Ever have some old school manager tell you that “cold calling for appointments is just a numbers game. “If you make 100 calls” they say, “you will get 1 appointment. If you make 200 calls, you will get 2 appointments, and so on. So take this script and get on the phones.” No wonder some people are claiming that cold calling is dead! What a very limited view of something that can have such a huge impact on the successful attainment of your sales goals. I can tell you from experience, it’s not dead. I make a comfortable living in sales and most of my conversations usually start on the phone. It’s not a numbers game either though, there’s a lot more to successful appointment setting over the phone than just how many calls you make.
I’m Not a Number
First of all, cold calling, like any other part of my career in sales is not a game.. at least not for me. I don’t know about you, but if I want to play games, I can think of gads of things to do that are way more fun than cold calling for appointments. If the goal is to make appointments which ultimately will lead to a sale, it doesn’t take long to see it’s not just about the numbers. It’s about human interaction. I’ve spent days on the phones before without making a single appointment. Other days I’ve spent as little as 15 focused minutes on the phones and made 3 appointments! The numbers don’t add up. Some things are clearly beyond our control, but aren’t there a few other things besides the number of calls that we can control that can have a huge impact on success? Hell yes, there is. Here are just six that have dramatically improved my success:
A List By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet
Well-meaning managers who ascribe to the “numbers game” theory often hand people lists of numbers to call giving little thought as to the quality of the data. Unless you somehow have lot’s of extra time on your hands to call a bunch of useless numbers, It’s up to you to screen that list. Put some thought into who you will call from it (and who you wont,) what you will say to them that will resonate (interest creating statements, thought provoking questions,) where they are when they receive your call and when exactly is the ideal time to call them that they will truly be able to hear what you have to say and respond to it. Most lists are filled with many useless numbers. You have to think about how you will use them effectively.
Cold Calling Scripts Make Fine Sounding Robots
Script Schmipt – They make you sound like one of those corporate-speak answering machine messages. “Press 1 for this, press 2 for that.” People want to talk to people, not machines. Memorize the principles in the script – figure out what is being conveyed and engage people with real, natural sounding conversation around those principles instead. I like to pretend I am at a networking event, working my way around the room, trying to get to know a few key people and start meaningful conversation and relationships. In your calls, remember that information and tactics are not assets, conversation and relationships are.
You Only Get One Chance to Make a Lousy Impression
Presence on the phone is way more important than frequency of calls. When I have a positive attitude and confidence in my voice, the ratio of calls to appointments is dramatically decreased. If I am feeling nervous or down, negative in some way, I don’t even pick up the phone. Go outside, have a fit. Yell at the sky. Pray. Whatever works, but bust yourself out of that funk or don’t bother to even call me bub. I got enough negative dullards to deal with already. Also – you can’t sell from your heals. You have to own it. Sit up straight, and project value. You have something important for your prospect, there’s no need to apologize or beg for time. Hold your cards boldly and negotiate a connection.
I Can’t Believe They Said “No”… Again
I don’t know anyone who enjoys rejection. Ok, maybe my twisted brother. For the rest of us however, it’s an intellectual leap to go out every day and face rejection over and over again. It helps me to remember that objections are an inevitable part of cold calling. Some people really despise being interrupted. Others are simply not interested. Still others don’t understand what your offering them. If I anticipate objections, prepare for them both mentally and emotionally, I find that there are way more people who will eventually agree that there is good reason for us to continue talking. For many, it’s a knee jerk reaction to reject your call. It’s on us to make it a priority by understanding and addressing the objection for them.
All Appointments Are Not Created Equal
If all you care about is making a number of appointments, then it doesn’t matter who you set them with. It doesn’t matter if they have money. It doesn’t matter if they need what you have or not. It doesn’t matter if they are likely to benefit from it. It doesn’t matter if they keep the appointment. If all you care about is meeting a quota of number of calls, then yes, I guess cold calling is a numbers game. However, if you need to make a sale from that appointment, wouldn’t it make sense to do a bit of qualifying before you spend that time meeting with someone? A recent study found that sales people on average spend only 29% of their time actually selling, down from 34% a year ago… and quota attainment continues to drop. Perhaps if more time were spent making sure those precious sales calls made sense, we would have more revenue to show for it. I like a big bunch of appointments on my schedule as much as the next person, but in some cases there might be more equitable ways to spend our time.
The Right Place at the Right Time
At least half the people I call on a given day tell me that they are interested, but can’t do anything right now. These are qualified prospects – but their buying cycle is not aligned with my selling cycle… and that’s ok as long as I employ some decent pipeline funnel management, it’s worth my time for future sales. I set an appointment last week with someone who I have been calling for about 4 months. Each time we spoke, some other pressing issue stood between us. Next week we meet for the first time to discuss a rather large opportunity. If I gave up or didn’t keep track, I would have lost this lead. I shudder to think of the number of leads that would have gone elsewhere if I didn’t keep nurturing relationships until our cycles align.
I’m sure there are many other things you can think of that impact cold calling success too, besides sheer number of calls made.