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Sales Solutions
Neutralize Initial Call Resistance vol 6, issue #9
September, 2009

In this day and age of electronic communication and social media, of blogging and tweeting and podcasting and search engine-optimized web sites, the old fashioned cold call would seem to have become irrelevant, obsolete - even passť.  Surely with all this new technology, the need to make the low-tech cold call has been eliminated, banished to the trash bin of history, and relegated to the baby-boomer generation who grew up on it. While we'd all like to think that's the case, I'll bet the vast majority of you don't have a glut of warm and hot leads ringing your phone off the hook, or clogging your inbox.  The fact is, few marketing programs have proven to be so effective at generating the necessary quantity of good leads that they obviate the need for prospecting.  So that even in today's tech-laden world, the unglamorous cold call is still a necessity in the sales profession.  In fact, it remains the straightest, most direct way of getting qualified sales opportunities into your pipeline.  But it also remains the approach that causes us the most angst, discomfort, and agita - because we know what awaits us when we make those calls.  And it's usually not pretty.

 

In a previous issue, we introduced strategies and tactics for getting a prospect to agree to an appointment with us.  In another issue, we learned some techniques for dealing with the now-ubiquitous voice mail.  But what about those sought-after, hoped-for, albeit rare times when we actually get through to the person we want?  How many of us are prepared to deal with the typically unwelcoming, and in many cases, downright rude reaction we all know from experience to expect? Not many, I would venture to guess.  This means, then, that we still need to develop or refine the skill of breaking through that initial call resistance.  That's exactly what we're going to do in this issue.

 

There are 3 reasons why a prospect may react with less than the overwhelming enthusiasm with which you'd like your call to be welcomed:

 

  • They're objecting to you, your "pitch", or your "intrusion" into their space (they object to cold calls)
  • They're objecting to your offering ("I don't need or want what you're selling")
  • They're objecting to a potential upset of the status quo ("I already have one like it, and I'm satisfied with it")

 

There is a strategy for dealing each of these scenarios:


They're objecting to you, your "pitch", or your "intrusion" into their space

If you sense prospects are objecting to you, polish your delivery.  Practice coming across as professional, confident, assertive but not arrogant.  Work on how you say what you say. If prospects don't seem to be getting what you're saying, or are unclear of the potential benefits they could achieve with your product or service, consider revising what you're saying. Record it and play it back to yourself, and see if you understand what you're hearing.  Add benefits if there are none.  Shorten it if it's too long and rambling; lengthen it if there's insufficient detail to create interest. 


Often, the tone of a prospect's voice when he answers the phone conveys annoyance at the mere fact that you're calling him out of the blue.  This really shouldn't surprise us.  Put yourself in the shoes of the person you're about to call.  Most likely you're not sitting there twiddling your thumbs, waiting for a cold sales call to come sailing into your office.  Because you are at work, you are probably doing something - for example, working.  When that call comes in, it's interrupting what you're doing.  That's unsettling.  On top of that, you're likely conditioned by past experience with poor sales people to expect the rambling diatribe known as a "feature dump".  Your instinctive reaction, then, is to put your guard up.  So it is with your prospect.  Therefore, your #1 objective on this call is to get that person to lower his or her guard.  Try pre-empting the prospect's expected response (or interruption) with something like,

 

"I imagine you don't appreciate getting pitched products you feel you don't need by sales people who don't know a thing about you?" This serves to disarm prospects who are negatively predisposed to any sales call they receive.  Adding uncertainty - "This may be valuable...", "I can't be certain...", "It's possible that..." - accomplishes the same thing.  And don't be afraid to try humor: "I don't imagine you were sitting there waiting for my call to come in?"  It's pleasantly unexpected, and just might earn you the opportunity to engage in a conversation.

 

One way to eliminate the intrusion possibility is to get on the person's calendar. That way, when you do call it won't be an interruption.  Tell the admin you want to be respectful of the person's time, and not interrupt him or her with an unexpected phone call.  Ask to schedule a 5-minute call, and offer to e-mail her a brief description of what you're calling about, and why you feel her boss would want to know about it.

 

They're objecting to your offering

If the prospect objects to your offering, it could be because he hasn't been given a plausible reason to believe that what you're selling is superior to what he or she has now. If it's something he doesn't have now - he likely can't see how it could benefit him.  Greet this "indifference" with an acknowledgement, showing that you understand (but not that you agree with) his reaction.  Then make a "bridge statement" to connect to a benefits statement, such as, "Many people I speak with initially say the same thing. But when they discover how upgrading to our product can save their company hundreds of thousands of dollars, they find the time investment to have been worthwhile." Typically these two steps are sufficient to get your prospect to soften his stance and allow you to continue.

 

They're objecting to a potential upset of the status quo

Frequently, prospects are just lazy - they "have enough on their plate", and don't want to complicate their lives.  Of course, they won't say this, but that's what's going on behind the scenes.  In this situation, a negative sell - the introduction of fear, uncertainty, or doubt - is called for to move the prospect our of his comfort zone.  Example: "If a competitor got a leg up on you by having availed themselves of a new technology/better product that you chose to pass on, how do you think your senior management would react once they found out?"

 

Action Item

After each call you make tomorrow and the next day that ends unsuccessfully, take a couple of minutes to analyze why.  Determine which of the three scenarios we covered was the one you just experienced.  Replay it out loud, using the relevant technique to address it. If you suspect the prospect objected to you or your pitch, grab a microphone or tape recorder, or use the recording functionality of your PDA.   Get out your initial approach script and deliver it.  Play it back and see how you  If it lacks "wow" appeal, add some.  If it sounds too salesy, tone it down.  If it comes across as too self-centered, add some benefits.  If the prospect conveys indifference, acknowledge it and use a bridge statement to introduce a benefit you suspect he'd value.  If he's hiding in the comfort of the status quo, make him uncomfortable.

 

Continue to practice these techniques offline after each call, then begin working them in on calls.  After a while, you'll start to experience some successes, and will, over time, see your success rate on initial calls begin to climb.


Good Selling!




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