12 Worst Cold Calling Mistakes and How to Fix Them
There’s no one right way to ensure successful cold calls. Your sales team has a difficult job to do, and mistakes are naturally more common than you may think. But if your sales reps are often faced with rejection, it’s time to make a change.
Even if customers aren’t outright hanging up in the middle of a call, there is still a likelihood some of them don’t pay attention. This could happen because they genuinely don’t need your services, but it’s more likely because of cold calling errors.
This guide will identify 12 of the worst and most common mistakes your team might make and the best cold calling methods in 2019.
1. Weak Introductions
Making a good first impression is critical to winning over new clients. That said, your introduction may be one of the most essential parts of your cold call script.
Some of the ways you can go wrong include trying to be too nice, coming across overbearingly, using “I” more than “you” and not knowing the person to whom you’re speaking. Being overly sweet or controlling is off-putting to the client, and you need to demonstrate that you’re invested in their company’s success. This may seem like a lot for a few sentences, but you need to nail your opening every time.
In your introduction, you should explain who you are with your first name and company, then tell the client why they should care about what you have to say. Generally, you can do so in one sentence that shows how your solution helps their business. If you can, include details about the prospect’s business, so they can tell you’ve done your research, and ask if they have time rather than assuming.
Throughout the intro, you need to sound cool and confident without seeming like you’re boasting. The best way to get it right every time is by developing a script that works and customizing it to fit each lead.
2. Pitching Instead of Discussing
Too many sales reps approach cold calls as if their only purpose is to sell whatever service or product their company offers. If your team’s mindset is stuck in sell mode, they are bound to sound like they’re delivering a pitch. But that’s not always the point of a cold call.
Pitches sound insincere, pushy and like your agents only care about what they have to say, which can ruin any chance of striking up a relationship. Every cold call should be treated like a genuine discussion between two peers. There should be a healthy give and take, rather than a one-sided conversation.
When your team goes into their calls expecting to have a discussion, they’re more likely to treat the interaction less like a pitch. This is essential to generating conversions, as the point of a cold call isn’t always to close — it rarely is. Instead, it should be about potentially beginning a relationship and leading to further conversation.
3. Not Listening to the Customer
Customers can tell whether or not you listen to what they say. If they hear that you aren’t, they are much less likely to want to continue responding to your agent. And whatever happens, you should never interrupt a customer while they’re speaking. It’s one of the fastest ways to turn them away and make them feel disrespected.
When callers don’t listen to the customers, not only is it offputting and obvious, but your sales rep may miss a few golden opportunities. Allowing prospects to answer questions and ask theirs means you have more information to work with. If you pay attention or take notes, you can edit the script as you go and cater to their individual needs better.
When the prospects ask questions, your agents need to answer them, even if they aren’t in the script. If they actively listen and come well-prepared, they should switch from the outline to improvising with ease.
4. Rigid Script Reading
While you should use a script or outline to help keep the conversation focused, you shouldn’t come across like you are. Many under-practiced reps stick too close to what they have written down and sound like a robot. The interaction ends up feeling impersonal and cold, and the client is less likely to strike up a genuine discussion if they feel like they’re just another lead on a list.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should toss out the script, either, as winging it could garner worse results. But your agents need to be aware of how they sound and practice reading through as a warm-up before making calls. They should speak like an actor — not to monotone, not too expressive. Again, the interaction should go like a casual discussion.
The one exception for going off-script is on voicemail messages, in which 90% of cold calls end. If your agents get sent to voicemail, they need to have a script that’s brief, clear and to the point. They’ll only have about 20 to 30 seconds to speak, so sticking to the predetermined outline is a must.
5. Lack of Prior Research
If one of your reps has ever called a business and asked to speak with someone in charge, they’ve already made a mistake. Not knowing at least your point of contact’s name and position within the company looks bad and shows you haven’t cared to do any research.
Before you touch the phone, you need to gather information about your targeted client and their company’s potential needs. The most significant way to waste your own time and the client’s time is by going into calls underprepared. At the least, you should know your point of contact’s name, how to pronounce it and their position.
With the prevalence of social media sites like LinkedIn, there is no reason not to have this information. Even a five-minute Google search will put your agents in a better position. Ultimately, though, they should have a list of questions related to the client’s company at the ready.
6. Forgetting the Main Goal
Every call should have a goal behind it. Whether it’s to schedule a meeting, appointment or follow up call, give the customer an offer or send them materials to review, your agents need to go in knowing the point of the call.
Clarity is essential to directing a successful cold call. Too often, agents start a conversation, forget the end goal and wind up talking about details that don’t matter at the time. If you’re looking to schedule a meeting, there’s no reason to go into business specifics — save it for the next interaction.
Keeping calls to the point will save your team time and effort, and the prospect will likely appreciate it, as well.
7. Ignoring Customer Objections
Most prospects will have objections during cold calls. If they don’t, there’s a good chance they aren’t interested or weren’t listening. Objections can range from the customer saying it isn’t a good time to talk to telling you they don’t require your services. Some of them will be more serious than others, but you need to entertain every objection.
