Most of us design our cold calling around scripts and strategies. Isn’t that how we’ve been taught by the sales gurus? Scripts are linear and systematic so you can move calls in the direction you want them to go. Sales strategies do the exact same thing.
That’s why as soon as we make a cold call, the other person knows right away that our agenda is not to have a conversation, but to make a sale. There’s something about scripts and sales strategies -- it always shows. We’re not being natural, and other people can sense within the first few seconds that we’re out to make a sale. Once that happens, potential clients are immediately put on the defensive. They don’t want to be maneuvered into a sale. As soon as they recognize that you’re a salesperson with a sales agenda, most of the time they just want you to go away.
I call this “The Wall.” It goes something like this: "Uh-oh, another salesperson. I'm about to be sold something. How fast can I get this person off the phone?" In other words, it’s over at "Hello.” Hence, the moment you use the old cold calling approach, which is using sales scripts and strategies, you’ve triggered the negative “salesperson” stereotype in the mind of the person you’ve called. That almost always means immediate rejection.
The problem is with how you're selling, not what you're selling. The traditional cold calling approach, which has been taught by the sales gurus for years, involves immediately giving a pitch about who you are and what you have to offer. However, this is a one-sided conversation. In our normal lives, it would seem self-absorbed to start any conversation by talking only about ourselves. Yet, in cold calling we expect ourselves to do exactly that. We begin with a monologue rather than inviting a dialogue.
On top of that, we’ve all been trained to try to push prospects into a "yes" response somewhere within the first call. This creates sales pressure. Pressure from a stranger is never welcome. It feels intrusive to the other person.
The first step to overcoming this is to let go of your script or sales strategy as a crutch. This idea may sound scary at first because you’ve been programmed to think you have to have a script or strategy to make a successful cold call. I assure you that quite the opposite is true. These old approaches create a “box” that doesn’t allow a conversation to flow. You’re thinking only about your agenda and following “the plan.” The person on the other end of the phone senses this, and immediately begins to retreat.
Instead, start thinking about language that will engage people rather than language that will trigger rejection. If you can start a conversation that triggers a “What do you mean?” from the other person, you’ll find you can explain yourself in a natural way. This also creates a two-way dialogue, which lets you flow with the conversation without feeling you’re getting off-track.
Developing a problem statement makes this whole process much easier. Find out what issue or problem your potential client is likely to be experiencing, and build an open-ended conversation around that.
Here are three basic steps to opening up a dialogue and having a real conversation with your cold calls:
1. Begin with the question, “Maybe you can help me out for a moment?” The reply is almost always something like, “Sure, how can I help you?”
2. Continue with something like, “I’m just calling to see if your company is still having issues with unpaid invoices.” The response probably will be, “Well, yeah, we are. Who’s this?”
3. You can then respond in a very relaxed tone, “This is John. I’m with XYZ Collection Agency. I’m just calling to see if you’d be open to some new ideas on how to better solve that problem.” This makes it easy for the other person to reply, “What do you mean?” or “Tell me more.” After that, the possibilities of your conversation are endless. Try these new cold calling ideas. You will be amazed at how much value you receive, both personally and professionally.