The Insightly Insider: Smile and Dial, Don't let Cold Calls Get You Down

 

Cold calling… Ick..  No one I’ve ever met likes doing it, and no one likes receiving them.  The stark reality though is that they are a necessary evil in business today.  The good news is they can be turned into a positive if used in the proper way.  

Hello everyone, my name is Brian and I’m the Senior Account Manager here at Insightly.  Today I’m going to share some insights into cold calling and managing relationships today.  This is just a culmination of the experiences I have had and shouldn’t be taken as the hard and steadfast way to manage your sales activities.  Even though this cliché makes my stomach churn here it is anyway; sales is an art, not a science.  If you have had different experiences, please share in the discussion!  My goal is to provide a positive discussion where people can sharpen their skills and create a framework for becoming more successful in their profession.

 

Cold calls are often delegated to the lowest person on the totem pole, an intern, the kid right out of college, or maybe the poorest producing sales person on a team – which I think is a terrible practice.  Do you really think the first voice that a new customer should hear is the droning monotone of an intern that has been tasked to make 60 calls a day?  I don’t.  Having been in that situation I know that it generally doesn’t reap the results you need.  The good news is there are many ways to make a cold call more enjoyable for both yourself and the recipient.  

Most calls land in voice mail, either on a person’s cell or on their desk phone, which brings me to my first point, keep it short and sweet.  If I look at a message on my phone that is over a minute long from a number I don’t know – it’s getting deleted.  Identify yourself, your company, and why you were trying to reach the person.  Don’t pitch, don’t lie, and don’t be fancy, keep it short and to the point and let them know exactly why you called.

Keep your ultimate goal in mind as you are making your calls.  I often found myself thinking “All I need to do is get through this list”, which is terrible!  The goal is to discover if the person you are calling has a pain, need, and budget for what you are selling.  Having this in mind will keep you more aware of what you are doing and why, rather than letting your brain switch to autopilot and becoming a robo dialer. 

Above all, stay positive!  This is easier to do for some of us than it is for others, but it will make the experience of the call better for both you and the person you are calling.  Stand up when you make your calls, smile as you dial the number, put a mirror in front of you, make funny faces at the coworkers sitting near you – do anything that will keep you from speaking lethargically over the phone.

There is obviously more to it than this, but keep in mind, you are the voice that a person will associate your product with.  Making it positive, keeping to short, and keeping it less monotonous on your end will benefit everyone.  Successfully closing more calls translates to more sales - which might even lead to an earlier retirement!

 

Part of cold calling is luck and diligence.  For every 10 messages I leave I typically get 1 person on the phone.  When you do get someone on the phone remember to not slide into your message spiel!  I remember when I first started making sales calls, I was calling on C-level contacts with almost no success.  When I finally got someone on the phone, I choked hard.  All that came out of my mouth was an incoherent noise, luckily he laughed and said ‘Go ahead and try it again son’.  He, of course, didn’t purchase our product but I still remember the call to this day.

  • Once you’ve closed your call and gotten someone on the line remember - keep it direct and professional.  If you’re setting up an appointment to speak in the future, be sure to give the contact a few options rather than just a wide open range on possible times.  
  • If they do have time to speak with you, make sure to have your elevator pitch on hand and ready to go.  Be sure to practice this before starting to make calls.  If you’re reading from note cards for your pitch you probably need a bit more practice.
  • If you’re taking orders, be sure to have you product knowledge ready to use.

I always try to find a point or topic that may or may not be directly related to the call.  It can be something innocuous like location, their sports team, weather, or current event-- something you can mention the next time you speak with them on the phone.  It’s always good to make note of your topics of conversation, both related and unrelated to your call within your CRM!  Make a follow-up note for yourself so that you don’t forget them, because unless you have something very persuasive for them, they probably won’t reach out to you.  It’s also good to follow up with a quick email with your contact details, and (if you were scheduling another time to chat) the date and time of your appointment.

 

So, you’ve done all the work to get someone on the phone, gave them your pitch, setup a meeting, and kicked off your sales process.  This, in my opinion, is probably the hardest part of the process. Once you have them in your pipeline they can take different forms and each can be a little different.  The worst thing you can do is to slip off their radar!  Your contacts aren’t going to do your job for you and reach out to you, so it’s up to you to remember, or have your CRM remember for you.

Schedule a follow up, ALWAYS schedule a follow up for yourself.  It doesn’t need to be anything major either.  A quick phone call (which will probably end up a message) to just check in with them and see if you can provide any guidance or support is always a good option.  Depending on the relationship I have with the contact, sometimes an email will be more appropriate.

