Phone prospecting is one of the seven ways to win new sales in the business-to-business sales world (along with door-knocking, referrals from existing clients, e-mail marketing, website SEO, social media, and joining networking groups). Yet, many sales reps would rather do ANYTHING other than "pound the phones" to win sales appointments. They say things like: "Cold Calling is dead," "All I get is voicemails," or "I'm better in person."
Phone Call Avoidance (PCA) is a serious illness. Especially in a sales organization that wants to use ALL avenues to get appointments and eventually win business. While the ratios of dials to appointments set is usually low, the time management aspect of phone prospecting is excellent. Even in a metropolitan area, it is very difficult to knock more than 40-50 doors in a day. Yet, any good sales rep can bang out 80+ dials per day if they are focused on making their phone prospecting time a success.
While numerous sales managers continually tell their reps to "Hit the phones," very few of these managers actually give their reps the tips, tactics, and training to be successful at phone prospecting. When reps are not successful at a particular aspect of cold calling (such as phone prospecting), they will gravitate to other avenues of cold calling (networking, door-knocking, etc.) to get appointments, therefore avoiding an entire discipline of cold calling.
Here are 6 tips to make phone prospecting more successful - and thus more palatable to sales reps:
- Have a “guideline.” Not necessarily a script, but a course of action that you take with each call. This guideline should have a solid Value Statement. You should have a prepared voicemail that you leave on voicemails. Keep it short! And, remember the goal of a phone prospecting cold call is to get the appointment. Do not start going into the entire steps to the sale, the features and benefits of your product, etc. Stay focused on the main goal of getting the appointment.
- Set a goal. For example: “Every Friday I’m going to make 80+ cold calls via phone prospecting. My goal is to secure 3 appointments with Final Decision Makers for next week; OR: Every day from 3pm-5:30pm I’m going to return to the office and make 25+ phone calls based on the business cards I collected that day while door-knocking. My goal is to secure at least 1 appointment from those calls.
- Get “in a groove.” Rather than make 5-10 calls, and then move on to another task, block out time to truly telemarket for appointments. There are studies that have proven that this is an issue, especially with telecommuters. The distractions of working from home allows us to make 7 calls, get hung up on all 7, and then say to ourselves "I think I'll go make a sandwich." We then finish our food, make 6 more calls with no results, and say "I think I'll walk the dog." The best way to truly "pound the phones" and achieve success in booking appointments is to block out a serious chunk of time (2 hours at least) and remove all distractions and spend that entire time making calls. Truly set time aside for phone prospecting. After a while making the calls you will get in a groove, your vocal inflection will start to sound better, your confidence in your "pitch" will start to improve, and eventually you will begin to have more success.
- Remove ALL distractions (cell phone, email, radio, etc.). I once sat next to an outbound telemarketer at one of my sales training clients, and before he started dialing, I noticed he shut off the little clock radio on his desk, took his cell phone and shut it OFF (not vibrate, not silent.....OFF), and shut down his e-mail. He then placed a Excel list of companies on his desk, put on his headset, and before he started to dial I asked him "Bob, what was all that?" He said" Pete, these two hours are how I make my living. Getting these appointments, and eventually closing these clients, is how I pay my bills, put food on the table, put my kids through college, and save for my retirement. I am a sales professional. Therefore, before I make my cold calls I remove ALL distractions and focus 100% on the task at hand.....getting appointments!"
- Understand the best time to call certain businesses. In some businesses, depending on what they are selling and what types of businesses that they sell to, sales reps will make sure they only call certain types of businesses at certain times. For example, a firm I have done training for that sells tracking software for companies with vehicles makes sure they call blue collar businesses (electricians, plumbers, heating and air conditioning companies, landscaping firms, etc.) between 7am and 9am. They find that when they call these businesses during normal business hours of 9am to 5pm the owner is usually out with his team actually helping them do the work. They are not sitting in the office. They are out on a truck installing the central air in a condo development, etc.
- Plan tactics for getting past the gatekeeper. Some tactics include getting the gatekeeper on your side right from the get-go. Using terms like "Perhaps you can help me" or acting a little confused about who you are trying to reach will actually work. Most people will try to help someone when they need assistance. Other tactics are items like name repetition (the most pleasant sound a person can hear is the sound of their own name) , asking questions (rather than just spewing out a pitch) , speaking in your "normal" voice (not your "buddy" voice, nor in your overly "professional" voice). If all else fails, and there is a particular gatekeeper that will NEVER let you through to speak with the decision maker, I recommend keeping those prospects on a certain list and staying late one day a week and then calling those companies at “off hours."
In conclusion, when field sales reps add successful phone prospecting to their already strong outside sales skills, it makes them more well-rounded, more confident, and it allows them to get into prospects that will not generally see salespeople in a door-knocking situation.