounts when a client called to close them.
Initially, I learned as much as I could and took what advice I could. I routinely reflected on my actions. I tried a multitude of strategies. Over time my skills improved and I was in the top 3 of the department. 80% of the time I would save the account.
Not bad, right?
I didn't keep it up.
When I hit 2 years of experience, I was at the top of the department, and my confidence was riding high. I felt like the big dog. Unfortunately, I wasn't the big dog but the old dog. My saving percentage declined and my past tricks failed.
I grew despondent. I became negative. For whatever reason, my superiors were more than happy to pass me on to the sales pasture. Within 6 months I quit.
It took at least 10 years for me to realise the lesson.
I got too cocky. I thought I knew it all. And that's what is funny about sales. You could be at the top of your game and characterized as the immanent authority, but those conditions are fluid and dynamic. One day you are at the top and the next you're not.
A better strategy is to assume you are always on your way down so you continue to do what keeps you on your way up.
EXPECT FAILURE TO BE INEVITABLE... WORK THROUGH IT
Think back to when you were a child learning to ride a bike. Did you fall?
Of course you did.
What did you do? You got up!
If only we could bottle up that childhood enthusiasm. When did we lose it? Probably sometime between learning the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause were...
Don't have unrealistic expectations. You're going to fail. With cold calling you're going to fail a lot! Accept it. Just make sure you're doing the best you can with every call.
Remember, it isn't a zero sum game. You don't actually lose anything when you get rejected. Move on. Work through the numbers. Let a bad call slide off your shoulders. Don't get dejected. Don't give up. Get back up. Dial another number.
99% of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.
BE OPEN TO ADVICE
You don't have to find the perfect mentor. Given your situation you might not have someone to coach you or look up to. Maybe you're an entrepreneur working from your basement after the kids went to bed. I get it.
But don't let that stop you!
We live in the most amazing times. One late night in a far away country a person writes some words of wisdom, and 10 minutes later 10 million people are reading them on social media.
Who could have foreseen such a transformation?
If you have access to the internet, you never have to feel alone or disconnected. There is untold access to people, and ideas are at the tip of your fingers.
Get those fingers dancing.
The following are examples of information sources widely available:
- YouTube videos
- Information websites (like this one)
- Facebook groups
- LinkedIn groups
- Local business groups (brick and mortar locations with actual people to talk to)
- How-to guides (online and in print)
- How-to books (online and in print)
- Community libraries (books and local seminars)
I promise you. If you send me an e-mail, I will reply. In fact, we can even arrange some time to chat through Skype or over the phone. Bounce an idea off me, and I'll tell you what I think. Heck, I may have an idea to bounce off you too.
Just remember, as we discussed in Step 10, you can never be perfect. There's always more you could learn.
DEALING WITH RUDE INDIVIDUALS
This point is real simple so it doesn't take up a lot of words. I Promise.
When others meet you with rudeness, shower them with kindness! This frame of mind will prevent you from becoming triggered. Carry out your framework. Believe in the process.
If it doesn't work out? No problem. Dial another number.
REFLECT BROADLY BEFORE MAKING SWEEPING CONCLUSIONS
Never evaluate your level of success in the moment, other than to reflect on what went right and wrong for a specific call.
Wait a month or more before taking a long hard look at your success. This will ensure you have time to improve and run through the numbers. Only then are you likely to get a good picture of your cold calling campaign.
If after three months you have little success, and that came after reflection, and applying all of these tips to the best of your ability, then give up.
If you actually did all of this and it didn't work out, turn your attention to other ways of build leads. Not everyone is destined to be a successful cold caller. You might want to consider hiring someone better, but don't give up on the lead generator altogether if you don't have to.
Surprised by this advice?
If I told you to hit your head against the wall until you passed out would you?
I hope not!
If cold calling really isn't your thing, I'd never endorse the destruction of your self-esteem. I'm sure you have other talents to capitalise.
The remaining cold calling tips will focus on sales tactics and dealing with objections.
I'm going to share some information about me, more specifically, where this knowledge is coming from.
For several years I was a sales manager for a water softening company. I raised myself to the sales manager position by being the top producer in the department.
I would speak to consumers in their home; do a water test, and subject them to a 2 hour sales presentation. At the end of that, I sold a softener and a reverse osmosis system that would cost more than $2500.
Not an easy task.
Keep in mind this was in the late 1990's, before people became accustomed to buying water. I actually had to overcome the objection, "What's wrong with tap water? I drink it all the time and look at me."
My point is, these sales tactics were "learned under fire within the field of combat."
