I can still remember that first day at my new sales job with a major telecommunications company. It was a time when land lines ruled the telecommunications world and both commercial and consumer customers were making decisions about which long distance carrier to use. The main competitors were AT&T, SPRINT, MCI and Allnet. My first role with the company was as a telemarketer selling to the B2C home consumer market. If I did well I would be promoted and moved to a B2C outside sales representative position and eventually promoted into the role of B2B account representative. B2B account representatives were making a lot of money and I wanted to be one of them. I knew that I needed to do well in the telemarketing role first. My official title was jr. account representative, I did not get any training, and that first day my manager threw a phone book down on my desk and told me to "start dialing for dollars." I had not idea what I was doing, I only knew that by the end of the day I needed to make a minimum of 80 phone calls and, I either had to close 1 prospect over the phone, or, set 5 appointments for my account representative to follow- up. If I did not do either, my cold calling days and sales career with this company would be over very quickly.
Before I got started it was payday and my district manager had a sales meeting to hand out commission checks. I went to the meeting and watched with envy as account representatives and jr. account representatives were getting commissions checks from between $5,000 and $25,000 for the month. I wanted in!
I went back to my office, picked up the phone and said to myself, "Ken start dialing for those dollars!" I dialed a number and immediately hung up the phone before the person on the other end of the line could answer. Wow was I scared. I had a fear of making cold calls that was worse than I had expected. I knew I was a little nervous before I picked up the phone but I did not think it was paralyzing fear. While I watched others around me pick up the phone and confidently make calls, I was experiencing a powerful negative feeling. I was flooded with anxiety, fear and panic. As I thought about what was holding me back, I realized that I did not want to suffer rejection. (As we get into how to deal with call reluctance it is important to remember that rejection when cold calling is NOT failure. People say no for all kinds of reasons from truly not wanting or needing what you are selling to saying no so that they remain in control.) By the end of the day I had made my 80 calls but it was a disaster and I breathed a sigh of relief every time I got an answering machine or nobody answered. So did I overcome my call reluctance and eventually become one of the sales professionals getting a $25K commission check? YES! But it took some time and some bravery. There is no easy solution.
Before we can address how to successfully overcome call reluctance, let's take a look at exactly what it is. Call reluctance, at its core, is a fear of cold calling. A fear of picking up the phone and making a call that thrusts you into the unknown. It is a very common problem among both new and seasoned sales professionals. The reality is that it can be a serious problem for sales professionals trying to achieve their sales goals, and, can impede sales growth. But sales professionals who experience call reluctance are not alone. 80% of new sales professionals fail to meet their goals their first year in a sales job due to call reluctance. 40% of veteran sales people are at risk of declining sales due to call reluctance.
What are the negative results of call reluctance? The biggest impact on a sales professional's psyche occurs if they fail to achieve their call purpose, close an appointment or sale, or, miss their daily call quota. Other outcomes are increased levels of stress and the feeling that you might be working in a toxic environment. Again it is important to remember that at some point in their career every sales person has experienced some form of call reluctance. Anyone who says that they have not is lying.
Why do we experience call reluctance? Generally the number one reason is fear of rejection. Nobody likes to be told no, however, once you understand how and or why the prospect got to no, it is much easier to process and feels far less toxic. Stay tuned for that. Call reluctance can also be caused by a corporate culture that does not embrace sales professionals or the process behind cold calling. I remember working for one company that wanted sales people to cold call all day everyday. They expected a one call close and yet had no sales culture. They basically said "think like an accountant and not a sales person." This made the sales professional's job very difficult. A company that wants this level of activity must embrace a sales culture. I worked with one Fortune 500 company that provided next to no sales training. While they did provide some company and product training, they provided limited sales training that was based in theory and not practical experience, beyond that, it sent the message to their sales people that being a sales person was bad. They constantly told their sales people "don't be a sales person, be a trusted advisor." The thing is, you can be both, they are not mutually exclusive. However, telling your sales people not to be sales people is highly destructive.
How to Solve your Call Reluctance and IGNITE your Career as a High Performance Sales Professional!
