Last Updated Jun 24, 2010 9:59 AM EDT
Earlier this week, I had a great conversation with the lovely and talented Wendy Weiss, who's well known in the sales training industry as "The Queen of Cold Calling." She's pretty much the go-to source for wisdom on the fine art of cold-calling. Here's what she has to say about how cold calling has evolved over the past few years and what you need to do in order to make it work for you.
- Geoffrey James: Why do so many people hate cold calling?
- Wendy Weiss: Cold calling has always had something of a bad rap. People claim that cold calling doesn't work anymore. And that's true, if your definition of a cold call is opening the phone book and call somebody at random. However, cold calling remains a mainstay of many different sales environments, and when its set up as a process, and measured as a process, and assisted with some of today's sales technology, it can be highly effective lead generation method.
- GJ: How does cold calling fit into the overall lead generation mix?
- WW: There are four ways to build a pipeline. First, there's marketing activity, like advertising and website, which causes people to raise their hands and decide to buy. Second, there are referrals, which is getting one customer to point you at a future prospect. Third, there's networking, both in person with events and on the Internet using social media. And finally, there's cold calling. What's unique about cold calling is that all the other lead generate methods depend upon somebody else to take action. Cold calling is the only truly proactive way get good sales leads. If you're not getting enough leads from your other lead generation methods, then cold calling is really your only option.
- GJ: Why do so many firms struggle with cold-calling?
- WW: Unfortunately, most businesses do not treat cold calling like a business process. They'll put measurement and formal systems in place for everything else in sales and marketing, but then let cold calling be like the "wild west" with every sales rep doing what he or she thinks will work. In most firms there are no best practices, no scripts, no nothing. It's just get on the phone and make calls. And if those calls aren't generating enough leads, the response from management is frequently make more calls.
- GJ: What about voice mail?
- WW: I used to believe that leaving a voice mail was a waste of time. Now, however, I believe that companies should have a process in place to leave a series of voice mails that lead the prospect to call back. I discuss this concept in a free handout on my website entitled "The Voice Mail Report"
- GJ: What's the structure of a cold-calling script?
- WW: Traditionally, when reps get a prospect on the phone they want to ask a bunch of questions to qualify the lead. However, that's not respecting the needs of the prospect who wants to know who is calling and why, and may not appreciate a barrage of questions. So the best cold calling script identifies you, your company and why you're calling. It should also name drop a couple of clients that you've worked with and helped in the past. Then you ask for whatever you want - like an appointment or a phone conversation.
- GJ: If you don't ask the questions aren't you running the risk of pursuing an unqualified lead?
- WW: I'm assuming that you've taken the foresight to pre-qualify your leads. There are many online services and ways to research leads before you actually make the call. Before calling, you should have a fairly good idea of whether or not the prospect is likely to be qualified. In addition, you should always call the highest-level person whom you believe might be a decision-maker. That way, if that person directs you downward, you're in the position to say: "I was discussing this with your boss and she said you were responsible..." That puts you in a pretty good position to move the sale forward.
- GJ: But don't you have to get to those questions eventually?
- WW: Of course. When you cold call, the most likely outcome is that the prospect will either ask a question or offer an objection. That will then lead to a conversation where the rep will be able to qualify the prospect further. If a prospect immediately agrees to the appointment (which happens infrequently) that prospect is then invested in the process and much more willing to answer questions. In addition, a rep who has a complex sale and who needs to gather a lot of information, must ask to have a conversation rather than ask for an appointment. Once that rep has agreement to have the conversation, they can then ask their questions. This structure eliminates the struggle to get the questions answered.
- GJ: How can Sales Machine readers learn more about lead generation?
- WW: I have a new book out entitled "The Sales Winner's Handbook" and we regularly hold seminars that we call "cold calling college." I'm also producing a Prospecting and Lead Generation Summit on the week of July 12th, 2010, featuring numerous top experts. We're having a free webinar TODAY as a preview and I'd like to invite Sales Machine readers to attend. Here's the link to attend the webinar.
- GJ: Thank you for your time.
- WW: Always a pleasure.