What can make an otherwise winning sales pro go weak at the knees, croaky in the throat and flustered all over? Cold calling, a sales strategy whereby the salesperson phones someone who may be cranky.
So why cold call at all? Why not stick topeople who have at least expressed some interest in your product?
Bill Stinnett, a US-based sales trainer and consultant, says cold calling makes sense when salespeople are responsible for uncovering their own leads. Stinnett adds that instead of selling in a reactive mode, cold calling allows reps to unearth sales gems. “It’s not easy,” he says,“but the value is shorter sales cycles, larger deal sizes and a lot less competition.”
Lack of competition is a prime reason for cold calling because if the competition isn’t doing this, you’ll get to uncover a sales opportunity first and limit the potential impact of competitors.
So how do you conquer the fear that accompanies picking up the phone? Set up a worst-case scenario for yourself. This exercise helps a rep sort out the kinds of responses he or she can expect, from people hanging up to the rep becoming tongue-tied.
Role-playing with reps can help them sort through every circumstance and remove cold-call clamminess. Stinnett encourages sales managers to equip reps with a top 10 list of common questions or objections, plus responses. “With practice, fear can be reduced,” he says.
Research and preparation.
This can repel dialling-for-business demons. Stinnett trains reps to research a company or contact person before the call so they can have an informed conversation. That way, the rep will be familiar with the business problems the contact faces and can explain how the product has helped other clients in similar situations.
Another way to allay fear is to make the call just one of the many elements used to reach a contact. Try sending an e-mail, fax or letter before or after a call. Stinnett says such an approach can improve success rates. “This process produces confidence that empowers sales pros to be more effective,” he says.
And if a rep knows where prospects congregate, nothing beats a face-to-face introduction, followed by a phonecall.
Even with lots of upfront leg work, cold calling is bound to be demoralising now and again. Sales managers need to encourage reps not to take rejection personally and to take breaks after tough calls.
Stinnett agrees it’s important for reps to emotionally detach from the phone call. The job of calling, he says, “should be perceived as a series of actions: getting to the right person, posing questions and proposing a prospect takes action”.
To assuage anxiety, reps must keep in mind that they can’t control a prospect’s reaction, only how well and thoughtfully the call is executed.