Why People Hate Cold Calling – And What to Do About It

The words “cold calling” still make sales people sweat.

I was on the phone with a client just a moment ago, while writing this, and he told me the biggest problem with his sales team is call reluctance. When I asked him why they won’t make more calls, he said they hated being rejected.

Here are two things you can do about cold calling to instantly make you, and your team, more effective at overcoming the “objections” they get:

Number One: Recognize that objections while cold calling aren’t really objections – they are just resistance statements.

It’s like when you go into a store and are asked, “Can I help you?” and you automatically reply, “No, just looking.” You aren’t really just looking—you’re usually looking for something specific (why else would you be there?). But you don’t want to deal with a sales rep so you give them resistance.

This usually makes them go away, but when you can’t find something, you seek them out – just like your clients do when they need you.

Number Two: Script out effective ways to deal with this resistance so you can get around it and start qualifying.

Here are some effective ways to do that with the resistance statement: “I’m/we’re not interested.”

If you make “warm” calls to someone who has filled out a web lead and you have to call them back and get “Not Interested” then say: 

“That’s perfectly okay, _________, you’ve probably forgotten that you (filled in a form, requested info, etc.) so I don’t expect you to be interested in what you must think is a cold call.

“But just to remind you – on (date/time) you (visited our website/dropped by our booth/filled out a form, etc.)—just out of curiosity, what were you looking for at that time?”

For inactive accounts or people you’ve not spoken to in a while:

“I’m not interested”

Response:

“That’s fine _________, and I’m simply calling to update your account information for our records. Quick question: Are you still the right contact person who handles ordering the ________ for your company?”

Or

“Oh that’s okay, I’m not calling to sell you anything today. Just want to make sure you still know we’re here in case you do need something down the road. By the way, do you guys still carry/use/order ________?”

For cold calling or prospecting calls:

“I’m not interested”

Response:

“Quick question: Does that mean you’re not interested at this moment, but in a few months things could change, and I should keep in touch?”

Or

“I’m with you—quick question though: are you the right contact for this, or is there another department (or person) I should check with?”

Or

“I understand. What would have to change for you to be more open to something like this in the future?”

This is how you get better at cold calling (or prospecting or whatever you call it). You will be much more confident if you take the time to prepare yourself for the resistance statements you get over and over again. Once you do, and once you begin getting past your prospect’s defensive barriers, you – and your team – will make more calls and begin closing more deals.

Building Rapport – It’s the Little Things That Matter Most

We’ve all been there: you’re in the middle of something and your phone rings and it’s a sales person calling. You know instantly how the call is going to go just based on the first few sentences the sales rep utters. And if you listen for just 2 minutes longer, your hunch is confirmed – it’s either a “good” call or a “used car salesman” call. And unfortunately, many calls these days sound like the latter.

So what can you do to instantly make your calls better? It all starts with focusing on building rapport. Rapport is simply defined as making a true connection with the person you are speaking with, rather than treating them as a prospect you can sell your product or services to. Ultimately, it’s about treating your prospect with respect, you know, the way you would like to be treated.

So how do you do it? It’s easier than you think if you concentrate on the little things. Below you’ll find a quick list of things that may not seem that important, but that make a giant difference in the way you are perceived as a caller. As you read through the list, ask yourself how many of these things you do regularly, and what you can begin doing better on your next call.

Working with the gatekeeper: The most important thing you can do when speaking with the gatekeeper or receptionist, is to be pleasant and courteous. I always recommend that you keep a mirror on your desk, and when the receptionist answers the phone, you look into it and check your facial expression. Are you smiling? Are you frowning? Are you wincing? Your attitude will be written on your face, and that attitude will be conveyed across the phone.

And the gatekeeper feeds off your attitude. If you’re bright and cheerful, it will pick him/her up, too. If you’re not – well, you probably already know how that goes. So concentrate this week on making sure that your attitude is contagious – because it is. And by the way, this goes for when you reach the decision maker as well.

