By Andy Preston
A well-executed cold call can be one of the fastest and most cost effective routes to new business – yet most people never learn to do it properly. Leading sales expert Andy Preston suggests that with just a few simple techniques, business owners and sales executives can make a dramatic difference to bottom-line-profits – and help score a big advantage over the competition.
Generally, when initiating a cold-calling exercise, going for appointments is considered less favourable than going for quotes as the process is often slower, but it is important to consider which approach consistently produces more profitable results in the long term. Going for quotes can certainly boost a salesperson’s confidence and ego as the chances of rejection is usually low — but ultimately this is because they are unlikely to close the business in the end.
As a rule of thumb, if a client agrees to a meeting then it can be accepted that at some level they have an interest in the product or service and for many salespeople and business owners; a face-to-face meeting with the decision maker is often all that is required to covert a prospect into business.
Aiming for an appointment or an in-depth conversation is more likely to run into objections and the risk of being “rejected” by the prospect but is infinitely more profitable for the ones that are converted into clients”.
But in order to secure an initial appointment with a prospect, the cold caller must exert confidence and attitude, and by adopting a few simple techniques they could dramatically increase their chances of a successful cold call outcome.
Step 1: Advocate a 2-call strategy
A 2-call strategy involves a first call to get the name of the decision maker and some brief information and the second cold call directly to the decision maker. Failure to use a 2-call strategy increases the likelihood of running into challenges with getting past gatekeepers and also runs the risk of irritating the decision maker.
Step 2: Distance yourself from the competition
The first thing a salesperson must do in a competitive industry is to distance themselves from the competition as failure to do this properly runs the risk of customers perceiving them as “the same as all the rest”, and that is when they will change supplier for a slightly cheaper price or when a mistake is made – as clients “perceive” the supplier can be replaced very easily.
The trick is to position yourself as different than the competition, get to know your clients and their business needs very well, so you become more than just a “supplier” to them – you become almost an extension of their business.
If clear differentiation is achieved, the likelihood of many clients changing their supplier purely because of a marginally cheaper price or a small mistake is greatly reduced and whilst there can be the odd occasion when a cold call to supply a catalogue or a quote might work, they are few and far between. And crucially, if a client has switched to a particular company easily, they will more than likely change just as easily to the next supplier!
Ultimately the golden rule of the cold call is to get commitment in the first place, and then become an extension of your client’s business so that they’ll do anything to keep you as a supplier.
Step 3: Never focus on price alone (even in a price driven market)
Often many salespeople consider themselves positioned in an industry they think is competitive, in which the products or services can be hard to distinguish between and they think that customers buy solely on price — and so they mistakenly try and sell on price.
There are very few companies out there that buy just on price – and if the clients do solely buy on price — the salesperson is setting themselves up for problems retaining them in the future.
I recommend following these crucial guidelines when approaching a cold call opportunity with a key decision maker;
1. If you win business on price, you’ll lose business on price
This strategy simply means that as soon as a competitor comes along offering them a better deal, they will get the business instead — leaving the original salesperson with a little bit of short-term turnover, a low turnover and a large proportion of wasted time and energy.
2. People do not buy for logical reasons, they buy for emotional reasons
People will buy usually only when they’re emotionally “bought in” to the purchase and the higher your price, the more emotional buy-in you need. Clients will justify the purchase with logic and reasoning as an after thought – but the initial decision to buy was bought through emotion — because they wanted the product or service at that crucial moment in time.
3. Selling requires commitment from your clients
By agreeing to receive a quote, a salesperson receives little or no commitment from the client and often, little effort has been made to find out what prices they are currently paying or whether they even have any inclination to change suppliers. The unfortunate result of this is that sending a quotation is likely to be either;
a) the quote never reaches them
b) they receive the quite but quickly discard it and never bother to take any follow up calls
c) they review the quote, examine the prices and then ring their existing supplier and get them to match the price
Whilst a salesperson may feel reasonably satisfied from making these calls by perceiving an agreement for a quote as a positive result, the majority of ‘leads’ end up not taking follow up calls or will announce that “they have everything they need” or “they’ll be in touch when they need some” but the order never comes through.
Getting a prospect to agree to receive a quote isn’t going to persuade them to buy so there always needs to be a stronger outcome for the call – a meeting, or at least a more in-depth conversation about their needs, how their problems can be solved – and then get some commitment from them about changing suppliers.
Andy Preston is director of highly acclaimed training company Outstanding Results (www.outstanding-results.co.uk). This article is provided for general consideration only and the information contained herein is not to be acted upon without professional independent advice.