Throwing away the sales script! Master the skill of cold calling and supercharge your earning potential
By Colleen Francis
Cold calling — the words alone can strike dread in the heart of even the most unshakeable among us. It's no secret that there is a real fear out there about having to make these kinds of calls. If you're in sales, cold calling is likely an important part of how you're expected to find new leads and turn them into customers. Just being competent at it is important if you want to make ends meets. If you want to be as successful as the top 10 percent of sales professionals in any organization, you need to set your sights higher. You need to master cold calling as a skill—and achieving that is entirely within your reach.
To get started, you need to unlearn certain things and adopt a new mindset to tackle the challenge…
Unlearn the tried-and-true method of cold calling
Some organizations—and astonishingly, even some sales trainers—encourage their sales teams to read a prepared sales script when placing cold calls. This script usually consists of a page or two of boilerplate dialogue that the caller is expected to say to the person on the other end of the line. It's usually seasoned with a collection of carefully selected keywords and phrases and heaped as thick as Thanksgiving gravy with lines meant to close the deal.
This is what's often thought of as the tried-and-true way of making a cold call work for just about anyone in an organization. A script, is meant to be used as a starting point for planning your calls, it's an outline of what you will first say, and what questions you ask when you first pick up the phone and start making those sales calls.
To master the skill of cold calling, that sales script is what you're going to have to unlearn. Yes, that very script you've been told everyone uses.
Here's why: just because everybody does something doesn't mean it's the right thing for you to do.
In my experience, sticking with that sales script as your means of managing your cold calls is a sure-fire way of ensuring three things.
First, you'll be saying things that your prospect may have heard countless times before (I mean really, who hasn't heard an opening sales pitch that starts with "Hi. I'm not trying to sell you anything…").
Second, you'll be carving out for yourself a sales record that's likely to be…well…just as average as the 80% of mediocre sales professionals who use that supposedly tried-and-true method.
And here's the third thing you can be sure of: that sales script is what the top sales performers in your organization aren't using. They already know from experience that it doesn't serve them all that well.
Why? Because a script is someone else's idea of how you should talk to people. No matter how many times you deliver the lines in a sales script, it's always going to sound like you're delivering a monologue rather than engaging in real, meaningful dialogue. That's where your real challenge is—learning how to initiate and sustain dialogue is the key to unlocking your true earning potential in sales.
Change your mindset
Canned words can't match the authenticity of being yourself in a conversation—sincere, attentive and responsive to the needs of the person on the other end of the line. That's why you have to change your mindset when looking at cold calling. Stop thinking of it as a sales call you have to make—see it as a conversation you want to start with someone.
Suddenly your job becomes a lot easier!
You're no longer preoccupied with whether you have a good pitch. Because frankly the pitch doesn't matter. To start and maintain a conversation, you just need to know what to ask. Questions are very easy to formulate and they open a lot of doors in a conversation, unlike statements (as often seen in sales scripts), which tend not to have the same endearing quality.
Granted, some find it difficult to start a conversation with someone they've never met before. The solution again is to change your mindset—don't think about the person you are calling as a stranger. Instead, use the following tip to trick yourself into putting that person into the company of friends.
Think of a favorite customer—one of your success stories…someone you talk to a lot. Write down their name and put it right in front of your phone, put it on a Post-it note and stick it on the edge of your computer monitor, or (if you have one) use a photo instead. Look at that familiar face or name all day when you're making your calls.
The reason why this approach works is because visual cues help shape our behavior in establishing relationships with people—even if we've never met a particular person before. When we feel we have established a relationship with someone, our tone of voice changes on the phone. We're friendlier, more relaxed. It encourages the person you're calling to engage with you. It puts you in a positive frame of mind, so you don't wind up like so many others, hoping to avoid that awkward sales call, wishing for voicemail pickup.
Stop wishing for voicemail
Speaking of voicemail, it can also be a tool you can use to master cold calling—rather than being seen as a refuge from having to make that sales call you didn't want to make in the first place.
Don't think of voicemail just as a place where you leave a message in someone's absence. See it as an opportunity to get acquainted with that person…even before they have picked up the phone. I've used this technique myself—calling a prospect for the first time at some ungodly hour when they're unlikely to be there, just so I can listen to their voicemail message. That way, the next time I call, I'm no longer wishing for voicemail. Instead, I'm in the frame of mind that I want to be in for success—looking to start a conversation with someone who is already familiar to me.
This approach offers an added bonus. Once you hear that person's voice, they're no longer a stranger to you. You can start to form a picture of that individual in your mind. It's like what happens when you listen to the radio. You visualize what your favorite DJ looks like even though you've never met.
Working with these proven, field-tested techniques, you can look at cold calling in an entirely new way. It's a skill that takes time to master, but the new successful conversations that you'll start with astonishing ease will do amazing things for your confidence. And that's what helps bring in the new leads and new customers. When you pick up that phone, you'll no longer be thinking: "I'm terrible at this, it's never going to work, and I always fail." Instead, you'll be focusing on getting a positive result—just like the success you had on the previous call.
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Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.
Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.
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