Cold Calls: Proper Preparation Prevents You Know What

I recently wrote about how to best handle making outbound calls, today I thought I’d look at the importance of having good content when it comes to making those calls.

I’m not a huge fan of scripts, certainly not when it comes to trying to build rapport with someone in the hopes of making a sale. However, there is a strong argument that suggests a script of some degree is useful when it comes to making calls.

The reality is proper preparation prevents poor performance and creating some form of script, or guideline when it comes to making calls is a great way to get you focussed, and stay on track during the call.

Here are our top tips for things you ought to consider when you start creating your call outline

# 1 – Don’t ask how they’re doing

So many of us ask “how are you?” when on a call, it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction.  That’s all well and good when it’s a friend, colleague or someone you at least have some vague connection with, but it’s not really appropriate when you’re calling someone you don’t know.

The reality is people are often a little guarded when they answer the phone because they don’t know what’s coming.  If you, as a stranger, start asking them how they are, you automatically sound like a sales person.

Yes, you might well be, but you don’t want to get their backs up straight away.

Equally, them feeling obliged to answer the question and then ask you the same wastes their time right from the start.

# 2 – Check they’re not too busy

Whoever you’re calling is going to be busy.  They chances of them sitting there simply twiddling their thumbs waiting for the phone to ring is quite slim.  Therefore asking them if you’ve caught them in the middle of anything, or if it’s convenient for them to talk, is a good way to start.

It shows you’re respectful of their time, and that you care about having a proper conversation.  It’s a great way of making them feel less guarded.  Of course, it can backfire, they might well say that now is not convenient; however, this is just an opportunity to ascertain a more convenient time to call back and have their undivided attention.

# 3 – Get them talking

No matter how proficient you are at making cold calls you’re always going to sound like a sales person, which never comes across well.  One of the best ways to handle this is to get your prospect talking about themselves.

When you’re talking make sure everything points towards them, rather than what you’re selling.  Hopefully you’ve done some research about them, their company or their products and you can relate this to what it is you sell, without actually mentioning it.

By including pre thought out questions you can further encourage the prospect to talk about themselves.  This makes them engaged in what you’re saying and will hopefully keep them on the call for longer.  Not only that but the information they provide is likely to be valuable (as long as you’re actually listening to them).

# 4 – Pre-qualify

Good questions at this stage in the call will ensure that you’re talking to the right person, and they might well be interested in the products or services you have to offer.

Make sure you have worked in questions or have listened out for tell-tale signs that you are indeed talking to the right person before wasting too much time talking to the wrong one.

# 5 – Focus on the pain

This sounds so extremely scary, but the reality is your products should be there to remove pain from your prospect’s life.  By talking to them and asking them questions you should be able to figure out what their biggest issues are in the area you’re focussing on.

However, the reality is when you put a complete stranger on the spot, having interrupted their current activity, they might not necessarily be able to give you the answers you want.  This means you have to be prepared to answer it for them.  Have a few common sticking points ready to provide as examples, and ask if these are things that are an issue for them.

# 6 – Head towards the goal

Each cold call must have a goal.  Ultimately you must want to achieve something at the end of it.  Yes, it would be great if you could make a sale, but the odds are that’s not going to happen.

In most cases you’ll need to send some information, or follow up with a more in-depth conversation, perhaps even a face to face meeting.  Whatever your next step is, aim for that rather than closing a sale.  Putting someone on the spot to make a decision there and then on limited information is not going to end well for you.

# 7 – Build interest

In order to get your prospect to agree to a meeting or follow-up you’re going to need to build in enough interest for them to want to carry on the conversation. The important thing is to remember you’re not going to do that by outlining the benefits or specifics of your product. Someone who isn’t necessarily thinking about what you’re selling isn’t going to care what it does, or how competitively it’s priced.

However, they are going to be keen to know what value it’s going to add to them or their business.  Focus on the pleasure it can bring or the pain it can solve and you’ll be better placed to continue the conversation with them and then hopefully close the deal.

 

How to handle outbound calls

It was only a few months ago I mentioned one of my least favourite tasks was outbound sales/cold calling.  In typical fashion, over the last few weeks I’ve been asked to do some outbound sales calls for a few new clients.

Never one to turn someone away, I decided to take on the work, and as always, throw myself in to it.

I moaned a bit under my breath, but no one else had to hear that.  Well, apart from Lu, but she’s used to my little rants by now.

Generally speaking if I do anything like this I like to be completely prepared.  In an ideal world there would be time to develop a bit of a script, maybe do some tests of it, tweak it and make sure it’s as good as it can be.

However, with these recent jobs, they’ve all had a certain amount of urgency to them.  So my back’s been a bit against the wall.  No time to really prep, just jump straight in.

Which always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

But that’s life.

With that in mind I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve picked up over the last couple of weeks in the hopes that if you find yourself in a similar situation, you might feel a little more able to pick up that phone and make a start.

# 1 – Be professional, and happy

I’ve received many a cold call myself, and I’m always struck by how miserable everyone sounds when you answer the phone to them.  Don’t get me wrong, I entirely get it.  I might be the 50th person they’ve called that morning, and everyone else has told them to bog off, they’re despondent, miserable and wondering where they went wrong in life.

But that’s not my fault.

Which is why it is essential that you put a smile on as soon as you pick up that phone and act like every call is the first one you’ve made all day.  Be professional at all times, and where possible use the person who’s answering the call’s name.

# 2 – Introduce yourself

Take the time to introduce yourself and your company. True, they might not take it in there and then, and will probably ask you to repeat it, but it’s a good habit to get in to.  Equally, it’s a nice way for you to ground yourself in to the conversation.

“Hi, I’m Stef and I’m calling from Time Saving Heroes. We’re a local company who specialises in helping microbusinesses increase their productivity and income.”

I’ve found that this approach works better than clearly identifying what you do, provide or sell.  This arouses a bit more interest than simply saying “I’m a Virtual Assistant and I wanted to discuss how I could help you.”

# 3 – State your purpose

In an ideal world you’ll have a specific reason for wanting to call these businesses, so explain it. Having read a few blogs about this sort of thing it’s clear that framing this purpose in the form of a question is likely to illicit better results.

“If I can show you how to get more done, without employing staff or significantly increasing your outgoings, would you be interested in hearing more?”

# 4 – Schedule a meeting

If they’re interested in finding out more then set up a meeting, if it’s appropriate to do so.  If they’re out of the area, then a conference call might be the better way to approach this.

Offer two times to give a choice, and do not put the ball back in their court by saying “when shall we meet?”.

# 5 – Follow up

Make sure you get all the necessary contact information from your prospect. Ask if they have an email address (so you can send a meeting invite/confirmation), and then send the information as promised.

 

No matter what the outcome of the call, make sure you remain bright, breezy and professional and you thank them for their time and help.