Do you dread the thought of picking up the phone and making a cold call?
Join the crowd. Whether it is because of the fear of rejection or the worry of being seen as too aggressive or some other deep rooted psychological reason, most sales reps would rather gnaw off a body part than pick up the phone and make an unsolicited call to a complete stranger.
But in as much as you may hate cold calling, chances are you can’t avoid it. It’s a necessary requirement for most reps. If that’s the case, you might as well come to grips with it and deal with your fears head on. Here are five steps you can take to make cold calling less intimidating and more effective.
Step #1: Build Your Knowledge Level
Call it common sense but one of the BEST ways to overcome the fear of cold calling is to become a ‘resident expert.’ Knowledge truly is power. The more you know about your product or service, the more confident you will become. Prospects hear that confidence in your voice and tend to be far more receptive to your call.
Become a resident expert by doing your homework. Read the manuals of top products. Learn the specs. Visit web sites. Subscribe to relevant industry newsletters. Memorize Q & A sheets. Ask existing customers what they like best. Determine how (and why) they use your products. Get examples. Hear the success stories. Take notes.
The simple act of learning more about your product and services enhances your confidence and significantly reduces the fear factor.
Step #2: Get Better a Selling
Cold calling isn’t all that hard. Really! Most sales reps falter because they have not honed their prospecting skills and techniques to a fine edge.
For example, is it any wonder that you get rejected when you open a call with a self-serving pitch delivered in a listless monotone? Do you really expect to engage prospects when you fail to ask questions that identify possible needs? Are you the least bit surprised when the prospect terminates the call because your long winded presentation is long on features but short on benefits?
If you haven’t had formal cold calling skills training, get it. Ask your manager. Get coaching. Buy book on cold calling. Surf the internet. Find sites dedicated to cold calling. Subscribe to newsletters. Download special reports. Order some DVDs. Listen to peers who excel. Take notes. Keep a ‘black book’ of tips. Learn (or re-learn) how to deal with objections. You know the drill. Just do it and take control of your destiny.
(For 26 great selling tips see the article below)
Tip #3: Spend More Time Preparing
Most cold callers are not adequately prepared for cold calling. They grab a list, sit down and wing it or they use a script that worked well for their boss in 1992.
Start by creating a call guide, not a script. A call guide is like a road map that provides you with a step-by-step approach to each part of the call. The trick with a call guide is to avoid scripting it word-for-word. A script forces you to ‘read’ and that can make you sound ‘canned’ or phony (no pun intended …okay… maybe a little one). The more conscious you are of ‘reading a script’ the more self conscious you become and the more awkward you feel.
Instead, use bullet points and short phrases for your opening statement, questions and offer. This will provide you with ‘flexible structure.’ In other words, a framework to help you stay on track but the freedom to sound more natural by varying the message. Psychologically, it does wonders.
Prepare job aids for product descriptions and for objections. Print these job aids on colored sheets of paper and posted them so they are visible and handy. Don’t be shy.
Call guides and job aids are support tools – cheat sheets, it you like- that will help make your call less intimidating.
Step #4: Drill, Practice and Rehearse
Preparing calling guides and job aids isn’t particularly new but what is not nearly so commonplace is drilling, practising and rehearing. If there truly is a secret to overcoming the fear of cold calling, this is it.
Every sales rep knows about role playing and its benefits but most avoid it like the plague. Practicing your call with a co-worker, buddy or spouse just isn’t ‘cool.’ It exposes our weaknesses. It lays bare all our faults and misuses. It makes us conscious of how incompetent we think we sound. We get embarrassed, bury our heads in the sand and avoid it completely.
Get over it. Practising your ‘lines’ is like practising your swing in golf, your slap shot in hockey, your forehand in tennis or your jump shot in basketball, or your sonata on the piano. It’s how you get better and it is where confidence it built.
Find someone and role play until you’re blue in the face. (Or, at the very least, rehearse your call in the shower, the car, the elevator …somewhere.) Use your call guide and learn your ‘lines.’ Get used to the rhythm and flow of the call. Reference your job aids. Practice objections. Nothing will increase your comfort (and confidence) level more than this.
Step #5: Build Your Endurance
Here’s the last step: build your endurance to cold calling.
First off, make your cold calls every day of the week. Whatever you do, don’t try to cram all your cold calling in a half or full day. To overcome the fear of cold calling treat the process as a sprint and not a marathon. A cold calling marathon will beat you down, frustrate you and burn you out. It will also augment your fear and loathing of picking up the phone and dialing another prospect.
Schedule your calls daily and make them first thing in the morning, the earlier the better. When you call earlier you’ll not only reach more prospects but you’ll also find them more receptive and tolerant because their day hasn’t heated up. But more significantly, you’ll get your cold calling out of the way so it doesn’t hang over your head like a dark cloud for the rest of the day.
If you can, start off by cold calling 45 minutes a day which is a manageable and tolerable time frame. Do that for the first week then move to 60 minutes a day the next week. That’s only 15 more minutes a day. You’ll discover that’s a walk in the park. Depending on your needs you may have to hike up the time you spend on cold calling but by then by you’ll have built your endurance.
These 5 steps are nothing more than an action plan. A plan, when implemented, gives you direction and momentum. By following a plan you take control. You feel less “victimized” because you have focus. Start implementing these ‘secrets’ today and watch your fears dissolve.