Freddie Marryat, Marketing Manager, EngageIQ
Few (if any) successful B2B sales calls are made by sales reps plucking a prospect at random from their CRM and giving them a call.
Yet most B2B sales reps have little in the way of a thought-through process when it comes to cold calling — and it shows. A study by SiriusDecisions found that 82% of B2B decision-makers think sales reps are unprepared.
A pre-call sales routine is the secret to successful selling. What you do before the call will have a direct impact on the outcome. The more you plan, the more success you’ll have. Fail to prepare, on the other hand, and you should prepare to fail.
Want to get the most from every cold call? Create your own pre-call ritual from our expert tips below.
Block Out Time
Cold calling isn’t something you can do ad-hoc. Making calls intermittently between surfing LinkedIn and sending emails isn’t effective. You won’t hit your 100 call target if you don’t dedicate time to it. You won’t get into a flow, either,
You should be blocking out several hours at a time to sit down and make calls. If you can’t commit to making at least 20, then you need to take another look at your schedule before doing anything else.
Block out time each day for prospect calls and nothing else. We recommend doing them first thing in the morning and straight after lunch. Your prospects will be more likely to pick up during these times, and you’ll have more luck avoiding gatekeepers, too.
Research Your Prospect
If you don’t know anything about the person you’re going to call, you shouldn’t be calling them. Not knowing who he is or what he does is one of the three major reasons that people fail on cold calls, Strategy To Revenue CEO Mark Savinson told us on a recent webinar.
Thorough research is crucial for making a great first impression. The more you know about your prospect, the higher your chances of building rapport and having a meaningful conversation, says sales expert Geoffrey James.
The more information you’re armed with, the more you can personalise your approach and differentiate yourself from the dozens of other cold calls that person gets that day.
But what should you research?
Sales trainer Phil Gerbyshak recommends starting by finding your prospect’s preferred name. They might be a Michael on Linkedin but go by Mike in real life, for instance. Make sure you can pronounce their name, too. Repeat it several times before the call if you are struggling with it.
John Golden, CSMO at Pipeliner CRM, recommends looking for potential connections between you and your prospect. “When you have an important interaction or significant interaction with a customer, this can either advance the sale or, if done poorly, it can derail or lose the deal,” he writes.
Look for a way to warm up a cold prospect, adds SalesLoft’s Kenny Traber. When he is browsing a prospect’s LinkedIn or Twitter profile, he’ll go to the effort of commenting on one of their posts or favouriting one of their tweets. That way, when he calls up, he can say: “Hey, this is Kenny, you might recognize my name because I just favorited one of your tweets.”
Go Over Your Notes
If you’ve already made contact with your prospect before, double-check the notes you added to your CRM. You don’t want to waste your time and theirs by asking questions that you already have the answers to. You also don’t want to recite the history of your last call back to them.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t recap your last call at all, however. A one or two-sentence summary can be a great way to set the scene and ensure you’re both on the same page. It will also help you to find out whether anything has changed since you last spoke.
“When you have an important interaction or significant interaction with a customer, this can either advance the sale or, if done poorly, it can derail or lose the deal,”
Read Your Script and Prepare Your message
We highly recommend preparing a script for every call you make. You don’t have to refer back to it, but it’s a handy way to keep you on track during the call. Even if you’ve been doing this job for years, reading through your script before each call can help focus your mind.
As well as your script, we advise having a couple of things written out in advance like a voicemail message and an engaging opening line.
You’re going to hit your prospect’s voicemail a heck of a lot. Don’t hang up as soon as you hear the message, however. Leave a message instead. You probably won’t get a callback, but it’s a great way to plant your name in your prospect’s mind.
If they do pick up, you need to grab their attention in the first 10 seconds. Use the research you dug up in the previous step to personalize your opener. Alternatively, check out our tips on making your opener as engaging as possible.
Plan Questions and Come Backs
Yes, you need to tailor your script based on what your prospect says. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a couple of general questions lined up in advance.
Jill Konrath recommends preparing questions ahead of time. Take what you know about the prospect from your research and think carefully about the problems they could be facing.
If this is the first time you’re reaching out to someone at the company, you may want to ask more fundamental questions, like whether you’re speaking to the decision-maker.
You should also plan for any objections your prospect might raise. Hopefully, you keep a list of objections that you hear regularly. If you do, read it through before the call and think about which are most likely to crop up based on what you know about the prospect.
Get Yourself in the Right Mindset
It’s so important to go into every cold call with the right mindset. Your success depends on a multitude of factors. How you come across has a big impact. Being positive isn’t just good for your mental health; it’s good for your sales figures, too.
We recommend embodying your inner professional athlete and visualising a successful sales call before it starts. Don’t just think about closing the prospect, play through the entire conversation in your head. Start with your opening line, recite your pitch, anticipate questions and practice overcoming objections.
Sean McPheat, managing director of MTD Sales Training Specialists, recommends putting yourself in a consulting mindset. “Remember, you’re not pitching your product at this point; you’re introducing the prospect to the idea of talking to you about your products.”
Improve your mindset further by improving your surroundings. Clear your workspace of clutter. Close any desktop programs that you don’t need. Have a pad of paper and a pen in front of you to make notes.
Finally, stand up and smile. Standing up will instantly make you feel more confident and motivated. Smiling will make you happier. Both are important for creating a good impression, and both will shine through over the phone.
Write Down Your Goal
Picking up the phone and having a chat isn’t an appropriate sales strategy if you want to close prospects. You need to go in with a plan. This is the difference between cold calling success and failure, says Mailshake founder Sujan Patel.
Think clearly about what you want to achieve with the call. Obviously, the ultimate goal is to book a meeting. But that probably won’t happen on the first call, so break down that big goal into smaller parts.
Your goal could simply be to get your pitch heard or find out about the problems facing your prospect. If it’s the second or third call, your goal could be to touch base or find out if anything has changed within the company.
Write down your goal on your notepad. Don’t forget to celebrate when you achieve it.
It’s important to develop your own pre-call ritual. But it doesn’t have to be this one. Try out each of the strategies listed above. Keep what works, discard what doesn’t. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.