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Cold calling is not going away. Learn to master it Add to ...

Most salespeople don’t like phone prospecting. Many of them consider cold calling a punishment from God, and when he wanted to be humourous, he added voicemail to the mix.

No matter what, cold calling is not going away. Even after telephones are extinct, sellers will still find ways to interrupt potential buyers.

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The No. 1 reason salespeople are reluctant to pick up the phone is fear of rejection. Too many salespeople and organizations erroneously spend too much time, emotion, energy and money trying to avoid rejection. Rejection, in the form of prospect objections, is a part of prospecting, especially when you are pursuing buyers who are not in the market.

They may benefit from your product, but you need to go out and engage them first. This usually means an unscheduled initial call, and therefore a cold interruption.

The average conversion rates for sales accepted leads to actual closed sales is roughly 16.41 per cent, a rejection factor of 83.59 per cent. At the same time, for many people who adopt a telephone prospecting discipline, the average contact-to-appointment conversion rate is roughly 14 per cent, or an 86-per-cent rejection factor.

Not a huge difference between the two. But we rarely hear the disciplined salespeople say they don’t want to work on a pitch for fear of rejection. In fact, the opposite is true: they say “get me in front of the right person, and I will sell them,” even with the high rejection rate.

The difference is that they have a process – that discipline for the sale – but most of them lack a process for prospecting. With a defined process it is easier to plan and contextualize the outcome. You know your steps based on the activities outlined in the process, and you can anticipate issues, develop contingencies and more.

But for many, there is no corresponding or detailed road map to prospecting. The old cliché of “here’s your territory, here’s your desk, and there’s your phone” still holds in many organizations. Even at businesses that leverage social apps, the prospecting process and more specifically the handling of objections is not clearly defined.

A simple framework that you can help clients implement includes these elements:

  • Timing/time
  • System/methodology/process
  • Metrics
  • Persistence
  • Execution

Notice there’s nothing about avoiding objections – assume objections come up. To succeed as a prospector, which is a must for successful sales professionals, your job is to manage and leverage objections. Develop the ability to turn an interruption into a sales conversation.

It starts with accepting that when we call people and we’re not in their calendar, we are interrupting, and people don’t like interruptions. They are already trying to pack 16 hours into a 10-hour day. We ring them, dropping in uninvited, forcing them to make a choice: Do they talk to this unknown voice on the phone about something they likely have, or perceive they have? Do they blow off the call and go back to finishing work they are paid to do?

The section option wins almost every time. They object, and we feel rejected.

Be prepared for the predictable. It’s predictable because 80 per cent of people who get a cold call will use one of the five most common objections 80 per cent of the time:

  • Status quo
  • No time
  • No interest
  • Had a bad experience
  • Send some “information”

They may use different words, but 80 per cent of the time they will fall into one of these five buckets. Those are great odds: 80-per-cent certainty you know what’s coming, all you have to do is master how to manage and leverage the objections. When you know something is coming you can either run from it or learn to manage and leverage it to mutual benefit.

It’s not easy, it requires practice, work and discipline, but it will drive more conversations, more prospects and more sales. Learn to take objections and turn them in to sales conversations.

Tibor Shanto is a principal at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. He can be reached at tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca. His column appears once a month on the Report on Small Business

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