Speak to some people and you could get the impression that cold calling is dead! Whilst I agree it can and should be complemented by other prospecting strategies, tools and tactics. These include powerful online marketing and lead generation tools, as well as referral generation strategies, white papers, public speaking etc; for my money it’s still one of the most effective forms of prospecting.
Furthermore, every major industry sector seems to use it at some level, so the idea that people do not do business with people who have cold called them cannot be true. That said, in certain sectors it is getting harder and harder to get through to key decision makers and secure appointments because everybody is doing it!
Over the years I found that alternating approaches and being simple brings a lot more success. Here are some blindingly obvious tactics that are either only used sporadically or not at all and can make a massive difference to cold calling success.
1) Straight up credibility!
I was working with a CEO in a large professional services firm recently and she wanted to lead by example and get her team to make more cold calls. Instead of using some of the more standard ‘compelling business reason’ approaches (which have their place); I simply suggested that she leverage her name and company’s credibility in the target sector. The call went something like this:
“Hi Mark Williams?”
"This is Candi Staton CEO of XYZ professional services. I just realized that you’re one of the few CEOs I hadn’t met with in this sector; so, I thought it would be a good idea to get together and was wondering if next Thursday at 3 would be good?"
This call approach and some slight variations lead to countless number of meetings. I then suggested that all the senior sales people and directors used a similar approach on some targeted campaigns and they had equal amounts of success!
Here’s the junior version:
“Hi Mark Williams?
"This is Matt Young of XYZ professional services specialising in ABC for FTSE 250 Manufacturing firms. Your name came up yesterday as we realized that you’re one of the few CFOs my MD hadn’t met within this sector; so, I thought it would be a good idea for you and him to get together. Would next Thursday at 3 be good?"
Keep it light, simple, unapologetic and you’d be amazed at how much success this will get you.
Caution; as anyone who has cold called will tell you there will be objections and we teach a number of approaches for effectively dealing with them. But the credibility, reinforced and derived from this approach makes negative responses a lot easier to deal with. Even if you don’t secure an appointment from this approach, you've sown the seed to be on their radar in the future or for when renewal or review time comes up.
2) Call regarding a colleague who’s either left the firm or moved to another division
“The reason I'm calling is with regards to my colleague Matt Davis who was previously responsible for this territory. He’s since moved on so I wanted to introduce myself as his replacement and set a meeting to speak with you next Thursday at 3pm?”
You can also leave a message with a PA or on a voicemail regarding a colleague who’s since moved on and was previously responsible for the territory or vertical and had made attempts to contact the target decision maker previously;
“This is Mary Jones from ABC, I was calling regarding my colleague Matt Williams. I’d appreciate it if you can call me back on 123456"
"If you could say it’s with regards to my discussions with my colleague Jack Strain."
PA: "What’s it regarding?"
You: "Oh he’ll know" (don’t say it in a rude “it’s way above you” type of tone. Just be polite and brief.)
The natural extension of the colleague strategy (if there is no internal competitive conflict) is to routinely swap leads that have not lead to a meeting between sales people and get them to follow up their colleagues’ attempts.
3) Synergy Exploration - after all your suppliers and potential suppliers need business as much as you do
“Good Morning, this is Jenny Williams MD ABC Consulting; our auditing contract is coming up for review in a year’s time and I wanted to explore synergies with potential firms that we could work with before then. Your name came up as being a leader in this field, so I wanted to set up a meeting to discuss this further. Would next Tuesday at 1 be good?"
They’ll either give you the meeting or ask you more questions which you can leverage a meeting from. Notice that this is totally transparent and doesn't give the impression that the deal is theirs if they meet you, but the incentive to meet is far greater!
4) Senior Management peer-to-peer (save this one for the CEO)
Here’s a strategy; get your PA to make 5-10 peer-to-peer calls per month leveraging either tactic 1 or 4. Space limits how much detail I can go into, but the call should sound something like this;
“Good Morning, it's Sharon Carpenter, PA to Matt Williams, MD of Herones International”
With the aim of putting you through once the CEO gets on the line.
You will, in many cases, get to the CEO and then the meeting directly or his or her PA will screen your PA’s call further. The key to this strategy is preparing for the Screen or the No! Simply inform your PA if they receive a negative response not to attempt to turn it around or use an alternative gatekeeper handling tactic that I might recommend to a sales person. Instead, they should then ask who would be the best person to speak to, which is likely to be your ideal decision maker FD, HR, COO, CIO etc; then pass the now warm lead to a good senior sales person in your team and get them to say something along the following lines:
"Our MD Matt Williams and Mark Sturridge (the company’s CEO) have been in contact relating to XYZ and ABC. I just got a call from Matt William’s PA Jack Haynes giving me your name and suggesting we get together in the first instance; I was wondering if next Thursday at 3 would be good?"
On first observation you might reject this strategy but think about why it might work. You’d be amazed at how many meetings with FTSE 500 companies many of my clients have got using this strategy when handled as we describe in our 1 to 1 sessions or workshops.
Will these and other creative cold calling strategy and tactics work with every single person called? No, of course not, but they will work with enough people to make them worthwhile using. Obviously adjust and amend them as necessary to suit your environment. The message is in the mindset!
Is cold calling dead? I think it’s alive and kicking!