If your agent acknowledges the prospect’s concern but continues into a pitch without addressing it, that potential client will feel disrespected and unheard and may hang up. But, when sales reps consider the customer’s concerns and respond by addressing them appropriately, the client is more inclined to hear the pitch out.
When your reps address the client’s issues, they should give a genuine answer. People can tell when you try to sway or convince them, and that kind of pressuring may make them feel uncomfortable. It all goes back to treating the call like a natural conversation.
8. Sounding Too Familiar
Have you ever received a call where the agent on the other end acts like they’ve known you for years? You should reserve those kinds of introductions for clients with which you already have a working business relationship. If you try that on a cold call, the prospect may be distracted, trying desperately to remember who you are — and become annoyed once they realize it’s about sales.
Your agents also shouldn’t waste time on casual small talk, either. Once again, it’s appropriate for established relationships, but it might throw off a new lead. Imagine receiving a cold call, ready to listen to business details, when the caller suddenly asks you about the weather. It’s irrelevant and seems like dawdling.
Ultimately, you need to keep it professional, while relying on your tone and manners to come across as friendly.
9. Giving Up Control
Too often, agents don’t want to come off sounding bossy or pushy, so they give more control over the conversation to the customer. They’re making a big mistake. Your sales reps should always have control over the discussion — this is what brings in results.
This doesn’t mean your agents should control the recipient of the call, but they should guide the conversation in the right direction throughout the interaction. The best way to do so is by asking well-informed questions, then using the client’s answers to head toward your goal continually. They should end the call with a commitment from the prospect.
Confidence is essential here, as your reps won’t lead the conversation without it. Having a thoroughly researched and scripted outline will give them a much better chance of success.
10. Disrespecting Gatekeepers
Secretaries and the lower-level employees you’ll often end up speaking to before your point of contact are called gatekeepers. They have the power to direct you to the CEO or send you to anyone else if they think you’ll end up wasting the head honcho’s time. Gatekeepers are important and should be respected.
If you can win them over before talking with your lead, that’s a huge bonus. There’s always a potential that you’ll have to go through the same person a second time, and if they know you’re polite, you may reach your contact when others could not. Gatekeepers can also affect your relationship with the decision makers, as they might speak with each other and compare notes.
11. Lacking Engagement
Once they get through to a prospect and introduce themselves, your agents should avoid droning on about your products or services.
Throughout a call, your representatives need to keep the customer engaged and responsive. This means asking them thought-provoking questions that require them to listen and interact with the agent. If your reps fail to keep their attention and start monologuing, the potential client is likely to zone out or lose interest quickly.
The rule of thumb is to never go more than 30 seconds without attempting to initiate a response. So, at most, your periods of explanation should last about 27 seconds, then end that block of time with a question. It can be as simple as, “How does that sound?” or “What are your thoughts?” to confirm they paid attention and keep them talking.
12. Failing to Gain Commitment
One of the biggest mistakes any cold caller can make is failing to gain the client’s commitment. By the end of their call, your agents should strike up an agreement with their customers on their next steps. Whether it’s for a second call, an in-person meeting or just a reply about their offer, callers need to lock in their second form of contact.
Rather than suggesting calling back the week after or getting in touch to schedule an appointment, your agents should ask for specific dates and time frames. Have them aim to record an agreed day and hour to call or meet. When a prospect commits to a set plan, they are more likely to stick to it than to pass it off.
Cold Calling Techniques That Really Work
Once you identify the common mistakes your team might make, you have to provide them with the solutions to their problems. They’ll also help your business succeed if you’re wondering how to improve your cold calling in general. There are several techniques that every business should practice when they’re cold calling prospects, including:
- Do your research: Always conduct at least a minimal amount of research before calling. Your agents should know the name and position of their contact, the company’s needs and what kind of services or products they sell. The more prepared they are, the smoother their calls will go.
- Engage the customer: Cold calls aren’t all about pitching — treat them as a two-sided conversation. Make sure your employees have an engaging script with relevant questions to work off of and encourage customer responses.
- Be specific: Clarity is not only a time saver, but your prospects will also appreciate understanding your point from the beginning. Have your introduction include how your company will benefit theirs or how it serves as a solution to their problems.
- Listen and improvise: While the script is necessary, listening to the customer is far more essential to generating conversions. When the prospect asks a question, have your reps answer it genuinely, rather than passing it off to get back to the script. This is a skill that will get easier with diligent practice.
- Persistence is key: Persistence is what brings in the most results. Pushiness won’t get you anywhere, but neither will giving up after the first cold call. If you don’t reach your lead within the first call attempt, it’s still worth it to call five more times. About 93% of converted leads come from initial contacts within six call attempts.
With new successful cold calling methods, your company will see higher conversion rates and less stressed sales reps. But to test out your new strategies, you need to find targeted lead lists. Reliable leads will start you off on the right foot.
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