If you are building a longer, more substantial relationship think about them as conversations, not as sales pitches.  Keep it light and casual; maybe send them an article that pertains to something you discussed that was not sales related. Show them that you are invested in speaking with them and be sure to keep their goals in mind. Most importantly, be patient.  Just because you want or need the deal to close by a specific date, it doesn’t mean they do.  Some of the biggest deals I’ve closed have come naturally from letting the deal grow organically.  

After you’ve closed the deal, don’t disappear!  Stay in contact, check in with them every so often, even if they are being managed by another group on your team.  Reaching out and making sure things are going well is one of the best things you can do to foster a relationship.  If they need something more, they will come to you if you’ve grown the relationship properly.

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Cold calling and managing relationships is a broad topic with many more aspects than we are able to cover today, people have written whole books about it!  Remember that there is no replacement for getting on the phone and gaining experience yourself.  Some methods work better for others, and there is always room to grow.  

Does anyone have other tip or skills that they use to help with their cold calling initiatives?  

Depending on your company relationship building and maintenance can be very diverse, any additional points would be welcome!

Thanks!

Brian

 

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Comments

28 comments
  • Always interested to hear other tips. Fundamentally,I have found you need a list of prospective clients/leads, time set aside from distractions, a basic script/verbiage to speak to and a smile on your face!

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  • We're just starting a cold call campaign for the first time here -- this discussions is timely. Don't have any tips to give yet, but looking forward to reading yours!

     

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  • I sell a product everyone has to have--insurance.  That being said, relationships are everything.  They trust you with their most intimate financial information.  My job is to plant the doubt seed and work into a trusted relationship with that prospect.  We do not sell on price alone, but value.  So what value or doubt or opening questions have others found for getting in the door of a prospect?  Which works better-email, stop in, telephone call for first contact?  My first choice is referral, but that is not always available.

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  • Happy to hear that this discussion is so timely!  I'm excited to see what people have been doing to make their cold calling and customer acquisition more successful!

    Robert - With something so personal as insurance I would think a phone call would be best (aside from a referral of course), but it allows the person to immediately associate you with a voice and to start planting the seeds as you mentioned.  I personally do not have experience selling insurance - does anyone have some example questions that Robert would benefit from?

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  • I don't sell insurance, but I've been "selling" trust and relationships for several years now.  A phone call with some pertinent information is a good approach.  Perhaps it's a new offering for multi-car discounts or some other price break.  You have to pitch it without sounding to "salesy."  Every sales call has to start with getting a feel for the person.  Are they in a hurry or does it sound like they have some time?  A good first question is "How's it going (over there-if you think they are at work)?"  Then you can, hopefully,get a good read on their state of mind and adjust your approach as appropriate.  The goal, is to form an immediate atmosphere of intimacy and empathy.  Once they know that you understand them, then the trust begins to build.

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  • This is a little more complicated than personal lines.  I cold call businesses for their insurance renewals.  Getting past the gatekeepers and getting to the decisionmakers is the rough part.  Typically it is the C suite I need to talk to or the actual owners in many cases.  I used to sell personal life and health.  Now it is property and casualty.  B2B.

     

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  • Getting past the gatekeepers and surefire techniques once you do!  I love hubspot daily sales tips and they seem to sharpen my thoughts.  Open to any other poignant tips.  Sara, your tips are great once I get past the receptionist!

     

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  • Good morning, everyone! Thank you for sharing your personal sales tips with us today. Such valuable lessons! 

    Brian's already on this post reading your comments. The first part of his discussion will be posted in less than 30 minutes -- at 8 am PST. Stay tuned!

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  • Good Morning!  I'm a Commercial Insurance Marketing Specialist.  I've done PC and Life/Health - and you will always find obstacles.  The dreaded "gatekeeper" is the worst - as Robert mentioned. There is a software tool that our office uses called eGrabber email-Prospector.  If you have the contact name (first and last) and the company name - you plug in that info and it scours the internet and brings back an email address. I would say it has a 90% accuracy rate and it has given me a "work around" and it is priceless.   

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  • I'm new to B2B sales, selling a fairly complex software solution. My task is to qualify leads before sending them to our Sales team. Pointers on how to how to qualify leads would be great. Can you  recommend a basic script to use as a guideline?

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  • Looks like it is a little out of my price range for egrabber, but thanks for that suggestion!

     

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  • Robert - do the trial. :)  The info you could obtain in that short time could be significant.  

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  • I agree about e-grabber - great idea. Would be best if they had a fee for those 1 or 2 e-mail address you need to access. Similar to a $10 fee per InMail (depending on your package) that LinkedIn offers.