Next, be courteous. I’ve written about this before, so just a quick reminder: Use please and thank you, and if you ask how their day is going, make sure and comment on it before you rush into what you’re calling about. Don’t just ask as a formality – that’s phony and the receptionist can tell. And, as always, use an instructional statement rather than a closed ended question at the end.

Working with the decision maker: All of the tips above apply here, too, but here’s something specific: If you ask the DM how they are doing, or how their afternoon is, or if it’s still raining (or hot) there, then if they ask how you are, always reply with, “Thanks for asking, I’m…” In other words, answer them back and engage them a bit. You don’t have to rush into your pitch—in fact, it’s much better if you don’t. Building this little bit of rapport will get you much further. So take a few seconds to interact, respond, and be polite.

Next, before you give your value statement or reason for the call, preface what you’re about to say with a softening statement. So many reps just barge right in and that’s an immediate turn off. It’s much better to say something like, “I know you’re busy so I’ll be brief,” or “We haven’t spoken yet, so I’ll respect your time today,” or “I just have a quick question for you…” and then ask it. Again, build rapport by softening your pitch, and then give your prospect a chance to engage with you.

And here’s the last little tip today: keep your value statement short. I’m talking no longer than two sentences. After you do, get to a question immediately! Doing so will allow your prospect to engage and start talking, and when they are talking, you are learning. Plus, if it’s not a good time—or if they want to blow you off—this will give them an opportunity to say so. If it’s not a good time, you can qualify quickly and set a better time, and if they try to blow you off, you can use a good rebuttal.

Either way, giving your prospect a chance to interact with you builds rapport and lets them know you’re not going to be a used car salesperson, rather, you’re there to interact, make a connection, and truly listen to what they have to say. And isn’t that the kind of person you’d like to speak to?

Try these little tips this week and see how many more people you get to have meaningful conversations with. There will be more than you might think.

The Proper Way to Follow Up on a Lead

In my book, Power Phone Scripts, I reveal the secret of sales: 90% of selling situations are recurring selling situations, which means if you want to become a superstar sales person, then you have to take the time to script out a best practice response to them.

And that means you have to stop ad-libbing your way through your sales career.

Think about it: you wouldn’t want a dentist to make it up as he goes along, would you? Of course not! You count on your dentist to be prepared and trained on the up to date, best practices for handling your dental situation.

The same is true in sales.

And one of the most recurring situations is calling back prospects three or four months later. You’d think this would be a simple, straight forward situation, right? It is, but people still get it wrong.

I was listening to a recording of a client making call backs to prospects, and he opened his call this way:

“Just following up with you. We spoke last December and you told me that wasn’t a good time and that you had a lot going on. I’m hoping that you’re more settled now and perhaps we could talk about your advertising needs?”

Obviously, this isn’t a best practice approach. First, why would you lead with the previous blow off objection she gave you in December? It’s like you’re supplying her with the new blow off she’s going to use right now.

Second, why “hope” she’s more settled right now, and why “ask” if “perhaps” you can talk about her needs now?

Here’s the proper way to follow up on a lead:

“Hi {first name}, this is {your first & last name} calling with {your company}. We spoke in December, and you asked me to reach back out to you here in March – and it’s a good thing you did, because we’ve got some great programs going right now for our summer issue!

“Let me ask you…” [And go into a qualifying/engaging question to get their attention…]

The difference here is that now you’re being proactive, assumptive, and enthusiastic. And you’re leading with a reason for this person to become engaged. This is much more effective than the previous technique—or one you may be using now.

Adapt this script to your own personality and product or sale. And then open all follow up calls with a great big smile in your voice, and be enthusiastic and assumptive. You’ll not only be more effective, but you’ll feel better as well.

If you’d like more (like over 500 more) ways to be more effective, then check out my bestselling book: Power Phone Scripts. It’ll be the best $20 you’ll ever spend on yourself (or your sales team!).