Start with the basics. Understand that repetition is your friend. My second job after I got my MBA was as a western regional marketing director with an international law firm. When they offered me the job they told me that I would be traveling about 75% of the time and that I would be flying all over the country. What was my biggest fear in life at that time? You guessed it, flying on a plane. Up until then fear of flying had kept me from doing so much in my life. If travel required me to fly, I did not go. Now, with this job offer, I was at a crossroads in my life. Despite my fear of flying, I had always dreamed of being that guy who had a job where I could get on a plane, travel across the country and stay in nice hotels, but it was always a dream. Be careful what you dream for. The fundamental question foe mw became, was my fear of flying more powerful than my desire to take this job? Ultimately, the answer was no. I accepted the job and the first thing I was required to do was fly to Milwaukee. That first flight took me through a thunder and lightning storm and I had never been more scared in my life. I was holding onto the seat handle for dear life sweating and praying. But here is the thing, after 3 months of flying I did not even think about it anymore. I would get on a plane and either watch the entertainment or go to sleep. The point is that by repetitively flying and facing my fear, it eventually not only went away but it became a non issue and did not effect my success at that job. Dealing with call reluctance is the same thing.
What about that first telemarketing job I spoke about earlier? I conquered that fear in much the same way. I started to watch other sales professionals, talked with successful sales professionals and read some books, finally I sent myself to the Xerox Professional Selling Skills course, picked up the phone and started making calls with a positive attitude. Like many of you I counted my no's knowing that with each "NO" a yes was coming! Soon telemarketing became a non issue and even became something I enjoyed doing. Eventually I became so successful at it that I not only started getting those $25k commission checks but become the youngest national accounts manager in the history of the company at that time.
Where to start. Let's get the bad news out of the way first. Despite what you may have heard or read on the internet, there is no magic pill that will allow you to quickly and painlessly overcome call reluctance. Like overcoming any fear, it takes work and planning, but once you understand it and how to conquer it, selling will become much more easy and profitable. Once you take the steps necessary to overcome call reluctance you will be on your way to becoming a High Performance Sales Professional.
Knowledge is your friend!
Begin your strategy with knowledge. If you can start your cold calling armed with the information you need to succeed you will be way ahead of the game.
Competitive analysis - Before starting to cold call know your main competitions. Be able to list three reasons why what you have to offer is a better option and also come up with reasons why your competition might be perceived as being better than you and be able to refute that assumption.
Customer pain point. Ask yourself if customers you sell to share a common problem? Determining your prospects true pain point will come during your discovery call but if you can approach the cold call with a general idea of challenges faced by your prospects it will help you to feel more confident and comfortable on the phone
Know your buyer persona. Who is your buyer? How old is your average buyer, what is there gender, and why would they be interested in your product of service. What is their job title and company responsibility.
Ideal customer profile. - Before beginning your cold calling do your best to build a profile of your ideal customer. If you are selling to businesses know how big the company is, number of employees, company location and likely decision makers.
Call purpose - Before making your call you must define the purpose of your cold call. It is to:
Schedule another call
Book an appointment
Close the sale
Knowing what you want to accomplish from the cold call will help you to be less stressed and give you an ability to focus on what is important within the call.
If you have a script, know how to use it!
I am not a big fan of sales scripts but if you are suffering from call reluctance it can be a big help, however, if you don't use the script correctly it can be your worst enemy. Usually the company you work for will provide you with a script. Let's first talk about why I don't like them.
I often receive phone calls from sale people who are using scripts. How do I know? Because it is obvious that they are reading a script. If you are going to use a script, make sure you know it so well that you don't even need to look at it. Knowing your script that well will allow you to do two things. First and most important, you want to know your script so well that it will sound like you are talking off the cuff. This will not only make you feel more at ease and allow your prospect to feel like you are having a real conversation as opposed to just checking off a box on a script. Second by knowing your script you will be able to deviate from it without worry. Why is this important? A lot of scripts look like a matrix (If the prospect says this then you say that) once again it sounds canned and is a turn off. Being able to deviate will allow you to answer questions, move in a different direction if necessary and then refocus back to where you were before you made the shift. How is the best way to do this? PRACTICE:
Recite your script over and over.
Practice in front of the mirror.
Video tape yourself sitting and practicing delivering your pitch on a phone
Take time when you are driving to review it out loud ( It is important to practice your script out loud. Things are never the same in year head as they are when you actually vocalize them.
Practice handling objections. Try to come up with some of the most common objections and pretend you are getting one and practice. Practice multiple objections and continue until you have it down to the point that you wont panic if one of them comes up on a real call.
I have all this down but I am still scared to pick up the phone and make calls
At this point you have two scenarios face you. the first is a company quota of the number of call you have to make in a day and the second is a self imposed quota to hit the numbers you want to make. Let's start with company imposed numbers.
Hitting your cold call quota the smart way.
When coaching SDR's I have heard many different numbers for outbound call quotas. The lowest number I have heard is 54 calls per day, the biggest, 300 calls per day. In my opinion, requiring an SDR to make 300 calls per day is pure insanity and I can not image how an organization would keep people for any length of time. For this example I will use a 100 calls per day as a reasonable quota. So you have started a new inside sales position, you are required to make a 100 calls per day and there it is, call reluctance, rearing its ugly head. What do you do next?
