I perfectly remember the first days in my current office: it was time to learn and my colleague tells me that we need to contact people who asked for more information, and calling them was the best way to break the ice and feel more confident about my new job. I totally disagreed: how could I explain to someone something that I myself did not even know well? Plus, I’ve always been an introvert who has never loved the phone.
In hindsight, I must admit that there was truth in those words: the calls went well, and explaining to others what we were doing in our company was like explaining it to myself.
Thinking back now, the situation I was in at that time was even better than those that came after. On that occasion, my calls were directed to someone who already knew our company and asked to know more. In the following months, however, I’ve hit my head against two words that for many people are a nightmare: cold calling.
Basically, it is the time when you call potential customers on the phone: we know little about them, so we call to qualify the leads, and they know little or nothing about us or what we do, so we need to make a good impression in just a few seconds. For me, it was also the time when I knew I would spend a sleepless night thinking about all the refusals that I would receive the next day and how depressed I would feel. I absolutely needed a way to help myself and get rid of this unnecessary stress.
I hate to read sentences like “nowadays, the phone is our best friend, the item we spend more time with during the day, with which we share all of our secrets, how can it suddenly scare us?” Let’s stop fooling ourselves, we immediately realize that we will be rejected over and over again. And no one wants to be rejected. This thought gives the phone imaginary fangs, that we would never want to place near our ear.
Yet, there is a way to overcome this fear. These are my suggestions, this is what I did, and now I go from moments of absolute tranquillity when calling, to times when I cannot wait for people to pick up the phone!
- Have a script and learn it by heart: especially for the first times, it’s very useful to write (on paper but I’ve preferred Excel for more dynamism) all that will be said during the call. I’m confident that after a few months of work you will know exactly which pattern your calls follow, so I suggest you write a full script. This means that you will write both your lines and the interlocutor’s. It may sound crazy but in reality it doesn’t at all. Although every phone call is different in its own way, 90% of the exchanges follow a very simple and standard pattern, which originates from human logic. It’s like playing chess (not that I know how to play it). If you already know what to answer to any of the interlocutor’s sentences (and be persuasive!), you will no longer need to be afraid of not knowing what to say.
- The perspective that has changed my life: it is normal to receive refusals (it is at least a response, while instead here you can find my post on the absence of answers) during cold calling. These phone calls are the right time to qualify a lead, to see if a potential collaboration can be beneficial to both parties. Moreover, even with a refusal, the person at the other end of the line could give you valuable information that you could use if your plan is to contact the same person after a while.
- The numbers that changed my life: already during the job interviews to join this company, the head of international operations told me very clearly, writing to the whiteboard: “90% of the energy you will use in this work will be wasted. Only 10% of your work will actually bring you somewhere.” This way of thinking applies also to calls. From a simple lead to the closing of a deal, it takes so much time, so much effort and so much hope! The proportions are different from person to person: beginners will need more leads to close one agreement, experts will need just a few contacts, but the same parameter applies to everyone: for one close, you need to contact many people. The 1:1 ratio does not apply to anyone, unless you are dreaming.
- The sentence that changed my life: in one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read, How to master the art of selling, Tom Hopkins presents a banal but crucial concept. The “no” should not be feared. On the contrary, all a “no” does is just pushing us closer to the next “yes”. It is time to read again the proportion of the previous point the other way around. If it is true that, to get a “yes” you need many “no”, then it is also true that (if we are working well) after a certain number of “no”s, a “yes” will eventually come. You just need calculate your conversion rate. If we know that, on average, after 9 no’s you get 1 yes, then you will wake up in the morning praying to hear as many no’s as possible, so that the yes will get closer faster and faster! This also makes us rethink of the purpose of calling: if I receive refusals on the phone, then I will also reach interested people who will actually go through the whole sales funnel.
- However, I would like to point out once again that all these tips actually work only if we know that we are doing our job well. If at some point you have some doubts, then you should ask yourself some questions about your work and ask for advice from experts or colleagues. In this regard I also recommend Tom Hopkins’s article on how no’s can help us improve. I think you have understood by now that Tom Hopkins was crucial to my growth from a professional point of view.
Are you still scared of this expression? Starting from today, you will probably look at it with new eyes, and the days dedicated to business calls will not be so stressful. Regarding cold calling, I also recommend this article on Close.io blog. The whole blog, mainly managed by Steli Efti, gives a lot of insights to refine the work of sales reps.