Although many have speculated about the viability of cold calling in the face of social selling and digital selling methodologies, it seems as though even the cold call has been retooled for the modern sales department. Nothing is “dead” except for single-channel prospecting.

Establish a daily routine on social platforms to find, educate and  authentically engage buyers. 

Social selling hasn’t resolved all of the issues faced by sales professionals either. Over the past few years, quota attainment by sales reps has fallen, from a high of 63 percent to around 50 percent in the past two years. Some experts have attributed this to a lack of fundamental training for sales reps. Some foundational skills were taught by older techniques such as the cold call.

Merely instructing your sales representatives to pick up the telephone is hardly going to solve the issue. While the telephone should remain part of your multi-touch strategy, the truth is it has become more difficult to reach decision-makers.

Even when sales professionals do call a prospect, few conversations translate into appointments. Some research indicates sales professionals are often unprepared to have a conversation or to leave a voicemail. What should your sales people be saying when they call their prospects?

The Art of Conversation

Cold calls are particularly tough for sales professionals because they’re contacting a prospect unbidden. The prospect may not have heard of your company before or they may not be interested in what you have to offer. They may not be pleased at the interruption, and most decision-makers are inundated with calls and emails from sales professionals working for other companies. There’s a reason they’re letting your sales reps go to voicemail.

Sales professionals must be prepared to enter into conversation and they must be prepared to leave voicemails. In both cases, they need to be able to quickly establish who they are and why they’re calling—without using the wrong words. They need to give the prospect some compelling reason to continue the conversation, either by staying on the line or returning the call.

Most sales representatives give prospects no compelling reason to continue the conversation. They either don’t call back or they end the call.

Build Value and Focus on Prospect Needs

When a sales professional calls a prospect, they should take themselves out of the equation. That is, they need to shift the focus from their own goals. Yes, sales representatives want to meet quota or win another account, but these aren’t compelling reasons for the prospect to continue talking to a member of your sales team.

Instead, sales professionals should focus on the prospect and their needs. Is there a problem they’re currently facing in their business? What service or product does your company offer that could help them solve this issue?

Sales professionals must focus on providing value whenever they call a prospect. Discussing the prospect’s needs and potential solutions is a much more valuable conversation than a pitch for a product the prospect isn’t convinced they need or want.

Research Beforehand

Before your sales representatives pick up the phone to call a prospect, make sure they’ve done some preliminary research about the prospect. This will help them center the conversation on the prospect and their needs right from the outset of the conversation. If your sales team members are beginning conversations by asking about the prospect’s role or the industry they’re in, the conversation will likely end rather quickly.

By conducting research beforehand, your team members show they’ve taken care in selecting who they reach out to. Do beware, however: It is possible to know too much. Prospects who feel your sales representatives have compiled a comprehensive profile may be concerned.

Knowing what to say when you call a prospect is an important thing for your sales professionals to learn if they want to have more success. Use these tips to warm up their calls and create compelling, valuable conversations with prospects.

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Jamie Shanks

Author: Jamie Shanks

Jamie Shanks is a world-leading Social Selling expert and author of the book, "Social Selling Mastery - Scaling Up Your Sales And Marketing Machine For The Digital Buyer". A true pioneer in the space of digital sales transformation, Jamie Shanks has trained over 10,000's of sales professionals and leaders all around the world.

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