Prospecting is not fun for most sellers, and cold calling ranks as the least favourite form of the activity. While some may want to debate whether cold calling is still a viable part of a broad prospecting regime, I firmly believe it is, and the numbers prove it. There is no doubt that it is a difficult task, perhaps explaining its lack of popularity, but there are things sellers do, that make it more difficult and less productive than need be, further fueling the sense of frustration and poor showing some sellers have.
Many of the things sellers do seem innocent; most have their roots in social conditioning, that is, rules developed for social conversations not B2B calls aimed at starting and sales conversation. Others are based in our fears or misconceptions, again centered on our view of the situation, again, not on what makes for a good prospecting call.
There is also fact that in some case, some not all, sellers are resistant to changing, their fear of the unknown is greater than the suffering sales people go through with their current but not always effective prospecting routine. Cold calling is hard enough to just do it as a “chore” or a “necessary evil”, so if you’re going to pick up the phone you may as well play to win!
While not exhaustive, here are three things you should avoid saying in a prospecting call at all cost:
- Wondering if or Hoping if
- Just need…
- Companies like yours…
The above are in no particular order, to prove this, we will start with the second:
Just Need… – In a world where the battle cry is “go big or go home”, the word “just” JUST doesn’t fit. Think about what the word conveys – Only – Merely – Slightly – Barely – Scarcely – Hardly; doesn’t sound like you are really going to add much to the existing situation, just maybe.
You here sellers use the “just” qualifier all over the place, but especially in prospecting, with one specific area that really bugs me. On that first important initial call, whether there was any lead up material or not, during that call many say something to the effect: “I just need 15 minutes…” I know, you “think” you can diminish things, its just 15 minutes after all, you say to yourself, “if I do a good job in those 15 minutes, I can stretch it another 15, if they still like me, I can get a 10 minute encore”, etc. I guess it works often enough that people still recommend it, but beyond the fact that you are knowingly lying to the prospect, nice start – there is the hidden cost. The opportunity cost of those appointments you don’t get because of the technique. Ask yourself how much value can you convey, communicate and capitalize on in 15 minutes; not much I’ll bet when you take small talk and introductions into account. The goal of “softening the blow” by making it JUST 15 minutes, in fact communicates, that you have little to add to their day, and the 15 minutes is better spent doing other things.
In most instances, it is not the buyer who brings up the time restriction, it is the seller; the seller as a result of making assumptions, and self-imposing limits on their opportunity and success. Even when the prospect brings up the issue, you have options. Most often they will ask: “How long do you need?” simply ask them “how long can you give me?” Most of the time I gear my initial meetings to one hour, most of the time the prospect says “an hour”. You assume the buyer is trying for a short meeting, when in fact they are trying to manage their calendar, something we all should be doing. If you are pressed for time, tell them the truth, “I usually need about 30 minutes for the interview, I am thinking you will also have questions, I would say at least 40 minutes”. Why would you want to start a business relationship by lying and saying 15 minutes, when you know you need at least 30 or more?
What’s in Your Pipeline?