Is This a Good Time to Speak?

How do you feel about this opening? People either love it or hate it. Some sales people think it’s a more courteous way of speaking to a new prospect, that it shows respect and separates you from all the other salespeople who are barging in and delivering a monologue. Other people are against using this opening believing that it gives the prospect control of the call and an easy way to get rid of them. So which way is right?

The answer is the latter—but with some qualifiers.

First, the intent of the technique is right in that it gives someone the chance to tell you that they may be in the middle of something and that right now isn’t a good time. The problem is, you don’t want to lead with this as many prospects will simply use this to get rid of you. There is a better way.

What we want to do instead is to establish a little bit of rapport, give a softening statement, a quick value statement, and then give our prospect an opportunity to tell us if they are too busy to take the call right now. Let’s first look at an example, and then we’ll break it down and show you why it’s effective.

When you get a prospect on the line, a best practice opening would be something like:

“Hi {first name}, hope your day is going well so far?

“{first name}, I’m sure you’re busy so I’ll be brief. I’m with XYZ company and the reason for the call is to see if what we do (you can spell out your value prop here) would be a good fit for you, as well. Let me quickly ask you…(as a qualifying question here).”

OR

“{first name}, we haven’t yet spoken so I’ll be brief. I’m with XYZ company and the reason for the call is to see if what we do (you can spell out your value prop here) would be a good fit for you, as well. Let me quickly ask you…(as a qualifying question here).”

Breaking this down, first you’ll see that we’re letting the prospect know that we recognize their time is valuable, that we may not know them yet, and that they might be busy. All this shows respect for their time.

What we’re doing next is asking a question quickly (this is crucial). In other words, we are not delivering a monologue. We are giving our prospect a chance to engage with us, and it is during this break—after we’ve identified ourselves and given a quick value statement—that the prospect has a chance to tell us whether this is a good time or not. I have always found this the most effective way of doing this.

At this point, we are also in a better position to deal with any blow off or resistance statements, because we’ve been able to deliver our value statement and allowed our prospect to interact with us early on.

If you have been “leading with the chin,” as they say in boxing, by asking “Is this a good time,” then try using the above scripting instead and I’ll bet you’ll get further than you are now. Plus, you’ll still be using a more courteous approach rather than just delivering a two-paragraph pitch (which is always annoying).

One last note: feel free to adapt the scripts above to match your own personality. Make it your own, and you’re likely to use it a lot more.

Cold Calling: Stop Pitching the Gatekeeper

Note on today’s blog post: Due to the many requests I have received for more scripts on selling techniques, I am postponing my series on motivation and awareness. I hope you enjoy today’s cold calling tip.

I was talking with a client last week about some of his new employees. He told me that some of them are struggling to get through to decision makers, and he thought it was because they were “pitching the gatekeeper.” I listened to some of his calls, and he was right!

Here is the mistake: Many sales reps have never been taught the proper way to deal with gatekeepers, so after being screened out by them, they take the attitude that “If only they (the gatekeeper) knew how much this would benefit the (decision maker), then they’d put me through!” So they start pitching them….

How wrong that is…

Let’s recap the role of the receptionist/gatekeeper: The receptionist’s job is to answer calls and route them to the right person. They are trained to gather the information needed to give to the person they are transferring the call to, things like, name, company name, and sometimes, what the call is about.

Now here is something many sales reps misunderstand: The receptionist’s role is not to pry and grill and interrogate people who call in. They will only do this if the caller telegraphs him/herself as a salesperson. And many frustrated reps signal this by:

  • Only giving your first name and trying to trick the receptionist by pretending to be a “friend” of the person you’re trying to reach.
  • Not giving your company name. (May reps try to hide the fact they are calling from a company. This only arouses suspicion and raises a Red Flag.)
  • Not having a scripted approach to the question: “Will he/she know what this call is about?”
  • Not being polite and using the magic words: “Please” and “Thank You”
  • Not using an instructional statement.

