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Seven Secrets to Cold Calling Success

Cold calling doesn’t have to be a difficult task.

Jane Porter

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David Ortiz, a trained chef who had been running his own financial-planning firm since 1997, renamed his business Financial Chef last year and started meeting with prospects over meals he’d cooked himself. Wining and dining potential clients certainly made Ortiz and his Miami, Forida, business stand out, but when it came to cold calling prospects, he was at a loss.

Ploughing through 100 names a day, he’d be lucky to get two or three promising leads. He quickly grew frustrated, but with the help of a sales coach, revamped his strategy. Ortiz cut his number of calls by two-thirds, but spent more time researching and weeding out prospects before picking up the phone.

Now, for every 25 cold calls, he usually gets five to seven meetings with potential clients. “It takes a lot more time, but the end result is that I am getting to more qualified and more willing prospects,” Ortiz says.

Cold calling need not be a source of angst for small-business owners. Here are seven successful strategies from experts in the field:

1. Plan Ahead
Who will you be calling? When will you be placing your calls? These are questions you should answer the day before you make the calls, says Stephan Schiffman, a New York-based corporate sales trainer and author of Cold Calling Techniques (That Really Work!) (Adams Media, 2007).

He advises blocking out an hour every day for cold calls and sticking to that regular routine.

2. Investigate Before You Call
It may seem tedious, but doing homework on the person you’re calling will make a huge difference. This can be as simple as doing a Google search on the company or looking up the prospect on LinkedIn, says Sam Richter, author of Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling (Adams Business Press, 2012).

If a Google search doesn’t turn much up on the person you’re calling, try Mool.com/media, a search engine that scours both local and national media outlets for clips. “Even if you’re not going to use the information, you will come across more confident and more powerful when you have information on the other person and their company,” Richter says.

3. Seek Out a Personal Connection
Whether through online research or during the phone call itself, you should try to find a personal connection with your prospects. Your research might reveal that you share the same alma mater or have a past connection with the same company.

During the call, you also might discover a common interest. “When I am talking to somebody and I am able to work the whole affinity towards food and cooking, it just absolutely changes the dynamic,” Ortiz says.

4. Get Information Before You Give It
You should ask lots of questions during the call rather than immediately try to sell your product or service, says Art Sobczak, author of Smart Calling: Eliminate the Fear, Failure and Rejection From Cold Calling (Wiley, 2010).

Learn about your prospect’s business needs first, so you can more effectively tailor your pitch. “People don’t care about you,” says Sobczak, who coached Ortiz. “All they care about is what you can do for them.”

5. Get Out of Your Chair and in Front of a Mirror
It might seem silly to watch yourself in the mirror as you talk, but a mirror will make you smile and smiling will make you more confident, Schiffman says. He also recommends standing up when making calls. “You’ll feel better and more animated,” he says.

Using a tape recorder could also be helpful, as it’ll help you gauge how you come across on the phone. Schiffman recommends recording all your calls and listening to them repeatedly, so you can spot problems and correct them.

6. Keep careful records
You want to keep records tracking who you called, when you called them and how many of those calls resulted in appointments. Measuring your progress will not only keep you organized, it will also give you a sense of accomplishment.

While a call might not result in an immediate sale, you can always get something positive out of it, Sobczak says, even if it’s just more information about the company or person. Write it all down because it might prove useful if there’s an opportunity for a follow-up call.

7. Use Referrals in Your Voice Mail Message
More often than not, you’ll be reaching voice mail rather than speaking with the prospect directly. To increase the chances of getting a call back, try to find a common connection you can mention in the message you leave.

Social media sites like LinkedIn let you see the people your connections are connected to – a useful resource when looking for referrals, says Richter. If you know someone connected to the person you’re calling, ask if you can use his or her name. “You’re almost always going to get a call back when you have a referral that you mention by name,” Richter says.