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  • Experience will give you the ability to determine what I call the "yah yahs".  This is the pathetic response of sure, go ahead, send it to me, I will look at it, etc etc.  Follow up questions like "Who else do we need to include, what is your budget cycle for funding?  What is your onboarding process for a new vendor?  What is your window for doing a project like this?  What are the issues you are trying to resolve with this new system?  The more information the more likely they are going to bring you in for a test drive so to speak.  If they object to giving any information, then hit them with the "Tell me more," question.  Don't let them off the hook without getting some buy in to plan to look at this product or service.  Make sure you confirm with an email or phone call that a meeting is going to take place and who is going to be there.  This should take some heat off of you if the meeting bombs or they cancel on you.  You did your due diligence as the appointment setter!

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  • The trial might be a good idea.  Line up all my hard to reach folks and see how many I get!

     

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  • As with most skills, the more cold calling you do, the better you'll get. Rehearse your pitch out loud. Even practice in the mirror. I find if I stand during calls - I feel that my voice has more authority and energy. When I started cold calling - I would divide my prospects into A, B and C categories. I would practice with the "C's" before tackling the "A's".  Practice is the key.  The more you do it - the more comfortable you will become. Everyone eventually finds their niche - what works and what doesn't.  Practice, practice, practice. :) 

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  • Agreed Shauna.  Practice on the smaller ones, then work up.  You need to know as much about the hierarchy of the company as possible before you call.  Do your homework.  Who is the CFO, CEO, COO, CIO, CTO, CMO, etc.  You will have to inch your way up the ladder until you get to the right office.  I work mostly with companies under a 100 employees.  Just our niche.  Getting to bigger companies usually takes a personal invitation or referral.  Cull one from your current customers first! 

     

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  • eGrabber has a 7 day trial and allows up to 50 searches.  

    http://www.egrabber.com/emailprospector/trial.html

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  • Maybe do a trial once a year?  Ha ha!  Think they might be on to that?

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  • Good point, Robert!  In addition to upper management - there may be someone in administration that orchestrates a meeting, phone call, contact etc. The "controller" is a common title for someone that makes $$ decisions that eventually ends up in the hands of the CFO (chief financial officer).  It sometimes trickles down to Human Resources or Operations. Especially - do your homework - as Robert mentioned.  Learn a little about the company. Mention that you visited their website and tell them something you were impressed by. When they hear you're taking time to find out a little about them will impress more than you think.  Above all - be brave!  These people have jobs just like you.  Don't be afraid to go for the BIG DOGS - you might be pleasantly surprised out the outcome.  :)  

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  • Just remember -

    "If opportunity doesn't knock - build a door." ~Milton Burle

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  • Excellent!  Already a great deal of conversation! 

    Amy - Here is some copy that I've written up using Insightly as an example:

    I wanted to introduce myself—My name is Brian, an account sales rep at Insightly.  We provide CRM services for small and medium businesses that are growing and need help managing their contacts.


    We believe that the "best CRM is the one that is used" so please reach out to me so I can offer any guidance to help you get the most out of your experience with Insightly. I'd love to learn more about your goals, objectives, business pain and use case as I'm confident that we can help you meet your goals with Insightly.  Do you have 5 minutes to discuss in the coming days?

     

    When qualifying a lead I typically try and find out these things:

    • Is there a pain (something they need help with that my service will fix)
    • Is there a need (Are they looking to have the problem fixed?)
    • Is there a budget
    • Are they the decision maker.

    Hope this helps!

     

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  • Pretty good start if you don't have an appointment!  The appointment is the door, you still need to see if it is to the broom closet or the board room!  Don't stop asking until you are sure they are not leading you around.  They have way more experience dealing with pesky sales people and how to defer a decision.  Like Brian says, find out what, when, who and why as quickly as possible.  Use that "Tell me more..." strategy if they start to object.  You will know when to switch to amore personable response when they stop giving information.  By the way, in your confirmation email, I always reconfirm some of the things they told me and ask them to make corrections.  Can't tell you how many times they come back with that golden gatekeeper I knew nothing about!  Bingo!

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  • Great copy Brian!

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  • Changing subjects here a little bit, what prompts you to use the note over the comment in insightly?

     

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  • Thanks Micah!  

    Robert - I think that notes vs the comments within tasks is dependent on how much information you would be gathering on your client, or on that particular task.  I typically think of notes within Insightly as a culmination of the activities I've done with that contact, notes is where I would save paragraphs of information.  A task with comments on the other hand is great to keep track of follow ups and what resulted from the activity.

    If I call someone and leave a message, I'll save that as it's own task with a comment "LVM".  If I got them on the phone and they asked me to call back another time, I'll put that information there.  

    Either way - I think keeping your data entry consistent would be the most important.  You don't want to be hunting through all of your records if you save some information in task and others in notes.

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  • That is what I am wrestling with.  Too much info all over the place and I do not have a good feel for this yet.

     

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  • Hi Robert,

    I would say work with tasks because they allow you to have reminders and a full history of your activities.  If you even have a very long detailed conversation that you think would be worth summarizing under a note, then enter the information there.

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