Turning Cold Calls into FirstCalls

I have never met anyone that truly enjoys making cold calls.  They are rarely productive, typically between 2 to 4% successful.  Even if the call is successful the next steps are always awkward and a bit uncomfortable for both sides.  The customer is wondering why they agreed to meet with you and you are not sure exactly what direction the call will go.  You do them to appease someone who told you that you need to fill the funnel.

Contrast that to what I refer to as FirstCalls, which have the following characteristics:

  • Comfortable to make
  • Outcome is predictable
  • Preparation is required
  • Results are more positive
  • They are repeatable

Look at a FirstCall as a cold call that includes the three P’s of Purpose, Preparation and Process.

  1. Purpose will determine the focus of the call.
  2. Preparation will determine the quality of the call.
  3. Process will determine the consistency and predictability of the outcome of the call.

If you are expected to gain net new customers, you cannot afford to spend time “dialing for dollars”.  Customers do not appreciate being “hunted”.  They don’t have time for the traditional 30 or 60 second “elevator pitch” on the phone or in person.  These approaches have made an impact in the past.  But it is a rare event today when these approaches result in success.   These focused on you and your company, not on the customer and their need.  How can your elevator pitch that you have polished and refined over months and years fit the needs of each of your prospective customers?  How do you even now what a particular customer’s needs are? 

In a sequence of four blog posts we will dive into each of the three P’s and wrap up with the eventual outcomes.  We will explore how to discover, in advance of your FirstCall, what your prospective customer’s business goals are, who is driving those goals, who is accountable for meeting those goals, which of your competitors, if any, are currently working with them in pursuit of those goals, and when and how you can insert yourself into the process.  If you are interested in filling the funnel and learning how you accomplish these things and develop great business relationships in the process, follow along.  Contribute along the way, add your comments and perspective.  We all come out better informed in the end.

  • Kevin Waldvogel

    Sales people and managers forget the purpose of the call. All you are doing is selling the meeting nothing else. Your prospect might ask why they should spend 10 minutes with and you better be able to difereniate. I always like to talk to the customer as what can I do for them to make there life easier. If you can’t answer that question you mise well stay off the phones.

  • Miles

    Robert,
    You hit on one of the most challenging exercises any sales organization must go through in mentioning your struggle to differentiate. No matter how good your sales team is, if they cannot effectively communicate how they differ from their current provider or anyone else, the results will usually be disappointing. Hopefully I will be able to stimulate some ideas for you that can help with your differentiation.

  • Miles

    Kevin, Spot on. Sometimes the urgency to make things happen pushes salesmakers to jump into the process without getting their mind around why they are the one that the customer should select.

    It is sad to say, but I now believe that if you do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it, at the price you said you will do it, that than can be considered value-add. Think about how many times in your day, you experience all three of those at the same time.

  • The only time I ever feel good making a cold call is when I have something I am convinced will improve my prospects life or business. They have to have a need and I have to uncover that need. After the loan business imploded, I tried selling AFLAC insurance. Extremely tough sell in a tough economy and low payouts and no base salary. That is why copier sales companies are always looking for new reps, same with payroll companies. Most people going that route are only paying their dues to get the numbers and start selling medical equipment or other respectable products; cold calling is much more fun when you know people actually need what you are pushing and you make $400,000 instead of $40,000!

  • Good Article!

  • I suppose that am one of the ‘old school’ guys that believes he has had success with the cold call in the past. Your points are well taken. What I do now is use technology to my favor quite extensively so I really never do any cold calling per se anymore. While planning my day a week in advance or so, I will work to make appointments in an area that has one or two existing customers. After completing the anchor appointments via phone or email I’ll begin to research the immediate area around the appointments for possible targets. I’ll review my address list and follow up list for contacts I’ve visited in the area that have potential but are not yet on the pipeline and make contact with them in an attempt to set an appointment. I will also note if there are any trade association meetings or luncheons going on at that time and plan to attend if opportune. If I find any potential targets which I’ve not yet become involved I research them online as if I were going on a job interview (which essentially I will be) to get a good understanding of their business, their markets, their products, and how I believe that I can add value for them with my products and services. I’ll also note who they compete with to see if we are doing business with any of these now and what we are doing for them. If all looks positive I’ll work to find a contact or two from LinkedIn or Spoke or my contacts to obtain some form of referral or common ground. So, in effect I’m not really cold calling, I’m targeting my activity, using my tools and working to add value to the picture at each phase. Though, once in a while I still like to breach the lobby and attempt to get in the door to see a decision maker on the first try. It does get my adrenalin flowing and the heart pumping in anticipation… which is strangely, fun.

