There are a lot of companies (and sales managers) who believe cold calling is the best way to prospect. Managers are able to witness, in real time, both the calls and record the activity. As a sales trainer who has taught cold calling, I have learned most salespeople dread the experience and have disastrous results. When I receive an unsolicited call, I often explain to the telemarketer their script is not working and offer my suggestions to improve. When I provide recommendations (if they can stop talking for a moment), I remind them to educate and engage with the prospect (me). The telemarketer ALWAYS hangs up.

One hilarious radio show played a prank on an unsuspecting telemarketer who made a cold call on TomMabes a few years ago. The link on YouTube is here: Tom Mabe, Cemetery. But that’s if you are dealing with humans; what about robocalls? A recent article in the NY Times by Christopher Mele provides a few alternatives. One that caught my eye, is the Jolly Roger Telephone company. Customers who use this service put their phone on mute and patch the telemarketing calls to a robot which understand speech patterns and inflections. You can even choose different robot personalities. Give them a taste of their own medicine!

What is the purpose of prospecting and why is cold calling so difficult? With any prospecting activity, initial contact with the prospect is to uncover interest but not to sell. If there is interest, where are they on their journey? Are they gathering information, comparing vendors or ready to buy? With cold calling, we don’t know the mindset of the prospect. So we have to ask questions. Why is it so difficult? Mainly because, as a society, we have become more insular and less open to learning from people we don’t know. And, because most salespeople do it all wrong. They make the whole experience irritating. Think about your experience as a prospect. Why do you dislike telemarketers? Here are some of the answers I received when I asked that question to my training class:

  • The most common complaint is that the calls are an interruption, inconvenient and not relevant.
  • They do not ask if you have any interest in the product or service. They launch into, “this is what I am selling, and I am sure you will take it.” Adjectives that come to mind are “pushy” and “aggressive.”
  • The third most common complaint is they do not listen. Most telemarketers prevent you from having a conversation. Some won’t let you off the phone.
  • Moreover, when interacting with a salesperson, people feel as though they are being pushed into making a decision.

Your company or your manager may insist on cold calling as part of your prospecting mix. OK, but let’s stop being annoying. How to dial down the annoyances? Practice your 30-second pitch that’s focused on the problem causing the emotion the prospect is experiencing. Then add something relevant, personal and valuable to share. Always be disarmingly honest.

If you gave the prospect a chance to answer and she says, “Look, I am really not interested, ” then your reply needs to be “OK, I will not bother you anymore.” If, you had a 30-second script and were able to engage in a conversation you just might find an interested party. In my years of teaching sales, I use a script that is effective 25-30% of the time. What is your success rate of your calls?

Many salespeople struggle with an initial engagement, don’t know how to talk “off script” and to be human. No question, it can be tough and emotionally draining. Human behavior is naturally resistant to an unsolicited approach. Truthfully, I think telemarketers would sell more if they listen to their prospects. Another issue is salespeople stumble when a live human answers the phone. Keep this in mind: the purpose of prospecting is to engage, listen and if there is agreement, set up a time to meet. Don’t sell, listen. People want to make up their mind without being pressured. Making better prospecting calls is about being a better communicator and improving your prospecting skills is about improving your communicating skills, by listening and engaging with others. Many of whom are family and friends.

Most companies have a strong belief one way or the other regarding prospecting.

What are your views?

What is your best Prospecting activities?

Do you have any questions or comments for me below? I promise to reply within 12 hours.