Let me say this again: for the most part, receptionists, gatekeepers, etc., are not there to screen you out. They are there to capture basic information and then pass the call through. Notice I said, “for the most part.” There are certainly exceptions (in small offices, etc.) where they make it their job to screen you out, but you can still get past many of them as well if you use the best practice approach below.

Here is the script I was using as recently as last week to get through to some high powered decision makers. It works:

Gatekeeper: “XYZ company, how can I help you?”

YOU: “Hi, may I speak with {first name}, please?” (Say this with a bright, warm smile in your voice. Be confident and friendly.

Gatekeeper: “And what is your name please?”

YOU: “Please, tell him that {Your first & last name} is calling, please.”

Gatekeeper: “And may I tell him the company you are calling from?”

YOU: “Yes, please! Please tell him {Your first & last name again} with the {Your company name} is holding please.”

Again, smile, be friendly and confident. If you follow this exact script, you’ll get through 60% of the time without any further screening.

If they ask: “And what is this call regarding?”

YOU respond: “Please tell him/her it’s about {whatever your call is about – ‘His/her lead flow’}, and I’m happy to hold, please…”

Did you notice the “pleases”? How about the instructional statements? Did you notice the exact order?

These techniques will get you past the gatekeeper – without any further screening – over 75% of the time. Don’t believe me? Try it for a week (not just one or two calls!).

What doesn’t work is pitching the gatekeeper. That only identifies you as a sales person, and in many cases you start begging them to put you through. And that’s the last person they will put through – a begging sales person.

So, make a commitment to yourself this week and begin using this proven technique. You’ll be surprised by how many decision makers you begin getting through to.

How to Deal with Other Quotes, Proposals, and Competition

The only thing worse than getting the competitor stall at the end of your presentation (something like, “Well, we’re looking at other quotes…” etc.) is not knowing how to handle it.

In my new book: Power Phone Scripts: 500 Word-For-Word Questions, Phrases, and Conversations to Open and Close More Sales, I teach you exactly what to say in the hundreds of selling situations you get into, including this competitor situation.

If you’re looking for a great holiday present to give yourself (or your team or company!), then grab your copy (or copies) here. The below questions have been taken right from this value book:

If after you’ve presented your product or service your prospect says they want or need to check on other offers/estimates/quotes, etc., then use or adapt any of the questions below to get your prospect to open up and possibly reveal what it might take for you to win the business:

Option #1:

“I understand, which way are you leaning right now?”

Option #2:

“What would it take for someone else to win your business?”

Option #3:

“What would it honestly take for you to choose us for this?”

Option #4:

“What don’t you see with our proposal that you see in others?”

Option #5:

“Are we in the running with what else you’ve seen out there?”

[If yes]

“What about us would take us out of the running?”

OR

“What would you need to see to choose us?”

AND

“What can I do right now to insure that we win your business?”

Option #6:

“Obviously you’re going to show this quote to your current vendor – if they match the price, will you just stick with them?”

[If yes]

“What can I do to prevent that?”

Option #7:

“How many times have you taken other quotes to your current vendor?”

[If they tell you]:

“And what do they usually do?”

[If they say they lower their price to keep the business]:

“How can we break that cycle and get you the right pricing from the start?”

Option #8:

“_________, let’s take your lowest bid you have right now and compare it – services to services – to what we’re offing you. If I find you’re getting a better deal, I’ll tell you so. If I can beat it, then I’ll let you know that as well. Either way – You’ll Win! Do you have that other quote nearby or should I wait while you grab it?”

Remember, competition will always exist, but you can beat it and win business if you’re prepared with proven and effective scripts like those above.  Pick your favorite ones and tailor them to your particular sale.

“Can You Email That to Me?”

What’s the number one blow off prospects use these days? “Can you email that to me?” If you think about it, that’s the perfect stall. They aren’t saying no, and it implies that you will need to talk to them later… Unfortunately, later becomes never as chasing down busy professionals – especially people who now don’t want to be followed up with – becomes nearly impossible.

