Advice on Cold Calls

If you're comfortable with a 10% success rate you have the chance to be a good cold caller. We're going to share tips from our experience making thousands of cold calls.

The 10% conversion rate is due to two factors out of your control: cheap labor in call centers selling crap and solicitations from universities or other needy institutions. Both instances infuriate potential customers and give cold-calling its bad reputation. They make your life harder by creating the perception in potential customers that you're a nuisance. Thanks to them, you're at an inherent disadvantage. You must think of yourself as different from them, as the protagonist to their antagonist. It will make you more confident and people will be able to hear it in your voice. The third factor in low conversion is you.

You must go into each call with an objective. When somebody asks what you want, tell them. Don't ignore it to keep selling. If they say no, persuade them but be gracious and thankful for their time. Learn how to persuade people by reading books about it and practicing persuasion.

It's not always possible, but it can be helpful to personalize the message in the call like "I'm selling this because it's meaningful to me, I'm sure it can be meaningful to you too,". If you're able to bring personalization into a sales conversation it's helpful; people do things for other people; they rarely do things for the sake of product alone. This is also a negotiation tip taken right out of Herb Cohen - people often try to negotiate based on things like "it's best for the company or the institution". Stronger negotiators and salespeople sell on personal things. Personalization gives you pathos and causes the negotiating partner or customer to empathize with us as a person instead of just a seller. Sometimes personalization can come off as annoying so make sure personalization occurs naturally and isn't full of boring anecdotes.

You'll be a better cold caller if you do it a lot, obviously, but not for what you think. Practicing cold calling raises your failure tolerance, which is necessary for any job in sales or any role in life. But be cautious of practicing failure. If you aren't even converting 1/10, you're practicing failure, and you need to reassess your cold call method.

People will tell you to work from a script. The reality is, scripts are for sellers who either aren't smart or confident enough to sell the product on their own. Sometimes, scripts are used when the product is extremely complex. Other times, when the product is a piece of trash. If you're scripted, either you or the product is going to get in the way of a sale and cold calling may be nearly impossible. Ditch the script.

Scripting is an attempt to make a science out of cold calling. Companies want to refine their presentation over time. This is good in hypothesis, but uncertain in reality. All it takes to push a seller off a script is the way the person on the other end of the phone answers the call. The inflection of how they answer, after how many rings they answer, what they say when they pick up the phone is enough to force an improvisation, so improvise. A strong cold caller is always improvising and they're unafraid to do it. They're unafraid because they know their product and they're practiced in answering questions about their product. When a scared cold caller reads from a script, there's a good chance they're unprepared, not listening to the customer, and speaking unconvincingly.

Cold calling is easiest in two circumstances. The first is when the product that's being sold is good. The next is when the call is requesting charity. If you're not in either of these cold calling situations,  your challenge is greater.

In product, belief is not private, it's a tone audible in your inflection. Believing a product is good makes you sound better on the phone.

But - believing a product is good and believing in a good product presents two different outcomes. Belief can lead to one sale but may not lead to long-term sales. Belief in a truly good product will more likely lead to long-term sales. It's Willy Loman - you're only as good as what you can sell. True. So if you want to be a better cold caller, sell something good.

There are three keys to long-term sales. The first is having a product that makes customers happy. The next is good timing. The last is a good name.  Of course, this is simplified and encompasses things like benefits, need, ROI, price, and cost. Conceptually, if you can sell on these three keys,  you can sell whatever you want to sell.

The most important is to sell a product that makes a customer happy. This is why drugs sell so well. People aren't addicted to the drug; they're addicted to the habituation of the feeling the drug induces, which is perceived happiness or relief.

Timing matters, and it's not always in your control, but the analogy is - it's easier to sell dessert at the end of the meal than it is at the beginning. It essentially means a customer's needs exist as a function of time. It's why so many marketers use techniques such as "only ten remaining! going fast! get them while they're hot!". They're attempting to drum up need as a function of time.  You either have to catch them at the right time, when they have a need, or figure out a way to induce the need when you want them to have it.

Finally, a good name matters because people understand things in simple sounds. I would rather eat fois gras than duck liver. If your product doesn't have a great name, you're going to struggle; names possess tremendous numina. If your product doesn't have a great name, try to sell on the simple sounding benefits.

Remember, the person on the other end of the sale is human. That means, they use the bathroom just like you do. Don't be afraid of them. They'll sense your confidence; they'll appreciate the human touch.


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