Cold calling: New research reveals keys to success on the phone
  • sales
  • Blog post

Cold calling: New research reveals keys to success on the phone

Chances are you’ve been hearing that “cold calling is dead” and that the best way to reach prospects nowadays is through e-mail, social media and other Sales 2.0 vehicles.

Well, to borrow a famous Mark Twain quote, “The report of my death has been greatly exaggerated.” In fact, recent benchmark research by the RAIN Group not only shows that cold calling pays off, but also offers real insight into how sellers can be successful at it.

A closer look
In the study, 42% of responding buyers (a cross section of senior execs in a variety of industries) said they accept cold calls. That’s close to one in two.

When asked which factors were most important in accepting those calls, the buyers responded this way:

  • Need for the product or service, now or in the future (92%). Clearly, targeting companies and buyers well increases the odds of success.
  • Value provided during the call (82%). Once an exec answers the phone you have only seconds to connect, so you must come up with a message buyers will find valuable.
  • Peer-to-peer approach (73%). If you appear nervous or feel like you are intruding, you won’t come across as a a peer to senior execs on the other end of the line.
  • Received information prior to the call (68%). Cold calling works better if you provide valuable information before reaching out in person.
  • Have heard of the provider (64%). You may not be able to affect your company’s brand or name recognition, but you do have ways to build your personal brand.
  • Dissatisfaction with current provider (52%). Roughly half the execs who would take a call said a less-than-perfect supplier relationship played a role. So don’t give up if there is an incumbent in place.

How to deliver value
As we’ve seen, a key factor in cold calling is providing value. No one wants to listen to a sales pitch – they want to find out how their lives will improve from working with you.

As you figure out how to deliver value, look beyond what they’ll get from buying from you. Instead, think about the value they’ll get from just speaking with you. Later you’ll have time to sell your company and its solutions. The goal now is to sell the value of a first conversation.

Here are some value propositions that work. Of course you’ll need to adapt them to your situation:

1. Sharing best practices. Offer prospects a chance to learn about how others solved a particular problem or achieved a goal.

Example: “Mr. Prospect, we work with pharmaceutical companies to help run efficient clinical trials.

The reason I’m calling is that we’ve just completed a research study to identify the key drivers that produce cost savings while maintaining high quality.

I’ll be in your area next week at a client site, and by way of introducing ourselves I’d be happy to share the research results with you. They’re pretty eye opening.”

2. Direct results. You share results and get the prospect curious about how you did it.

Example: “I just read in (trade journal) that you’ve joined Ajax as its new vice president of operations. We work with companies to reduce supply chain costs and recently completed a project for Monolith that saved them 17.5% on inbound transportation alone.

“May I ask you a few questions to see whether we might be able to get similar results for you?”

3. New idea. You bring value to the table with new ideas to share.

Example: “Bill, I was just on your website and saw a press release in which you were quoted as looking for ideas to leverage open innovation.

Open innovation is our specialty, and given that you want to lead in the 3-D printing segment, we have three ideas that you might find intriguing… are you available to discuss these ideas next Tuesday or Wednesday?”

4. New methodology. In this type of approach you deliver value by educating the prospect on an uncommon or unconventional way to solve a problem.

Example: “Mr. Prospect, we work with technology companies to ramp up salespeople after they’re hired. At both Vargas and Ducommon we cut ramp-up time by 50% and slashed new rep turnover by 15% with a breakthrough new method.

“We take a new approach – one that’s probably different from anything you’ve seen before. Would you be interested in learning more about it?”

Any one of these approaches will work. Of course, not 100% of the time. The key is to not bail out. It often takes multiple “touches” to get through to someone. Just remember to deliver value.

Source: Based in part on “Rainmaking Conversations,” by Mike Schultz & John Doerr. ISBN 978-0-470-92223-1.

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