SEND A "TROJAN HORSE" BEFORE CALLING
Consider your industry. Is there anything you can send to a potential client that can be regarded as useful?
If the answer is Yes, and you have the means to send the item, do it! That's your Trojan Horse.
Having a useful Trojan Horse precede your cold call turns it into a warm call. Furthermore, you could expect your success rate to be much higher. In fact, you might actually get some clients calling you!
You heard me correctly. Providing something useful to a potential client might result in that client calling you. At which point, you identify their need, fill it, and sign them up.
Not sure what a Trojan Horse may be?
Here are some examples:
Business to Consumer (B2C)
- Real-estate Agent: flyer sent with housing sales in the area (action: drop-in or online search of phone number)
- Mortgage Broker: information package on acquiring a mortgage when a house is listed (action: drop-in or online search of phone number)
- Tutoring company: raffle for a tablet at a children's sports event. Send them home with a fridge magnet and take their contact information to enter the raffle.
Business to Business (B2B)
- Any Industry: for new business openings, send congratulations cards from your company
- Any Industry: e-mail congratulations (the more specific the better) on the company's excellent X, we'd love to discuss how we could help with X.
- SEO Company: send a brochure describing a pilot program to help local businesses increase their online presence. Accompany the brochure with a discount rate and highlight what you will offer.
Offer something of value. Value can be tangible or intangible. Congratulations doesn't cost you anything but if received as genuine could provide you positive sentiment.
Positive sentiment is all you need.
As I mentioned earlier, these tactics work best if the pay-off is big. I say this because the Trojan Horse strategy requires time and effort to execute. If you're involved in a business with fast turnaround, or low profit margins, you may not want to spend the time and money.
KNOW YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION!!!
Simply stated, a value proposition identifies what a client needs and how you plan to fill that need.
The traditional approach to defining ones value proposition is to choose up to 3 core values that are well suited for a specific client or business. This leads to businesses that are highly specific.
Being too specific can be problematic.
For example, sales management software is great at making a sales department more organized and efficient, but sales is only one department. Some businesses may have several departments. Should a business be forced to use a different software platform for each of its departments?
Is that efficient?
Thank about that for a moment. A business that uses 5 or more software platforms must train each user separately. Moreover, these platforms do not communicate directly with each other. In the case where they offer API's, the business will have to hire programmers to create its own software to aggregate the business data.
Not efficient. Not as far as I'm concerned.
That's why I don't buy into the idea of choosing 3 core values and catering to a specific client type. You can just as easily have 10 or more core values and communicate 3 of them depending on the client you're speaking with. It's up to you to understand their specific needs.
Sure, that makes for more work, but it also broadens your potential client base. Furthermore, it is harder to pivot from 3 core values to 3 different core values once you realise it's time to differentiate.
For very large businesses specialization may be the best outcome since the larger you are the slower you react. On the other hand, small and medium sized businesses (SMB) should broaden their core values and spend the time to know their clients specific needs.
Here are some examples of value propositions:
- cutting edge product or service
- bigger, better, faster moniker
- highly customizable
- increases productivity
- increases efficiency
- available anytime, anywhere
- enhances credibility
- reduces risk
- best pricing
- easy to use and intuitive
- our brand is well known
- we were where you are, we understand you
- we're small but hungry to please
You pick and choose these value propositions based on the unique requirements of the client.
A fast food restaurant will be interested in increasing its productivity. The faster it fills orders the better. It likely won't be concerned with enhancing credibility. If you have a product or service to sell to fast food restaurants, focus on values they want and need. It's a waste of time to offer a value they don't need.
But value X is one of our core values...
If the client doesn't want or need a value, it's not a value you're selling. Don't waste their time or yours selling unwanted values.
Lead with your strongest core values that apply to the clients wants and needs.
TALK VALUE FIRST, SNEAK THE PRICE IN LATER
This is especially important for expensive, multiyear contract agreements. If you have a low cost service or product, this point isn't as important, but the strategy may still be effective in making the sale.
Paint a clear image of what will happen when the client uses your product or service. Give them examples of current clients and what you have done for them. Tell them a story.
People love hearing stories.
Mentioning how you service their competitors is a good strategy. All businesses want information on their competition. That type of information is hard to get. In the very least, they will be all ears, and will likely ask you questions about their competitors purchasing habits.
"Well... I can't divulge too much information, but I can say since using our service they've seen a noticeable increase in customer satisfaction. They're very happy with us."
I like to call this strategy the "Friendly Insider."
You position yourself as a friend to the potential client willing to give insider information not available to others. They're getting something special from you.
As they consider your offer, they are constantly thinking about their competitor, and how it would be nice to even the playing field. It's not only about your value proposition, but sticking it to their competitors.
