January 27th, 2016 | by

Working in Sales isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Even if you have the most killer marketing team, it is highly unlikely that you just sit back in your big, cushy office and wait for the leads to come in – and even more unlikely that those leads are all great fits, pre-qualified and warmed up enough for a slam dunk close. It’s a “little” more work than that and involves you playing an active role in maintaining your pipeline.

Cold calling, outbound marketing, prospecting – whatever you want to call it – can be used to identify and reach out to targeted prospects that fit your ideal customer profile, but might not be a) actively seeking a solution to a problem that they either don’t know they have or hasn’t become a priority yet; or b) don’t know that your company exists. Either scenario translates to a prime opportunity to introduce yourself and – for the savvy salesman – position your solution as not only the best option, but a necessary one.

Cold calling is a skill that needs to be honed regularly if you hope to keep those hefty commission checks rolling in. So, whether you are a beginner looking to start out on the right foot or a veteran looking to review best practices and get re-inspired, the first step to becoming a champion of cold calling is to avoid the following six common misconceptions that can kill technique and tank sales numbers.

1. It’s about quality, not quantity.

We live in a digital age, which means there’s tons of information at our fingertips. It would be stupid to just randomly call a company (and a person) based on the industry listed in their LinkedIn profile. Or because of their inclusion on a rented list. Before you even consider picking up the phone, filter – and filter some more.

Clearly identify what your ideal customers looks like – and make sure that your call lists only contain accounts that fit that criteria. What’s their annual revenue? How many employees do they have? Do they have a potential need for your products or service? What industry do they operate in or have a unique niche?

Once this is identified and you’ve selected target companies who meet your definition of a qualified lead, further qualify each prospect account and make sure your product is a good match for their business needs. Do they already use one of your competitors? Are they embarking on an initiative that your product or service could support? Is their current technology stack compatible with your product? Sounds like common sense, but sometimes we are so eager to close deals that we charge ahead without due diligence.

This is in my mind the single most important technique in cold calling. Lead Selection. Think about it. You call 1,000 OK fits and 3% convert. You generated 30 qualified opportunities. You can instead do research upfront, call 300 GREAT fits, and if 10% convert you’ve got the same number of qualified opps, but it was a hell of a lot easier, and saved you literally DAYS of time.

2. Do. Not. Sell. the. Product.

No really. During the cold call, don’t focus on the product or service you are trying to sell. Instead, focus on the next steps: what would you like them to do and why should they want to do it. There isn’t a lot of time during the initial call to sell the prospect on the slew of benefits of using your solution. Use your time wisely and convince them to set aside some time to learn more. Share with them what they will see and learn by scheduling a meeting and tease them by touching on a paint point that they will be able to solve afterwards. Convince them that they would regret not taking time for the meeting.

Think of this as the trailer for a big blockbuster hit. You’re just trying to get them to buy tickets to the movie. Later, you can convince them to buy the light sabers and the costumes and the board games and watch all 6 additional movies in the series.

3. No One Cares about the Weather in your Neck of the Woods.

Small talk is great for breaking the ice. How’s the weather? Any big plans for the holidays? It’s great when killing time with the barista while waiting for a latte, but it’s time consuming and annoying when receiving a cold call – an unexpected interruption. The prospect has stuff to do, things to accomplish, business empires to topple. Skip the small talk and dive into their challenges (and refer to #2). Maybe once you get to know the prospect the small talk will be appropriate. But not on a cold call. Trust me.

4. Your Offensive Strategy Should Go Beyond Direct Shots on the Goalie

A good receptionist or assistant will deflect cold calls like an NHL goalie. Don’t assume that you will be able to get past them and reach the sought-after contact on just the smooth sound of your vocal stylings alone. Have a game plan to get around the goalie. Reference an earlier email or conversation on a known industry issue. As in, “Hi Frank. I was calling to speak to Jane. Just following up on an email that I sent her earlier.” Be smart and do more than simply ask to talk to the lead.

5. Your Approach Should not Resemble a Round of Whack-A-Mole

Don’t take blind whacks at prospects hoping to make contact with the right person. Know who to call. Again, it sounds rudimentary, but have some insight into organizational structure – who reports to whom, what departments are in charge of certain types of projects. Don’t just start calling everyone and anyone at your target company whose phone number you can find. Do a little leg work to identify who is the most appropriate decision maker to connect with. Without this type of insight, your cold calls will just be a waste of your and your prospect’s time – and let’s not forget that first impressions stick and you want to come off as the knowledgeable problem solver. Sure, it may take more time than calling in blind, but the results will be much better.

This is where a powerful sales intelligence solution comes in handy. For example, with an Org Chart from DiscoverOrg, sales teams can gain access to a business’ entire hierarchy. Organizational charts from DiscoverOrg reveal key decision makers in the company as well as what type of projects and responsibilities are in their purview. Research the organization’s reporting structure and know exactly who to call. By performing more research to understand the company’s current initiatives and pain points, you’ll have not only a good ice breaker, but also a good idea of how to solve their problems.

6. If You Can’t Rebound, You Can’t Win

Prospects will have a litany of objections to proposals. Know what they are before they’re mentioned, and have rebuttals for each. Get together with the marketing team to identify possible objections and formulate counter arguments (that support the product, obviously). Have them ready and don’t be left floundering when the lead launches into a series of counters.

For example, prospects may not want to migrate existing data to the solution because they think the process is a pain. Let them them know about the easy and quick migration tools the software provides and the award-winning customer support team that will be there every step of the way, through the transition and beyond.

At the end of the day this is about picking up the phone and persuading someone of the value of your solution who wouldn’t otherwise have realized it. That’s what sales is.

The key to successful cold calling is preparation. Knowledge is power.

Read More from ZoomInfo: 21 Stats on B2B Cold Calling Data


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About the author

Patrick Purvis

As Senior VP of Revenue, Patrick manages sales and customer success at DiscoverOrg, where he is responsible for strategic account growth. Formerly Chief Revenue Officer, Purvis is a graduate of Oregon State University where he studied Economics.