Even if you’re not a football fan, you might know the name Marshawn Lynch: recently retired running back for Seattle Seahawks - he’s now coming back to play for the Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas) Raiders. What you might not know is that he eats Skittles before every game. Every game! It must be superstition or at least routine at this point; there’s no evidence that Skittles will improve his performance. I find this fascinating, and know many sellers that have a similar routine before they “get into the game.” Most often it’s in the form of a script. They can’t make a dial without the script in front of them. Even as they become more confident and fluid over the phone, and they rarely look at their script anymore, they feel more comfortable having it in front of them.
While this habit can be helpful in developing a cadence and high volume of dials, it can also result in a lack of personalization in cold calling approaches. Some double down and write many variations on “conversations” – they anticipate each any every objection they might get and how they would respond. An appetite for preparation is healthy, but this “if A then B” strategy can quickly become similar to the flow charts used by telemarketers. (Everyone has had a bad experience trapped in one of those!) Managing objections in the moment is a challenging topic that we discuss in several other posts. However, it’s worth adding some context to those previous posts on the topic of preparation. Let’s consider two strategies to avoid getting objections in the first place by differentiating yourself from other sales people and starting a substantial business dialogue.
Using Admins as Referrals
Experienced sellers already know that referrals result in warmer calls and they will jump at the chance to claim these prized leads. Most sales people hope a referral will come to them, or happen upon one by accident (for example: you are lucky enough to get ahold of the boss, who refers you down to a direct report). Neither of these scenarios occurs often, but we can re-create this success by searching for opportunities to obtain a referral. Have you ever combed through LinkedIn, looking for things you might have in common with an important prospect so you can start the conversation? Don’t stop there! Forget about titles for a moment: if you have a strong connection with anyone in that company, they could be a great source for a referral. Try filtering people within a company by university, companies they have worked for, 1st degree connections or groups.
Armed with that information, you can now contact your potential referrer and ask them to point you in the right direction. When it’s time to reach out to your target prospect, the opening line is easy: “SoandSo recommended I reach out to you.” Your prospect is far more likely to give you time and attention when you begin with a relevant name-drop.
Can’t find anyone at the organization who shares a strong connection? Try reaching out to a C-level executive’s admin. Being able to lead in with: “I was sent your way by ‘EXEC’s office’…” is another simple and compelling way to warm up the next call with your prospect. There’s quite a bit of upside to reaching out to a C-level executive’s administrative assistant, or some equivalent role:
- In addition to being able to confirm your prospect’s title and where they sit, this admin may also have insight into the organization structure of the company – you might end up with more target contacts than you started with!
- The admin might have knowledge of current processes and systems the company is using – something that could be valuable information for your conversation with the prospect.
- If the admin transfers you to your prospect, it will show that office’s name on Caller ID – your prospect might feel obligated to answer.
Admins are a good example because it’s their job to pick up the phone and answer questions. Depending on where your leads and target accounts come from, there may be a wealth of other sources of people willing to talk to you—something that pre-call research can answer.
Look for Change
Some objections are veiled excuses – a natural human response to being called unexpectedly. Obtaining referrals can reduce these responses, because the human connection overpowers the gut reaction to get off the phone. Other objections, however, are legitimate: the buyer might not have a problem you can solve right now. Unfortunately, both types of objections can leave sellers feeling deflated.
One way to prevent the latter category of objections: look for changes within the company or the role of the person you’re targeting. If nothing has changed for them lately, they are unlikely to be motivated to take action. Alternatively, if you can identify a change they have experienced or are experiencing, and use it to justify spending further time with you, the message is far more powerful. More personalization on the call will result in better conversations. Facilitate impactful business dialogue by learning what factors play into the decisions prospects make in their role. They will be far more interested in how this ties to what your company does than a 30 second elevator pitch highlighting your best clients and most attractive features.
To all the Marshawn-sympathizers out there, leave your Skittles (or scripts) behind and channel that preparation into getting referrals and looking for change. These two strategies are a start to more proactive, personalized cold calls and approaches to getting prospects on the phone.
Perfect the cold call.
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The Comprehensive Guide to Cold Calling