At this point price is an afterthought. Using your product or service is the cost of doing business. If you want to compete you got to pay it!
If you get the potential client thinking like that, you will get the sale. Then it's up to you to deliver.
PRESENT PRICE AT ITS LOWEST POSSIBLE FORM
"Our amazing service costs $25,000 over 5 years!"
"For less than $14/day, we'll be like a full time employee providing amazing 24/7 customer care to your clients."
Which one sounds more attractive to you?
But we can do better...
"For $0.57/hour, we'll be like a full time employee providing amazing 24/7 customer care to your clients."
Where are you going to find an employee for $0.57/hour? Sign up now before they get too busy! Hurry...
When selling water softeners and RO's my most expensive product was approximately $5000.00. Luckily we provided financing options.
When the conversation turned to price, I took the following approach:
$5000 (cost of equipment and installation) / 5 years / 365 days in a year = $2.74 per day.
Wow! That's the price of a good cup of coffee.
For the price of 1 cup of coffee you can assure the continued health of your family, protect your home from hard water erosion, and protect the planet from evil plastic water bottles. Why wouldn't you buy this product? Let's take a look at the basement and decide on a good location for your softener.
From a sales perspective, the following occurred:
- you made it difficult to argue price. If they give a ridiculous response you have a good idea about their frame of mind.
- you provided incentive to purchase the product. If they say the don't care about their health, the condition of their home or the planet, you failed to build rapport or trust with them. Either try to build trust of leave.
- using an open-ended question, you asked if they had any objections. This way you don't have to ask an endless number of questions. This isn't charades after all.
- you assumed the sale and led them down the process making it harder for them to say no when it comes to filling out paper work.
Your biggest objection will usually be price. Price is the universal cudgel. If you're unable to overcome objections due to price, you're not going to be successful in sales. Always think about ways to overcome price. Use your imagination.
FOCUS THEM THROUGH THE USE OF YES QUESTIONS
Ask questions that are likely to receive a YES response. As you summarize your conversation towards the end of the call, just before you ask for the sale, poise your questions in such a way as to elicit YES answers or responses.
This primes your caller to saying, YES to you.
Additional tip, if you are video calling or speaking to the potential client in person, nod your head up and down. Pay close attention to the movements of their head. They will more than likely start to nod their heads up and down as well.
Don't think this works?
For your next few cold calls ask a series of questions where the client will more than likely answer, NO, and see what happens to your success percentage.
If you learn best by making mistakes, there you go.
ASK FOR THE SALE
The biggest mistake sales people make is forgetting to ask for the sale.
Absolutely! They spend countless hours practicing everything. There's some room for improvement but overall they got it. Except confidently asking for the sale.
They might ask like this:
"So, what do you think about- Uhm, maybe- Ah, consider us?"
There's so much wrong with this.
Firstly, "consider us?" What kind of question is that? If they say "yes" you still haven't secured the sale. Congratulations, you got them to commit to considering your product or service. Well done. After the first minute of the conversation they were considering your offer.
Secondly, what's with the Uhm's and Ah's? If you want to be taken seriously you must appear to know your stuff. There's no room for that kind of meandering. People in positions of authority have a knack for smelling blood. If they smell it emanating from you, they won't be able to help themselves. You will be eaten.
Lastly, the tone reveals you're not confident in your product or service. Alarm bells will go off. They'll ask themselves, "Why isn't he or she confident? Did they send someone new to talk to me? Is there something wrong with it? I'm not feeling it. I'm out. What am I going to have for lunch?
That miniscule sentence can be interpreted in so many negative ways.
Here are better asks:
- "Let's make it official. Will that be Visa or MasterCard?"
- "I'll courier you a contract agreement this afternoon. Let's arrange time to discuss implementation."
- "Got a minute? I'll walk you through registration on a screen share."
- "Let's get you registered and I'll show you a few tricks."
- "All that's left is to choose your subscription plan. Small business or Enterprise?"
Sometimes I ask a question. Sometimes I don't ask a question. In all cases I assume they have said yes to my offer. If you have a product or service that is so amazing why wouldn't they want it? Of course they want it.
Wait, what? You're not sure? I'm shocked!
That's the attitude you want.
IF YOU CAN'T OVERCOME REJECTION, TRY TO LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN
In the cold calling game there are various interpretations of success. The pinnacle of success is getting the sale. That's obvious, but there are other types of success you should pursue if the sale doesn't happen.
If the client just is not ready to commit, and you can't overcome their objections, try to keep "the door slightly open," by doing one or more of the following:
- Get permission to add them to your newsletter: for whatever reason they aren't saying yes. At the very least, maybe you can get some traffic out of them and stay in their periphery.
