Aug 20, 2020 • Podcast

What are your thoughts on cold-calling in tough times?

In this episode, Paul shares his thoughts on cold-calling in this current environment. 

Show Notes:

Cold-calling still works; our research shows that 29 percent of top-achievers use cold-calling to engage prospects and customers. 

To be clear, cold-calling is reaching out to a prospect unannounced via phone or face-to-face visit. But before you cold-call a prospect, use these techniques to warm-up the call

“Referrals are the easiest ways to get your foot in the door, yet too many salespeople forget to ask for them.”

Send the prospect a letter. This letter is an introductory tool that builds familiarity. Plus, there is no delete button on a letter.

Once they’ve received the letter, send them a LinkedIn request. A LinkedIn request builds familiarity. 

Finally, once you reach out, decide how many unsuccessful callbacks you will make before calling it quits. Don’t become a prisoner of hope. 

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Thanks to our editing team at The Creative Impostor Studios. Click here to book a complimentary consultation with Andrea to find out how they can partner with you in creating your own podcast. Tell them Paul sent you.

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Check out this episode!

What are your thoughts on cold-calling in tough times?

(Transcribed from podcast)

Today’s question came from a recent virtual webinar. I was working with a group of industrial salespeople, and one of the salespeople asked about cold-calling in these tough times. Specifically, they wanted to know what my thoughts were on cold-calling: how to do it. Is it still effective? So that’s what we’re going to tackle on today’s show. What are my thoughts on cold-calling in these tough and uncertain times?

Before we get to that question, though, we’ll quick shout out to our sponsor, Andrea, and The Creative Impostor Studios. They have been with the podcast since the very beginning. In fact, Andrea is going to launch another How to Launch Your Podcast show, and information is going to be available on that on our webpage. So make sure you check that out. If you’ve thought about starting a podcast, or if you’re just curious about it, reach out to her. Check out the webinar. What do you have to lose? So check it out.

Also pick up your latest edition of Value-Added Selling. We’re now on the fourth edition of the book. Some of the techniques I’m going to talk about today are actually in the book, as we talk about cold-calling, and canvassing, and messaging and all that good stuff. Pick up your latest copy. It’s available on Amazon. Again, it’s Value-Added Selling.

Let’s get back to that question. Some thoughts on cold-calling in this tough environment. So when we think about this question, it’s kind of a loaded question, because I’m sure many of you are wondering, “Should we be cold-calling? Is it still effective? Does it still work?” And my question to you is, what else would you be doing if you weren’t cold-calling; if you weren’t picking up the phone or going by and trying to meet with customers face to face? That’s what we do as salespeople. Our research shows that cold-calling is still effective.

Just to clarify what cold-calling actually means, it can mean two different things. Number one, it means picking up the phone, calling a prospect out of the clear blue. They have no idea who you are and, hopefully, you have an idea who they are because you’re calling them. You’re prospecting to them. Or, it means stopping by and visiting face to face unannounced with a customer. Obviously, stopping by face to face currently is going to present some different challenges. We’re going to talk about that in a few minutes, but that’s what cold-calling really is.

When we did our research on top-achieving salespeople, one thing we found is that top achievers are still out there cold-calling. In fact, when we asked them What’s the best way to go out there and initiate contact with a new prospect, 29 percent of top-achieving salespeople said that they still use cold-calling as an effective way to engage with a prospect. So keep that in mind when you’re hearing people say, “Oh, cold-calling is dead. It’s no longer relevant. It doesn’t work.” Top achievers have told us something different. Cold-calling does work.

Now, before you pick up the phone or before you stop by to visit with a prospect, there are a few things you can do that is going to help you become more successful, more effective, as you begin this prospecting or cold-calling campaign. I’m going to give you three ideas here to help you. The first idea is to get a referral. If you can, get a referral to meet with that prospect. Our research shows that is one of the easiest ways to open up a door for you. Just find someone that they know, that they trust, and get that person to refer you.

