To say I hate cold calling would be an understatement. I know how important it is to growing my business, but I will do anything to get out of it, including reorganization my paper clips, writing yet another article, or even checking Facebook to see if anyone has commented on my latest post.
All that changed after a conversation with Chris Beall the CEO of ConnectAndSell, who said that "cold calling is easy, and enjoyable, providing you have the right goal, the right customer, and the right message.
He challenged me to try his approach for just 90 minutes, and see if he could convince me that cold calling could be fun, easy to do and more importantly successful.
Intrigued, I accepted his challenge. What the heck it's only 90 minutes. What's the worst that could happen to me? No-one answers, I end up speaking to an answerphone, or maybe just maybe I get to interrupt someone who is busy working and who's just not that thrilled to speak to me.
So how did it go?
I can honestly say that I was shocked at the outcome. I have always hated cold calling, and at best I thought it might be fun to prove someone who thinks they're an except wrong.
But actually, I really enjoyed it, it was great fun, and yes I did have success. I actually had more success in 90 minutes of calling than I had had, in the previous three weeks.For Chris the goal is all about getting to conversations, and that's exactly what happened.
Here are five things that changed the way I felt about cold calling.
Get the right person on the line
I appreciate that this may seem so obvious, but getting the right on the line critical, because your offer is only going to resonate and be relevant for the right customer. You need to do a bit of homework, check out their role, their responsibility, the better you can do this the more comfortable you're going to be making the call. Just blindly calling a company HR department or just trying to get anyone on the board is not going to work.
As my goal was to book more speaking opportunities, I decided to target Trade Association Event organizers. If I could get them on the phone, then I knew my offer was going to be of at least some interest.
Have a clear objective which doesn't feel too aggressive
Whenever I looked to make a cold call previously, I'd always been trying to get them to consider me as a speaker for their next event right there and then. Which is a bit like asking someone to marry you on a first date, it might happen but it was highly unlikely.
Chris told me that this time my only goal was to be brief, compelling and look to set up a second meeting where we would share more details of our compelling offer.
To be honest, I was relieved at this as I was no longer looking to sell, I was just looking to set up a second call, which took away a lot of the stress and pressure I usually felt around selling.
Have a simple script that highlights the value of the call
I've never had any sales training, although I have read a few books on the topic. Even so I never really had a script that I felt comfortable with, this is partly because I was trying to be too aggressive, either that or I was just trying to start a conversation with not much clue as to what to do then.
Chris and his team were specific. We created a script that apologized for the interruption, and to say that I was only looking for 30 seconds of their time. I would then ask if that was ok, and then I would tell them I believed I had something that was of benefit and I'd like to organize a 15-minute call to share more details.
That was it; the call would be done in about 1-2 minutes tops.
I liked this. I could see how that was going to work, and that alone boosted my confidence significantly, and in sales, confidence is a big part of making a connection and being successful.
Offer a free gift that has value
This was something that I added. As I was looking to speak at their events on FAST, I thought it would be a good idea to offer a free e-copy of my book FAST, which was a finalist for the CMI Management book of the year. It was relevant to the call and what I was offering, and it gave me something to offer for the inconvenience of the interruption.
The offer of the gift made me feel that I was really calling to serve and help them rather than seeing this just as a sales call.
Interestingly, this really made the person I was speaking to pick up their interest,and something that Chris is going to look to recommend to his clients.
Use a software tool that take the legwork out of calling
Dialing and getting stuck with an answer phone, or failing to get through at all, can be really discouraging.
If you get one of the many sales calls tools available, it can really ease that burden and help get you connected more frequently. The more conversations you have per hour, the more chance of success you will have, and the more encouraging it will be.
So what was the outcome of the challenge?
In 90 minutes we called 178 people, I got to have 12 real conversations. I agreed to send six people further information by email, we arranged three follow-up meetings to discuss more details, and one request to call back later. For the other two calls, we both agreed that my talk wouldn't be relevant as they were looking for specific technical expertise.
That means against our goal of organizing the next call, from the conversations I had a 25% success rate. So not only was it fun, but it was also effective. By following Chris's approach of having right client, right message, the right goal he changed my thoughts on cold calling.
I no longer hate cold calling. I have an approach I believe in, one which I know can be both fun and successful.
Sales success comes from persistency and it's hard to be persistent at something you hate.
I am now motivated and looking forward to getting even better candidates on my call list, to refine my script and try again, which is something I never thought I would say.