- Schedule a call to re-address your offer: this is used when they say they need some time to think about it. Don't let more than a week pass. If they insist on more than a week, they are wasting your time. Go for the newsletter ask instead. Your odds of signing them up as a client at this point is less than 5%. Long-shots can happen, just don't assign too much resources to them.
- Perform an act of goodwill: if you're in a business where you can demonstrate your value, this might be a good strategy for making the sale. You'll have to work harder, but if the reward is worth the effort, go for it.
Here's an example:
You're a referral service. Send the potential client 5-10 good leads. Show them how their money would be well spent. If you deliver, they'll be knocking down your door, begging to pay you.
These are just three examples of leaving the door open. Depending on your business, there may be a number of other strategies you can use. Use your imagination and have these options ready if you need them.
Never leave the call or meeting without something to put in your pocket. If you get something out of the call, you'll feel good about the time you spent. Snatching victory, no matter how significant, is better than facing absolute defeat.
DEALING WITH OBJECTIONS
If you don't successfully answer a client's objections you won't get the sale!
Objections are an indication of one or more of the following:
- you haven't built enough trust with the client
- your aren't likable
- your product or service doesn't meet their needs
- your product or service isn't priced properly or you failed to establish its value
If the client likes you, trusts you, see's the value you're offering, and knows it's affordable and useful, there's no reason not to buy it.
If you aren't getting a YES, then it's one or more of the four reasons listed above.
Herein lies the difficulty with respect to cold calling.
You don't have the added benefit of body language. In a face-to-face situation both you and the client can read non-verbal cues. Non-verbal cues are often used to establish trust and build rapport. Since they are omitted in cold calling, the natural tendency is to become a little more guarded, a little more hesitant.
As a cold caller, you need to recognise this pitfall and overcome it. You learn to overcome this short-coming by teaching yourself to recognize mistrust or uneasiness and initiate strategies to increase trust and likability.
How you choose to build trust and rapport is highly specific to each person and the person on the other end of the phone. However, speaking to one's own experiences through the use of anecdotal stories has worked well for me.
A story should be short, form your past, and attempts to sympathize or empathize with the client. It should reveal to the client that you understand their predicament and offers insights they could use.
Be as genuine as possible. Prevent sounding robotic and overly logical. Have a calm easy tone to your voice. Moreover, don't do all the talking. Ask questions throughout the call that requires the client to speak. How intently you listen and the depth of your conversation will have a meaningful impact on your success.
No matter how good you are at cold calling you're going to get objections. It's a fact!
Read on for some ideas to overcome objections.
I DON'T HAVE TIME
Repeat the objection, understand the objection, solve the objection.
Repeat: You don't have time.
Understand: I understand that completely. Time is at such a premium.
Solve: And I've seen how our product has made businesses more efficient and profitable. It's allowed our clients to focus on sales instead of mundane tasks. I want to see you take advantage of that too. This can be a real time saver for you.
Remember the 4 points I made at the beginning of this section. One or more of them are the reason you are having to deal with the time question.
Your goal is to acknowledge their objection in such a way as to box them in while building trust and rapport. Doing that effectively isn't easy. The example above is the type of answer you want to craft and here's why...
Repeating the objection tells the client on the other end of the phone that you are listening to them. This has the effect of confirming to them that you're not only about the sale. You also have the ability to hear their issues.
Understanding their objection reveals you aren't in conflict with them. The call isn't a me versus you and I win if you buy. In a zero sum game someone wins and someone loses. If you give the impression you are in a zero sum game you are going to be the loser. In this scenario, the potential client has all the power. They can simply so NO, and hang up. On a subconscious level, you want them to see you as a friend and not a foe.
Solve the objection by sharing the experiences of the competition, and position yourself as an equalizing agent whose goal is to lead them to prosperity.
The more effective you are at listening to their concerns, understanding their concerns, and solving their concerns, the more effective you will be at building trust and rapport. In the end that's what you are after: trust and rapport.
You aren't limited to the RUS method when handling objections. If you can imagine ways to handle objections in such a way as to strengthen trust and rapport, you will be successful. These examples are given to provide inspiration.
Many roads lead to [a sale].
SEND ME MORE INFORMATION
The RUS method applies here again. I won't get into it since I've already explained its significance. I will provide an example response since I am very familiar with this objection.
I will definitely send you more information. It's very important to have as much information as possible. I understand that. That's why all of our new clients are assigned an account manager to oversee the initial stages of implementation. We'll go over everything you need to know and ensure you aren't missing any information. In the meantime, let's get the process started. Your account manager will be X and X is amazing! X recently did [INSERT ACHIEVEMENT] for [INSERT KNOWN COMPETITOR OF CLIENT] and they couldn't be happier.
