Even in the B2B world, cold calling and teleprospecting can be viewed as intrusive and self-serving. However, for those marketing and sales professionals who take the time to deliver a respectful, thoughtful approach, teleprospecting will initiate meaningful conversations with decision-makers, which will eventually impact your bottom-line. Following are nine tips to help you create a successful and respectful approach:
- Talk less, listen more. The best cold callers are not necessarily the best talkers—they are the best listeners. By asking open-ended questions such as: “How is that working for you?” or “Can you tell me more?” sets the stage for the prospect to open up. Additionally, making simple statements such as “that’s interesting” or even just stating a single word such as “fascinating” followed by a pause, encourages the prospect to continue talking and sharing information. Overall, a good talk/listen ratio is 30/70.
- Set an agenda to guide your conversation. Verbatim scripts cannot start a real conversation. However, jumping into a call without clear direction will also fail. Thus, it’s important to create a conversation guide including key messages to convey, as well as pertinent open-ended questions to engage the prospect in a back and forth discussion. Additionally, the guide should list which pieces of information are critical to learn from the conversation.
- Be relevant to the prospect. Teleprospecting should not be a “shotgun” approach; rather it should be tailored to a specific audience. As you prepare your conversation guide, ask yourself two questions: “What is the reason for this call?” and ”Is it relevant to your target prospect?” To ensure relevance, consider the following exercise:
Identify – Identify a list of the business issues, pains and challenges your solution addresses for specific vertical markets, types of organizations and/or job functions.
Refine – Of those, select the top two that will resonate the most with your target audience.
Specify – Prepare messages to articulate how your solution can address the business issues and challenges that you’ve identified. Be as specific as possible in illustrating your value and relevancy. For instance, have a list of similar reference customers and/or be prepared to provide an example of quantifiable results you’ve achieved.
- Adapt to your prospect’s personality. Now that you’ve identified the key problems for your target market, understand that different people may see the same problem in vastly different ways. The key to constructing a value proposition is to adjust your conversation according to the prospect’s personality. Common personalities include: The Naysayer – demands technical documents for your case studies. The Individual – focuses on your customization options. The Conformist – seeks comfort in the depth of your customer base. The best cold-callers are those who are savvy enough to recognize what type of personality they’re speaking with, and adapts the conversation accordingly on the spot.
- Engage the gatekeepers. A common mistake in cold calling is trying to dodge or fool the gatekeeper. Instead, you should engage the gatekeeper. He or she is responsible for limiting distractions and meaningless interruptions that may disrupt their boss’s productivity. Therefore, show the gatekeeper that your content and message are worthwhile. If you treat the gatekeeper as a decision-maker, you are more likely to advance to the next level.
- Create a voice mail strategy. A voice mail message acts as a mini advertisement to prospects. A relevant message (touching on common critical business issues) will “warm up” cold calls and lead to a more productive and successful dialogue once connected. Take the time to create your voice mail strategy before you launch your campaign.
- Maximize productive times and days. Calling early in the morning maximizes your ability to reach high-level decision makers directly, and for many people, mornings are the time of day that they’re most energized. When calling multiple time zones, plan your day to hit each time zone at the optimal time. Statistically, for our organization, Wednesday and Thursday are the most productive days of the week for generating leads from cold calling, as prospects tend to be more readily available to talk. Knowing your most productive windows will help you to maximize your efficiencies by saving administrative work for slower times and increasing your dials during the peaks.
- Use E-mail. Some people are simply too busy to answer the phone or return a call. However, that does not necessarily mean there is no interest or need. If you have attempted your target prospect via phone and have not been able to connect, then try this approach: Leave a detailed benefit-oriented voice mail referencing that you will follow-up via email as well. Immediately after leaving the voice mail, send a personalized email reiterating why you would like to connect, as well as a brief description of the benefits you offer (make sure it’s relevant!). On average, five to ten percent of our conversations are initiated using this tactic.
- Don’t give up too soon. B2B telemarketing statistics illustrate that, on average, it requires more than five attempts to initiate a conversation with a decision-maker or influencer. Furthermore, the average number of telemarketing attempts before the daily production rate drops (point of diminishing returns) has increased to over seven attempts. Thus, if you are giving up after attempting your prospects only three or four times, you are not maximizing the potential from your database. If you have budget or time constraints and just can’t make enough attempts to reach the contacts in your target database, then spend some time further defining your “sweet spot” and narrow your focus, to optimize results.