It’s important to recognize that selling in a post-pandemic world or to pandemic-fatigued customers is a challenge in and of itself. Many of us are told that we have to make X number of phone calls every day to new clients. I get it. I need to do it every day, as well. But, cold calling without warming up a client is sort of like attempting to run a 5K race without any training or pre-race stretching. Your chances of winning will greatly increase when you do some training and you properly stretch before you attempt the race. Another example would be marriage. When you go on a first date with someone do you ask them to marry you immediately? In most cases, the answer is no. Both of these examples prove that warming up works. So, why would sales be any different?
As a person that sells every single day, I realize that we are dealing with limited time to get things done. As most of you know, I sell every single day. I feel like it makes me a better sales trainer and sales coach. When I wrote my recent sales book, Selling Forward, one of the areas that I focused on was the misunderstanding about cold calling prospective customers. There seems to be a pretty common misunderstanding that cold calling just doesn’t work anymore. I’ve found that to be true, if you’re actually cold calling potential customers. Meaning, they don’t know you and you don’t know them so you’re calling them completely blind … completely cold. Why is it that cold calling no longer yields the best results? Is it the pandemic? Is it that people no longer work in a brick-and-mortar office with a desk phone? Or, is it because of stranger danger? I would suggest to you that stranger danger is real and it is one of the reasons that we need to warm up our prospects before we cold call them. We need to do this to increase our chances of connecting and getting a meeting.
First and foremost, stranger danger is not simply something that we teach children. Stranger danger is also real as adults. You’ll see it all the time at a reception or a party. An individual or couple will walk in the front door and will immediately look around for people they know. Then, they move directly to those folks that are known to them to engage in conversation. It’s completely normal. But for some reason in the business world, sales managers and oftentimes salespeople will underestimate how stranger danger impacts their sales process. Specifically, their cold calling sales process.
So, let me ask you this question: why would a person that does not know you reply to an email or answer a voicemail from you? Like you, they have been trained to not engage or talk with strangers since birth. Because of this, I believe that we need to do a better job of warming up our prospects before we reach out to them with a phone call. With that said, many of you will now reply to me and say that is the marketing department’s job. But is it? In many cases, the marketing department can be a big help. But, in the world of sales, you control yourself. If you wait for others to warm up your clients to make your cold calls more effective, you might be waiting quite a long time. Maybe even forever.
Let’s look at six ways that you can warm up a prospective customer and increase your chances of booking a meeting or having a conversation as a part of your cold calling process. I think we can all agree that if we can get somebody on the phone, it’s always easier to sell them.
1. Buyers buy when they are ready to buy, not when you are ready to sell. You have to plan in advance to be successful when cold calling. I believe it will take anywhere from 14 to 30 days of effort to warm up a client effectively. Sure, you can call people directly out of the blue. You might even have some success. But I have found that I am able to increase my chances of connecting by as much as 40% if I effectively warm up the client before I make that cold call.
2. Quick trust is something that has to be built before a cold call will be effective. Quick trust is those small nuggets of information that you can share via email or even with a voicemail that lets your prospective customer know that you are relevant, researched, and ready to talk to them. Most of the time I find nuggets of quick trust on LinkedIn or by looking at somebody’s social posts online. I’ll also visit the client’s company website to look for anything that is relevant and interesting that I can help with. Deep trust will be built once you have a meeting with someone. Quick trust is that small point that proves that you are worth their time.
3. Not all outreaches should be about sales. If every time you contact someone you’re trying to sell them something, you are a salesperson. If at least 50% of your communications with a prospective client offer helpful information, like industry trends or tips and advice, you are now seen as a helper. What can you share with a client that will warm them up and make them feel like having a meeting with you is of value to them? Every industry is different. But typically, information that you can share that will help them better run their business or impact their life in a positive way is the direction to go.
4. All digital all the time is not the best approach to warm someone up. What are you doing to be different? Every salesperson is sending a barrage of emails to prospective customers. What about sending a handwritten thank-you note with a $5 Starbucks card inside? What about sending somebody a small tin of popcorn that you can buy online for $9? I had a very successful salesperson that would send plants in the mail to prospective clients. He was a moderately funny fellow and would often include cards that said things like … “Looking for ways to grow your business? I have three ideas and will call you next Tuesday.”
5. Do you effectively use LinkedIn to get yourself known to your prospects? Do you participate and post in groups that they’re a part of on LinkedIn? Do you follow their company LinkedIn profile? Do you like the things that they share on the platform? Do you comment on the things that they share? Are you connected with them on LinkedIn? Do you share information through the LinkedIn platform that might be helpful to their business? Remember, in warming up customers, it’s really about you becoming a known entity to them and not a stranger. Again, this is why it often will take 30 days to effectively warm up a prospective customer.
6. Once you are known to an individual it almost always makes it easier to connect. But, one final trick involves what time you are cold calling them. What time you call them is almost as important as what you say. Meaning, what time of day do you call them? Is it at a time that’s good for you? Or, should it be at a time that’s good for the client? I would say in all cases you should adapt your schedule to the buyer’s schedule. In almost all business situations, the majority of meetings are typically hosted between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. And, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., after lunch. So, use your email technology to make sure that your emails hit outside of those times. And, make sure your cold calls are made outside of those times, as well. Never build your schedule around you. Always build your schedule around the buyer. Every industry is slightly different. So, adjust accordingly.
I completely understand that altering your sales process can dramatically impact your time management goals. But, if we alter our sales process to increase our chances of getting a meeting with someone, it should be time well spent as that alteration may bring you results.
If nothing else, I hope that this blog will cause you to think a little bit more deeply about what you can do to be successful with cold calling. Cold calling should really be called warm calling, if you’re doing it correctly.
Friends, never forget … if sales was easy everybody would be doing it. And they are not. We are the Chosen Few that have found a career that will feed our families for a lifetime.
I would love to speak at your national sales meetings or have you buy my new sales book for your sales team. You can find it online at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. The title is Selling Forward: Pandemic Tested Sales Strategies for Success.