When this type of scenario plays out the dialogue should be modified slightly so it sounds natural and unscripted, but you get the general idea.
Here we repeated the objection, understood the desire to know more, and solved the problem with the answer of a personalized account manager.
The account manager strategy has two benefits:
- it is a value added
- you're revealing something about one of their competitors
Of course this response must be tailored to your business and its value propositions. What's most important is identifying the interconnections between:
If you still can't convince them to move forward, make sure you keep the door open.
I NEED TIME TO THINK ABOUT IT
I can understand that. I too think it's important to weigh the pros and cons. You don't want to waste your time or money on a decision that isn't a good one. Thankfully you're not our first client and many of your competitors already took that risk for you.
Noticed what I did there?
I played with the order of the RUS method. Flexibility is your strength. Don't be afraid to get creative.
Since "wanting time to think about it" is far too vague, it's the kind of objection you can never overcome. Ever try to fill a bucket with water when there were a dozen big holes in it? Pretty impossible. I had to narrow down the time objection.
More than likely, a time objection can be reduced to its lowest common denominator, DON'T BE FOOLISH!
I assumed the client needed more time to make a decision because they wanted to make sure they were making a good decision and not being an idiot.
The best part of this strategy is I don't have to be right. Wanting to make a good decision is such common sense that most will accept that objection as the reason for needing more time.
The last sentence boosts my sense of credibility, dangles the competition motivator, and reveals a bonus to my offer.
Credibility aids in building trust. Implying I have experience in an industry makes me appear more credible and suggests I may be an authority worthy of attention.
As discussed over and over again in the previous sections, the competition motivator is very powerful. If competitors are spending time and money on a strategy, two things could be occurring: firstly, the strategy works, or secondly, doing the same will ensure the competition doesn't walk away with all of the benefits.
At the very least, most business owners will want to engage in similar programs to their competitors to ensure they don't let them gain an edge. That's why you want to adopt the competitive motivator whenever possible.
The last part reveals the client stands to gain where their competition had to take a risk. Ironically, the bonus is wrapped in a big fat trust ribbon. If they agree there is less risk for them, then they subconsciously accept the benefits of the offer.
I might finish my reply like this:
Can you think of any other reason that would prevent you from getting started?
I assumed my response was accepted as true.
There may have been a small conversation between my two responses. The client likely agreed. If they didn't then you would have to tease out more information about their real objection. If it was a light hearted reply go straight to the above question.
Their responses could be:
If you get a, No, close the sale!
If you get a, Yes or Maybe, try to get to the real objection. You might come back with...
Hit me! What's your biggest concern?
Be jovial. Make it obvious you're not annoyed, even if you are.
Asking for the biggest concern narrows down the objections. If you can solve that objection, the others might be so miniscule that they will accept your offer.
If you can't get past the objection fallback to keeping the door open. If you get another objection, RUS method baby! If you get a, Yes, congrats! Close the sale.
A COMPETITOR HAS "X" THAT YOU DON'T HAVE
When you hear this objection there's one to two possibilities:
- they actually want "X"
- they don't want to tell you the reason for their objection
It's easy to determine which of these possibilities are in play. Try one of the following:
- We have that it just looks a little different, let me explain...
- We don't have that because we have something better!
- In our experience, it's rarely used because...
- We'd be happy to work with you and add that option.
These responses will cover most conditions. You must prepare for this objection ahead of time and determine, given your product or service, how to best respond.
If they still object to the sale, they probably don't care about "X." At this point, don't waste your time on talking about "X," and do your best to identify the true objection.
In the event you use the last example; adding an option, you should highlight your companies willingness to modify your product or service. This is a great value added. Of course, if you can't deliver don't offer it, but if you can do so in a prompt manner. It could be a highly successful sales tactic.
In the software industry being able to make modifications to an application quickly for clients is a huge rarity. Since most software industries are dominated by mega companies, smaller companies can use this technique to receive a competitive advantage.
Consider your industry and identify competitive advantages you may have.
I can't stress the following enough; your industry and business plan will impact one or more of these cold calling tips. These tips are meant to help you develop a successful cold calling campaign for yourself.
Here is an overview of the 25 cold calling tips and the categories they represented:
- The Gatekeeper: Step 1
- Structured Discipline: Step 2 to Step 6
- Soft Skills: Step 7 to Step 14
- Sales Tactics: Step 15 to Step 21
- Dealing With Objections: Step 22 to Step 25
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