Cold Calling is Not Dead! The Phone is Alive and Well

Did you know 90% of all meaningful customer interactions are happening over the phone? Although the death of cold calling has been grossly exaggerated, its definition has changed. With the help of the Internet and other tools available to sales reps, they are no longer “cold calling” they are “warm calling.”

We recently sat with Brian Burns, host of The Brutal Truth About Sales & Selling podcast. We discussed how sales reps can be more effective each time they pick up the telephone for outreach and how they can make the most of their time with a prospect.

Prospecting, Cold Calling, and Making Connections

There is a plethora of statistics announcing the death of cold calling. What are your views on cold calling?

We have three generations (of people) right now in the workforce. The baby boomers still love the phone and they may pick it up. You have to have someone pick up the phone for it to even be worthwhile.

Now that doesn’t mean the phone isn’t worth it, it just means you have to get a scheduled call versus an impromptu call.

Your approach to cold calling is largely based on making the connection first and then pitching later down the line. What are your top three techniques for connecting with prospects?

My top three techniques for connecting with a prospect are: giving a compliment without an ask, the second one is asking for feedback and number three is asking to collaborate on content or industry research or their feedback on any kind of product feature or industry trend.

Nobody wants to hear a pitch from a stranger or someone they don’t know, like or care about. What you have to do is become known. If I sent you an email saying “I loved your last blog post. Great work!” How do you feel? You’re flattered, (but) you keep looking for “Why is he saying this” and you’re suspicious, right? What most people say is “I loved your last blog post. Can I have 15 minutes of your time to tell you about me?”

Don’t Start a Cold Call With a Sales Pitch

You say be selective with who you cold call to give yourself the ability to make meaningful connections. For a company that requires a sales rep to make a certain amount of dials a week, what advice would you give to them?

Don’t start with a sales pitch. Find out something about your prospect, their company, their career, and get talking about them. Then, slowly weave in the problem that you solve. Talk about the problem, not the product.

Starting the conversation with a false time limit is an interesting concept and how does it arm the sales rep with the confidence they need?

You’re basically telling them (your prospect) you are not going to waste their time and then they want more of your time, like “30 seconds now I have to pay attention!” What most reps do is: “Do you have five minutes for me to tell you about me?” Who is going to care about that?

You say: “Hello, I am sorry. I only have 30 seconds I have a meeting coming up but I thought you guys are doing something interesting. Is it still important for you to monitor your call system?” Of course, they are going to say “Yes.” But you ask a question that they have to say “Yes” to.

You can say: “I am sure you are busy like me.” And of course, they are going to say “Yes.” Get them agreeing. Then you move on to “Is this a priority? What have you looked at so far? Is it still your problem?”

The human aspect of selling is lost sometimes. Many reps forget about making a connection and go straight into pitching. Behaviors can be hard to break; how can you change the mindset of those who focus on pitching?

Think about every time you see a friend what is the first thing you say to them? “Did you change your hair, are those new shoes?” You are showing interest in them and compliment them.

If you go over for a party or dinner what do you bring? A bottle of wine, dessert… you are giving. When you bring a special dessert and not just something you picked up, you are valued. That is selling. But in the virtual world, we forget all about this and we think coming up with the best pitch is going to solve the problem. The problem is, it’s been 20 years of that and people are sick of it.

Let’s face it, most people don’t buy on the first call. No one buys on the first call unless you are selling maintenance or cartridge replacements or commodities and you happen to find the right person, at the right time, with the right need.

I think we are going in the wrong direction. Managers are focused on KPIs instead of outcomes and results. They think a sales rep, is a sales rep, is a sales rep. It’s not. I think you need to find someone who gets on LinkedIn and find out what someone cares about, sends a compliment, waits a week and either sends another compliment or a piece of content and a message saying “I thought you might be interested in this. I would love to know if you guys care about this.”

Then you go from the unknown to known, and then when you are giving you are going from known to liked and when you don’t pester somebody and push, you become trusted. That is when you get that conversation going.

Focus on Having a Conversation With a Sales Prospect First

You recommend reps not end their first call with a prospect by asking for a meeting/appointment. You advise them to set up another phone call to build interest. Why is it so important to build interest during the sales process?

If you don’t build interest first, your prospect will feel interrogated. You have to build interest so that you have a conversation instead of an interrogation or a deposition.

The model today is they (sales leaders) put the young college kids as sales development reps and all they care about is getting the meeting. They’ll say whatever they have to get that meeting. Then you have the more senior account executives that get that meeting and want to make sure it’s all about them and their product and the qualifications and show every feature and function so they can get to the point of giving a proposal. That is how the vendor wants to move. It is not how the client wants to move.

To move at the client’s speed, you have to get the transfer of ownership where it goes from your product to their world, to their use case. They have to test drive where they are in the driver’s seat. They’re driving the car around the corner. They’re playing with the radio.

It depends on your product but you have to get that transfer so they can see how their world is going to be better once they buy your product and that typically doesn’t happen in one demo.

Social Selling: Turning Cold Calls into “Warmer Calls”

There is much talk about social selling, but here at Gryphon, we are firm believers that the phone is the most powerful tool for selling. Do you agree and why?

The most powerful thing is a face-to-face meeting and then the next most powerful tool is the phone. Social is great for getting that complement level (the known, liked and trusted) but people are not going to buy that. You have to have a conversation. You have to have that transfer of ownership.

The B2B Sales Process vs the B2C Sales Process

You say making a B2B cold call is different than making a call in the B2C space. What advice would you give to someone brand new to B2B selling?

For a rep calling into the B2B space, take your time. What you really want to do is find the right person to talk to, find out what they care about and develop what they care about as far as how it matches what you do.

In the B2C space, you go for the “No.” You’ve got to find out if you even have a chance with that person because, if you don’t, there is an infinite number of them. In B2B it is more of a finite number of them that takes a long period of time. You want to take your time to get to the “Yes” instead of rushing to get to the “No.”

Sales Will Always be About Making Human Connections

You have been selling for over 25 years, how has the sales process evolved during this time, and what changes do you expect in the future?

The tools have evolved. Certainly, cold calling, pure cold calling worked great in the 90s. The 2000s email was very effective. The latest idea, social has been very effective to define, connect and engage with people but selling is really still a one-on-one type of thing. It is a people thing. That is never going to change and we can automate a lot of the pieces but it is still going to take a person to person activity.

I think sales are going the wrong way. I think everyone is trying to distance themselves from that and ignore it instead of remembering it and embracing it.

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