Why can’t I set appointments from cold-calling?

by Shannon F.

cold-calling sales leads makes prospects mad

Close your eyes and envision an all-too-common scenario. You got into work early today and are planning to stay late, because you’ve been so overwhelmed with client demands lately that you haven’t had any free time to prospect for new business. Your boss is in a bad mood—she informs you that you are due in a two-hour department-wide meeting to discuss flagging performance. Domestic problems are weighing on you—your water heater broke this morning, so you have to dash home at lunch to talk to the service person. And on top of that, you drop some Hot Pocket filling on your Burberry tie, leaving spots of grease across the iconic plaid. As you’re grabbing for a napkin, the phone rings—it’s a salesperson asking for “just a few minutes to tell you about an exciting new product.”

That’s what it’s like to be the prospect on the other end of your sales call.

How do you react to a sales cold call when you already have multiple conflicting demands on your time? If you’re an exceptionally easy-going person, you might hear the caller through. If you’re like most people, you’re going to say, “I’m not interested,” or “Don’t call me again,” and hang up. Depending on your mood, you may even scream a variation of “I hate you!” or just cry wordlessly into the phone.

B2B salespeople should keep in mind that every cold call they make is an unwanted interruption. Even if your prospect actually needs your product or service, you are almost certainly calling at the wrong time. On top of that, you are trying to set an appointment with a decision-maker who doesn’t have very many open time slots. Why should he or she meet with you? Likely, you’ve given no compelling reason for prospects to make time for you in the middle of their busy day.

Does your product stand out?

If your company is doing something that no one else is doing, you’ll probably have little trouble getting appointments. But if you’re like most companies, your product or service is comparable to at least one other product or service in your area. If your prospect is truly in the market for what you sell, one of his or her first steps will be finding out what sets you apart from your competitor(s). Your sales cold call is an opportunity to make it clear to your prospect that you have something your competitors can’t provide. Maybe it’s your prior experience working with similar companies, or an extra feature that you offer. Save your prospect’s time by getting right to the point.

Do they need you yet?

Your prospect may truly have a need for your product or service, but they may not be ready to buy for a month or two. If you make contact too early, you might get a false negative. Ask if there’s a better date to call, and don’t forget to follow up. If there’s an upcoming trigger event like an office move, time your call according to where your prospect is at in the moving process. Should they be thinking about office furniture, telecom, or whatever it is that you sell? Let them know. You may even want to send along some free information to help them plan.

Are you giving the prospect all the information they need, in the way that they prefer to receive it?

We’ve had clients who made dozens of phone calls to a prospect with no avail, then popped a postcard in the mail with a rough estimate of the service costs and received an immediate response. What is holding your prospect back from meeting with you? Do they need to know more about your services or pricing? Do they want something on paper, like a brochure they can show to a superior before making an appointment with you?

Sometimes, there is no way to get around an unresponsive prospect other than to call back later and try not to take rejection personally. After all, you have no idea what sort of chaos is going on at the other end of the call. Your job is to make it as quick, easy, and compelling as possible for the prospect to discover what you have to offer–without adding to the craziness going on in his or her work life.

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