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  • Ron Lilek

19 Killer Cold Calling Hacks

Why do sales people hate cold calling so much? Perhaps because it generally sucks. And, if you’re not a sales person or you don’t believe me, here are some of the reasons why:

1. It's boring. No matter what you're selling or to whom, you are going to spend a lot of time leaving voicemails. And you almost never get a call back. It’s downright painful.

2. You feel so alone and useless. Is there anything that makes you feel lonelier than making cold calls, especially if you're working alone, or from home?

3. It's scary. I know, no one wants to admit it, but in the end, we are all afraid of rejection. And, the alternative is also scary. A veteran sales person once told me that the only thing worse than no one answering your calls is when someone actually picks up the phone and you have to talk.

4. It's demeaning. Shouldn't your company have lower-paid minions to make those damn cold calls? You see yourself as a sales professional, a highly-skilled individual. Why do you have to do something so laborious?

5. It's aggravating. When someone finally does answer the phone and blows you off with a "Send me something, I'll look at it and get back to you" in a dismissive tone, you really want to tell them to kiss your ass, but you can't. You have to pretend like you believe them, and, worse yet, you actually have to send them something you know they are going to ignore.

To overcome these obstacles, you need some hacks. These can make cold-calling easier and more effective. Here’s a list of 19 (I couldn’t think of a good enough 20th) such cold calling hacks. Not all of them will work for all sales people. Take the ones that work for you, and see if they help you “dial up” more leads and more business. I contend that they will.

1. Prepare, prepare and prepare. Don’t just smile and dial, do some analysis. It will cut down on your number of calls, but the ones you do make will be well-targeted and focused. Check the target company’s Website. See what they do that fits what you do. Check out the prospect’s profile on LinkedIn. Invite him or her to connect. Analyze their profile. Is there anything in his/her background on which you can capitalize? For example, what if your prospect’s previous job was with one of the companies you’ve done business with in the past? What if he or she has a connection to someone you know?

2. Practice. Do you practice your cold calls? No, not just the script, but also the delivery and the proper way to handle questions. Do you ever practice in front of the mirror? Do you ever record yourself? You should. Listen to yourself. Watch yourself. By doing this, you’ll be able to gradually improve. You’ll also learn to relax.

3. Role play with a colleague. Your colleague knows the business and has run into the same situations you do. Get together and do some role plays. Make them difficult. Put each other in difficult situations. Challenge each other’s ability to handle objections. Remember, cold calling is, at its core, role playing.

4. Make a list of calls for the morning. It’s a tough job, and you don’t want to spend time thinking about what a long day it could be, so turn it into two segments; morning calls and afternoon calls. And then divide the segments into sub-segments. Complete one segment at a time.

5. Do an evaluation of those morning calls. Did you get anywhere? Uncover any opportunities? When something is working, do it over and over till it stops working; when something isn’t working, make adjustments.

6. Take a mid-morning break. Don’t let work become tedium. Give your mind a rest. You’ll retain more if you switch your brain circuits to something else. You might even want to work for 25 minutes and then break for five. Work 25, break 5. (Just don’t get smart and reverse those numbers.)

7. Take a lunch break. Do not work through lunch unless you run into a dire emergency. The old “Lunch is for wimps” line is sorely inaccurate. Lunch is not for wimps, it’s for workers to re-charge, re-nourish and refresh. Breaking for lunch will make you more productive in the long run. And get away from your desk!

8. Make a list of calls for the afternoon. Learn from what you did in the morning.

9. Do regular research on the science of cold calling itself. By research, I mean on general topics, like what time of the day people are most likely to answer the telephone; what kind of emails are most likely to get opened, things like that. Read articles on cold calling techniques, styles, scripts etc. The world is full of “experts.” Don’t shut them out. Find the ones whose advice most fits your situation.

10. Set goals. These don’t necessarily have to be results oriented. They can be metrics oriented. For example, your goal could be to do 25 dial outs, 25 emails and 25 CRM updates each day. Once you hit your metrics goals, you’re free to move on to other things for that day. This helps divorce you from the “wishing and hoping” syndrome. Here’s an idea: you can start planning for the next day.

11. Concentrate on your process, not your results. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged if the results aren’t there at first. Stick to your process, achieve your metrics goals. The results will eventually come, or you’ll realize that you’re in a no-win situation and start looking for other opportunities.

12. Do not over-voicemail. One cold call voicemail per week per prospect is sufficient, especially if you back it up with an email. You can call multiple times, but limit the voicemails. Too many, and you will come off as a nuisance.

13. When leaving a voicemail, tell the prospect that you will be emailing him a calendar invitation for a 5 minute introductory call on such and such a day and time. Ask him to please respond with a more convenient time if he is not available. You can also tell the prospect that you "are going to be in his neighborhood calling on a client" and you'd like to send him and Outlook invitation for a 15 minute introduction. This almost never works, but if you feel adventurous...

14. Try making a few calls while standing up. Forget all the research that says this will make you feel more confident and relaxed and blah, blah, blah. Just try it because you want to get off your ass and do something different. If it works for you, keep doing it. If not, go back to sitting.

15. Between each call, take a 10 second smile break, just for the heck of it. Learn to make the smile trigger positive thoughts and feelings so that your next call won’t carry any negative baggage from the call before.

16. Stay hydrated. Always have something to drink handy while you’re making your calls, preferably ice water, but not coffee or anything carbonated or sugary. You want to make sure your body is hydrated and that your stomach is not bloated by carbonation or your mood affected by caffeine or sugar. Of course, a coffee pick-me-up during the day is certainly permissible.

17. If you get sleepy, stop. Do something else. Unless cold calling is your only duty (like inside sales people in a call center,) there are always other things you can do that don’t require interacting with potential customers. Remember, even if you connect with potential customers, sounding bored or exhausted could very well turn them off to your message.

18. Be physically comfortable. It’s tough to work while you’re in pain or just uncomfortable. Make sure you have a comfortable work space, an ergonomically correct chair, a stand up desk, whatever you prefer. When you feel good physically, your mental state will improve and it will be easier to focus on accomplishing your objective.

19. Make sure the atmosphere is conducive to cold calling. By that I mean, have a nice space with no distractions from co-workers if you’re at an office, and no noisy children or barking dogs if you’re working from home.

If you try some or all of these hacks, if you’ve read the linked articles and followed their advice; frankly, if you’ve tried everything but still detest cold calling, it’s time to move on and find another way to make a living. As far as we know, we truly do have only one life to live. If at all possible, don’t squander it on something you hate.


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