Referrals are critical. And I think we’d all agree in sales that asking for referrals is common and you should be used to it. But you would be amazed how many times I talked to salespeople and I asked them, “When’s the last time you asked for a referral?” and no hands go up. People can’t remember. And salespeople forget about this untapped gem: referrals. They’re absolutely critical.

Now, I understand that referrals play a common role in the B to C environment. If you’re selling products like insurance, if you’re in the banking industry, [it’s] very common to ask for a referral business. But it also works in the industrial setting. It works whether you’re selling software, whether you’re selling machine tools, whether you’re selling cars. Whatever it is, referrals work. And so it’s critical that you ask for these referrals.

Now, a couple of tips when you’re asking for referrals. Number one: your best customers are going to be your best advocates. So think about your customers who have had a great experience with you, where you’ve created quite a bit of value, that you can demonstrate that value. Start with those customers. Ask those customers for referrals. Also be specific when you’re making that request. Be specific as to the type of customer or prospect that you would like to get a referral towards. Make sure that you’re being specific with your request. And also, have them do the introduction for you. It’s much more powerful when your customer that is referring you, they send the email, or they pick up the phone and they explain, “Here’s so and so. They’re going to be reaching out to you.” Better yet, have them copy you on that email. Have them explain it a little bit about what you do. Having that person reach out on your behalf… It goes a long way with a customer, because with these referrals, again, you can leverage the trust that that individual has already built with that prospect. And most importantly, ask for them. Get into the habit of asking for those referrals.

The second tip is we want to send the buyer a letter. The reason I say send a letter not just an email, there is no delete button on the letter. Remember that. There is no delete button on that letter. And also, with a letter, the buyer doesn’t feel compelled to respond to you. We don’t really need a response at this point. The purpose of sending a letter is not to prompt a response. It’s to build familiarity. We want the buyer to see our name. We want them to see our company, our logo. We want them to see those things so that, when you reach out to them for the actual meeting, or you pick up the phone or stop by, you are recognizable. They see it. So again, all we’re trying to do with this letter is a basic letter of introduction. Let them know that you’re going to be reaching out to them in the future. And if you want, in your letter, when you’re describing what your company does, talk about the problems that you solve that are relevant to this prospect’s business. That’s going to be key. And so, again, in this letter… It’s straightforward. It’s simple.It’s a basic introduction. Highlight some of the problems you help solve, and then put your company name in there, your name, your business card. We want them to see this stuff so that it becomes familiar to them.

Let’s move on to tip number three. Once you have sent the customer the letter, and there’s a good chance that they’ve received the letter and actually reviewed it, the next thing you’re going to do is go on LinkedIn. Send them a request. LinkedIn obviously is very popular. I know for many of you are thinking, “Okay. This sounds like a no brainer,” but it’s worth mentioning. Once you’ve established a little familiarity—you’ve sent them a letter, they’ve seen your company name, they’ve seen your name—now you can send them a LinkedIn request. That way you can connect. And this is going to do a couple of things. Number one, it’s going to be another touch point. So they see your name, they see your company name. Send them a nice professional note along with the introduction—that’s going to increase the likelihood that they will actually connect with you. And then, also, this will give you an opportunity to comment on some of the things they’re sharing on LinkedIn. It’s going to give you an opportunity to like and share some of their content as well. This is another way that you can, again, become familiar with that prospect.

So let’s briefly summarize where we’re at right now. And we’re doing all this before we make our first cold outreach, either phone or via stopping by their office. So, number one, if you’re able to get a referral, start with that. You get a referral, you’re golden. That should certainly help the likelihood of getting a meeting. If you don’t have a referral, what you want to do is you want to send a letter of introduction explaining a little bit about your company and the problems that you solve. You want to put your business card in there. You want it to look professional. And again, the reason we’re doing that is to build familiarity. Once they’ve received that letter, send them a LinkedIn request. Again, we’re sending them a LinkedIn request because they’re seeing your name and your company name once again, and it’s becoming familiar to them. It also gives you an opportunity to comment and like and share some of the content that they’re putting on LinkedIn.

