Whether you are a veteran or if you are new in sales, you will have to make cold calls to build your customer base. Many sales people dread making cold calls.
However, if you approach it the right way; cold calling can be a great way to develop your selling skills and forge great relationships with your future customers.
When you first call on an office or business, chances are that when you enter, the first person that you will have to speak with is the gate-keeper. The gate-keeper can have the title of Receptionist or Personal Assistant. The gate-keeper’s job is to act as a screener for their boss. Their boss uses them to screen or qualify people who attempt to contact them.
As a Sales Representative in New York City, I have first-hand knowledge of how to engage them in the cold calling situation. I would always sell myself first. When I made a cold call, I would first go into the office and speak with the person at the front desk. I would smile at them and introduce myself. I would say the following:
Hi my name is Dan. The Gatekeeper would then reply with something along the lines of hi Dan what can I do for you. After a bit of engagement and small talk I would tell them the company I was with and ask him or her if they were the decision maker of the product or service I was selling. (It is always important that you are in front of the people who can say yes to you.) I asked this question to validate the person’s importance. Usually the gate-keeper would reply that they were not in charge of that. I would then ask them who was in charge. My goal was to make the gate-keeper a friend. Friends’ help their friends succeed. (There were times in which this frontline person was very nasty to me and I was not able to obtain this information on the initial call. If this occurs it is imperative that you keep your cool if you ever want to have a chance to sell that business your products and services.)
Now if the decision maker was not available to speak to me, I would inquire about what was a good time for me to speak with that specific person. I would then offer them my card and product literature. (Again the cooperation of this person will vary.)
Once in a while the decision maker will make an appearance asking the gate-keeper about who you are or they may question you directly. It is imperative that you are prepared to engage the prospect and ready to answer any questions they ask you. (Objections) When a decision maker made an appearance, I would engage them in a bit of small talk; trying to make them a friend. I would introduce myself and my products. I would ask what supplier they were using and use that information to give a brief on the spot sales presentation. Once I gave this presentation, I would ask for a commitment. I would ask a closing question. Sometimes I made a sale. Many times, I had to obtain their business card and call on them again. (It is important to note that if you are selling a high ticket item you will have to close the client on the next step in the process and not the sale of the item.)
It is important to keep a record of information that you obtain during the call. This can be done on a log sheet or by updating your crm software.
Handling Objections and Stalls
In sales, everyone has to be able to overcome objections in order to be successful. The best way to overcome objections is to prevent them. This can be done by providing a thorough sales presentation that covers all the information about your products and services. Also it is imperative that you address any questions the prospect has immediately. However, objections will come up from time to time. Some of these objections are real buying signals and others are just stalls to put you off. As a Salesperson, you need to be able to tell the difference. This will come with experience and by reading situational cues in each selling situation. Remember the prospect is buying you. In other words, you are part of the offering. Below, I have put together a comprehensive list of objections that I encountered and overcame as an outside sales representative in New York City.
I am happy with my current supplier.
When you call on a prospect they say we are happy with our current supplier, this can mean one of two things. The first is that they are truly happy and the second is that they want you to get lost. (A stall) Obviously you need to be able to tell the difference. You should be able to tell by a prospects body language and level of attention. If it is the first scenario, you should find out what supplier they currently use. When the prospect tells you it is your job to demonstrate how you are better. (I mentioned this in a previous post. Once you feel that you have demonstrated how you are better, ask for a commitment or a small order. By asking for a small order, you provide the prospect an opportunity to take a chance on you with minimal risk. I have had a lot of success with approach. If the scenario is the second one, the prospect will not provide you with any information or say that they deal with a company or person for 20 years and they do not want to change. In this case, I would still ask for the order. Should the prospect say he is not interested again, I would thank them for their time and leave. You should call on this prospect a few more times and then only call on them every two months. You need to focus your time on prospects that are receptive to you and your offering.
I want to think it over.
When you hear this, what the prospect is really saying is I am interested but I am not totally convinced. You should ask the prospect what specifically about this offer do you want to think over? You goal here is uncover the real objection. If the prospect gives you a specific answer, you are in business. Address the objection and ask a closing question. Say if I can handle xyz, is there any reason why you would not purchase this product. Should the prospect say, no you covered everything, this means that they are either stalling, not interested in your offering or will not tell you the real issue they have with your product. If this is the case, ask when they plan on making a decision and follow-up with them in that timeframe.
I need to consult another party.
This can be a stall to put you off. You will need to determine this by the prospects body language and the level of attention you receive. When the prospect tells you this, you should ask for a meeting with the prospect and the person they need to consult. Should the prospect agree to this, you have a chance. If they will not agree to a meeting, it is a stall and they are not interested in your offering. However, I would still call on them a few more times. If you have no success, call on them every two months.
Your price is too high.
Emphasize the quality of your product along with the level of service you will provide. Next, you should demonstrate to the prospect how your offering’s total cost is less than the competitors over the life of the product. Testimonials from loyal customers can also help you here. By taking these steps you demonstrate that your product is valuable and increase your chances of making the sale. (Provided this is the real objection.)
We spent our budget.
I covered this in my last post. If they say the money is not the budget, ask If I can offer delayed billing or a payment plan would you be able to take delivery? If the person needs approval from another person, ask to present your product to that individual with your prospects endorsement. Should the company really want and need your product, they will find a way to pay for it.
I am not the decision maker.
Present your offering briefly and ask who makes the decision. If you present your offering in a way that demonstrates value and this person really is the decision maker; they may show interest and make a purchase.
I had a bad experience with your company.
I would apologize to the prospect about the experience. Tell them you are the new rep and that you will not let anything bad happen on your watch. Ask them to give you a chance. This will not work all of the time.
Handling Holiday Stalls
In prior articles, I have written how to get prospects and customers to buy. However, today’s focus is getting around the customers or prospects objection “call me after the holidays”. You have to attempt to get around this objection. If your offer is time sensitive or if you can provide a break on pricing or payment through a special promotion for example no payments for 3 months; make your customer aware of them. However, at this time of the year, you will get customers and prospects who just don’t want to deal with you and your offering. As a sales rep, it is your job to be able to tell if the customer and prospect is telling you the truth. In other words, you need to qualify their objections. This means following up with every customer and prospect even when things look bleak.
Should your customers and prospects insist that call you them after the holidays, I would find out which holiday they mean. Next, I would pin them down to a specific day and time to call back. I recommend sending your customers and prospects a holiday card with a little note reminding them about the appointment; stating how you look forward to speaking with them on the specific date and time. Once this time comes, I would hold them to their promise. Deliver your presentation and ask for the business.
Most importantly, never give up! I have made some of my best sales after I was rejected by a prospect. Remember to not take the rejection personally. Having a thick skin is something that has to developed. I became desensitized to rejection over time as I experienced it often early on.
This is a quick guide on how to how to survive & thrive through cold calls, sales objections & rejection. Feel free to take this with you in the field as you make sales calls.