Cold calling – otherwise known as phoning strangers – can feel scary, awkward, and creepy. That’s pretty understandable. After all, who likes receiving phone calls from strangers, even when we’ve given some sort of permission? None of us want to be “that guy” who interrupted someone’s day, stuttered an incoherent sales pitch, or sounded like a robot reading a stiff-sounding script.
Yet doing deals usually involves speaking to people we didn’t previously know. So we’d better figure out how to get over that fear. Otherwise we’re going to struggle to find enough sales opportunities.
Here are 13 ways to help you get over that fear.
1. Get to know a bit about the stranger so they’re no longer that much of a stranger
It’s far easier to pick up the phone to someone we know something about. So do some desk research – for example, check out their employer’s website, Linkedin, and Google – for their given name, given job title, and basic background info. And make a note of these things exactly as they themselves have written it. That way, we’ll be able to address them in terms they’re familiar with because that’s how they themselves say it.
“Hi, Jo! It’s David from TREACL. I see you’ve undertaken a number of different roles and assignments at AMS. Please can you tell me…”
2. Don’t treat secretaries, PAs, and assistants as if they’re gate-keepers
Contrary to what most sales people have been taught (usually by old-fashioned, adversarial sales trainers and managers) these people are not employed primarily to stop people like you from getting through to their manager! They’re usually there to help organise their manager’s time, prioritise, and make sure the right phone calls get through.
So tell them accurately and concisely why you’re phoning to help them make a decision about putting you through. You can do some other clever things like repeating their name out aloud and making a note of it. Then, next time you speak, so you can demonstrate you’ve listened, and you can address them properly.
3. Get straight to the point so you don’t waste anyone’s time or sound like you’re hiding something
Cold calling is int interruption selling. You’re literally interrupting someone’s day by phoning them up. So show some empathy and don’t take it personally if the person you’re phoning is brusque or dismissive. More often than not, they just want you to tell them concisely and plainly exactly why you’re phoning. It’s easily possible to explain that within 20 seconds which reduces the fear of being thought of as a time-waster.
4. Write a script
I know, I know. Scripts make a lot of people feel as if they’re unable to express themselves properly, acting like robots, or too junior or thick to be able to speak for themselves.
Scripts do none of those things, though. The beauty of a script is that, after practising it a bit, you don’t have to rely on being able to memorise what you’re about to say, you’re less likely to stumble, and you get to tune in to what they’re saying. After all, your sales pitch is probably pretty similar every time you’re saying it.
5. Know who you’re calling
Prepare a list of people – say, 20 people – who you’d actually like to get to know a bit. If you know why you’re phoning them, you’ll automatically feel less fearful. That’s where proper targeting comes in. (We can help you figure out your target market.) So organise your list in a way that makes it easy to see each contact’s details on one screen, and check the contact details.
6. Recognise that sales involves whittling a larger number of prospects down into a smaller number of clients
There’s a ratio of these people from start to finish. And you can measure each separate stage of your sales process using ratios. For example, it takes an average of about 6 attempts to reach someone who you’ve not spoken to before.
That means, if you want to have sales conversations with 10 business people, you may well have to make 60 phone calls. It also means there’s no reason to be disheartened if you don’t score a sales conversation whenever you call. And not everyone you speak to will become a client, anyway.
7. Don’t try to flog your product straight away
Chances are your sales process involves establishing contact, finding out a bit about each other to see if there’s a fit, educating each other about problems and solutions, sharing some evidence to back up each others’ claims, agreeing terms for a deal, handling objections, signing the deal, etc.
Cold calling is predominantly about establishing contact, seeing if there’s a fit, and qualifying each other to see if there’s a fit. A successful cold call is one where you finish the call with a bit more knowledge than you had before, even if you’ve just found out the name of your contacts’ replacement.
Yep, that means role-playing with a work mate and reciting your cold call script out aloud, repeatedly. That’ll help overcome the fear of stumbling over what you’re saying or saying things that feel awkward or cumbersome. It’s also help you get straight to the point, and tune in to what they’re saying rather than having to concentrate all your efforts on thinking what to say next.
9. Make a rule for yourself that you’ll never lie
That way, you’ll always know that you can stand by everything you say during a cold-call. So you’ll never worry about being caught out or having to fudge the answer to a question.
10. Write down in advance a short list of the main objections you might face
Examples of objections whilst cold calling include that the person you’re phoning doesn’t have time to speak, isn’t the right person, hasn’t got any money, doesn’t know what they need, or anything else. If you write down the most common objections, you’re lowering the chance of a nasty surprise and the fear of uncertainty.
11. Get used to it
The first few times we do anything in life are bound to feel unnatural. It’s not until we’ve repeated the same activity a few times that we learn about any harm that could actually happen.
12. Be open about your fear with someone in earshot of your desk
A problem shared is a problem halved. And if a work mate or boss knows you’re about to do something you’re a bit anxious about, they’re less likely to judge you unfavourably if it’s not perfect. And they’re more likely to be supportive if you need encouragement or feedback.
13. Live with imperfection
You’re going to make mistakes, fluff it up, stumble, stutter, lose you’re place, mishear something, and otherwise fail. We all do. But, hey, that’s cold calling. The people you’re phoning don’t know you. Any judgement they make about you as a result of 20 seconds on the phone is bound to be wrong. They’re also not (yet) your friends, nor your clients. They’re unlikely to even remember who the hell you are if things go wrong! And you’ve got a list of people to call, anyway. So you’re not dependent on everyone you cold call.
These are just the first 13 things that spring to mind after 30-odd years spent cold calling people. They’re not fail safes. Fear is normal and even helpful. But it can be debilitating and stop us achieving our potential. So give these a try and let us know how you get on.