Sales Training

This page is a database of articles and downloadable white papers on many different aspects of sales training. You can search for any particular topic (e.g. "cold-calling") by typing it into the search box above the list of contents to the right. If you use the productivity tools in Connect (Calendar, Contacts, Workshop, Dashboard) you can use your dashboard results to see which areas of selling you have the most weak spots and then come to this page to find training resources to help you improve.

Avoiding the "Cold" in A Cold Call

In Connect you'll find multiple articles and training resources on cold-calling. (Just type 'cold-calling' into the search box at the top of the Info Center page). My own experience is that this is an area which a large percentage of sales people really struggle with, but it's actually a lot less scary in practice than it is in theory. It's also a vital skill. Regardless of the numerous 'new' ways to reach out to people there are, at some point you are going to need to be able to call someone up whom you've never met and try to make an appointment to see them.

There are a couple of definitions which need to be cleared up before we start. Firstly, 'qualifying' is different from cold-calling, in that a 'cold-call' is aimed at a specific person and should attempt to get you to the next stage of a sale - an appointment preferably, or a useful conversation about how you can benefit the individual being called.

'Qualifying' on the other hand is simply finding out the required information you need before you can make a cold-call; the correct individual at a company who makes decisions about advertising, the correct spelling of their name, title etc., confirming the postal address of the company and so on.

There should be no panic or stress involved in a qualifying phone call at all. The information you are looking for is not a secret, there are usually people specifically employed at companies to provide such information (receptionists, secretaries, assistants, even other managers etc.). On this call you are trying to achieve nothing other than confirm some information. If approached in a confident and friendly manner its extremely unusual not to get the information you require. A simple, "Hi there, I'm just calling to confirm that John Smith is the manager at your company in charge of making advertising decisions. Is this correct?" will normally be enough. If on one of those rare occasions you receive a suspicious "Why do you want to know?", just be honest and straightforward. "I'm from KBQQ and I have some information that I know will be useful for him which I would like to send him. Could you confirm that I have his name correct? I don't want to annoy him by spelling it wrong."

You should set regular time aside for qualifying your leads, separate from your cold-calling sessions. Qualifying takes a different kind of mind-set from cold-calling and is therefore better achieved in its own block of time.

Once you've built a suitable list of qualified leads, block out some dedicated time in your calendar (at least an hour) and save it for a cold-calling session. Doing this is important, as it forces you to prepare correctly and focus on the mission at hand without distractions. It will also help you to keep track of how successful (productive) your sessions are so you can monitor your improvement as you progress.

This article won't focus on all the details of cold-calling, including how to prepare your call script etc. This information is available in a number of articles throughout the site. Rather, I want to stress here what cold-calling really is (and what it isn't).

I believe that the reason most people find cold-calling so stressful and come up against so many off-putting objections, manic 'gatekeepers', bottomless voicemail pits etc. is simply that they haven't properly sorted out why they're making the call in the first place.

Everyone hates receiving calls that are
a) obviously focussed on immediately 'selling' us something, shoving discounts at us, exhorting us to take advantage of things 'now'
b) dishonest; calls that purport to be about one thing, then quickly turn into something else
c) clearly impersonal; calls which describe benefits in words which sound as if they could be for anybody, but which have our name stuck into them.

If you make calls which are like these, you will end up in cold-call hell. However, no-one really minds receiving calls which are

a) obviously designed to be of mutual benefit both to the person giving and the person receiving
b) honest; presented in a human and straightforward manner by someone who clearly is acting under their own initiative and is excited and passionate about what they are talking about
c) clearly personal; presenting ideas which have obviously been thought up with us, individually, in mind.

The only real reason to reject such calls is because they appear at inconvenient times. In such situations, alternate call back times can be easily arranged.

The bottom line is that the call itself is merely the final stage in your process of preparation. Before even making the call, you have to have spent time figuring out exactly why you want to see the person you are calling. What kinds of benefits and ideas can you offer. Do you really have something mutually exciting to talk about?

If you are simply figuring on being able to make an appointment and then figure everything else out once you get face to face, your cold-calling is going to be hellish. If you cold-call people with this week's 'dollar a holler' prop, you're going to run out of leads really quickly.

When we reject cold-calls, what we're really rejecting is people we resent, because they don't respect us enough to call us with something really interesting and useful to say; people who are wiling to waste our valuable time 'fishing' for an appointment without any idea why we might want to see them.

Conversely, when someone calls who sounds genuinely excited about their company, someone who knows something about ours and is clearly interested in finding out more, someone who has spent the time to think about us before the call and shows us the respect we deserve, we're usually happy to listen. This even applies to gatekeepers. A gatekeeper's job is not to shut their employer out from the world completely. It's to filter out those things they believe would not be useful or interesting. In a fity-fifty situation, most good gatekeepers will err on your side, just in case they screen out something that could turn out to be interesting or profitable for their employer. If you're getting consistently rejected by gatekeepers, you're talking too much about yourself and not enough about the gatekeeper's employer / company.

There are many people reading this who will roll their eyes and say, "Yeah yeah, I do that and I still get blocked." If you are one, I ask you to think really honestly for a moment about your last experience. What exactly did you say? What did you have prepared before you called? Did you know anything about the company / person you were talking to? Were you excited about the potential of a meeting with this person? Did you have a picture in your mind of the project you would work on together, how it would sound, what effect it would have?

However cold they might feel at the beginning, those kinds of calls can get warm very quickly.

Matt Hackett, CEO ARIA Inc.

Further resources: Connect includes a simple but powerful cold-calling toolset in the Calendar called the "Call Center". Click here for a video demo.

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Sales Training