Jane Porter is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in publications including BusinessWeek Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Men's Health and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She has a bachelor's degree in English from Brown University as well as a masters of fine arts in creative writing from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C.

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Techniques

The 5 Best Actions You Can Take To Improve Sales Calls

Ditch your script. Record your calls. Analyse your patterns. There are new, non-conventional ways to approach calls. Have you tried them?

Anna Johansson

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We’ve all got a ton of digital tools to help us boost brand awareness, attract subscribers and followers and ultimately convince people that our brands have something to address their needs. However, closing the deal still usually depends on a one-on-one conversational interaction – or series of interactions – the traditional sales call.

Your top salespeople work tirelessly to track down leads generated by your marketing team. They reach out to previous customers to renew interest. And they work to convince interested buyers to finally take the plunge.

You can improve those close rates by: 1) asking your top performers to train your newcomers; or 2) sweetening the pot by offering more to your prospects in the first place.

But if you want to get even more out of your sales strategy, you’ll need to optimise your and your salespeople’s calls themselves. So, how, exactly, do you improve those calls?

Related: Have We Lost Our Face-To-Face Sales Ability?

Here are five ways:

1Ditch the script

First, let’s be clear: Sales scripts can be helpful. They’re a useful rubric for guiding the conversation in the direction you want to go, they’re a useful resource for training new candidates; and they’re a nice crutch for anyone who is shy or anxious about talking on the phone.

But there are two big problems with sales scripts on calls: First, they have a tendency to sound fake (especially if you’re using a template). Most customers can tell the difference between a sincere conversation and one that’s been over-rehearsed or pre-planned, and you’ll lose sales if you always sound insincere.

Second, scripts lock you into a single routine. It may be a decently effective routine, but you’ll never know if there’s something better out there.

2Record your calls

Have you ever experienced that phenomenon where the sound of your recorded voice is alien compared to what you’re used to hearing? This happens because of the vibrations we pick up in our own head, but it represents a bigger idea; we don’t know what we sound like until we listen.

Accordingly, your underperforming salespeople may be making critical mistakes they could pick out in an instant – if only they realised they existed. Start recording your sales calls, and make your sales staff listen both to their own calls and those of others. You’ll become collectively more acquainted with proper sales techniques, and be able to isolate some of the most egregious mistakes your people are making.

Related: Click-2-Call: Securing Sales By Retaining The Customer’s Attention

3Analyse your patterns

Unfortunately, there’s only so much the human mind can pick out in a single episode of listening of a sales call. That’s why artificial intelligence (AI)-powered speech recognition and analytics tools are starting to grow more popular. These tools automatically transcribe your sales calls, then analyse the text, looking for specific keywords that can tell you how the conversation is progressing, and where (for better or worse) the turning points are.

It’s an automated way to dissect how your sales calls develop, and a perfect tool for brainstorming new angles and tactics.

4Control your progress with goals

You should also make sure your progress remains steady and measurable by setting goals for your salespeople. These need to be both short-term and long-term, so your salespeople can see steady progress and feel motivated by their own efforts. Your goals also need to be both individual- and group-focused, so you can keep your team working together while still inspiring a bit of competition and individual improvement.

5Experiment and observe

Finally, don’t let yourself get too comfortable with any one set of tactics – even if your phone-call recordings guide you in that direction. Just because a strategy is good doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best, so if you want to keep improving, you’ll want to experiment, sometimes with drastically different approaches.

Related: 8 Tips for Dominating Online Sales

Observe how these experiments develop, and scrap whatever doesn’t work. Inevitably, you’ll find something worth exploring.

A note on conventional tips

You’ll notice that I haven’t included any conventional tips to directly make your calls better, although there are plenty out there that seem to work. For example, there are no recommendations to start the call with a positive anecdote, or to make calls while standing and walking around to bring more energy to the meeting.

These can be helpful, but they’re short-term fixes, and they aren’t going to fix any glaring problems with your strategy. They’re also limited in how much value they can deliver.

