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Cold-call sales: Practice makes perfect

Sam Dobbins //November 10, 2014//

Cold-call sales: Practice makes perfect

Sam Dobbins //November 10, 2014//

So, I’m in at a new client, and inevitably that client asks, “How do you make this cold-calling stuff look so easy?”  Same thing happens with prospects. They shake their heads in amazement over what I can produce with just a few dials of the phone. I can get contact information, qualify a lead (or more appropriately, DISqualify them), learn interesting industry news, and more. My prospects and clients envision huge new streams of income with my demonstrations. You’d think I was a magician and not just a cold-call guy.

I sat down with a friend recently and talked about how my “magic” is really nothing more than hard work combined with years of experience to make cold calls and teleprospecting an important part of any sales initiative.  This is especially true of small businesses where it is often the owner who has to make those calls. My friend asked me to be more precise. What kind of hard work were we talking about?  How much experience do you need before you start becoming successful at the cold-calling game?

I thought long and hard about her questions, and today I’m willing to share what I’ve learned over the years:

  1. Believe in what you’re doing
    I love the telephone, and always have.  The phone allows us to connect human-to-human, one at a time, in a world of mass messaging with little to no concern for the people receiving those messages.  If you don’t believe in the telephone as one of your most important success tools then, by all means, leave cold calling off your to-do list.  No one is waiting for you to call them, after all.  But then again, no one is waiting in line to buy your products and services either. If you don’t reach out, the connection isn’t going to happen, and neither are the sales.
  2. If you’re going to make calls, do them daily
    This one is hard, I know. You have an action item list a mile long. Your email box is full. There are meetings and decisions all over the place.  Picking up the phone for an hour or so a day may seem counter-intuitive for getting your sales work done.  But I believe it is staying in the rhythm of making cold calls that will pay off in the end.  Not only will you see steady growth in your sales pipeline, but also you’ll also find it easier and easier to pick up the phone when you know you did it yesterday and will do it again tomorrow. This is how the pros stay on their A-Games.
  3. Be prepared before you make your calls
    So many people think that cold calling only consists of generating a list, a script, and a goal. If this is your practice, please stop!  Cold calling has a lot of research behind each name, and a lot of pre-call preparation.  You need to get on-line and find out what you can about your prospect.  The About Us page is a goldmine of information for the cold-call professional. Use it to your advantage.  Collect the correct contact names, the mission of the company you want to work with, and be sure to check out the company news.  Nothing feels better than calling someone you feel you already know.  Research is the next best thing.

    Also, prepare yourself before you make your first call of the day. Prepare both mentally and physically. To prepare your brain, know your goal for the dial you’re about to make. Think about yourself in terms of being a scientist or detective. You’re about to find out as much information as you can, and then quickly move to the next call.

    On the physical side of preparation, be sure to practice some breathing exercises to keep your heart rate at a great pace.  Meditate, refresh your drinking water, and do your best to be alert. Sometimes a brisk walk out to the parking lot and back will “wake you up.” Think of yourself as an athlete.  No professional would go onto the field or court without doing stretches, without getting the heart rate up, without, in short, being prepared.  Remember, in business you need to go big or go home.

  4. Practice, Practice, Practice makes perfect!
    Even those people who are “naturals” at different skills have to practice their talents constantly.   Peyton Manning was recorded carrying around a football covered in a slippery green material to reduce fumbles on the field. What can you do for practice?

    I don’t believe in memorized scripts, but I do believe in repeated phrases.  I practice those phrases all the time. “Hello Mr. Smith. I know you’re busy, so I’ll be brief . . .” “Hello Ms. Gatekeeper. Perhaps you could help me . . .” “Are you in the market for widgets, Mr. Purchaser?”  There are several questions that help me narrow in on the targets I’m looking for and I practice them constantly and everywhere.  If you’re a telephone pro, this is on you. You need to improve every day, and you’ll only do that with practice that never ends.

Lastly, I remind myself that teleprospecting is a numbers business.  I know that more than 90 percent of the calls I make will result in some form of “No thanks.” As a professional, I know to expect them, and look to glean information instead.  It’s more heartening and measurable than telling myself negative things that are non-productive and demotivating when I receive those “not interested” responses.  As a pro, I practice how to get back on the phone after a rough call. After all, I plan to go big. Going home is not an option.