The solution? Be prepared with a good script and a good strategy. The one I like most is to prepare an initial email in advance (it can be generic or it can include an initial quote of services) and have it ready to send at a moment’s notice.

And then when a prospect blows you off with, “Can you email that to me?” use the following script from my new book: Power Phone Scripts:

“I’d be more than happy to do that – where would you like me to email that?”

[Take their email down and then email them your information right now.]

“O.K., it’s on the way to you. What I’d like to do right now is take just two minutes to get an idea of what’s important to you, and then I can direct you to that part of the information when you get around to it.  Let me ask you:

“How do you get involved in ordering/handling/working with the XYZ?”

OR

“From a needs standpoint, how motivated is (your company/department/are you) to change/fix/replace/buy XYZ right now?”

OR

“What would you need to see in the information I just sent you for you to become seriously interested in making a change in how you’re handling XYZ now?”

If you follow this strategy, then you’ll be ready to side step the email stall and get right back into qualifying! How great will that be? Try this technique yourself and watch as you begin qualifying real buyers, or disqualifying those who just want to get you off the phone…

And if you’d like more scripted rebuttals to this and many other objections and selling situations, then pick up a copy of my new, best-selling book on phone scripts. You’ll get over 500 word-for-word scripts, questions, and phrases to help you open and close more sales starting today!

Should You Use: “Is this a good time” – Yes or No?

The debate of whether to open your calls asking, “Did I catch you at a good time?” or “Is this time still good for you?” (for presentation call backs), is alive and well – unfortunately.

Just last week, I received this email question from a reader:

“Hi Mike, question – after I send out information to these guys and I come back to them with an idea do I ask them if they have a minute before going into my pitch?”

Have you ever wondered the same thing? If so, you’re not alone. I’ve heard this question for the last 30+ years, and I’ve also heard arguments for both sides. Some people think it’s respectful to ask if the prospect has time, and others feel they are setting themselves up for a stall.

So what should you do?

I’ve been making calls – both prospecting calls and closing calls – for a long, long time. In fact, I still make them today. And in my experience (note I said experience, not “theory”), the answer is clear. What you should do is this:

Never ask if it’s a good time to pitch or qualify or have a conversation with a prospect or client. Instead, follow this approach to the letter:

Always greet your prospect: “Hi {first name}, hope your day is going well….” (or other opening you like).

And then listen carefully not only to what they say, but, more importantly, to how they say it. Ask yourself:

“Is this person happy to hear from me?”

“Does this person sound rushed?”

“Do they sound upset that I’ve interrupted them?”

“Are they unhappy they picked up the phone now have to talk to me?”

Or,

“Do they sound relaxed?”

“Are they willing to engage – did they ask me how I’m doing?”

“Is there a smile in their voice?” (Or a frown?)

In other words, rather than ask if you caught them at a good time, listen to their voice and to how they answer the phone to see what their mood is. If you actually listen, you can always tell…

Then, regardless of what they say, acknowledge what you know to be true: they are busy! So let them know you respect their time and open your call this way:

“I’m sure you’re busy, so I’ll be brief….”

And then engage quickly and, if you’re prospecting or qualifying, ask them a question as soon as possible so you can give them an opportunity to tell you whether they have the time to speak to you or not.

And that’s how you handle prospecting calls.

For pitches where you have an appointment, don’t ask if this is still a good time for them! You’ve made an appointment in advance, and if you’ve truly qualified them they are expecting your call and should be ready for it.

For these calls, you open this way:

“Hi {first name}, how’s your (Tuesday, etc.) going?”

[Listen here and respond accordingly.]

“Good to hear. Well, {first name}, I’m excited to speak with you today and I know you’re going to love…”

And then get into your pitch…

And, as always, don’t take my 30+ years of experience for it, try it yourself! Your own experience will verify what I’m telling you. Happy selling!

