I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; selling is a life skill. Regardless of your profession, you will have to use selling skills to get ahead. In this essay, we are going to explore one of the more terrifying aspects of selling. The Cold call
There are a number of activities that go into selling. Arguably, the most challenging is “Cold Calling”. Talk to almost any salesperson and ask them what their least favorite part of the game is and they will tell you cold calling. And yet, if we don’t cold call… that is if we do not look for ways to turn ordinary people from suspects into prospects we will make no sales.
So what is Cold Calling? The definition I am using “is calling suspected prospects that we don’t know (Complete strangers) and engaging in a dialog to determine if they are a prospect and then if there is an opportunity for us to help them.”
Now this does not come easy to anyone. I mean think about it. We grew up hearing Things like:
– Don’t speak until you are spoken to.
– Kids should be seen and not heard.
– Don’t interrupt people.
Cold calling violates all of these rules!
For a definition, a Prospect is someone that
1. Can use your product or service
2. They can afford it
3. They have authority to buy it
So what steps do we need to take to turn a suspect into a Prospect? I am going to focus on two main tools that I have found successful in turning suspects into prospect and then moving forward in the sales process.
The first thing to remember when calling other people at work (or at home) is we are interrupting something. How do we turn that interruption into a conversation? Once I give them my immediate benefit statement, I always ask, “Do you have a minute?” (I acknowledge that I am interrupting their day) If not, I ask when I can call back. Now I’ve shown some courtesy that 99% of the sales people calling on the buyer have not shown. I sound different.
Once they agree to talk to you, we have 30 seconds or so to gain their attention and their desire for more information. I have recently had the opportunity to ride with a number of sales people. They all talked in features. That is they spoke about the technical specs about the company… We are $500 Million, We use IVR, we have a training program that is 6 weeks, etc. …WHO CARES! WHAT DOES THAT DO FOR ME! We want to make the conversation about them and their situation. Get them to describe their circumstances as it relates to your product or service. Once I can get them talking and describing their world it easier to demonstrate how I may be able to serve them. I am no longer “selling” I am facilitating their purchase.
The second tool I use is a two-prong approach 4-6 times per year. First, I send out a letter using what’s called a reference story. Then a week later and over the next 2 weeks I follow up with a series of telephone calls. I try to turn the cold call into a warm or at least tepid call by having something already in their hands (my letter).
The reference story I refer to is from Michael Bosworth’s – Solution Selling program. It is designed to engage the buyer by demonstrating how someone just like him or her had a similar situation and we helped solve it. A variation on this approach is the feel, felt, found approach. Which is also good for handling objections but that’s another topic.
The reference story contains the following parts
The Critical Issues
The Situation – Includes the Title of the person you are talking to or a customer in their vertical market (someone just like them)
The Critical Issue – is the pain or problem in need of a solution. Hopefully, a problem that is common to your industry.
Reasons – are the reasons the other party was having a problem
The vision – is a vision of how the problem can be solved or what an ideal result would look like
We provided – The Service you delivered to help achieve vision
The results – The outcome they achieved. Preferably this is quantifiable.
However, the reference story is a way to accomplish a couple of things to happen in the buyer’s mind.
1. Remind them of their pain
2. Let them see that others have the same pain
3. Recognize that you have helped others solve this pain
4. Open up to the idea that you might be able to help them
Finally, we always ask for the appointment either another call or a face to face. Today with tools like Webex and others, you can make presentations without ever leaving your desk