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.

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.

Three Ways to Handle the Price is Too High Objection

Are you still ad-libbing a response to the “your price is too high,” objection?

This is perhaps the oldest objection in the world, I mean think about it: In ancient Egypt (4,000+ years ago), at the open markets with all the vendors at their stalls selling everything from food to clothing to pots and pans, when a buyer asked how much an item was and was told the price, what do you think he/she automatically said?

“That’s way too much money for that!”

Sound familiar? Let’s face it, buyers have been using this objection way before you or your father or great grandfather got into sales, and you’d think that by now we’d all know how to effectively handle it. Some do, but with all the calls I listen to, there are still plenty of sales reps and companies that don’t…

So here are the best practice responses to the age old budget question or objection. Write these down, customize them so you are comfortable with them, and start moving past this objection once and for all.

Technique One: Avoid this objection from every coming up. What, you didn’t qualify for budget on your first call? This is a rookie mistake, and one that you need to fix right away. If you’re still getting the price objection when you’re presenting your product or solution, then that’s on you.

What you need to do is find a natural way to prequalify for budget as part of your qualifying questions. You know, the questions about decision making process, timeline, etc. Here are a few ways to do that:

“And {first name}, our solution ranges from $4,000 to $15,000 depending on the options you want. Is that range within a budget you have – again, if you like what you see?”

OR

“{first name}, I’m assuming you have a budget for this type of thing – if you feel that this will help you (do whatever it is your product or service does), right?

“And most of our new customers go for our premium package at $25,000 – is that something you could fit into your budget if this were a fit for you?”

There are many, many other ways to qualify for budget – if you need more, search this blog or pick up one of my books of phone scripts.

Technique Two: This is one of the easiest rebuttals to use, and I’m continually surprised more reps don’t automatically use it. The technique both challenges your prospect and helps you learn more about their buying process (and your possible competition) at the same time. It goes like this:

“Compared to what?”

And then hit your mute button and let them talk and reveal the way back into the close…

Technique Three: Here’s a way to isolate the price objection to make sure it’s the real and only objection there is. Nothing is more discouraging than overcoming it and then being told there are three more reasons they won’t buy.

“And besides price, what else would stop you from moving forward today?”

This is designed to draw out other objections. You can make it more positive by asking:

“And if the price were exactly where you’d want it, is everything else about our (product or service) okay? I mean, would you feel comfortable enough to take advantage of it today?”

As many of you know, I’m big on being prepared for the repeatable selling situations and objections you get day in and day out. This is what separates the top producers from everyone else, and it’s what makes sales easy and even enjoyable.

And let’s face it, an objection that has been around 4,000+ years is definitely a repeatable one.

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.

Handling the, “I Need to Speak With….” Objection

The holidays are upon us and guess what? The teams I’m working with are still getting the stall, “I need to speak with (my partner, my boss, purchasing, etc.).”

Oh by gosh, by golly, you’d think they’d cut you a break at the holidays and just buy all ready 🙂

Here’s the good news: Because this is a recurring selling situation, you shouldn’t have any problem dealing with this. In fact, you should be able to recite at least four different, best practice responses to this, right?

Surprisingly, many sales reps still stumble with this, but you don’t have to because I’m going to give you a gift for the holidays: A proven way to overcome this stall.

The following script is just one of the proven ways I outline in my book, Power Phone Scripts. And after you begin using it, you will finally be able to move past this stall/objection the next time you get it.

So here it is:

“I’m going to have to run this by…..” 

“Of course and I understand – we talked before about your decision process.  Let me ask you this, though: is getting their approval the ONLY thing holding us back from doing business together?”

[Listen carefully – if YES then]:

“Will you have time to talk to them before we next speak at 2:30 tomorrow afternoon?

“Great!  Then because you’re onboard with this, I’ll go ahead and prepare the paperwork, I’ll email it to you, and I’ll even reserve a spot for you.”

[Give a brief pause here and wait for push back.  If none]:

“I’ll look forward to us moving forward tomorrow…”

Now when you look at this and break it down, you’ll notice a few things:

1) The first thing we do is isolate the objection to make sure there isn’t anything else holding the prospect back: “Is this the ONLY thing holding us back?”

