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Cold Calling: Tips And Techniques

Updated on August 23, 2012

Want some advice on how to sell better? This article will provide you with useful tips and techniques to improve your cold calling career, generate more sales and increase your conversion.

Are you a telemarketer?

Telesales is a cut-throat industry, packed with over-enthusiastic(!) sales targets, bloodthirsty office politics and self-righteous micro-managers.

Don't worry though, with this advice you'll soon be armed-to-the-teeth with everything you need to tackle cold calling with a brave grimace, and improve your sales.

Making That First Call

You'll find that no matter how hard you try to prepare yourself to make your first call, it will still daunt you. Sometimes the best way to learn is to 'jump in at the deep end'.

Before making the call

  • Make sure you've learned enough about the product to sound as though you at least know a little of what you're talking about
  • Make sure you know what kind of customers you're going to be calling

Why it's best to just take the plunge

Training can only help you with a limited amount of your role.

No matter how detailed your training is, the reality of it is that you are going to come across situations the training hasn't prepared you for. Each call you make will provide you with a better feel for what you're selling and how to approach it - don't worry if you don't know everything there is to, just follow the following:

  1. Tell them what you know
  2. Answer questions to the best of your knowledge
  3. Don't guess an answer. If you don't know, ask!

The Call Center Pecking Order

When you first start working in a call center, you might be surprised to know that some of the main difficulties come from not the prospects you're calling, but the other call center staff themselves.

Playing Dirty

Remember that being a salesperson is results-driven. Many successful telemarketers have a lot of testosterone (yes, even the girls) and will stop at nothing to prove that they are the best. This can include:

  • Bad Advice. You might think it nice of some of the veterans when they offer their tips and tricks, but you want to be careful what you listen to. It's true that they are likely to give you 'canned' advice - the kind that comes as part of your training - but the best tricks they use to make a sale will be kept close to their chest. Rather than actively asking advice, try listening to how they approach their calls - you'll soon find that what they're saying to prospective customers doesn't fully match what they are telling you to say.
  • Stealing Sales. This is not possible in some environments, but in others it is. If you have a hot lead or an interesting number to call, don't leave it lying around - the more discerning dirt-throwing veteran will understand its worth and may not think twice before calling it themselves
  • Cherry Picking. Working in a call center involves dialing the data provided by the contact center management. Some employees will pick and choose (if possible) what they use to call. If it's possible to do this, follow their lead - if it isn't, report it. It's either unfair or against company regulations.

Micro-Management

It's common practice for those given just a little bit of authority to play their role to the maximum - and not in a good way. Don't allow puff-chested micro-managers to bully you into doing something you shouldn't.

Remember that many 'Team Leaders' or 'Sales Coaches' are not interested in the company vision - rather, they are interested in the results their staff generate. Before you do anything they tell you to, make sure it falls in line with company policy.

Gossip, rumour and back-biting

Working in a call center is a bit like going to school. There's always gossip on who-went-off-with-who at the office party, or arguing over who-stole-who's notepad.

Make sure you are honest with your colleagues, you treat everybody with respect and demand equal respect in return. Don't air your personal laundry at work, and develop a circle friends you trust.

Handling Objections

One of the main issues faced in a telemarketing job is that customers have objections to what you are saying.

What is an objection?

An objection is when you tell the customer a reason they should use your product/service, and they come back at you with a reason why this doesn't apply to them.

It will happen to you constantly, but don't take it as a negative. Remember that objections are often requests for more information - so if the objection is genuine, use this as a way of tailoring your approach to meet the customer's needs. For example:

You: You can get all this for £50 per month

Customer: I can't afford that - I already spend too much!

The objection here is price - it's too expensive. Impossible to turn around? Not at all - the customer has an issue with price, so try to find a way of showing how ultimately, your offering will save them money. For example:

You: Well paying £50 a month may seem like an additional expense, but our service means you no longer have to buy {whatever-it-is}, which in the long run will save you over £75 per month.

Types of objection

There are various kinds of objections your prospective customer can throw at you. Here is an explanation of some of those:

  • Request for more information: As described above, an objection can often be nothing more than a probe for more information about your offering
  • Smokescreen Objection: This is where a customer isn't really thinking of what they are saying, but rather is trying to get you off the phone. Objections such as 'not interested' are 'smokescreen objections' - they are not genuine reasons as to why the prospect doesn't want your service, rather they are 'blocks' or defense mechanisms. Try to get to the real reason for the objection. Does the customer not have the time to talk? Have they heard bad reports about the kind of product/service you're offering? Once you've uncovered the real reason, then you can handle the objection effectively.

Feel Felt Found

This is a classic objection handling technique, and involves three important points:

  1. Feel. Explain to the customer that you understand how they feel - perhaps you've experience what they're describing yourself? Perhaps what they are saying is a common misconception? Showing that you understand what they customer is saying builds trust.
  2. Felt. Let the customer know that this is a normal thing to think, by telling them you have come across other people who have felt the same way. This gives them the feeling of inclusion, and shows you are talking from experience with regards to their specific issue.
  3. Found. Tell them exactly what other users found out by trying out what they are offering, and how it was perhaps different to their expectations.

For Example:

"I understand how you feel Mr Jones, £50 per month is certainly an additional cost for you to pay out. In fact, I spoke to a customer last week who felt exactly the same way. However, after discussing it, the customer decided to give it a try and later found that by taking up this offer she was actually saving £75 per month"

Developing Genuine Rapport

Ever had a telemarketer on the phone who suddenly seems to be your best friend?

