5 Red lines you should never cross in a cold call
Cold calling could be a hard game to play sometimes. You’re confident that your product is a solution everybody loves. And as for your part as a sales rep, you have a superb pitch that you consider your secret weapon for winning clients over. However, when it comes to making the actual cold call, you’re facing a lot of rejections. You might be wondering if this hype about the effectiveness of cold calling is real after all.
It’s true that having the perfect pitch is a prerequisite for winning your prospects over, but the way you present it the right way has the same weight. A lot of the rejections you’re facing have behavioral causes.You might be crossing some behavioral red lines in your cold calls. These red lines are in fact overdoing some of the basic dictums in cold calling such as taking control of the conversation or forming an intimate bond with your prospects. To stay within the safe zone, you need to know how much is too much. Follow along and you’ll learn some of these red lines and how to make sure you’re not crossing them.
#1 Being domineering
You’re always told that a sales rep should dominate the conversation. You shouldn’t be timid and should ask straightforward questions. You shouldn’t take no for an answer and challenge their (unreasonable) objections until you make them realize their lives would be hell without you. You know from experience that people would only listen to the sales reps that are confident in their products and are ready to fight off any objections thrown at them.
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That’s true..until it gets a little out of control. While politely challenging your prospects’ points of view is a sign that your product is in fact the right fit for them, stepping over the line here and sounding domineering would make the issue personal for the prospect. They might feel that you’re offending them instead of addressing their objections.
How to avoid being domineering in a cold call?
- For one thing, you should know that dominating the sales call doesn’t mean you should sound arrogant. It only means that you should be the one driving the conversation forward and keeping it on track by asking relevant questions and addressing your prospect’s concerns.
- As Steve Martin writes for HBR: “Situational dominance is a personal interaction strategy by which the customer accepts the salesperson’s recommendations and follows his advice. A relaxed-dominant salesperson speaks freely and guides the conversation as he confidently shares his knowledge and opinions with the customer.”
- Focus on the “three pillar sales” strategy: teaching, tailoring, taking control. You might notice that before “taking control” of the conversation, a sales rep should take essential steps: teaching their prospects and challenging their current knowledge, and tailoring their sales message to the specific needs and challenges of their prospects.
#2 Sounding too intimate and personal
Deciding on your tone when talking with your prospect is one of the most important things to do in cold calling. If sounding domineering and arrogant would agitage your prospects, sounding too intimate does the same too. You need to preserve a distance that’s neither too arrogant nor intimate. Asking personal questions even as ice-breakers and conversation-starters (such as how are you? Or how is your family doing?) could be off-putting.
How to stop being too intimate in your cold call?
- You don’t need to sound as chilly and monotonous as a robot in your cold calls. Being amiable and friendly with your prospects goes a long way. The problem begins when you (unintentionally) cross the line. For example, while it’s recommended to use the prospect’s first name to address them, using their name frequently at the end of each sentence would sound a little weird for someone who is speaking with you for the first time.
- Practice the tone with your partners. Record your voice and analyze your mistakes. Don’t just settle for the status quo. Use different versions of greeting, introduction, pitching, questioning, etc. and see what sounds fine.
- Work on a script and try to figure out different ways to convey the same message. Keep the conversation relevant by asking questions about what’s necessary instead of groping your way forward and asking what comes to your mind. Do your research about the prospect, identify their concerns and needs, and personalize your script to make sure you’re addressing them accordingly.
#3 Following up after a hard rejection
Follow-up calls are the holy grail of cold calling. The reason is clear: it’s almost impossible to close a deal within the first cold call. 80% of deals are closed after the 5th follow-up. But as with the element of tone in your sales call, there is a red line for when and how you should follow-up with your prospects. You can’t just pick the phone and follow-up on all the prospects you couldn’t have luck with.
In some cases, the rejection is so hard you feel the prospect is not the right person to call again. You might realize this after a discussion with them and finding out that their objections could not be addressed (they might have unreasonable expectations such as a huge price cut) or they simply might not need your products or services after all.
How to follow-up the right way?
- Set the expectations. When are you planning to follow-up (the exact date and time is important)? How do you want to do that (on the phone, zoom call, by email, etc.)? What are you planning to discuss? Who is going to follow-up? And other details of your follow-up should be determined beforehand. This will produce a feeling of commitment for your prospect.
- Send them reminders to avoid catching them off-guard. A simple email reminder introducing yourself and reminding of your schedule would do. But if you really want to make a mark, you can send them postcards thanking them for taking the time to talk to you and reminding them about the follow-up schedule.
- To avoid being pushy in your follow-up calls and save time, do your homework and research your prospect more than before. Scheduling a follow-up with your prospect means that they’re interested in your product, so do your best to present your product as a life saver for them.
- Sending an email follow-up after a cold call helps a lot. Send them some product reviews that would support your point of view and help build trust. According to these statistics, reviews have a direct impact on boosting sales. For example, 92% of consumers are more likely to buy a product or service if they have been able to find a trusted review about it. Are you more likely to purchase a product or service if you have been able to read a trusted review about it?
