Cold calling is about the least efficient way of selling, and its only getting worse. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, a 2013 study by Connect and Sell analyzed over a million cold calls and found that the ratio of voice mails to live connects is now 22 to 1. My experience coaching and training hundreds of sales reps supports this number.
Why is this ratio so high (and climbing)? Well there are two main reasons, and both revolve around technology. The first and most obvious reason is that everyone has caller ID now, and they are just choosing not to pick up. The other reason is the proliferation of ways people communicate, from office phone, to cell phone, text, email, social media, instant messaging, etc. People are overwhelmed by communication, and they have to find ways to filter much of it out. So, Mr. Cold Caller, you lose.
So what should you do? Well, if you’ve read my previous blogs, my first recommendation is to wean yourself off the cold call habit altogether. But that takes time, so in the meantime here are a few ways you can reduce that ratio and make your calling time more effective.
Display Your Company Name
When you are at home, do you eagerly answer the phone that identifies the caller as Unknown, Out of Area, or a generic 1-800 number? No, and neither do your prospects when they see one of these numbers. Your caller ID should list your company name. Sure, you’ll have some people that won’t answer the call because they see your company name, but they aren’t likely to answer an anonymous caller either. Plus, the next few tips only work if your caller ID displays your company name.
Send Them a Letter (or two, or three)
Yes, an actual letter. Postal volume has declined 24% in the past 10 years as people have shifted to electronic communications. Know what that means? Your competition has shifted away too, giving you an opportunity to get in front of your prospects. The benefit of a well-worded, eye-catching, and professional letter is that it gives you an opportunity to introduce your brand to the prospect before you get them on the phone. Even better – send them a series of letters that show the value of your service before you make that first call.
Prep Them With an Email
In addition to sending a letter, send your prospects an email referencing the letter (or letters), recapping why your company is awesome, and giving them a time range when you will call. Continue to use a combination of snail mail and emails to build your brand recognition, so when they see your company name pop up they may be more interested in picking up the phone.
Leave an Effective Voicemail
Tom, how does leaving a voicemail help improve my voicemail to live ratio? Well on the first go round it doesn’t. But what you do want to do is create enough interest that the next time you call they will pick up. I see two major mistakes in this area. The first is not leaving a voicemail at all. That strategy may help you get through more calls, but it guarantees that your time on that call was completely wasted.
The second is leaving a boring voicemail, or even worse, a voicemail that begs the prospect to call you back. Let me set the record straight – your prospect is NOT going to call you back, and they are irritated when you are presumptuous enough to ask them to call you back. Your voicemail should reference the letter and/or email you sent, give a brief reason why you are different than all the other calls they get, and a window of time you will be calling back next.
Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
Why is my LinkedIn profile part of an article about cold calls. Well let’s talk about the likely scenarios when your prospect receives a letter, email, or voice mail from you:
They are not interested and delete or trash it
You catch their attention and they have some level of interest, from mild curiosity to your timing is perfect
So when the second scenario occurs, what is the prospect likely to do next? Two things: First, they check out your company website. Second, many of them will look at your LinkedIn profile to see if you are credible and someone they would be comfortable doing business with. I know this because every time that I make phone calls, send emails, or speak at an event, my LinkedIn profile views increase. So you want to make sure that your profile represents you as a trustworthy professional. Then they will be more likely to pick up the phone the next time you call.
Will everybody read your letters and emails or listen to your well-worded voice mail, then anxiously await your call? No, of course not. But this is a chess match, not a game of War. Each move you make is designed to put you in a better position for your next move. If you just make cold calls, you can continue to see 22 to 1 ratios or worse. But if you treat the cold call as just your next move, rather than your only move, then you can get those ratios down. At least until you can replace your cold call habit with more effective selling activities.