So now we’re getting ready to reach out to the customer for the very first time. Chances are, you’re going to get their voicemail. Let’s get into the actual message. At this point, we’ve actually warmed up the cold-call through some of our antifreeze techniques with the referral, with the letter, with the LinkedIn request. So we’re now picking up the phone or we’re going to be dropping by their office. When you pick up the phone, a couple of thoughts: number one, before you pick up the phone to dial, you have to have an idea of how you’re going to create value for this individual. Remember, when you’re talking to this individual and you introduce yourself and what your company does, and you’re trying to get some of their time, they’re going to be willing to give you some time if you are able to create some value for them. So in your messaging, you’ve go to be able to reflect that—the value that you’re going to create for them, what’s important to them. And that includes how you can help solve a problem that they’re having in their industry. It also includes how you can help them increase revenue, enhance productivity, whatever’s relevant to that individual prospect. You have to be able to create value at each occurrence.

If you’re cold-calling them and you’re reaching out to them, chances are you’re going to get voicemail. We know that you’ve experienced that as a salesperson. Be prepared for that also, but be prepared for them to answer the phone too, because during these tough times, people have more time on their hand and people are picking up the phone. But when you’re leaving a voicemail, remember the GET methodology that we’ve talked about on previous podcasts? GET is an acronym that stands for Grab their attention, Establish the need, and Tease them with a benefit. Use those three techniques to leave your message. And then at the end of your message, ask for some time. Give them a few time slots to consider. You don’t want to overwhelm them and just say, “Give me a call anytime next week.” No. Give them a few time slots to consider.

What’s also important at this point, if you get a customer message, if you get their voicemail, I would also follow up with an email at this point. I’d follow up with an email reiterating the same thing you mentioned on your voicemail. Again, it’s another touch point. It’s another way for them to see your name and your company’s name. That way you can give them an easy way to respond and say, “Yes, let’s get together. Let’s have a meeting.” So that covers calling over the phone.

So that’s enough about cold-calling using the phone. Let’s talk about cold-calling and reaching out just by dropping by or a face-to-face visit, because that’s another form of cold-calling. Right now, you’ve got to remember, people are sensitive to this type of drop by. People are concerned with employee health, and there are new protocols and everything in place. So a couple of things to consider… Before you drop by someone’s office unannounced, make an announcement. Don’t just drop by unannounced. You’re going to have to reach out to your prospect either way over the phone. So when you do reach out over the phone, mention that you would like to meet face to face. Mention that you’re going to be stopping. And by doing that, it’s just giving the buyer a heads up. Just letting them know.

Other things you want to do, make sure you’re visiting the prospect’s website to see if they have a COVID-19 response or banner on their website. Many companies have this, and it talks about their protocol to keep everyone safe. Take a look and see what information they have. If it says blatantly on there, No Outside Visitors Right Now, think twice about driving by and stopping by. Instead, use these other methods that we’ve been talking about. If you are able to score a face-to-face meeting, make sure you’re following all the protocol. The key is, you don’t want to show up and do more harm than good. Remember, people are going to remember some of these things during tough times. They’re going to remember how you responded. Be professional.

To wrap things up, one more thought. Be aware of how many times you’re going to call this prospect before you call it quits. In Value-Added Selling we call this Prisoner of Hope opportunities, where we believe out of sheer hope and will that we’re eventually going to win that prospect over. You’ve got to realize that you’re just not going to win over every single prospect. I can’t tell you what that number is, how many times you should reach out to that customer or prospect before you call it quits. Just realize that, during a pandemic, people are overcrowded with priorities. There are so many things going on. There are so many people grabbing for their attention and for their time. You have to be persistent. But every single time… every time you reach out to that customer or prospect, you have to create value in some way for them. It’s about them. It’s not about your need to sell something. It’s about their need and you have to be aware of that. So reach out to them. Be persistent. And don’t call it quits after the first call, the second call, the third, fourth, fifth, even sixth call. Give it at least five or six chances. Make sure that you’re persistent and you’re creating value.

Make it a big day.

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