  • Jim, Thanks for your post. You get it. Leveraging technology is a great way to work smarter, not harder with all the great tools out there. I would like to hear what tools you use to find the prospects and to map out the calls in an area that you are going to.

    Several of the best that I have found are Jigsaw (http://www.jigsaw.com/join/fillthefunnel) for getting contacts with email and phone numbers, InsideView (http://www.insideview.com) for background and company information, and Xobni (http://www.xobni.com) to keep track of all your communication and documents with all your customers. I have written a bit about Jigsaw and Xobni in the blog already and Insideview information is in the works. Let me know if you find these useful. Our readers will benefit from your experiences. Anyone else have some great practices to share?

  • Drucidalia Aguirre

    I will keep reading the next four blog posts for sure. The results of Applying the P´s in a marketing team will be very effective they would easily reach their goals if they take this procedure….
    When I was working in a sales and marketing team oriented in reaching weekly goals of sales (wich were made by calling), because of time and pressure of goals people skip a part of the process with P´s and eventually lose potencial customers, time and comissions. We should look forward always to mantain a focus on what we want to reach, so applying the P´s will be very helpfull. Finally the real challenge is to give feedback to sales and marketing team so they will learn different ways to improve.

  • I have always felt cold calls are a useful form of business development but have lived by a few key principles.
    – Engage the customer within 10 seconds from them saying hello. This happens by opening with a open ended question? Why did you chose your current carrier?
    – Do not measure the calls measure the good conversations. A good conversation might include learning about the persons upcoming plans or current workplace conditions.
    – Be positive you never know when the next yes will come.

  • This is part of the system I use when cold calling.

    Seems to work pretty good.

    Four Key Objectives

    1. Find the right people WHO have the authority to decide/purchase, evaluate, use and benefit from your solution.

    2. Find out HOW they currently do business and HOW they plan to do business in the future.

    3. Find out WHAT is of importance or of value to the different types of prospects.

    4. SET UP the appointment or next time and date specific action step.

    Hopes this helps the discussion.

    Cheers!

    Ron

  • Sunny Raskar

    I was reading the responses to Kevin 3 P’s perspective and I taught we are missing on certain aspects of cold calling.
    1. Why are we not talking about the gate-keepers
    2. If we argue that Elevator pitch is out of fashion; then how can we justify that cold calling is way to success (as we only get 30 to 40 seconds to make a point).

    Regards

    Sunny

  • Miles

    Sunny, Great questions. I was holding off on my reply to see what other readers might have to say, but seeing none I will give you my thoughts.

    1) Your question on gate-keepers made me smile and reflect on those that I have come across over the years. The truth is that I do not encounter them much anymore. Might be due to down-sizing, working from remote offices or some other reason. I believe that with the tools that I discuss throughout this blog, you should have a direct pipe into the prospect that you are trying to reach the vast majority of the time. For me anyway, it is indeed a rare occasion that I still call a direct dial number and get a gate-keeper on the phone. With direct email addresses the same results occur. If you are dialing the main number of a prospective client and asking for “Joe Customer” then you run a much higher risk of connecting with the gatekeeper. Try out some of the tools that I have discussed and I think you will find the same results that I have experienced.

    2. If you use that first contact with a prospective client to blast your elevator pitch, you will fail the vast majority of the time. I believe that you need to switch the direction of that FirstCall from you to the customer. If you are prepared for the call, you should already know the reasons that this prospect should talk to you. The magic is getting them to tell you that they need you. Go into this call with 1 to 3 focused, specific questions based on their company operations and your solution/value and get them talking to you. If you’ve got the right questions, you should be able to spend longer that 30-40 seconds on the phone and get an agreement for next step(s).

    Just to clarify, I believe that the Elevator Pitch still has a purpose. I believe that place in NOT in the first contact over the phone. Let me know your thoughts, and if any of the other readers would like to give Sunny feedback on his questions, please jump in.

    Thanks Sunny for your thoughts.

  • Recesion has affected us all.We have to do more efforts to stay in business..Thanks for sharing your thoughts
    Mike
    http://allbusinessprospects.com

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