Is cold calling a viable sales tool or the last gasp of the unenlightened sales professional? Certainly there’s a small but vocal minority of sales “gurus” willing to kill cold calling and bury it in the graveyard of obsolete business practices. The same experts posit that cold calling is obsolete.
The truth is cold calling is a potent lead generating strategy with plenty to offer the savvy professional. There isn’t another sales approach with this huge potential to grow your business quickly, but it’s the one tactic that most salespeople go out of their way to avoid.
Mark Hunter says, “If your game is number of leads, use email. If it’s quality of leads, use the telephone. I’m extremely partial to the telephone for one simple reason — I know on the surface it will seem it’s taking me more time, but the conversations with the people I reach are more likely to turn into meaningful conversations.”
Sales Motivational Speaker, Sales Influencer & Master Sales Trainer, Andy Preston believes, “Cold calling is still one of the best (and quickest) ways to get new business. But it’s changed. It’s evolving. You need to be aware of what’s changing so you can stay ahead of the game….and your competition.”
1. Know a prospect’s needs before they answer the phone
Without mindreading, how can you anticipate your prospect’s needs before they answer the phone? Identify the prospect and you will have insights into his pain points.
Loren Miner and Tom Brennan of Decision Toolbox say that anticipating needs of others is an important skill in life. It is one thing to be able to react to someone’s needs, but if you can address someone’s needs before that person vocalizes it, you will stand apart from the crowd.”
You may have the best knowledge of your product but without knowing your prospect, you won’t know what your product can do for them. Knowledge of their pressing problems allows you to align your product with the solution they need.
According to Michelle Farnsworth of Calldrip, “It is not enough to just fully understand your product; you must also understand your prospects business and subsequent needs. You need to learn their background and discover what it is that makes them tick. You have to gather a good amount of information before ever picking up that phone.”
If you want better results, take time to get a little more information about your prospects. Social media like LinkedIn, Facebook and Co can help you find the right targets and information and it’s using this information that makes cold calling more effective.
The market mavens at HubSpot isolate 14 things that sales professionals should know before picking up the phone. It’s that hoary old chestnut all over again, “Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.”
2. Secrets for better scripts
There are millions of cold-calls going out every day to busy individuals in every possible industry around the globe. Why do most of them fail so miserably?
Elise Musumano, marketing manager at Yesware says, “A sales call script can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Used well, it’s your guiding light to navigate a conversation. But abuse it and you become a telemarketing robot that sweats when forced to go off-script.”
Every cold call should begin with a script. Similar to an actor learning his lines, your script should become part of you so that you can speak it out naturally the first time or the thousandth time. Never read it, never rush it.
According to Julie Hansen of Performance Sales and Training, “A professional actor will read through a script several times before attempting to memorize it, allowing thoughts, ideas and questions to develop naturally as he familiarizes himself with the content. Get the big picture of the script first and let memorization be a natural byproduct of that familiarity.”
Ace the opening.The first seven seconds of your call is crucial to engage your prospect before they hang up on you.
Marc Wayshak says, “Prospecting calls are the bane of most salespeople’s existence. But they don’t have to be. It’s in your best interest to learn how to love prospecting calls…it takes an average of 18 prospecting calls to actually connect with a buyer.
As with most things in life, timing is everything. And the best time to make a call that will get results? Analysis at Yesware found that sales calls lasting over five minutes most often occur 3:00 to 5:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Don’t lose a prospect with a lousy voicemail. It’s amazing how many sales professional are unable to leave a cohesive, articulate voicemail.
As Mike Brooks tells us, “If ever there was a situation that begged to be scripted, it’s your voicemail message. Isn’t this the time you want to sound your best, be perceived as a professional … separate yourself from the other 95% of voicemails that get ignored, deleted and never returned.”
Collective wisdom tells us cold outreach works when the prospect doesn’t feel like a random “tick” on a list of calls made. The call is memorable and conveys the value the product can add to the prospect’s business.
3. Onboarding and training the team in best practices
Designing an effective onboarding process is as important as hiring the right people.
David Jacoby, of the Sales Readiness Group cites this fact, “the average sales person stays with a company for about two years. Considering all of the costs associated with such turnover – recruiting, sales training, salary, missed sales, lost time, etc. – effectively knowing how to onboard and hire sales people is critical.”
Having spent vast amounts of money on recruiting and hiring the best sales talent around, businesses pull back on the onboarding process and fail to give the new hires the tools they need to work effectively.
Sales experts like Trish Bertuzzi, President and Chief Strategist of The Bridge Group Inc. believe, “Sales training is paramount for new salespeople. Yet in many cases, it’s lacking. By taking the time to invest in sales training, you can improve your sales process and employee development.”
It sounds great but what do “best practices” really mean. Pat Alexander gives this definition in the Insurance Journal, “… a management idea that asserts there is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc. The idea is that with proper processes, checks and testing, a project and/or process can be rolled out and completed with fewer problems and unforeseen complications.”
Get the sales team compliant with the best practices and keep your salespeople up to date with regular training on compliance issues.
4. Always add value
Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Add so much value, your prospect would be crazy to lose the deal.
In the words of Ryan Henley, “Why go through all this hard work of adding value when you could just bludgeon your prospect over the head with strong-arm sales tactics? Because first year insurance sales commissions are nothing… we make our money on renewals. Renewals come from relationships. Hardcore sales tactics may close deals, but they don’t build trust.”
Insurance products, prices and services don’t differ widely from agent to agent. Because the products are roughly the same, salespeople have to rely on their relationship skills and sales ability.
According to Bill Schoeffler and Catherine Oak of Oak & Associates, value added services fill a need, “What can an agency do to make it stand out from the crowd? How can an insurance agency be perceived as unique and of good quality to the consumer? The answer is to offer the client additional services and products they cannot get from other agencies.”
5. Metrics to measure cold call success
Metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are the way to find out what’s driving sales in your business. But today, just about everything is measurable so how do you know what you should be tracking?
Frank V. Cespedes and Bob Marsh write — in Harvard Business Review — about the important metrics sales professionals need to track. “… leading indicators such as demos, web registrations, calls, or C-suite-level meetings are often more instructive. Instead of reviewing historical results, which are beyond a rep’s control, they offer real-time feedback on whether salespeople are spending their time and efforts in the best way.”
According to Jonathan Herrick, modern sales performance metrics to track are customer retention metrics, pipeline opportunity performance, and lead conversion performance/ lead response time. “The buying process has changed but have you? If you haven’t changed the way you are measuring sales performance metrics and you don’t have insights into the process that drives sales, consistent revenue growth can be extremely difficult to sustain”
Passion; overused and underworked
If there is one factor insurance people bandy about regularly, it’s how boring the industry is. Lisa Harrington begs to differ but asks, “How do we do it? What can we do to inspire passion around us in the insurance industry … How do we maintain motivation for selling, serving, processing, and administering a product that everyone must have but we hope no one ever has to use?”
Kim Magdalein, writing to agents on Thinkadvisor posits, “Why should a family feel like beggars when something tragic happens in their life – something that likely could’ve been prepared for financially? We are the ones who should be passionate enough to persuade prospects to take care of these events for pennies on the dollar.”
The agents at Levitt Fuirst explain their passion, “…what makes us love insurance. Crazy as it sounds, we do – insurance helps people in their time of need, and we take that very seriously.”
Passion is not a word generally associated with insurance sales. But, agents need to connect to the reality that insurance is the bedrock of the American way of life. The work of an insurance salesperson counts immeasurably to the individual, to the community and to society in general…