And if you’d like over 500 more phrases, questions, and word for word proven scripts (all current and effective), then invest $28 in your career and get my new bestselling book: Power Phone Scripts.

Dealing Successfully With Gatekeepers

Every month, I get emails from my readers asking me how to deal with gatekeepers. They tell me the most frustrating part of prospecting is actually getting through to the decision maker. They get interrogating questions like:

“Will he know what this call is about?”

And

“Is she expecting your call?”

And

“Have you spoken to him before?”

These and other objections frustrate sales reps to the point of them developing some serious call reluctance. I’m sure you know what I mean…

Don’t you wish that you, and your team, had a proven approach that actually works?

There is, and here are the basics of it:

  1. First of all, be super polite to the receptionist as she gets sales calls every day! Believe me, a receptionist knows a sales rep almost the moment they open their mouth. And one of the surest “tells” is that most sales reps are demanding and borderline rude. So the first thing to do is to be polite. Use “please” and “thank you” a lot, and treat the receptionist like a person – not an obstacle to be overcome.
  2. Don’t pitch the gatekeeper! This is fundamental error number one, and too many sales reps are still making it. To start with, the receptionist doesn’t care what you are selling or how good it is. Instead, her/his job is to get you to the right person. Recognize that and get good at it.
  3. Give an instructional statement. Receptionists take a lot of direction and are most comfortable when they don’t have to make decisions about calls. Instead, they are there to route them. Learn how, and you’ll get a lot further.
  4. Be prepared for push back with a good script. Because you already know what’s coming, why not be prepared to deal with it successfully? Having a proven script for this part of your call (every part, actually!) is the make or break of being successful with it.

So here is the script you need that incorporates all of the above. Don’t take my word for it, rather, use it and see for yourself how much more successful you’ll be:

“Hi may I speak with {first name of prospect} please?

Receptionist: “May I tell him/her who is calling?”

“Yes please. Please tell him/her that ________ ________ is holding please.”

If you use this just as it is (using “please” three times), you will be put through an astounding 60%+ of the time without any additional screening!

Don’t believe me? Good. Try it for yourself and see.

And for the other 40% of the time when you are asked, “What’s this call regarding?” or, “Have you spoken to him/her before?” or even if you don’t have the prospect’s name, you can find these and other answers in my new book, Power Phone Scripts.

See it here.

Stop struggling and start closing more sales!

Current Prospecting Tips that Work

Do you hate prospecting by phone? “Who doesn’t?” is probably your answer. And who can blame you. First you have to deal with gatekeepers, receptionists, office managers, etc.

Then, if you do finally get through to someone, you get blow offs, resistance, and the old, “Just email me something, and I’ll look at it.” Yeah, right.

Imagine if I told you many of the ways you’re approaching your prospects are actually causing the objections you’re getting? Some of the wrong things to say are:

“Did I reach you at a good time?”

And

“I’m just calling to learn a little more about your company…”

Many sales reps think they are being polite when they use these kinds of openings, but in reality they’re just making it easy for prospects to blow them off.

Wouldn’t you like to know:

  • Better ways of opening your conversations?
  • Proven ways to deal with gatekeepers?
  • Word for word scripts to deal with common blow offs like “Just email me something?”

If you’ve read this far, then you’re in luck. By clicking the link below, you’ll get access to a 34 page sample of my new book, “Power Phone Scripts: 500 Questions, Phrases, and Word-For-Word Scripts to Help You Open and Close More Sales.”

And in this sample, you’ll get all the scripts and techniques to help you deal with the situations above. All for free.

Get your sample here.

And if you like what you read, why not get a copy of this powerful handbook for all your team members and yourself. Keep it near the phone to instantly improve your effectiveness on the phones. Increase your sales and build your confidence. All for $28!

Also, if you’d like a limited edition signed copy of the book, use this link to order.

Either way, invest in yourself, in your team and company, and start winning more sales, more easily.

Get yours today!