Cold Calling Techniques That Really Work
The secrets to cold calling techniques that really work come from the field. They come from sweat equity. They come from the experience of making tens of thousands of prospecting calls. Ove my 27 years in the business world, that’s exactly what I have done – literally thousands and thousands of calls accumulated over time.
In this article, I’d like to share with you what I know works.
Persistence pays off – quicker than you think too!
“I may not get one out of ten, but I know I’ll get two out of twenty!” That statement epitomises the benefits of persistence. When it comes to cold calling techniques, being persistent means that you can keep going at a task, without losing sight of the goal and without letting your attitude drop, until you get a result. Hence two out of twenty as opposed to one out of ten.
Stand guard in the corridors of your mind
A great key to persistence and personal strength is to be on guard to (a) what goes into your mind and (b) what goes on in your mind. The first one is about your associations and the information you choose to feed your mind. The second is about controlling the thoughts occurring in your mind each minute of each day. Of all the cold calling techniques that really work, this is the stand-out technique. Everything else rises and falls based on your attitude, confidence, and motivation at the time you are making the calls.
You have a uniquely human gift called self-awareness. This enables you to be aware of your thoughts (including your self-talk). If those thoughts are not supporting your goal, you can change them using another unique human gift – will power. Don’t allow yourself to be held hostage by self-limiting thoughts, change your thoughts.
You can do that immediately, so start reshaping your thinking now.
Perform in focused, uninterrupted blocks of call time
There is no doubt that cold calling is tough. You will have to set your mind up (or psych yourself up) for a call session. Having done that, it seems silly to allow interruptions and distractions that may dampen your mental intensity.
One University of California study showed that it takes over 23 minutes to regain the same level of mental focus and productivity after an interruption. This is the case even for a very small interruption or one that is contextually similar to the task at hand.
Based on those numbers, just one interruption per hour devastates your productivity by as much as 38%. Two interruptions reduce your productivity by 76%. As for three interruptions in an hour, you’re toast!
If the previous technique was about guarding your mind, then this cold calling technique is about guarding your time.
Here are a few tips to control your environment and give yourself the best chance of success;
- Close the door, put a sign on it that says “Do Not Disturb, I’m Prospecting”
- Turn your mobile off (at a minimum on silent with no vibrate)
- Do not have email or social media open. Your list is already built, don’t be distracted by searching LinkedIn and Google under the guise of research. Now it is time to call, call, call!
- Keep calling, don’t start preparing quotes or follow-up information pieces after a particular call. Take notes and do prepare it later. Preparing follow-up information is a distraction from calling. As we know, distractions kill productivity.
- Call for fifty minutes, then have a break for ten minutes and repeat.
This totally focused two-hour call block will revolutionise your appointment setting productivity. Do as many of these two-hour blocks as you need to achieve your appointment setting goals.
Have a big list
You’ll need more contacts on your call list than the number of people you want to speak to. Here’s why;
- Some contact records will be incorrect
- Some prospects will be away or in meetings
- Sometimes you will get blocked by the Gatekeeper
- Some people on your call list won’t be interested
- And more…
It is important that you have enough contacts on your list so that you can keep calling for your two-hour call block. There is nothing worse than getting in the zone and starting to set appointments, only to run short of numbers when you are on fire!
As soon as you set an appointment, set another one
The best time set an appointment is straight after you have set an appointment. Use the motivation and confidence that comes from a positive conversation where you’ve set an appointment to propel you into another appointment conversation.
As soon as you set an appointment, dial up the octane and set another one in the call or two. Even if you set an appointment on the very last call of your call block. Dig in for another five minutes and you’ll likely set another appointment.
Don’t sound like a telemarketer
I’ve taught a lot of people how to increase their cold calling success over a lot of years. Even though the last thing people want to sound like is a telemarketer, if left to their own devices, that’s what they end up sounding like. There are certain killer phrases that make you sound like a telemarketer and that you should avoid at all costs. Some of these include;
- “Hello, my name is Tom and I’m from ABC Company and the reason for my call today is…” I call this the name, rank and serial number introduction. It is a classic telemarketer introduction and you’ll be cast by the same type if you use it.
- “… can I speak to the person who looks after your printing please?” It is far better to do your research first and ask for the correct contact by name. If you can’t dig up the name from your research, then you may like to use my phone-mail-phone technique.
- “um” or “ahh”. It’s not only the um and the ahh, it’s also the tone of voice that tells the Gatekeeper that they probably shouldn’t let you through. To inoculate against the dreaded ums and ahhs, you need to practice your script out loud. You need your mind and your body to get used to saying your call script. When you sound comfortable on the phone, you’ll dig up a lot more opportunities with your cold calls.
Reframe how you see the Gatekeeper
One day years ago, I was waiting in the reception of a large law firm for my meeting. I overheard the receptionist getting very agitated with a pushy salesperson on the phone. From what I could tell the salesperson was asking to be put through to a person with a particular title. The receptionist asked, “what’s it regarding?”. The salesperson wouldn’t say.
This went on for a little while until the receptionist ended the call. She was a mature lady and in my dealings with her so far seemed quite pleasant. After a minute or two for her to cool down, I approached her and asked if that happened often. She said yes and we had a great chat about it. I learned a lot in those few minutes.
