“Mufasa!”….sends the hyena’s running for the elephant graveyard.
“Voldermort!”… sends chills down the spines of budding young wizards and enlightened muggles.
“Cold Calling”… sends talented grads looking for sales jobs sprinting for cover!
Culturally, in the UK, the phrase ‘Cold Call’ has become synonymous with welsh call centres selling dodgy energy deals to unsuspecting pensioners and cheap-suited ‘wide boys’ (and girls) selling various forms of media and recruitment services with aggressive sales techniques that cause buyers the country over to erect intangible walls to block having to take.
I’ve been interviewing graduates for new business sales roles for over 10 years and a question that comes up now in almost every interview, which never did when I started, is “Will there be any cold calling?”
They ask this with a tone that suggests they would rather work in an abattoir, cleaning the floors on their hands and knees with a toothbrush, than have to sully themselves with the intolerable nightmare that is picking up a phone and talking to a complete stranger.
Part of this is the stigma attached. Part of it is the thought that the job will be monotonous to the point of going slowly insane. But, mostly, if they are honest, it’s the fear!
Slightly as a side note, but it still makes me laugh thinking about it; years ago, when I was 23 and training new sales reps to get over the fear of cold-call in a boiler room basement in Old Street, we had a simple technique. Send the reps to the pub at Friday lunch, make sure they drank at least 2 pints of strong continental lager, then offer £50 to the first one that could get to the end of Austin Powers’ Doctor Evil monologue about his parents without a decision maker at the other end hanging up. The takeaway from the exercise being the worst that can happen is someone hangs up.
I’ll want to make it clear that in hindsight it was quite childish, and I would never train reps like that now, but the point stands. You have to get over the fear!
It’s not just graduates either that shun away from wanting to cold call. I’ve been guilty myself of falling into the trap of thinking I was beyond cold calling in my career. As if somehow, I shouldn’t have to do it now that I have been selling for as long as I have, and that really it should be down to those poor, fear-filled, graduates to do the ‘grunt work’ whilst I concentrate on the ‘big deals’ with existing clients.
In this new age of social media and modern sales techniques, there are countless ways of engaging with a new prospect – LinkedIn, twitter, conferences, exhibitions, video cards, awards ceremonies etc…and many people will tell you that anything is preferable to picking up the phone cold.
But the real truth is simply this…Cold calling is hard, really hard! It takes an unwavering strength to deal with rejection, an ability to build rapport instantly, a strong sales process backed up with great research skills and above else, a will and determination that wouldn’t be out of place on the start line of an Iron Man competition. The best analogy I’ve been given for cold calling is that it’s like ‘Ice-skating up a hill backwards!’
For sales directors and managers, finding really good cold callers is like doing a ‘Where’s Wally’ puzzle where everyone is wearing red and white striped jumpers with glasses, and all claiming to be Wally himself!
But, when you do find a great cold caller, they can open doors that you may have been bashing at for months and they can accelerate your growth plans dramatically.
And this is because whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not, a lot of business, the world over, still gets done through an initial cold-call. You can try and put your head in the sand or fingers in your ears and close your eyes, but cold call is here to stay and with buyers putting up increasingly difficult, intangible walls to get over, your new business teams need to work harder and more importantly, smarter than ever to access the decision makers.
With the amount of barriers that now exist, it’s tempting to ignore cold call as part of your BD strategy, but I would always argue against this if you have, or can nurture the talent in your business to do it effectively.
Because the potential returns are HUGE and you never know what the call might lead to. This year alone I have witnessed 1 (very talented) individual make 2 cold calls that both turned into multi-million-pound contracts with Fortune 500 companies.
And from a personal perspective I wouldn’t be writing this now without keeping cold call a key part of my sales strategy:
18 months ago, I had an 8 week break between roles and not being one to sit at home doing nothing, I decided to try and make some money and test-run the business idea I would ultimately start a year later. I identified my number 1 target prospect, did my research, created my ‘angle’ and ‘insight’ for the call, did some digging to get hold of his phone number and dialled the Group Head of Sales and Marketing for George P Johnson International. My heart still fluttered as the phone was ringing as I don’t think that initial nervousness ever disappears when calling potentially large prospects.
The call connected, which lead to a meeting, which lead to consultancy work, and 18 months later has grown into a partnership and, more importantly, a friendship that will last for years to come. Without which my business would likely not exist as it does today.
So the point is this. If you are fearful – work through it (get in touch if you would like some help). If you think you’re too experienced to cold call – you’re not, and you are missing out on valuable opportunities, as well as missing out on keeping your skills honed and fresh to improve your interactions with existing clients.
Because you never know where picking up that phone might lead………
If you or your sales teams need help with fresh, ethical cold calling sales training then please get in touch: