Cold Calling Prospects for Sales
As a Founder, President, etc of your company, you are by default a Salesperson. And if you’re at your first startup, Sales may not necessarily be a comfortable activity for you. As a technical Founder, I initially struggled with the cold-calling process. The 5 tips I learned below have helped me improve my cold-calling effectiveness. They’re fairly easy concepts to understand. The challenge is in applying them to your unique situation and to remember prospecting is a dynamic activity. You’ll continuously iterate and tweak the process as you talk with more prospects. Check these 5 tips out – I think they’ll help you be more successful too!
1) Prepare your list
Before you start calling prospects, make a list of who you’re going to call. Capture their name, number, company name, web address and any other basic info. This information can be gathered by going to the prospect’s website or also looking at their profile in LinkedIn. You can use something as simple as a spreadsheet to track the list. If you’re just starting out and don’t have money for a formal customer-relationship tool, a spreadsheet will suffice. Initially you don’t need anything fancy.
BONUS TIP: If a prospect has a direct line, you should also add the company’s main number to the spreadsheet. Reason being is if you call their direct line, the prospect may see it’s an outside number and let it go to voicemail. If you call the main number and have an operator transfer you, it may look like an internal call in which case you will have a higher chance of talking live with the prospect.
2) Schedule your calls
Generally speaking, you don’t want to call prospects on Monday mornings or Friday afternoons because they’re either starting their week or winding it down. Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s are good times to call. I’ve found between 10AM-Noon and 3PM-5PM are best times to call. 1PM-3PM are also good but the post-lunch “sluggishness” can be a factor – both for you and your prospect. These times will have some nuances depending on the industry your prospects are in but generally these work across many industries.
Also be aware of the time of year you’re calling your prospect. End of quarter can be tough to reach prospects in manufacturing or sales departments. Accountants and tax professionals are straight out during tax season. If you’re targeting academia, summer can be tough connecting with prospects.
BONUS TIP: Make sure when you’re calling that you’re not half-asleep or sluggish. You want to be at your peak energy state so your energy levels are “felt” across the phone.
3) Have two scripts
There are two scripts that will help you when calling prospects. The first one is for when you actually connect with a prospect. Refer to this blog for more details. The second script is for when you leave a voicemail message. Stay tuned for a post on how I’ve created one of these scripts.
Having a script helps keep you focused and on track. I’ve found the cold-calling script works great during “live” conversations and leads to a great dialogue with prospects. The voicemail script is great for delivering a 20-30 second voicemail loaded with value. You want to keep voicemails short and to the point.
BONUS TIP: When you call a prospect’s direct number and get voicemail, try calling back at the company’s main number. When you get the operator, ask if your prospect is in today. Depending on the company, the operator may know if the prospect is out of the office or in a meeting. Psychologically, knowing if a prospect is out of the office can make you feel a bit more upbeat when leaving a voicemail; you know they’re not blowing you off!
4) Track your calls and conversations
Immediately after your call (either live or voicemail), write down any comments and actions. This is so important for continuing the momentum with your prospect. Writing them down is important because you can’t remember everything. I also like to write down the time and day so I can see if there are patterns for best time or day to contact a particular prospect. Additionally I like to write down how many times I’ve reached out to the prospect so I can identify any contact patterns with my prospects. As a rule of thumb, 6-7 contacts are needed before talking with a prospect while I’ve heard some industries it can be 50 times! In my experience applying these tips, it takes me 3-4 times before I talk with the right person.
BONUS TIP: Write down any unique comments a prospect may tell you, such as when they’re going away on vacation or that they’re out on Thursday afternoon because of their kid’s sporting event. Knowing a prospect’s personal activities can help you build a better relationship with them and a strong relationship will help you convert a prospect to customer.
5) Don’t get frustrated
Calling prospects takes a lot of time and can drain your energy levels if selling isn’t a natural activity for you. It can be frustrating to spend so much time making calls with what seems like little “return”. But don’t give up due to frustration. I’ve found these tips have helped me a lot to be better prepared and confident in calling prospects. Having these “tools” and a plan or process in which to call prospects has given me a boost in not only energy but also effectiveness. I’m now able to make a lot more calls in a day and also connect with a prospect sooner. The tools and the process works!
BONUS TIP: As your customer base grows, you’ll need to update your cold-calling scripts. For instance, when you’re starting out, you won’t have any hard data on the value your product or service provides your customers. Over time you will. And that data needs to be added to your scripts. For instance, if your product or service helps your customers increase their revenue by 50% or cuts annual costs by 75%, you need to add that into your script. Being able to tell prospects about customer success with hard data is huge!
Wrapping it up
I hope you found these 5 cold-call tips helpful. In my conversations with other Founders and Presidents of companies, there’s a lot of focus on developing the product or service (especially technical Founders/Presidents). And these are important. But a Founder/President needs to spend time getting customers and that starts with prospecting for them. No doubt you’ll work hard developing a product or service. However, to make your company a success, you need to work hard on converting prospects to customers who will buy that product or service. Otherwise you’ll just have a nice “shiny” thing on the shelf with no buyers. And that won’t grow your company. So try these tips and grow a successful company.