I learned that instead of thinking of the receptionist as Gatekeeper, I should see them as a traffic controller. Their job is to direct traffic around the organisation. They don’t really want to make your day hell. They do of course want to reduce the number of telemarketers getting through. That’s why you learn not to sound like a telemarketer. They also want to make sure that they are directing callers to the correct person, that’s why it is best to ask for the correct person by name.
If you do need to find out who to speak to, simply ask them to help you. For example;
“Hello Joanne, it’s Bill Smith here, how are you?”
[Well thanks Bill, and you?]
“It’s a great day today Joanne, but there’s a lot on… I was hoping you could help point me in the right direction?”
[Sure Bill, how can I help?]
I cover the remainder of this particular script in my e-courses
Do the work!
Done properly, cold calling is hard work. But when have you ever achieved a worthwhile result without hard work? When it comes to cold calling techniques that work, consistent hard work is one of the most important.
There is no need to exhaust yourself with endless hours of cold calls. Do enough to fill your diary each week. If you are a fulltime salesperson, you may need to produce 7-10 appointments per week. If you are a business owner, you may only be able to complete 4 appointments per week amongst your other responsibilities.
Consistency is a real key. If you let your cold calling fall off, then the appointments in your diary will fall off soon after. Then you’ll be at the bottom of the curve looking up. You’ll have to scramble and work extra hard and long to make up for it.
Even when you have a full load of appointments this week, you need to fill your diary for next week and the week after. A quick and easy way to do this is to call those prospects who you’ve spoken to previously and warmed up already.
Don’t sell on the first call
It is important to understand just how far you can go on the first call;
- You can introduce yourself and your company
- You can find out a bit more about the prospect and their company
- You can set a time to meet
- But you won’t sell your product or service over the phone
However, the first cold call is not the place to launch into a sales presentation. Save it for the meeting. In the meeting, you can carefully identify the prospects’ needs and tailor your presentation specifically to them.
Have the correct expectations
We said earlier that it may not be one in ten, but it will be two in twenty. It’s very important to have realistic expectations of the reward for the effort that you’ll gain from cold calling.
You won’t fill your diary off ten calls, or even twenty calls. You’ll need to do more than that to book a meaningful number of appointments. When you first start out, you’ll have to churn through a number of calls until you refine your own style and process for appointment setting.
Don’t totally rely on cold calling. At the very least you should also be building a referral strategy with your existing customers and contacts.
Also, understand the energy required to complete a successful call session. This is not a walk in the park. You’ll need the right combination of energy, charisma, and determination to pull it off. Having said that, you can move forward in the sales process very quickly with cold calling. You can go from being a total stranger and then 6 minutes later you’ve got an hour in that person’s diary to discuss how you can help them to meet their goals.
Reposition the uncomfortable feeling that can come with cold calling
Cold calling puts you in the way of rejection. Nobody likes being rejected. The cold calling techniques outlined above will go a long way to reducing the amount of rejection you experience when making cold calls.
Early in my first business, out of sheer frustration, I made a decision that changed my results forever. I decided that I would never ever feel bad again about positively and proactively promoting my business with cold calling. I didn’t feel bad about promoting my business via referral, advertising or speaking in public.
Why did I feel bad when it came to cold calling?
Put simply, it was the rejection. Once I made that decision and felt better about what I was doing, my confidence returned. Consequently, I was received better by my prospects (and their gatekeepers). From there success bread success.
How you feel comes across in your body language (including your voice tone and cadence). It shows up in the words you choose. It is evident in how you express your individual charisma (or not). How you feel communicates much LOUDER than the words you use.
This is a timely reminder of why we must stand guard in the corridors of our mind.
Prepare for objections
You will get objections. That is part of the territory. Some of the objections are just a straight fob off, such as;
- We’re happy with who we are using
- We’re under contract
- Can you send me some information, mark it Attention The Manager
In the case of the three above, these are normally delivered by the Gatekeeper. With practice and refinement, your script and skill should be able to avoid those.
Once you are speaking to the decision maker, forget objections altogether. Think instead that they are considerations from the decision maker. For example, if the decision maker says, “I won’t get time to think about this for another three weeks”, you should agree and let them know you’ll be in touch then. Shoot off a super quick email to that effect. That is not an objection and it is not something to try and overcome – the person is busy, just work with them.
You may hear this one “we have a long-term relationship with a supplier who we are very happy with and we have no reason to change”. You can say something like, “that’s great, I respect your loyalty, it can be a little rare these days. I’m not trying to unseat your existing supplier, but rather to bring you solutions that you may be missing, such as a, b and c.”
Use email to help you with two-step cold calling
You can use email to quickly zero in on prospects that are more likely to be interested in what you have to offer. One approach is to prepare a simple email that includes a link to some useful information. Modern email software can tell you who has opened the email and more importantly, who clicked the link. The contacts who opened and clicked are the one’s who get the follow-up call.
This strategy does require a lot of contact records. However, if you let email do the heavy lifting and you only call the smaller percentage who open and/or click (less than 30% depending on list quality), you can move very fast. This strategy helps you to achieve the same appointment setting result in fewer calls.
I cover this strategy in more detail in my Cold Call Email article.
Like all forms of communication, there are many fine nuances to cold calling. There are as many exceptions as there are rules.
The strategies above have been field tested on literally thousands of calls.
When implemented together with energy and persistence, they will yield a dependable result for you.