Instead, the strategies listed, in contrast, are methodologies that can be applied indefinitely. They’re tools to help your team members learn and improve on their own. Accordingly, they won’t give you an instant boost in productivity or effectiveness, but they will yield the most powerful results – especially when applied over the course of months or even years.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Have We Lost Our Face-To-Face Sales Ability?

Do we actually know enough about selling online to the point of being able to forego the traditional face-to-face selling?

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Face-To-Face Sales

When it comes to selling there are ample strategies around to help you become a confident closer. There is a lot of content on the topic of face-to-face selling as well as cold calling and closing on the phone.

A quick Google search will list copious amounts of books that will help you close deals, make money and smash your sales goals. And this is because a business can’t really be considered functional unless it’s selling. But in the current market much of the selling that happens, is via digital platforms. And yet, do we actually know enough about selling online to the point of being able to forego the traditional face-to-face selling?

We’re still in the learning phase of online selling

And we don’t know enough yet, we don’t have all tools to understand how to successfully close deals and so we’re not ready to rely on our digital sales alone. However, many companies do heavily rely on their online and social media presence alone to garner their profits. Are they wrong? Well, for the most part, yes. Because solely relying on online marketing efforts to increase sales and profit margins is not wise.

Related: 5 Strategic Ways Your Sales And Marketing Teams Need To Collaborate

By relying on digital sales alone things become less personable. Yet all online strategies encourage companies to create as personable an interaction with each client, as possible. So in reality, face-to-face selling goes hand-in-hand with the online game.

The thing with online strategies is that they’re not actually sales orientated but rather, marketing campaigns and plans. As you develop online strategies, you’re working towards as many lead conversions as you can garner, but you can’t rely on those leads alone.

Those leads are the by-product of a robust online marketing campaign that has created brand awareness, promoted products and made it possible for the business to offer advice and guidance.

Digital marketing is not selling; digital marketing has a variety of different elements that lead towards a sale. Human interaction is always needed for you to enjoy many sales and fat profit margins. But in this digital age, it would appear that we’ve begun eliminating the personal interactions of traditional sales.

In fact, the invaluable networking and selling opportunities found at large conferences are slowly disappearing too. Webinars have become the new go-to in place of conferences or large meetings. 

What do we lose when all of our interactions with a client are online?

online-client-relationship

Well, the answer to this is arguable. So, it’s best to look at only the facts. Historically, salespeople spent a good portion of their time knocking on the doors of bosses’ offices trying to secure an appointment. Or they could be found driving from place to place to see client after client to introduce their new product. And so because they quickly became a regular face, they were a part of the company in a way.

These relationships that were built over time became enduring and when products or services needed to be procured the client pledged loyalty to the salesperson.

Why? Because the relationship had become interpersonal and could be considered a work friendship. That type of bond is broken when things are purely digitised. And so it’s no wonder clients switch between service providers quickly and easily.

There’s no face to put to the name, there’s no relationship built and there’s no additional personal value offered. No one’s feelings are hurt and no excuses are necessary.

Human connection is often the value-add that a client enjoys and requires. And if you read up about excellent social media strategies they will all tell you to respond to clients online as quickly as you can.

You should call your client by their name when chatting or emailing and ultimately, make them feel like you really care. But do you know what’s better than that? Having a salesperson prepare a solution and present it to client.

How do you tick all the boxes?

Your fierce digital strategy will keep you competitive and ensure you remain relevant online. Your social media style will see you winning followers and your content offering will help you rank as an authoritative voice in the industry. But your sales team must work constantly on touching base with your current clients and potential new accounts.

Related: Why Data-Driven Marketing Drives More Sales

Scheduling a round trip to see all your clients is an excellent idea. Getting creative about how you connect with them will be exciting for everyone involved. And arriving armed with data showcasing how you’re assisting your customers will likely win you more business.

