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Why smart calling is the new cold calling

Ah, the cold call. Doesn’t it make you feel exactly what it is implying… cold. The thought of picking up the phone, dialling an unknown number and trying to convince someone who you’ve never spoken to before to either meet you or buy your product/service. Bbbbrrrrrr, yes the hair on my neck just stood up too. 

I am always in debate with other professionals as to whether or not the old cold call is even needed in today’s evolving virtual world. I agree that new ways of communicating and reaching new customers, such as social media, are essential to staying competitive in such a rapidly evolving economy. However I also believe that if done ‘smarter’, the old cold call can be one of the most powerful and immediate ways of increasing any business’s sales.

So what exactly does it take to make a successful cold call?

Firstly it takes a perspective change. We all just shivered at the thought of making a cold call, so doesn’t it make sense to first change the connotation we associate with cold calling? Cold calling isn’t even in the vocabulary of my sales team any more – we call it ‘smart calling.’ When I did this, it instantly shifted the mindset that was once dread to one of curiosity and interest. I could see them thinking, “hmm smart calling, I wonder what this is all about?”

Now that my team’s perspective of what a cold call is had changed, I needed to provide them with the appropriate skills and tools to support this mindset. I therefore introduced a simple three-step smart calling process they could use whenever they made their ‘smart’ calls. All they needed was a blank piece of paper ruled into three main sections. Then in the tope left of the first box I ask them to write… 

Trust: this is what you must establish within the first 15 seconds when speaking to the person you want to do business with. Trust is something often associated with years of continual effort and development. You have 15 seconds. So how do you gain their trust within such a short time frame? The shortest and most effective way I’ve learnt to do so is to establish commonality.

Ever been to a wedding or dinner party where your assigned seat is next to someone you’ve never met before? You begin to ask the usual questions about what they do, where they’re from and so on, then suddenly you mention someone’s name that they know too. What then happens? Generally they reply in a slightly higher pitched curious voice, “You know Bob too?” That awkward tension that was once there disappears because you now both have a shared connection to something or someone that you both trust.

So the first thing I have my sales team do when they want to contact a new customer is to have them find a commonality. This is where sites like LinkedIn become extremely handy. By typing the person’s name that you want to speak with into LinkedIn, it will bring up who of your connections is a shared contact. Bingo – you’ve just found your common connection. Now, what if you can’t find a common connection on LinkedIn or from your current client database or circle of friends? Call the boss of the person you want to speak with and ask them whether that person is the right contact to speak with. They’ll either say yes or point you to the right person.

Then when you make your smart call, the first thing you do after you have introduced yourself is to say something along the lines of  “I recently spoke with/caught up with ‘insert common connection or their boss’s name’ and they suggested that you are the person to speak with about ‘insert broadly what you want to speak with them about, for example marketing initiatives, recruitment, training and development etc’. Is that right?”

By doing this, you have created an instant commonality, which equals trust, which equals “OK, sure, I’ll give you another 30 seconds”, which is now enough time to have them bite down on the…

Hook:  The hook is simply an impact statement supported with either evidence or facts that hopefully snag the customers’ interest and have them asking themselves “hmm that’s interesting. I would like to know more”.

An example of this if you’re selling something like IT systems might be along the lines of, “ Well, I thought you might be interested in meeting to have a chat about some of the work we’re doing with similar businesses (you can throw in other actual client names here if you have them) in your industry around improving their overall customer satisfaction by up to 200 percent. Would this be of interest to you?”

In this one sentence you’ve stated your intention (to organise a meeting with them), gained credibility (mentioned that you are currently working in the industry), provided value and reason around why they should meet you (you can improve their customer satisfaction levels) and supported the reason with some enticing evidence (200 percent increase). This should all lead to that three-letter word all sales professionals love to hear… “Yes”.

Sometimes at this point they’ll say, “Send me an email and I’ll call you back once I’ve read through what you send”. Although this isn’t as bad as a flat out “No, not interested” it either really slows down the sales cycle or just kills the opportunity then and there. Combat this response by eliminating the possibility of them saying it in the first place.

After you’ve gotten that golden “Yes”, I would instantly follow on with “Great. Well I’ll send you through some more information to run your eyes over before we meet about who we are and some of the results we’ve been achieving for our current clients, OK?”

Now it’s just a matter of confirming a time for an….

Appointment: Again, keeping it simple (note: the most successful prospecting calls are completed in under an average of two minutes). From here, the easiest and most effective way of organising a time to meet is having two different times ready to go before you even make the call. So write done two times in the last section of your page that are good times for you to meet this prospect. Then when you get to this part of the call, just ask them of the two which would they prefer. For example, “Well I’m out your way next Tuesday morning around 10am and the following Wednesday afternoon at 3pm. Which time better suits you?”

Providing them with an alternative makes it easier for them to agree on a time and also elevates the possibility of you hearing the most dreaded word in a prospecting call – ”No”.

So there you have it, that’s how you make a smart call. First, change your perspective on what a cold call is, take the time to research commonalties, then bait the hook with a too-good-to-pass-up statement and finish it off with an alternative choice question. Smart, simple and it works.

Happy smart calling!

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Luke McLeod

Luke McLeod

Luke McLeod is the creator of the Top Shelf Sales Blog. A blog dedicated to offering ‘top shelf’ sales advice. Over the last decade Luke has worked for some of the world’s leading sales and communication consulting firms both as a top performing sales professional and a highly regarded sales advisor. He believes ‘sales’ tend to get a bad wrap and is on a mission to show businesses how smart sales professionals are not only crucially important to their business’s success, but how it can also be an extremely rewarding and enjoyable profession.

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