One of the topics I often write about is cold calling and how do you make great cold calls. The first thing about cold calling we have to understand, is that the objective of cold calling is not what a lot of people think. The directive is not to impress people, it’s not to get them excited, or get their attention. The objective of a cold call in prospecting is really about moving from an interruption, where you’re interrupting somebody’s day; they’re into the phone they’re not expecting your call, to a plan for further conversation.
In a lot of cases, what I’ll even say is you know to our first scheduled interaction I have to my little calendar thing, here a scheduled call and as such it’s really important to understand that most traditional cold calling techniques really do a poor job of making this conversion.
That is often because they’re trying to give somebody the full elevator pitch. I’ve done lots of writing on cold call scripting and objection handling, and I thought it would be useful to go through a high-level step-by-step workflow of how a great cold call works.
I’ll tell you that the goal of cold calls, the goal of the scripting and the process I use, is to make the entire process at least as predictable as possible. It’s hard, in fact it is difficult; you got to be very attentive and paying attention and able to think on your feet, so the fewer variables we can have, the more variables we can take out of the equation, the better.
We’ll just start from beginning, from being motivated to making the phone call. At some point in time, the prospect is going to answer and what we’re hoping for is where they say hey or hello or how are you, and then we’re going to start with a basic introduction. You know, Hello, so-and-so my name is Bob and one of my pet peeves, one thing I’m really insistent on, is always asking for the prospects time.
Have I caught you at a bad time? I’ll tell you one thing – we studied this question over literally millions of phone calls and found it works far better than “Have I caught you at a good time?” – don’t ask me why, I’m not a psychologist, however fundamentally this is the nice things about this process.
This question is going to yield a couple of predictable responses, firstly “Yes you have”, usually followed by a click. Number two “No you have not it’s a great time” which is very rare. Essentially what you want at least in two out of three of these, you’ve asked them the question, they have responded, and now you’re going to do your intro.
I’ve gone through this in a lot of detail in my scripting, essentially the intro is something like a thank you or that’s great. It doesn’t really matter, once again my name is Bob, and here’s where it gets really important – unlike traditional cold calling approaches, which say pitch and wow, tell them all the things that are great about your company etc, we’re going to do something very simple.
That is, we’ll state the purpose of the call right away. Why are you calling in a cold call? What are you trying to accomplish? Well the answer we’ve already said is we’re trying to move from an interruption to a plan for a scheduled action. What we’re going to do is when I say something like “The purpose of my call is I’m looking to get 10 to 15 minutes next week on your calendar for a brief conversation, blah blah blah”, the important thing is don’t spend a lot of detail.
One of the challenges in this first 10 seconds of the conversation is the fact that the prospect really isn’t hearing you. They are task-switching, and they’re trying to move from what they were previously doing, to talking to you or at least listening to you, so stating your purpose is very powerful. “I’m looking to get 15 20 minutes in your calendar early next week.”
What’s going to happen here is very, very interesting. Essentially you’re causing a major disconnect in their brain, it’s called a pattern interrupt, because they’re expecting something along the lines of what they hear from most people which is “my company does this and here’s how great we are”, however really they want to ask for your time.
I have no other choice or you have no other choice than to say “well wait a minute, what is this about?” and by the way this could be nice “I’m sorry, have we met each other? Do we know each other? What’s going on?” Fundamentally stating your purpose, which as I say it is a meeting, my purpose is not to explain what I do, or get you excited about it.
I’m going to state my purpose, I’m going to get a question out of this, whether they say it nicely or not it’s still a question, the more I can pass the ball back and forth the better, additionally the more I don’t know think of them as hops back and forth between the prospect and myself, the better chance they’re actually engaging me.
So what’s going to happen next? Well my favorite is you know, we got a question, so let’s answer the question, so when they say “What is this about?”, we’re going to respond right back and say “thanks for asking”. You’ll hear me say this a lot, and some people make fun of me. I’m going to ask another question right because I need the ball to go back to you, so we can keep it going.
I want to kind of create some context here. The chances are the answer is no, right. I’m cold calling, you would have heard of me, I get another question here and that’s just fine, that’s perfect. Now I’m going to keep the conversation going “Have you heard of me?” and the answer most likely is going to be no, followed by guess what they’re going to ask me? A question again. “Who are you?” or “What do you do?” one of the most important questions you can be able to answer.
The bottom line is I’m prompting them for a who are you? what do you do? and that’s because that’s where I really want to get to on this call. So the most important part of the entire process comes in and that is answering for the prospect, who are now actually listening to you, they’re engaged and they’ve asked you twice “What do you do?”.
Now think about it, when somebody is being interrupted, when they’re being cold-called, they’re trying to search for context, and they’re trying to understand do I know this person?
What I found to be very effective is you are basically explaining to them, how we have served others like them. It is really important by way of example, when somebody says “What do you do?”, I could say “Well I help people implement Salesforce or I teach people how to make cold calls” but what I tend to say is “I work with CEOs, founders, owners of companies in the 1 to 10 million dollar range”.
We’re trying to make the leap from entrepreneurial selling to professional selling typically they share with me that they’re frustrated with their CRM not working for them, they’re people not making cold calls, etc etc however I’m referring to others like them now.
However, you don’t stop with the explanation because you just kind of this weird awkward silence and nobody likes that. The next step is really important, and that is get back to your purpose. I’m calling to schedule 15-20 minutes of time. I’ve made it this far, I’ve given you some context, don’t allow the conversation to devolve into a lot of how do you do.
Make sure you ask again for what it is that you are looking for, and get back to your purpose which is the meeting. Now, follow this process – does that mean you’re going to get the meeting every time and there’s no further conversation? No. However, think about all this contact, where we’re probably 45 seconds into a conversation. We’ve asked several times for a meeting, we’ve stated what we do, we’re pretty clear at this point.
You’re not out of the woods because you’ve still interrupted them, and they still don’t want to talk to you. It’s still cold calling, etc, however really all you’re going to deal with at this point is objections and that’s part of the process.
Just understand that if you follow this process, and you handle some objections, you’re going to get a lot of meetings, and you’re going to have to handle objections. I tell a lot of my clients, if you’re not hearing objections from your prospects then they are not really listening to you. Objections are a logical part of their conversation, so you need to learn how to deal with objections.
If you follow this process step-by-step, you’re going to have a minimum amount of divergence from this basic script, and you’re going to be able to get the couple objections, keep asking for the meeting and you’ll get the meeting.