How A Hated Sales Chore Can Help The Rest of Your Teams Succeed
Cold calling is supposedly the antithesis of modern B2B sales and marketing. These days you’re supposed to use a combination of social media and inbound marketing to allow companies who can benefit from your goods and services to find you.
This is all good, and I do these things myself for my own business. Today I want to encourage you to also give an older approach a try. If you’re uncomfortable with “old”, then let’s call it a classic approach.
The beauty of this classic is that it can help you improve the performance of the newer ways of doing things.
I want you to start cold calling. I don’t mean you as in your company. I mean you. Start cold calling today.
To me cold calling is not picking up the phone and calling the next number in a list of numbers without knowing anything about the person at the other end. It’s calling people you don’t know personally, but who you’ve done a little research on. Your goal is to earn the right to a 10-minute conversation to find out if you can in fact help them.
- Who do you call?
- Someone you haven’t met.
- What do you know about them?
- They work at a company in one of your target markets.
- They hold a position that probably allows them to answer questions about their business problems.
- You’ve read their online work bio (on their company site or on LinkedIn).
- What do you ask for?
- A 10-minute conversation, now or at a later time.
- You will answer any questions they might have about the difference your offerings can make to their life.
- You will ask them a few questions to see if you can actually help them.
- What’s the goal?
- For this to be real, the end goal has to be an actual sale. At the right time you’ll hand it off to a sales person. But the benefit to you and your team will come primarily from the short intro call.
The whole thing can take maybe 5 to 15 minutes. Longer if things go really well.
But why would you add another uncomfortable task to your already busy day? And besides, you’re not even in sales!
Cold calling is good for you because you will probably fail at it.
Actually, cold calling is good for you because it gets you in touch with people who aren’t in your company and aren’t already your customers. Yet, they are in your target market so they’ll tell you thinks like:
- “I’ve never heard of your company”
- “I’ve never heard of your product.”
- “I have heard of your product but I don’t know why I’d need it.”
Before you know it, you’re having a conversation about their business, their needs, and their frustrations. In the context of all this they might even talk to you about product features, promotion strategies, company reputation, and how this person buys products like yours. These are things you can use today to improve your products, promotions, and sales strategies.
Sure, the chance of closing a deal that starts as a cold call is very low. That’s exactly why you need to do it. If your sales teams are busy closing deals in a more productive way, then fine, let them keep doing whatever’s making you money. But you, dear VP Marketing, CMO, VP Sales, CTO, Product Manager, Product Marketer – you should find ways to sneak a few minutes into your day to make a cold call.
The payoff is that you’ll get better at understanding what the people in your target market care about today. And you’ll get better at describing your company’s capabilities in terms of those things. Just like physical exercise is good for you even if you’re not a professional athlete, I believe cold calling is good for your ability to understand and serve the people you hope will buy your offerings even if (maybe especially if) you’re not a sales person.
What Difference Will Cold Calling Make to Your Teams’ Success?
I am aware of the hype that usually accompanies edicts like this one. In as few words and as even a tone as I can manage, I believe this is why you should cold call:
Most people you cold call will be brutally honest.
- Unlike your co-workers, they have not been indoctrinated to accept your “unique selling proposition” as truth.
- Unlike your customers, they don’t have a future negotiation in mind.
- Unlike your business partners they don’t have a work relationship to protect.
- Unlike your competitors they aren’t actively trying to destroy your business.
- Unlike attendees at an industry shindig they don’t have to humour you for the sake of social politeness.
When they tell you that they’re not buying what you’re selling, they probably mean it. When they say “tell me more” you’ve probably actually said something interesting. You’ll probably learn much more about what your potential customers care about from a dozen 10 minute cold call conversations over the course of the next month than you would from spending that same amount of time at an industry conference.
You might be surprised at how easily your assumptions about what makes your offerings valuable dissolve away. Or better yet, verifies what you’ve been saying all along.
(And you might be delighted to have a few more first-person anecdotes to stack against the sales guy’s the next time he says “All the prospects I talk to want it done this way.”)
Try cold calling a few people this week. Let me know what you learn, whether it’s about them, your company, or yourself. Tell me where you got stuck, or where what you experienced was the opposite of what this article proposed.
If you want to practice a cold call with me, just let me know. I’ll be happy to take your call.
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