I tell a handful of these stories in my book All In, but I started my sales career when I was just four years old. I stole a box of cookies from my mom's cupboard and went selling them door to door. Later, when I was seven, I started selling custom pencil holders up and down the street.
The list goes on and on. I was hungry to sell, and for this reason making cold calls and "asking for the order" was something that came pretty naturally to me when I ended up starting my first company.
When you believe in what you're selling, it's just a numbers game.
Here are five key steps you can take to close more cold leads:
1. Create your plan, and stick with it for a good amount of time.
One of the worst habits people have in business is creating a plan of action and then not following through with it--or worse, having no plan at all.
Part of effective cold sales efforts is understanding that results don't happen overnight. Sometimes they do. You hop on your first sales call, the prospect loves what you're selling, and they close right then and there. But most of the time, it goes the opposite direction, and you are immediately confronted with sales objections and a request to be left alone.
Create your plan. Figure out how many cold calls you're going to make in a month. Then figure out how many you need to make in a week to hit that quota. Then figure out how many you need to make in a day, today, in order to get the ball rolling.
Don't give up day one. Stick to the plan.
2. Get to the primary decision maker.
Part of closing a sale is making sure you get to the real decision maker.
At my first company, Wilmar, I was the company's first salesperson (and when I left the company we had 450 salespeople). We sold maintenance supplies to apartment buildings, and I had to go to the apartments' offices and speak to the staff in order to get to the head of maintenance. Speaking kindly and treating the staff person in that office well was crucial in order to get to the decision maker.
There are mixed opinions on having junior staff make initial calls in order to get the person you really want to talk to on the phone. Personally, I find that insulting. If you are a salesperson and you want my business, then show me I am important enough to you to call me yourself.
3. Constantly refine your sales script until it's proven to work.
Every single script should cover the following:
- An opening line to get the person's attention.
- Clearly identify yourself and the company.
- Give a reason as to why you're calling.
- Make a qualifying questioning statement (to make sure you aren't wasting your time).
- Set a follow-up appointment / close.
Especially for new companies, effective sales scripts aren't something that miraculously appear on the first day. It takes time, practice, and a lot of rejection in order to understand what your customers need to hear from you in order for them to give you their business.
4. Don't get too attached to rejection.
Remember: It's a numbers game.
Everyone struggles with this at first, whether they're a first-time founder or a young sales employee. Rejection is something we're taught in society to fear and dread. But in the business world, rejection can actually be extremely beneficial. When someone rejects your sell, they usually tell you why--and if you listen closely, they'll tell you what they want or need in order for them to close.
The best thing you can do get over any fears of rejection is to make more calls. The more times it happens, the less it will affect you. And conversely, the more you start to see that for every ten calls you make, two of them close, you'll start to see that cold outreach is all about effort.
5. Measure, measure, measure your success.
Cold-calling day and night is only effective if you're simultaneously gathering data about what works and what doesn't.
There's a phrase in business that says, "Don't work hard--work smart," and that couldn't be more applicable to sales. Every time someone closes, ask yourself why:
- What was different about this call than other calls where the prospect didn't close?
- What can be replicated from this call to future calls?
- How many leads am I converting with this sales script?
Don't just smile and dial. The more you can test, measure, and refine your materials and strategy over time, the more effective you will be in the long run.