I am pretty sure that as long as there are humans selling complex products and services to one another there will be cold calling. Technology – social media in particular – has changed things, but it hasn’t eliminated the need for a salesperson to avidly pursue people he/she wants to speak to.
And while it isn’t going away, cold calling today needs to be sharper, better researched and more focused than it might have been in the past. The following are four things I like to keep in mind when I get ready to cold call.
Do Your Research
You need to know who you are calling and why, and develop a prospect list that has been honed by title/persona, vertical, geography and company size. Build this list using LinkedIn, trade association directories and list tools like Data.com and NetProspex.com. It should focus on prospects you really, truly want to get through to. Check phone numbers against company web sites and cross reference titles from multiple sources if possible. You want the list you are calling from to be thorough, clean and up to date: there is nothing quite as demoralizing as calling on a bunch of leads that are out of date.
Aim high but be realistic – very few people in the C Suite are going to pay attention to what you have to offer unless:
- the company is small; and/or
- what you are selling appeals directly to their needs.
You can ask their assistants to help guide you, but you need to take this direction as only one of several vectors into the organization.
If you aren’t sure who you should be calling on, create a prospect list for three to five companies in the vertical you are going after and use them as research sources, asking for their direction.
Prep Your CRM
Load the target leads into your CRM, teeing them up so that you can add 10 – 20 at a time to your activities. I like to put a one sentence description in the lead record that summarizes the pitch I am making. Tools like InsideView enable you to display current company information in Salesforce.com and other CRMs.
Make sure you are able to display current activities easily and can run reports that will tally what you have been up to.
Craft Your Pitch
Develop your pitch and boil it down to two to four sentences (and no more) – this is actually quite difficult. Brevity, focus and simplicity are key; people will not spend more than a few nanoseconds scanning your email or listening to your voicemail. Avoid superlatives, euphemisms and jargon. Put your pitch in both email and voicemail form and practice leaving your voicemail in a calm, crisp tone.
In most cases, the goal of your pitch will be to get permission/earn the right to schedule a short call with the prospect during which you can learn more about their needs and (as appropriate) tell them about your offering. You will not try and convince them of anything.
Start Calling, and Do So Systematically
Queue up 10 to 20 prospects and send your pitch email to each one. Record each activity in your CRM. Then, call each prospect and leave them your crisp, short voicemail. In fact, it’s preferable not to get prospects live on the phone at this stage. Schedule follow up calls for these prospects two days out (on day three).
The next day, queue up another 10 to 20 prospects in your CRM and undertake the same process as you did with the first set.
On day three, call and email every one of the first set of prospects, recording your activities and scheduling follow up calls for two days further out. On day four, repeat the process with the second set of leads. Continue this process, winnowing out folks that tell you they are not interested, refer you to other people or ask you to call back at a later date. Add new leads as your calling load lightens.
Pound on people for a total of six to eight emails and voicemails before giving up. You will get through to 30 to 40% of the individuals and will engage 10 to 20% of them. Within two weeks, you will begin to generate calls and meetings.
When you get through to a prospect, explain who you are and ask if you can schedule a brief call. However tempting, do not blurt out your pitch, value proposition, pricing or competitive differentiators. Make it clear that you know their time is valuable. If they deflect you, ask for direction as to who they recommend you speak with.
Be systematic, disciplined and relentless. Treat this like a workout, which it sort of is. Sit down at your desk at the same time every day and bang the calls out. Accurately tracking your activities in your CRM is helpful for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that seeing what you have been up to will motivate you when you get discouraged.
Cold calling is hard. Pace yourself, be steady and keep at it – good things will come.