Effective Cold-Calling: How to Fight ‘Phone Reluctance’ on Your Sales Team

April 8, 2014
Effective Cold-Calling: How to Fight ‘Phone Reluctance’ on Your Sales Team

What are every salesperson's two favorite words?

“Cold calling!”

We've all done it, and we all remember just how little activity it takes to generate tangible results. We recall the warm receptions we’ve received from most of the people we called. We instantly fell in love with it and still rattle the phones every opportunity we get.

Well, if you believe that, then I have a bridge for sale!

In reality, most salespeople find cold-calling difficult, tedious, or nerve-wracking. Whether you are new to sales or have been doing it for a long time, you likely know that getting prospects on the phone is a crucial step to getting a face-to-face meeting and closing that deal. However, the rise of a tech-first culture has made it seem easier and more natural to hide behind an e-mail and wait for the prospect to get back to us than to just pick up the phone and call.

I call this tendency “phone reluctance,” and it’s the very first thing I focus on with any new hire on my team.

At the root of “phone reluctance” is over-preparing: salespeople are so anxious to make a cold call that even if you give them all the scripts, lists, and time in the world, your salespeople will still spend more time preparing than actually making calls. The good news is there are some things you can do to help your salespeople become more comfortable with and successful on the phone.

Manage head trash: Many salespeople stop listening and start making deal-killing assumptions as soon as the call opens. A salesperson might expect a prospect to say, “I have zero interest in talking about this,” or “We don't need anything like that.” Maintaining all this head trash sets a salesperson up for anxiety and might prevent her from the making the call in the first place.

Instead, coach your team to jot down these imagined objections and prepare appropriate pushbacks. For example, a salesperson can say, “Are you interested in saving time and money by…” or “I have many clients in your industry who have needed…”

Remember: it's all about perception – both yours and your prospect’s.

Handle the fear of rejection: As sales professionals, we often hear the word “no” more than we hear the word “yes.” On a cold call, we hear “no” more than ever. It is critical that your salespeople don't take any of it personally. People naturally put up a wall and get defensive when they think someone is trying to “pitch” them. The good news is that as soon as someone detects value in your call, they will be open to having a more open conversation.

One way to help your sales team overcome the fear of rejection is to coach them to make easier calls first. Low hanging fruit like follow up calls and appointment confirmations will help kick start a salesperson’s day with positive conversations and build her confidence for more difficult calls later on.

Limiting over-preparing: Good preparation is a must to tailor your approach to a sales call and get the best result. For example, a salesperson should ask herself, “What industry am I calling on?” “How do I respond if they say this…” etc. However, preparation can be a crutch. I have seen people going through multiple pages in their notebook trying to anticipate every objection, or creating bullet points of every feature and benefit of their product or service.

While preparing what to say is important, it is also important to not sound mechanical. Make some calls and see what pushbacks you encounter. Learning from experience can be much more effective than trying to guess what a prospect might be thinking.

Remember, an acceptable outcome of a sales call is “learning a lesson,” and experience is the best teacher.

Happy hunting!

In the upcoming months I am going to blog about how to create a successful phone first culture that will generate tangible results. Everything from scripts to how to set goals and measure your success. What are some of the phone challenges you have in your organization? Share your thoughts in the comments. – David


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