This is a response to the salesman.red podcast of the same name with Will Barron & Buki Mosaku – consider subscribing if you’re interested. In this post, I relate some of the information as well as offering my own experiences on the topic.
What’s the best way to secure sales appointments?
Call people on the phone. Yes, even cold call if you have to!
But isn’t cold calling dead?
According to Buki Mosaku cold calling is far from dead. Most people just don’t know how to do it well. Why? Partially because society changed the way it communicates. Growing up, your friends relatives probably just ‘dropped around’ to your house. No call beforehand necessary. When was the last time you ever dropped in unexpectedly on a friend these days? You message. You WhatsApp. You email. You organise it first. Anything else might be interpreted as rude…
This carries through to selling. We don’t want to be associated with telemarketers that interrupt your day. We tend to want to organise and arrange it first.
There is one key problem with this; internet channels are extremely noisy. Your message can easily get lost/be ignored.
People get less phone calls than they do emails. If you call someone, you have a higher chance of getting their attention. They can also respond to you on the spot, without having to spend the time to typing long messages back-and-forth with you (which let’s face it, they won’t do – they’ll just delete the email).
How to turn cold-calls into warm-calls
When people recognise your name, suddenly it’s a warm call. You can have this happen by connecting with key decision makers on LinkedIn or posting in Groups they are a part of. By being active once a week with meaningful content, there is a better chance when you do call, your name/company will ping in their subconscious as something they recognise.
This previously happened to me when I made an outreach to a connection I’d never met. They started the conversation with “it’s nice to connect, I’ve seen your face before – perhaps it was at a convention.” I’d never met this person in my life, however I’d posted in groups they’d joined, as well as comment on the odd status update of theirs. People like meeting new people, and are open to meeting them, assuming they have something in common (a concept is known as minimal groups paradigm). Essentially, you want to increase the likelihood you’re part of their sub-conscious ingroup.
This is obviously the dream scenario; when someone is open to talking immediately. However, you can still make cold-calls into warm-calls; with your mind.
If you really believe in what you’re doing, in the product and company you represent, you’re not cold-calling them. You’re trying to help them. They need your help! They will either make money, save time or increase productivity with your product. They will be better off, even if they don’t know it yet. With this attitude, you can mentally flip making cold-calls to making warm-calls to people that just haven’t met you. This was a real ‘aha‘ idea for me from Will Baron’s podcast. I think it highlights the power of working for a company/product that aligns with your values. If you don’t truly believe in what you’re pushing, it’s something you need to fix.
Plan your call
Every call you make should have a defined purpose. Typically, this is to setup a meeting. Buki Mosaku offers a simple 4-step framework to shape a cold call:
Let’s say a sales rep was selling virtual reality solutions. They might structure a call like this: “Hi Julie, a number of real estate companies have increased their new homes sales with virtual reality solutions. My name’s Stuart from Tech Noir, the reason I’m calling is I’m wondering Julie if you’re looking to increase sales in the next 12 months? “
This simple example I created has a few things embedded:
- FOMO – other companies are growing their sales, you don’t want to miss out do you?
- Leading the conversation – people are social creatures and like to be lead. Not in a pushy way, but in a nice comfortable way. I’m asking about a specific time to meet, not if we’re going to meet. It’s easier for the brain to process than opening up all the possibilities in their diary. If that time doesn’t work, we can work on another, but it’s still centred around when not if.
Note: I haven’t outlined the next step yet.
What if they object?
A smart Sales cookie said “objections are a gift”. Often the first objection is just a knee jerk reaction. It may not even be real. False objections give you an insight into the customers world. And they are all false; the only true objection is when they hang up the phone. The hangup is very rare, but also a gift; they just gave you back time. Thanks!
Let’s go back to our example call to Julie…
“Yes we want to grow sales, but I’m not interested. We like to sell the traditional way, not with gimmicks.” -Julie
Notice she didn’t say she didn’t want to meet. She just gave you insight into her mental model is that 1) her company is traditional and 2) VR is a gimmick.
If you can start to dig into the objections and address them, it’s not a cold-call anymore. It’s an intelligent discussion about their business. There are many great resources out there about objection handling; I’ll be sure to post on it in the future.
The (Product) Circle of Life
It’s also worthy to note that the way you market and sell a product differs based on the product lifecycle.
In our scenario we are talking about Virtual Reality; a product in it’s early stage. Based on the product lifecycle, our goal here is to raise awareness and offer trials (and even then, only innovators will take them up).
Regardless, let’s play out the scenario:
“You’re right, I’ve always admired ACME Real Estate’s traditional brand. Can I ask, do you make use of internet channels such as your website and realestate.com.au?”
“Yes, we drive a lot of enquiries through there.” – Julie
“Before the year 2000, websites were anything but traditional. They were actually a gimmick. Real estate agencies have since adopted that technology which has expanded their reach and sales far greater than traditional methods could do alone. Don’t you agree?”
“Well yes I suppose you’re right.” – Julie
“Now, you mentioned a focus on traditional selling. Are you talking about the quality of the customer experience?”
“Yes, ACME Real Estate have always focused on the buying experience, customer intimacy and built a strong business on referrals.” – Julie
“That’s perfect – and that is perfectly aligned with what VR can do for you. It can give your customers a truly memorable experience, by letting them walk through and imagine themselves in their new home. You’re right this is a new product – but other agents have already seen an increase in referrals from it.”
Now we can propose the next step:
“Would you be open to discussing a free-trial and the benefits to your customers in person this Tuesday?”
“Tuesday’s no good, but I can do Wednesday at 10.” – Julie
“Great, looking forward to it Julie, bye for now.”
What if I get their voicemail?
You must leave a message. No ifs or buts. This is another way a cold-call can become a warm-call; because they’ve already heard your voice. Your job is to arouse their curiosity. Perhaps you’re talking to companies in their sector already? Perhaps you have information that is time-sensitive. Give them a reason to want to know more.
What about gatekeepers?
Gatekeepers are simply doing their job by telling you their boss is in a meeting (whether true or not). So be nice. Others might tell you to email their boss instead (so then the email can be ignored). Instead, have a very short message and ask the Gatekeeper if they could write it on a sticky note. “Stuart from Tech Noir says his product lifts agents NPS scores by 20+”. I’d then follow up with an email on the same topic and call them again in a week, referencing the sticky-note. Most likely they’ll both remember it, and you might get connected. If not, have another unique short & sharp sticky note message. You are building their curiosity and by the time you get connected, they’ll already have read a number of reasons they should talk to you.
This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds…
Make all your calls warm, take objections as gifts and understand where your product is in the lifecycle. That’s your mission, should you choose to accept it.