Most articles on cold-calling advise B2B sales people on how to do a task for which everyone has a deep aversion—social encounters that result in rejection.
What makes the social rejection of cold calling so difficult to overcome? It starts because we know that in most cases our call does not add value to the buyer. And consequently the buyer judges us harshly. What’s more, we don’t feel strongly enough to ignore the rejection from the buyer. Unlike a zealous religious missionary who feels convinced of the rightness of their cause no matter how often they are rejected, sales people are motivated for more practical reasons and so the social rejection hurts.
To make matters worse, the very qualities that good B2B salespeople embody—the ability to see the world from other peoples’ point of view and to help them solve problems—are the very people who find the rejection more difficult. Sales people know that they are not helping the person on the other side of the call, quite the opposite, they are interrupting and bothering them.
And that’s why articles on cold-calling focus on motivation. Because we have to draw forth extra motivating forces from within to overcome the social rejection.
Can you imagine any other area of work that requires people to make special motivational efforts? Perhaps athletes before a competition. Or the speaker prior to a public presentation. But even in these situations people know they are performing a socially acceptable task. The cold-calling salesperson has no such reassurance.
This issue with cold-calling raises two questions:
- What are the circumstances where a B2B business must resort to cold-calling in order to find new customers?
- In these circumstances, are there any actions which could more closely align the cold call with the buyer’s needs, which would place calls to more qualified buyers, and that would add more value to the buyer?
In other words, is there any situation in which we could develop a standard practice for cold calls? By a standard practice, I mean well-defined work that any sales person can be expected to do, day in and day out as a part of their normal activities.
When to use cold-calling
When is cold calling necessary? The most common case for cold calling is to get your first customers. At the beginning no one knows you, you don’t rank in the search engines, and very few people visit your site.
Cold-calling is a way to get the sales engine started. It’s a special case in your sales production system.
How to use cold-calling
Given that cold-calling can be necessary to get sales traction, how should you go about it? How can it be done in a way that it adds value? What can be done to lower the barrier that the entrepreneur or the salesperson feels toward making the calls?
Think about sales production and the buyer’s journey.
You want to find qualified buyers, people who have the kinds of problems that you know how to solve. Since you are early in the lifecycle of your business, the people most receptive to you will be early adopters.
You want to learn more about your customers, how they do their work and the problems they face.
You want to add value to buyers no matter where they are on their journey. You want to give them what they want, when they want it, so they can move forward on their journey.
With a cold-call you are compressing these activities into one short conversation: qualifying, learning, adding value.
Is there any way to decompress the encounter?
Can you send an email ahead of time that enables buyers to qualify themselves? That adds value? That points them to additional information?
Then when you place the call you can refer to the email (if they read it) and discover more quickly if they are the right person to talk to.
Can you send an email afterwards that adds value and leaves the door open to furthering the relationship?Just because they aren’t ready to buy right now doesn’t mean that they are interested and qualified, it just means you are too early.
So yes, some situations require cold-calling. But they should be circumscribed as much as possible. And you should learn as much as you can from each call.