With all the technology available today to help us stay in touch with people, many salespeople have little practice at the fine art of cold calling.
That’s a shame, because actually reaching out and touching someone directly works, says Jim Barnoski, who has been making sales calls for more than 20 years.
In the past 10 years Barnoski has been training other salespeople about how to make cold calls — in fact, he does a lot of his cold calling right in front of his students.
Barnoski, a trainer with the Sandler Institute, will hold a class in cold calling success on Thursday, August 9, at 9 a.m. at the Performance Selling Training Center in Somerset. Cost: $295. Register by calling 732-764-0200 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’d been a Sandler trainer for several years, and I hadn’t been making a lot of calls myself,” says Barnoski. “I was out of practice when one of my students said, ‘Jim, it’s great to hear you talk about cold calling, but we’d get a lot more out of it if you showed us.’ I decided to actually put a demonstration of how to call into my classes.”
Barnoski says that while his students get a lot from hearing him make successful calls, they get even more from the calls that are unsuccessful. “Everybody has the unsuccessful call. It helps to build their confidence to know that even the experienced salesperson has calls that don’t work,” he says.
For salespeople, it is a numbers game. A certain number of calls just will not end successfully. Understanding that makes it much easier to “get back on the horse,” even when you have had a bad day of calling. If your technique is good, those failures just mean you are closer to the next successful call, he says.
Barnoski did not begin his career with sales in mind. His father worked for the government as a USDA inspector, and Barnoski received a degree in industrial engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1982 and went to work as an engineer.
His love of people helped him decide to move from engineering to a sales career in the mid-1980s in Houston in the middle of an oil bust. “Oil was selling for only $12 a barrel. Half the companies I was calling had just laid off employees. If you can sell in that kind of atmosphere, you can sell at any time,” he says.
His experience has helped him to weather the economy of the last few years. “When you have to struggle you learn to stick with it,” he says.
Not a Sales Call. The first mistake that many novice salespeople make is to try to turn a cold call into a sales call. The goal of a first contact with a prospect is not to finalize a sale, but to set an appointment to give the prospect more information about your product.
“You want to create interest and to quickly qualify your prospect to find out if you should have a more in-depth conversation,” says Barnoski.
Seven Deadly Words. Most people hate cold calling because they aren’t doing it right, he says. “Hello, Mr. Jones, how are you today?” are the deadliest words in cold calling, according to Barnoski. They are meaningless and do not show respect for a busy person’s time.
Instead, he suggests the caller begin with, “I’m not sure if we should be speaking. I’d like to take 20 seconds to figure out whether or not we should have a longer conversation.”
This approach “sets up a contract” between the speakers. “The prospect gives you permission to take less than a minute of his time to ask a few probing questions. If, at the end of that time he is not convinced of the need to make an appointment, you have essentially given him “permission to hang up on you,” says Barnoski.
Break Out of the Comfort Zone. In today’s world of voicemail and E-mail, it is easy to fool yourself into thinking you have made contact just because you sent out an e-newsletter, a personal E-mail, or left a voice message on a machine. But these methods all make it easy for prospects to ignore you.
Without personally talking to someone, you will often never qualify the prospect — you will waste a lot of time continuing to contact people who will never use your product.
Taking the time to talk with people on the phone may at first feel uncomfortable, particularly if you find yourself crossing people off your prospect list who have been on it for several months. But deleting those people who really are not prospects frees you up to contact the people who are true prospects.
Don’t Sell to an Answering Machine. Never try to make your sales pitch to an answering machine. It just doesn’t work, says Barnoski. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t find value in listening carefully to those voicemail greetings.
“You can get a lot of information about a person from the message he leaves on his own machine,” says Barnoski. Is the person brusque, businesslike, or impatient?
“This is John. Leave a message,” tells you that the person sets a high value on his time. Remember this when you actually do speak to him and speak in the same way. Make your points quickly and professionally.
Another person’s voicemail may sound like this: “This is Charlie. I’m sorry I missed your call. Please leave me your name and phone number and I will get back to you as soon as possible.”
This person wants to take the time to get to know you. When you finally do speak with him on the phone, adjust your style to his. Slow down and take a little more time.
Brush Up Your Skills. Even experienced salespeople may need to brush up on their cold calling skills, says Barnoski. “We went through a long period of time where selling was easy. A lot of excellent, experienced sales people were able to make a great living calling on existing clients.”
But in the last few years that has changed. Many of those old clients are ordering less, or their businesses have failed. “Experienced salespeople must learn how to pick up the phone and find new customers,” says Barnoski. “They need to learn a new system for telephone prospecting that works today.”