- Reach out to them before calling. In some cases, it’s more reasonable to reach out to your prospect via a different channel than a call. Email is probably the most popular form of outreach in the digital world. Use a collaborative CRM to register a prospect’s email address and phone number and log in your progress. Send them a cold email and after getting a positive response contact them on the phone. Check out these cold email templates from Hunter.io to find inspiration.
#4 Disrespecting the gatekeepers
Gatekeepers are the people you need to talk to before reaching the decision-maker. They could be secretaries, assistants, customer support agents or anyone else you need to pass in order to talk with the decision-maker. Needless to say, the gatekeepers have the power to turn you down on any excuse and since the decision-maker is not expecting your calls, there’s basically nothing you can do about this. So you need to make sure you’re as respectful as possible when talking with the gatekeepers.
How to deal with the gatekeepers?
- Treat them as decision-makers of a kind. They’re probably receiving other cold calls so they determine whether your argument is compelling enough to be passed to the decision-maker. So have a scenario in mind (and maybe practice a script) when speaking with the gatekeepers.
- Build a relationship with them. Register their names in your CRM and address them accordingly when calling them.
- Have patience with them. In many cases they would refrain from connecting you to the decision-maker because of bad timing. Don’t take it personally and ask them politely when it will be the right time to call.
- Ask them for guidance. Suppose you’re contacting the support agent in charge of answering incoming phones. They probably know the company and the decision-makers well, so politely ask them to direct you to the right decision-maker.
#5 Ignoring objections
It rarely occurs that a prospect does not have any objections when you offer your product to them. Afterall, you’re making a cold call, and people typically don’t trust strangers asking them to purchase a product they don’t know yet, even if they need that product badly. The best possible scenario in a cold call is that the prospect asks a few questions and raises a few objections, and only if you could successfully address them will they book a follow-up call.
You could say that the job of a sales rep when making a cold call is addressing the objections of the prospects. And step by step, after all the questions are answered and doubts cleared, the prospect will start to consider your offer. But this is the process that takes a lot of effort and of course patience. The most successful sales reps are the ones that know the product inside out and have patience to answer the questions of the prospects.
In the same vein, the worst sales reps are the ones that don’t know how to address objections raised by the prospects. As a matter of fact, as a sales rep, the last line to cross in a cold call is ignoring the objections of your prospects. This is so offensive to some people that they might hang up the phone after a few times you ignore their objections.
How to address your prospect’s objections?
- Know the product inside out. If you’re new to the job, make sure you spend enough time to study the product and its use cases. Don’t shy away from talking to product designers or product engineers to understand the product well.
- Show appreciation for their time. Remember that you’re not doing your prospect any favor by cold calling them. As a matter of fact, they are doing you a favor by taking your call. So be appreciative of the time they give you.
- Always see things from your prospect’s point of view. It might be frustrating for you to be rejected or (even feel humiliated) multiple times a day, but every new prospect is a blank slate, a new opportunity regardless of the past. So don’t let the frustration affect your tone in any way and do your best to be agreeable to your prospect.
- Don’t drone on. One of the biggest mistakes you could make is talking incessantly over the phone. Even when you’re explaining your proposal, it’s necessary to pause sometimes and make sure your prospect is not bored or overwhelmed by asking something like “are you following me?”.
- Listen carefully. Ask open ended questions (the ones that don’t require a simple yes or no) and listen carefully to how your prospect explains the issues they have. Listening to your prospects talk about their issues is a great way to gain customer intelligence. Try to emulate their words and language to form a level of intimacy and trust.
Going beyond a pushy sales call
Believe it or not even the most effective sales strategies need to be adapted to the market’s needs. Cold calling is one of those strategies. Considering people’s engagement with the digital world, it’s necessary to incorporate it in your overall sales strategy. You need to make sure you increase your contact points with your customers wherever they are. This includes on the phone as well as other digital channels. Using a suitable customer communications management software that streamlines your communications across different channels such as phone calls, emails, social media, or other channels could be a great help.
A lot of sales professionals agree that using digital marketing tactics such as email marketing, content marketing, digital ads, social media, digital customer research and sentiment analysis, mobile marketing, etc. could increase the effectiveness of your sales strategy. Providing an omnichannel digital experience for your prospects would make their customer journey more pleasant which will in turn increase revenue up to 15% while also boosting customer satisfaction by around 20%.
Tony Restell’s interview with Kissoon Carr on the importance of digital marketing alongside other channels is quite informative.
Cold calls are considered a pushy and intrusive sales strategy. And honestly you can blame some impatient sales reps for this bad reputation. These are the people that tend to cross various lines when calling people. They think taking control of the conversation means being domineering and arrogant; or conversely, they might think that being too intimate can build some kind of trust. They might seem too pushy and keep following up after someone responded with a hard rejection. They might think that the gatekeepers are not that important and disrespect them. Or worst of all, they might keep ignoring the prospect’s objections rather than address them accordingly.
Mostafa Dastras is a writer at The Digital Project Manager, a leading digital project management resource hub and community run by the indie digital publishing team at Black & White Zebra. His work has appeared on top publications such as HubSpot, WordStream, SmartInsights, LeadPages, Sendinblue and MarketingProfs. Visit his blog, LiveaBusinessLife or reach out via social to connect with him.