If you get to this point, are still suffering call reluctance and have accomplished all the steps discussed above, then remember that you have prepared yourself well for success with cold calling. But, there is one more step to take to ease your reluctance, that step is to manage your time and your energy. In an earlier bog post I discussed managing your energy by utilizing your ultradian rhythm. This is the time to use that strategy and the chart above. Throughout your day you have 4 windows of 90 minute energy bursts and it's during those energy bursts that you want to make your calls. Take these steps to manage that call flow.
Do not look at your list as a 100 prospects to call. Break it down into 4 segments of 25. It is much easier to call 25 people in 90 minutes than 100 people all at once. Make your 25 calls and then during your down time shift to updating your CRM, checking your email and phone. When you have spent 20 minutes recharging your energy then get back to cold calling. If you have the confidence to make more than 25 calls in 90 minutes then do it! This is meant to help you manage your call reluctance and not advice on how to manage your day once you have gained your confidence.
If you are making cold calls as part of your prospecting day and you are not working from a company generated list I would manage it slightly different.
Start at the end of the year and reverse engineer your numbers. This is something I teach my sales people but is too lengthy to dive into in this post. The general idea is if you know haw many sales you need to close by the end of the year to make to hit your revenue goal you can break it down to a monthly goal. That way you know exactly how many calls you need to make each month, week and day in order to hit your goal. By having this number you can adjust it to make up for slower months, vacation time or sick time. This puts you in charge of your numbers instead of letting your numbers rune you.
Work off of referrals. This is the biggest mistake I witness sales people make. they either forget to ask for referrals or if they get a referral they fail to ask for an introduction. If you can get a referral that is good but it is better if you can get the person providing the referral to provide you an introduction. The easiest way to do this is to ask them to send an email to the referral that includes you. They can make the introduction to you you, let the referral know that they gave you their information and then back out of the process. This gives you a warm introduction and a higher likelihood of closing the sale. Other ways to make the introduction would be via text or a phone call. However you get the introduction having it will increase your success.
Finally, dealing with no!
Control - One of the main reasons a prospect says no is to remain in control. Many prospects are expecting a yes centric question and a just ready to say no. Try to avoid close ended yes focused question and ask more open ended question. Start the conversation by asking if this is a bad time to talk? If it is they will say so but if they can talk the answer will be no it is not a bad time to talk, and that will disarm your prospect a bit. There is a great book out about the power of no titled "Never Split the Difference" by Chris Voss. He is a former FBI negotiator and it is a powerful book. I suggest you put it on your reading list. This below list is all about the prospect trying to maintain control.
No Interest - No interest is a common objection and generally a defense mechanism as opposed to a true lack of interest. My best advice is not to try and convince the prospect that they are interested. Instead, keep the conversation going. If you have done your research than you have an idea of the prospects pain point. Try to keep them talking and see if you can get them interested through asking questions. Be empathetic. "I understand Mr. Ms prospect and I am not asking for a decision. I have helped many clients who have felt the same way and what they have found after talking with me that I was able to help them. Start asking your questions to stir up interest.
No Time- This is also a Common objection and often it is about time and time management. Simply explain to the prospect that you understand and present them with two alternative times asking which one is better. Use the assumptive close that you will have another meeting. Do not ask when is a good time to meet. That lets the prospect shut you down.
No Money - This is really an objection about value. As we know people but things that they can not afford all the time. If they didn't we would not have such large credit card debt in this country. This objection is not only about the value of your product or service but about you as a sales person. First do not immediately go to the place of lowering your price. Remember, price is the easiest thing for your competitor to duplicate. If a customer buys on price, it is likey that they will leave you over price as well. Instead take price off the table and discusses the the prospects pain point and how you can help. Discuss your products features and benefits and how you fit into the equation as the sales consultant. Once the prospect sees the value of your product or service and you as their sales professional and trusted advisor the price issue will be much easier to overcome.
NO - Is is important to remember that sometimes there is no hidden meaning. Sometimes no means no and nothing you say or do will change that. This is the time to cut your losses and move on to the next prospect.
The lesson here is that most if not all sales professionals experience call reluctance during their career. What separates High Performance Sales Professionals from average sales people? High performance sales professionals do what other sales people don't want to do. They take the steps necessary to conquer their fear. There is no magic pill, no trick. It takes planning, perseverance and practice. But just like my fear of flying, if you take the steps necessary to prepare yourself for success by accomplishing the preparation discussed above you will emerge on the other side with confidence and the skill to win the cold calling game, hit your goals and be the High Performance Sales Professional you know you can be.