I was on LinkedIn the other day, and came across a question about whether Sales 2.0 has killed Cold Calling. I decided to share my answer with our blog readers, too. To me, a cold call has three basic elements:
- You have never spoken to the individual you’re calling.
- They’re not expecting your call.
- They didn’t request for you to contact them through some form of marketing material like a website or a newsletter.
Strategic activities like permission-based marketing, speaking, networking, etc., are much better uses of time than making unsolicited phone calls. Those types of activities involve building relationships that cause prospects to call, which means there's no need for cold calls. However, if those activities aren’t working for you, there are two things you can do.
- Rethink your strategies.
- Buckle down and make the calls to fill the pipeline.
Now, here’s where I really disagree with most sales managers who just don’t “get it.” It’s NOT about enforcing a call number on your reps and thinking that the more they call, the more they sell. It is about making sure you’re getting quality calls. Period. Make sure your salespeople are spending time on the phone with prospects who are most likely to buy. When I hear someone say to a rep that . . .
"You need to up your number of calls by 50 a week"
. . . I know I’m listening to an uninformed manager who lacks real business savvy. Managers need to encourage productive calls and the right activities in order to drive the best results. A year ago, I started working with a client with that flawed mentality I just described.
The client was struggling to stay afloat. Sure, sales were being made, but turnover was too high. The business costs were astronomical. Reps had to make 325 calls a week by pounding it out on the phone. A year later, armed with a new strategy, they have increased sales by 60%. In fact, they just won their largest-ever deal. How? They’re making smarter calls. And, reps only have to make about 100 calls per week now!
Warm calls are always better than cold ones.
Here’s the approach we’ve helped some of our clients implement:
- Segment your most profitable clients and find out exactly why they bought from you, who made the decision, how each sale was won, etc. This provides a robust amount of information and helps you craft a compelling story.
- Research your markets and identify those prospects you want to target first, second, third, etc.
- Think about other segments you haven’t focused on to see how much time should be spent in those segments.
- Compile a list with the names and contact information for potential decision makers.
- Craft a linked, sequential campaign with specific steps.
- Send handwritten notes to the people on your list to introduce yourself and let them know you'll be providing them with some valuable information over the next few weeks.
- A couple of days later, either by email or “snail” mail, send a valuable whitepaper, or other piece of information that has nothing to do with whatever product or service you’re selling.
- With each touch, subtly invite the prospect to get in touch with you if they’re interested in learning more.
- After the third touch, make a phone call (the "cold" call that’s actually “warm”). The good news about this call is that you'll have talking points and specific objectives to assist you in arranging a meeting.
- If the call goes to VM, leave a message and follow-up with an email.
- Continue with two or more touches.
- Make another call. When you speak with the prospect, have a friendly business-oriented conversation.
I think you probably get the picture. This approach makes phone calls far more effective and allows for better, richer conversations. Salespeople will be talking with qualified prospects who have seen the value they offer rather than a name on a piece of paper. If at some point, it’s determined that the salesperson can't help the prospect, it's important to recommend someone who can. If the prospect is willing, place them on a newsletter list for a nurturing campaign so when the time is right, the conversation can be revisited in the future. We all have to eat a year from now, too!