Does the thought of cold calling make you wince? I won’t be surprised if you say yes; even the most seasoned sales rep shies away from cold calling. But, cold calling used to involve dialing strangers and educating yourself on the fly about their business. Strangers who - let's be honest - didn’t really want to spend their time on your sales pitch.
Cold calling has evolved significantly in recent years. True, strangers still don't want to be interrupted. That hasn’t changed. But this has: you, the salesperson, have access to information about the lead’s organisation, persona and industry that empowers you to get very targeted and precise in your approach. You’re not wasting their time; rather you’re offering something of true value.
Some leaders will tell you the cold calling revolution began with the advent of the Internet... But my observation is the recession that hit around 2008 forced sales reps to really fine tune their approach. As companies reined in their spending, only the most gifted reps were still successful. They set a high bar - and soon every other sales professional was forced to elevate their game.
If you want to refine your cold calling, you’ll want to incorporate two essential practices.
Turn cold calls into warm calls with data
Just as data intelligence has transformed every other aspect of business, it's revolutionised cold calling. You have the ability to know who you’re calling and strong insights into their organisation needs before you even hear their voice. In fact, the prospect expects you to show that level of awareness. Bring up a major initiative from your research and you’ll have their attention. If you have to ask remedial questions, they'll wonder why you didn’t bother to research them.
Additionally, your prospects will generally be informed if you’re targeting them correctly. It's no secret the buyer's journey has changed – after consuming content on their own, B2B buyers enter the cycle at different times and stages. You'll need to meet them at that level of understanding by knowing your personas and how to sell to them. After all, no one wants to be interrupted for an unexpected or random pitch - but a conversation that resonates and offers value will grab their attention.
So how can you foster that immediate connection? Share compelling information in one of 3 areas: company, industry or role. A few ideas:
- Company: Find out their focal areas by reading through Hoovers, their earnings announcements and annual reports. You’ll know what they’re prioritising.
- Industry: Do some research on their industry challenges. Maybe you know that tech companies are investing in marketing automation, yet only ten percent or less are using it to its full potential. That opens a door for you to offer to optimise the prospect’s investment.
- Role: Let’s say you’re speaking to a finance leader. You might touch directly on their revenue goals by saying, "We’ve helped Company X and Company Y generate this dollar amount in opportunities.” Not only does that establish your authority, but you’ll immediately have their attention.
Speaking of data, make sure yours is pointing you toward the right targets. At Televerde, we've found most company’s prospect databases are only 60% contactable, with 40% of bad data. That means their team has been wasting 40% of their budget contacting people who will never buy from them or no longer work at the company. Make sure your team is spending their time on the best targets.
Give your sales team superpowers with advanced training.
Being a 'natural' at cold calling is all well and good, but training is what takes reps over the finish line. You can’t fake it on the phone. You might begin speaking to an HR leader, who transfers you to a finance executive, who then puts you in touch with the operations team. You need to understand what each area prioritises and understand how to make a compelling case from every angle.
To reach that level of knowledge, your team should go through three layers of training on a recurring basis.
1. Foundational business acumen training is essential. Your team should understand enough basics on finance, operations and cost control to conduct a persuasive high-level business conversation. No, they don’t need an MBA, but they should be able to pass a Business 101 class.
2. Next, you'll focus on specific campaigns and products. What are you selling? Why? What’s the challenge it solves for? A single sentence about the value proposition will not suffice – your team needs to understand the nuances of that product for each persona and its value across audiences.
3. That brings us to the third layer: diving deep into buyer personas. While contact centers do often focus on this, they tend to specialise its staff. But, that's not going to work in terms of speaking effectively to different operational areas. Every rep must be able to conduct high value dialogues with business executives in every department. The moment they begin reading off a script, the connection will die.
You might be thinking that it’s easier to just start dialing for dollars, especially if you have high turnover and don’t want to invest in deep product, personal and industry training. That’s where the lack of effort becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Train the right people and you’ll have a successful team, which often means longer staff tenure and ultimately, happier customers. We’re lucky enough to live in an era of precise data and valuable insights; use them and you’ll take your cold calling game and resulting ROI to an advanced level.