Chances are you have, and chances are you didn't like it. Many people mistake building rapport with taking an overly keen interest in the customer's well-being.

Remember that if you come across as fake, a customer will pick up on it and it will have the opposite effect of building genuine rapport.

Genuine rapport

To build genuine rapport in your marketing calls, try applying the following:

  • Mind Your Manners. Don't instantly launch into asking what the customer has had for lunch - it will put them off. But nothing is wrong with politely asking how the customer's day has been.
  • Let the receiver of your call dictate the flow of the conversation. Some customers enjoy having a chat. Others like to get straight to business. If the customer seems to be taking the conversation down a more informal route, go with them.
  • Keep the call on track. It's easy to get bogged down in small-talk, but remember that it's your job to sell. Keep this in mind, and if the conversation is going too far off track politely turn it back.

Closing The Sale

There are plenty of closing techniques floating around the training room of many-a-call-center. Which ones work?

The fact is, closing a sale is partly all to do with how well you handled the call throughout.

THE IDEAL SALE WILL CLOSE ITSELF.

That's right. If you've done your job well and the customer has played along, you won't need to close the sale - the customer will close it for you.

Signs telling you a customer is ready to close the sale

  • The Obvious: "How Do I Sign Up?" - It isn't very often you'll come across this kind of self-closer, but it does happen. If you've thrown an unstoppable pitch at the customer, handled all of their objections fully and developed a genuine rapport though, then this kind of close could happen. No time for questions at this point, just get on with it and wrap it up!
  • The Less Obvious: More often than not, a customer will close themselves in less obvious ways. Tell-tale signs such as asking about what would happen after they make the decision to purchase your product/service or a consistent level of enthusiastic interest in what your saying are 2 of the most common

The Curve Of Impulse

The curve of impulse is a model set out to determine when you should close your sale. Ideally, you should be looking for the tell-tale signs above. Here's 5-step explanation to the curve of impulse:

  1. Each customer has a line on a graph. The higher up the line is sitting, the higher their level of impulse is.
  2. The higher the level of impulse, the more chance you have of successfully closing the sale
  3. Each time you offer a benefit that genuinely interests the customer, show the customer how easy the purchase is or successfully handle an objection, their impulse level increases
  4. Factors such as over-explaining the product, too much small-talk and focusing on terms and conditions or other complex parts of the process will drive the impulse level down
  5. The aim of the game is to begin closing your sale at the highest point on the impulse curve

Because pitching a product or service is bound to include both positive and negative influencing factors to the curve of impulse, the curve (if drawn on a grid) would be likely to go up and down at different points throughout your pitch.

Tip: Try to steer the level of impulse by thinking along the lines of '2 steps up, 1 step down, 2 steps up, 1 step down...' and remember - there's only so long you can keep going up. Don't leave it too late to close your sale.

COLD CLOSING TECHNIQUES

Below are some tips for closing your sale which will work even when your customer has failed to close themselves.

KISS ME

Huh? Kiss me?

No - don't kiss me (unless you really want to). I'm talking about a simple sales closing technique that works a charm. Want to know what KISS stands for? Here it is:

Keep
It
Simple
Stupid

Too many telemarketers get weighed down in trying to overload the customer with information. When closing your sale, you should have already covered the right amount of detail needed to tell your prospect everything they could possibly want or need to know about the product - closing is a time for simplicity.

  • Summarize (briefly) what you've said
  • Instruct them (briefly) what they now need to do
  • Tell them (assertively) to do it

Last One To Speak Loses

This closing technique can get pretty awkward but is hugely effective. It works in conjunction with KISS, and is a technique you should use on every close.

So, you've summarized the product, you've told the customer what they need to do - the only bit left is the telling them to do it. This part is important:

  • Ask them to proceed with a leading closed question such as "Is that OK?"
  • SHUT UP

Why did I just tell you to shut up?

Because if YOU speak next, you've lost the sale.

That's right, once you've spent all that effort getting to this crucial point, the last sentence you just said is the very peak of a customer's decision. If you speak, it breaks the spell. In effect, it stops the customer from having to tell you NO - something most of them hate doing (especially when everything you've said makes perfect sense).

If you leave the silence hanging, the customer will then be given chance to consider what you have said and try to think of a good reason to say no - which, if you've done your job right, they won't be able to do.

This silence can last for 2 seconds, it can last for 20 seconds. But remember: DON'T BREAK THAT SILENCE.

The Summary Of Successful Sales

There's a lot of information here. Here's a 10-step summary to break it all down for you:

  1. Avoid office politics and keep your head down
  2. Make sure everything you're asked to do meets company guidelines
  3. Don't overplay your small-talk
  4. Let the customer dictate the direction of the conversation
  5. Don't settle for a smokescreen objection - probe for the real reason
  6. Feel, Felt, Found
  7. Turn every negative into a positive
  8. Close your sale at the peak of impulse
  9. KISS your customers...
  10. ...and remember: The Last Person To Speak... LOSES

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Where was this hub when I needed it? LOL One time, a long time ago, I was a salesman, and I gotta tell ya, cold-calling made me break out in a cold sweat. I love meeting people, but meeting them and asking for a sale....it just doesn't seem to be in me. Luckily I no longer have to worry about it for my daily bread, but it was painful at the time. Great suggestions and tips my friend!

    • writeyourwrongs profile image
      Author

      John Crowley 4 years ago from Sheffield

      Thanks billybuc :-) I too have managed to break free from the prison of cold sales. Having said that, I landed in a world of written sales (copywriting) - but that's far less stressful.

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