If you’re a new business or you have a brand new sales department then make every effort to have your sales people attend sales and marketing courses. Coach them in relationship building and create networking opportunities for them.

A good place to start would be to attend conferences in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban – the biggest cities – especially those with exhibition areas and high foot traffic. This is the perfect place to fine tune your pitch and create connections.

You see, digitalising your company and creating an online offering was never meant to take the place of your sales team. It was meant to assist them with doing better and smashing those goals you set out.

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How To Drive Customer Referrals (When You Aren’t Airbnb, Dropbox or Uber)

Build your business through customer referrals by leveraging these five tactics.

Sujan Patel

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customer referrals

customer referrals

By now, you’ve probably realised that your customers trust their peers more than they trust your brand. And those peers are constantly sharing what they like and don’t like with their networks.

Just look at social media. Your friends are constantly talking about businesses just like yours. They may even be offering glowing recommendations – recommendations that you and other friends of theirs will pay attention to. According to Mark Zuckerberg, “Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a friend.”

Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful form of marketing, but extremely difficult to control. We can’t all be like Uber, Dropbox or Airbnb, businesses that were built on word of mouth. But it is possible to grow your business through customer referrals.

Related: See You At The Top: A Guide To Winning At Customer Service

Here are five steps you can take to create a referral programme that works for your business.

1Offer an incentive

Dropbox extra megabytes

You can’t expect referrals to just happen. And asking isn’t always enough to get customers to recommend you. They need to know what’s in it for them.

That’s where an incentive comes in. In exchange for recommending your business and referring a friend, offer a discount, upgrade, free item or other gift. Whatever you decide to give, make sure it makes sense for your business.

It doesn’t need to be a huge cost, either. Dropbox gives its customers an extra 500 megabytes of space in return for inviting a friend. That way, Dropbox gets the referral, and no reduction to its bottom line.

2Get the right information

Referred customers are more valuable than leads since they are already invested in your business. These kinds of customers help you build the right audience. But, how you get the referral matters just as much as getting it.

Acquiring a name and email address isn’t enough. You must go beyond just gathering leads and actually get them to convert.

“The best referrals are where a customer actually facilitates a meeting, visit or purchase by the referred person, in person, by email or otherwise,” says Daniel Kehrer, editor and director of content development for Business.com.

Related: 5 Tips To Generate Sales Leads Through Social Media

3Time it right

Timing is key for any form of marketing, but especially in regard to referrals. Ask for a referral at the wrong time, and you risk being ignored and even losing business.

The best time to ask for a referral is when your customer is engaged and highly satisfied with your business. Then, you can take that person’s positivity and channel it into the action you want him or her to take.

The perfect time could be right after the customer has made a purchase or had a positive customer service experience.

There may be several moments when it makes sense to ask for a referral. Just be attuned to your customers and how they will respond.

4Make it easy

referral programme

Giving a referral shouldn’t be a difficult or confusing process. So, you want to make sure your referral programme is set up in the easiest way possible. Your customers shouldn’t have to work hard or put in a lot of effort to refer someone. Don’t assume that customers already know about your referral programme, either. If that’s the case, you won’t get many takers.

The idea is to create a seamless brand experience that encourages your customers to participate. By making your referral programme a prominent part of your website, and promoting it through multiple channels, you’ll make your customers’ journey easier.

Related: Tips For Redesigning Your Website

5Get the word out

As mentioned, getting people to participate in your referral programme means you have to make sure they know how to do it. That’s why you need to make it visible.

Start by dedicating a page on your website to referrals. Include the details of your programme, and a clear and simple call to action. Consider adding a form to the page to capture your customer’s referral information.

Having a dedicated page also makes it easy to share the link through email, social media and other channels.

If you want to get even more visibility, make your referral programme visible on your home page. For example, Prize Candle placed a call to action for its referral programme in the upper left of its home page. This makes it easy for customers to see it, and ensures that everyone who visits the website will know about the programme.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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