Before making any cold calls, it’s always good to remember a couple of tricks. It’s exactly the same as when playing golf when you repeat a couple of tips in your head, like to keep your eyes on the ball. Here’s what’s actually written on my cold calling cheat sheet:
Smile, sit straight and take a deep breath
It’s easy to underestimate the impact of our physical state when making calls but it does make a real difference. In my case, I try to take a deep breath before calling, just to stay calm and have a clear head. If you are writing an email to some other prospect while making a call to save time, you’ll end up sounding less focused and it’s always in these situations that your long-awaited decision maker ends up answering the phone.
Smiling is not always easy. Sometimes, I’m simply not in the best mood to make a call to an important customer. One of the trick I use is to Google “something funny”. It might be a joke or a meme, or reading over an old Friday funny kind of email. As long as I have a half-smile, it’s enough to start making a first call.
Note: if you’re actually smiling too much or laughing, you’re just going to look like a weirdo in the office…
Keep the control over the next steps
It’s so easy to let the customer take charge of the agenda during a sales call. I sometimes wake up after hanging up the phone and realize I got managed by the customer. By asking some simple questions and agreeing on the next steps, you’re not appearing too pushy, but at the same time, you’re creating a structured communication environment that the customer will hopefully appreciate. An example: “Ok, I understand you’d prefer talking to your boss about our solution before discussing further. If I call you back in one or two weeks, would that work for you?”.
Research the customer and read you past call notes
It’s basic to read the past call notes you logged in before dialing. It’s a good idea to include these notes early in your conversation to show how structured and thorough you are.
As I’m calling a prospect, I will also open a second tab with the website of the customer and a third one with an industry website/business registry containing information about the business. In Quebec, we have a highly valuable resource called ICRIQ which will display the name of the major decision makers in a business.
This information allows me to look more informed when I initially reach the receptionist or assistant on the phone. If, for example, I’m trying to reach the VP Finance (say I had already collected his name) and I learn he doesn’t work there anymore, I can turn around and ask for the president by mentioning his/her name. I thus sound like a professional who knows this company inside out.
Focus on your objective
It’s key to have an objective when making calls. You might want to register the decision maker to an event, a newsletter or simply to book a discovery meeting. If your goal is to book a discovery meeting, it’s pointless to ask too much information on the phone.
You want to start off smoothly by making sure they have a couple of minutes to discuss and by qualifying them with basic questions. As soon as you feel like you have gained enough credibility and showed enough value about your product/service offer, it’s time to close the discussion and suggest a meeting.
It’s easy to forget the objective and end up having a very long discussion and collecting a lot of information, which will be hopefully discussed in a meeting anyway. Thus, I try to keep it as short as possible to be respectful of my counterparty’s time by focusing on my end goal.
Get the approval to move forward
I learnt this in a sales seminar last year. As first, I was very skeptical. I preferred rushing in to the discussion thinking that by asking if the prospect had time to discuss, it could open the door to an easy objection.
I realized however that asking this question, and receiving an accurate answer, is highly valuable. This is especially true if I feel like my prospect is rushed in the first few seconds of our call, and so in this case I will always ask early on if this is a good time to talk. If the answer is no, then I quickly focus on finding out when would be a good time. It might be the same afternoon or in 2 weeks, or 2 months. It doesn’t matter.
After 2 or 3 calls where the prospect will have pushed you to a later time, he/she remembers you a lot more than the first time. By this time, they probably know who you are, remember your voice and the name of the company you’re with, and, the big plus, they notice that you have been very respectful of their schedule and hard-working by following up to your promise. It’s an ideal context to have a brief a meaningful discussion about their business and figuring out if there would be a value in setting up a meeting.