A friend on LinkedIn asked my advice recently on cold calling: His question? What do you use for an opening line and how do you deal with objections? Great question! I think even those of us who’ve been at it a while could stand to think about what’s important and what’s made the difference between greater and lesser success when calling for appointments.
Here’s eight ideas that have made all the difference for me (I spent 15 minutes cold calling today. I made 3 appointments). Unless you have lots of time on your hands, it makes sense to put some thought into constructing an appointment rich call strategy.
This is the single most important thing when calling for appointments. Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet here, but here’s a principle that helps. Imagine yourself at a cocktail party and you are walking around meeting new people. Clearly you are just not going to make a connection with everyone, but if you are pleasant, outgoing, asking about them etc. most people will reciprocate. Try to match their tone and cadence if you can do it in a natural sounding way, but more importantly, make a connection as one human to another. It’s not time to sell right now. It’s time to connect.
Be You, only better
Personally, I like talking with people who are comfortable with themselves enough to relax, but that also show an interest in me as well. If you don’t sound confident, why should I have confidence in what you do? Remember that you have something very valuable that may be important to me. That’s why you are calling: to diagnose if I need what you have and set an appointment with me to dig deeper. So be you, but on the premise that you are holding a valuable item which could mean a lot to their business. Talk as if you are the owner of the company. Lean into it. You can’t sell from your heels.
After introducing yourself, provide a brief explanation of what your value is to them. Forget about your products and services. Talk about solving a problem or capturing an opportunity. Talk about how you’ve helped others solve problems or gain market share. Right now you are not selling products or services. You are selling appointments. Give them a reason to want one. You have 5 seconds.
Now that you have told them why they should care, ask for the appointment. Be as specific as possible: “Are you available 30 minutes on Friday at 3PM EST to discuss your content marketing?” Now they know who you are, what you want and why they should care. It’s been 15 seconds.
Not interested? What would interest you?
Remember that most of us have come to think of sales calls as a waste of time and an annoyance. Of course they are going to object. It’s your job to discover their need despite their preconceived notions. Anticipate objections and prepare in advance some questions that will build on those objections and keep the conversation interesting. “Do you already have X?” “How do you handle Y and Z?” I have asked “what would interest you?” and ended up getting appointments that way. Try to think about what your target customer would take the time to meet with you about. What could be that important to them? Build questions around that.
If they have already said “no” then you’ve got nothing to lose. Learn what you can about their company, their industry, their competition. Try again to form a connection. No could mean so many things: I dealt with you company before and it sucked, I’ve heard bad things, your timing is off, I’ve had a bad day, whatever. Don’t simply say “thanks” and hang up. Try to learn the nature of the objection. If for no other reason, so that you can prepare to address that objection if it comes up again on your next call.
I said NO.
Sometimes no means no. Sometimes it’s just a knee jerk response. Still “no?” “Would it make sense for me to call you in a month to see if anything has changed?” Or “If you change your mind, my name is John with Acme wonderwidgets and my number is on it’s way to you via email. We’re standing by, ready to work with you when you need us. Do you know anyone else who could use help with this? (yes, you can get referrals even after they say no!)
Pleasant persistence and professionalism
The bottom line: don’t give up. Keep trying to gather intel, sound more confident and make connections. Keep trying to improve your game. This is a noble profession and you can make it even better! What have you to add to this list? Do share.