Cold calling has traditionally been one of the main lead generation tactics used by businesses. Sales teams would buy in a set of data then hit the phones, calling endless lists of names until they hit gold. Simple.
The name ‘cold’ calling comes about because the people on these lists are cold, they aren’t expecting a call and indeed aren’t any kind of lead at all yet.
What this means is that results often aren’t great. Teams need to plow through a ton of numbers before they get lucky and hit on a potential prospect.
It is basically a numbers game. Call ‘x’ number of people and you may expect to get ‘y’ number of positive responses (often a tiny percentage). And it’s tough going. The employee churn rate in outbound call centers is huge because it’s draining work that eats away at you. But up until recently, it was a method that had a chance of producing at least some results.
Thanks to the internet and sophisticated modern lead generation tactics, it is now possible to generate leads that are warm (or even hot), without having to crunch through these enormous numbers.
However, there is still a case for having cold calling as part of the marketing mix, especially while you’re waiting for a content marketing strategy to kick in.
What you should always be looking out for is the marketing activity that costs the least but generates the best results for your individual circumstances.
For you, that may be:
a) buying in a list of cold contacts and working through it, or
b) putting together an e-book and advertising it on Facebook as a way to start building a list of warmer leads.
If you do decide to go for a cold canvassing campaign, then here are some top tips for achieving better results.
Your sales funnel
When you start cold calling, you need to plot out a sales funnel that is clear and easy to follow. What is the purpose of the call? Is it to get an appointment, or to sell directly?
In a B2B environment, it’s most likely you’ll want to make an appointment, where a trained sales rep can then try to land the deal.
The simplest funnel will be:
1) Call the number
2) Engage in conversation
3) Make an appointment
4) Have the appointment
5) Close the deal
Issues with cold calling
In the past, as a cold caller you had to get past the ‘gatekeeper’ – a person who would sit between you and the decision maker. Typically, this would have been a secretary, assistant or similar. Charm them and you would have a way in.
But thanks to the technology we have nowadays, most busy execs and key decision makers will monitor their own inboxes and incoming calls. An unknown number will simply not be answered and email pitches will be ignored, which is one of the reasons why cold calling has become far less effective. It’s no longer a case of winning over a gatekeeper and then getting access.
Reaching the right person
Knowing who is the right person to speak to is key to cutting short the time it takes to make a potential deal. That means the list of numbers you call needs to be well curated and contain the right amount of information.
When buying in data, get a sample first and check whether it will fit your needs. Often, unless you have up to date cell phone numbers, reaching anyone is going to prove difficult.
Knowing what to say
Having a good script is essential for any cold calling campaign. It needs to be designed to achieve the following:
- to build rapport very quickly with the other person
- to get them to engage in a conversation
- to lead the conversation without pushing too much or being too soft
- to close the deal (which might mean making the appointment)
Once you have your script, test it. Try it out and see what works best, before you share it across the whole team.
Motivating your sales people
Depending on the nature of the calls you want to make and the desired outcome, you may need to get specialist resources in to handle it. Making appointments is very different to convincing someone to buy a product.
Avoiding churn is almost impossible in an outbound call center. Having people put the phone down on you all day long can be very depressing!
Bear this in mind and do anything you can to help rally the spirits. Work on creating a positive atmosphere. It will have a positive impact on their results.
Also, invest in ongoing training. Role plays, improvisation games and objection handling are all key activities that can and should be practiced regularly.
How to up your game
Prepare for objections
A key part of cold calling is knowing how best to handle any objections you may hear. List out all the potential objections that someone may come out with during a call and work out appropriate answers for each. Then make sure anyone making a call is aware of them and prepared to react appropriately.
Reply to “send me more info”
Use this common response as a starting point for a conversation. Start asking more questions in order to send out more appropriate information. This will help you not only qualify the contact further, but encourage them to share their email address with you.
Think people first and numbers second
Invest in your team’s health and happiness. You need good communicators who can naturally engage people in conversation. Providing regular training is one of the best investments you can make. Other than offering incentives for ‘hitting the numbers’ also think about perks that will help produce better results from the outset. It’s about finding a balance between targets and a positive working environment, with enough rest periods to recharge and reenergize.
Your caller handlers need to ask good quality questions and to learn to truly listen. That way they can immediately qualify the person on the other end of the line and either continue with the call, or quickly move on to the next one.
Have a voicemail script
Most of the time you may find you end up in a contact’s voicemail. Knowing exactly what to say when this happens is crucial. You need to be succinct and clear. Above all, never try to sell in your message. Just say enough to encourage a call back.
Use the survey technique
Many B2Bs use surveys as a way to try and engage with contacts. As long as you do so in an ethical way, there’s no reason not to use it as a tactic.
If you ask someone to participate in a survey, then at the end all you do is try and pitch to them, it won’t go down well. Instead, use the survey to produce a genuinely interesting report that is relevant for your target audience. That way, you’ll also produce a great piece of content for your content marketing campaigns.
You can always conduct the survey, then ask the person at the end if they’d like to learn more about you and what you’re offering. If they say no, then honor that and say your goodbyes. Send them the end report and leave it at that. If they say yes, then you have gained a very valuable warm lead that you can start nurturing towards a conversion.
Bonus tip – so, what’s the best cold calling strategy for 2017?
We’ll let you in on a little secret. Lead Forensics was born out of frustration over cold calling. We thought there had to a better way - and of course, there is.
With the help of the internet, we can turn cold calling into introductory calling.
Here’s how it works (disclaimer - now it’s time for our pitch!).
There are lots of people visiting your company website every day. You may be driving that traffic through various lead generation activities, or that may be something you’re planning to work on. Either way, you’ll want to get people visiting your website who may have an interest in what you’re offering.
With the help of Lead Forensics software, you will immediately have a list of warmed up leads. You’ll be able to get hold of the name of all the people that check out your website, even if they never make contact with you and share their details.
We have one of the top B2B contact databases in the world, a carefully curated database that can provide you with information about which businesses visited your website and a list of contact details for the key decision makers within those organizations.
Assign those visitors to your sales team, using whichever rules you see fit, and they will never run out of leads to contact and follow-up with.
Have another team work on material to drive the right kind of web traffic and over time, you’ll find you never need to make a cold call again. Instead, you can focus all your time and effort on warmer leads, which we think is a far more effective strategy - and our customers agree.