Written by Erica Stritch
Cold prospecting – reaching out to targets you don’t know to generate an initial meeting – is one of the hardest parts of sales. Partly, it’s a numbers game. With decision makers more insulated than ever, it’s getting harder and harder to get past gatekeepers and beyond voicemail.
But what happens when you do get a cold prospect to pay attention – whether it’s because they picked up the phone, or responded to an email or a direct mail piece? Do you feel like you nail it every time?
Much prospecting success is determined in this first interaction. Many opportunities die here before you have a chance to engage.
What can you do to get cold prospects to shift from “go away” to “sounds good, let’s talk?”
Here are 3 tips to get you started:
- Make it relevant: I received a cold call earlier this week from someone selling search engine optimization (SEO) services. I picked up the phone and she launched into a long spiel about how they can help us get to the first page of Google search results and increase ecommerce traffic so we can sell more products.
When I asked her if she’d been to our site she said yes. I went on to explain that if she had been to our site she would have realized we are not an ecommerce company and that we do not sell our products online. This conversation was over before it began because she didn’t take the extra two seconds to check out our website before picking up the phone.
When reaching out to cold prospects you have to do your research.
Make the call relevant.
Prospects don’t care that you’re the newest accounting firm on the block or that you launched a new product. Find out what industry they’re in – what’s going on in their world.
When you connect, share how you’ve helped other companies in that particular industry, and that you can help them do A, B and C.
- Offer value in the conversation itself: No one wants to be on the receiving end of a capabilities pitch. Yet so many salespeople lead with their capabilities, hoping it’s enough of a draw for prospects to talk to them. It’s great to know what you do, but it’s not going to shift a busy prospect’s attention away from something else and towards you.
Instead think about the value they’ll get just by talking with you.
You’ll eventually provide more value when they become a customer of yours, but first focus on positioning yourself as a resource and advisor.
- Are there best practices or common mistakes you can share?
- Have you done any research around how companies are overcoming specific challenges related to what they may be trying to achieve in the areas where you help?
- Have you worked with other companies in this particular prospect’s industry where you can share what you’ve helped them do?
Don’t lead with your capabilities. You’ll get there at the right time once you’re in a great conversation with them, but to do that you have to start a conversation.
The best way to get that: Offer value in the conversation itself.
- Reach out often through multiple media: It takes an average of 7 times just to get a cold prospect to agree to have an initial sales meeting. If you give up after leaving just 3 voicemails or sending 3 emails, you’re not even giving yourself a chance to succeed.
You’ll connect with some cold prospects, but you’re missing out on the majority of prospects you could be connecting with.
You have to reach out more times than you think. In most situations, the phone works great. Paired with emails and snail mail it works even better. A prospect might delete a voicemail and then open an email you send or vice versa. They may even delete the first 6 emails you send and 4 voicemails you leave and throw 2 letters from you in the trash and then on that 13th touch respond.
You never know when a prospect’s elusive time of need will arise and when they’ll be ready for a conversation with you. Only by reaching out often and through a number of media will you give yourself the best shot at getting through.
Cold prospecting is not for the faint-hearted. You have to hear a lot of no’s just to get a few yeses, but it’s still a great way to fill the pipeline. Follow these tips, and you’ll be on the path to filling yours.