You must listen carefully here because if there are other reasons, then speaking with someone else is not the real objection and you’ll need to deal with whatever else they bring up.

2) Do you see how you already have a call back appointment? (The “…next speak at 2:30?”)

You absolutely have to have this scheduled before you get off the phone – if indeed you get a “Yes, that’s the only thing holding me back…”

3) And the trial/assumptive close at the end. If everything else is a go, then offering to prepare the paperwork or shipping, or set up, or whatever is required, you are assuming the deal.

By following this best practice approach (just one of several you’ll find in Power Phone Scripts), you will be able to determine how much of a stall or real objection this is. And, you’ll learn how to look behind it to uncover what is really holding your prospect back.

Give yourself a gift of over 500 more scripts, phrases, and questions to help you open and close more sales?

Order your signed copy of Power Phone Scripts here.

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!

How to Handle: “I want to speak to some references.”

How do you deal with the “I need to speak to some references” objection? Do you cave in and happily send your prospect two or three clients who are satisfied with your product or service? And if you do, have you ever found that some of those prospects never call you back?

As you already know, when someone asks for references there is usually something they are not sold on. They are either not convinced that your product or service will work in their environment, or they might feel they don’t need everything you’re offering, or the price may just be too high. Or this stall could just be a smokescreen hiding the real reason which is they just don’t want to tell you “no.”

Either way, just handing over references without digging a little deeper and finding out what is hiding behind this smokescreen is almost always the wrong thing to do. What you need are different approaches that get your prospect to open up and tell you what their real concerns are. And the way you do that is by using a best practice script.

In my new book, Power Phone Scripts, 500 Word-For-Word Questions, Phrases, and Conversations To Open and Close More Sales, I give you a ton of new responses for the objections, stalls and other situations you get into, and in today’s blog, I’m going to take a page out of that book and give you four scripts that will help you deal with the references stall.

These four responses will range from the stronger approach of “Do you think I’d give you a bad reference?” to the softer approach of, “Let me know what areas of concern you have so I can match you up with the right client to speak to.” Like all the scripts and techniques I teach, it is up to you to choose the approach you feel most comfortable with, and then personalize it so you don’t sound like a robot.

But the bottom line is that once you have scripted out a best practice approach to handling the objections, stalls, and resistance statements you get – day in and day out –  the better your results will be (meaning you’ll make more money.)

Give these responses a try the next time you get, “I want to speak to some references”:

Stall: “Do you have some references I could call?”

Response One:

“Absolutely.  As you can imagine, I have a folder filled with happy and satisfied clients.  But _________, let me ask you – do you think I would give you a bad reference?”

[Let them respond]

“Of course not.  I’m only going to give you clients who love us and what we do for them.  So what that tells me is that there is something you’re either not convinced will work for you yet, or that you don’t think this is quite the fit you’re looking for.  So, while you have me on the phone, please, level with me – what’s the real issue that’s holding you back?”

Response Two:

“I’d be happy to provide you with a reference or two, and let me ask you: if after you speak with them you hear what you need to hear, are you going to move forward with us and put us to work for you?”

[If yes]

“Great!  Then hang on just a moment and let me get a client on the phone, and I’ll conference you in.  After you’re done with your conversation, we can get you signed up…”

Response Three:

“_________, when someone asks you for a reference for your company or service, have you ever found that some people never even call the references?”

[Let them respond]

“And don’t you get the feeling that there is just something that’s holding them back and they just aren’t quite sold on your company yet?”

[Let them respond]

“Well, since you’ve got me on the phone right now, why don’t you tell me what’s holding you back or what you’re concerned with, and I’ll see if I can answer it for you.”

Response Four:

“I’d be happy to.  Now ________, as you might imagine, I’ve got all different kinds of clients using this, so do me a favor: let me know the things that are concerning you, and I’ll then match you up with the right reference who can address those things for you.”

As you can see – when someone asks you for a reference, the most important thing you can do is isolate this stall and get your prospect to reveal what the real concern is. Unless you find out what that is, not only will your prospect not call your reference, but they may never call you back again either.

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.