There is great pressure in the sales realm no matter what you’re selling. But for those of us in the imaging industry, the stress is exacerbated. Our volumes were dropping before COVID-19, consolidation was a daily occurrence, and layoffs happened almost every month. COVID-19 kicked all that into high gear, accelerating the transformation in a most turbulent way.
Today the talk about town is working from home, the death of the office and surviving the next month. Few meetings are centered on new copiers and toner supply management.
When the world presents chaos and uncertainty, returning to our core values and foundational skill set is both rational and confidence building. Back to the basics like blocking and tackling, throwing, catching and batting, dribbling, jump shots and layups — for the selling professional it’s more like clear messaging, open ended questions, relevant talk tracks, and phone calls.
That’s right. Cold phone calls. Chills run down your spine, don’t they? Fear not – there are volumes of books on coaching, dozens of techniques, and hours of seminars chock full of advice and wisdom. Unfortunately, most advice was generated pre-COVID-19. Fortunately, the basics still apply.
Cold calling is the bane of most salespeople but a savior of some. If you can get over the challenges of cold calling, you can do anything. So, get on the phone and dial like your life depends on it. If your dealership has a cold call program, increase the numbers by 50%. For example, if your goal is 100 dials, 50 contacts, and 10 appointments, for example, bump all the numbers up by half — 150 dials, 100 contacts, 15 appointments. The reason to increase the top numbers is to increase your odds of securing appointments on the bottom line.
This is not easy. This may not be fun. But it is the foundation of all future transactions. Go ahead and build a great LinkedIn profile, write blogs, and contribute to social media as much as you can, but the best way to get yourself out there is to pick up the phone and make one-on-one-contact, especially in the age of mass marketing, social networking and one-to-many presentations. With everyone jumping on daily web sessions, a real voice on the other end of the phone is actually refreshing. This may sound counterintuitive, but it really is appropriate for the times.
One place I enjoyed doing cold calls, over the phone and in person, was selling corporate identity programs (uniforms) back in the 90’s – it was a blast. My ratios got as high as 50 dials, 40 contacts, 20 appointments – closing up to 15 of those appointments. Back then all we had were “basics” – paper, snail mail, handwritten letters, and receptionists.
Why was this fun? Because we all reaped benefits of successful calling. When looking back, we were confident, we were friendly, we understood that not all companies were good matches, but the only way to find out was to give them a call.
Good times, but “the times, they are a-changing” – always.
Things to consider before dialing:
Get into a good mental state. I mean it. Find a way to always be in a positive mood before getting on the phone – music, funny videos, meditation, yoga – whatever it takes. This is important, especially today. One old-school trick is placing a mirror right next to your phone and before every dial, look at your pretty face and smile. Smiles travel through the phone, through your prospect’s ears and into their mind. It’s true, a smile can be heard. Be the ambassador of happiness for your company. Do this before each dial and over time, this will become second nature.
On the flip side, get ready for hang-ups. You will run into the voicemail maze and somebody may resent you calling. That’s OK. Keep dialing and trying to strike up a conversation. There are all sorts of tricks to tell yourself, like counting the rejections and knowing that every “No” gets you closer to a “Yes.” It’s classic, if not old-fashioned, mantra, but it is mathematically sound.
Have mental fortitude, empathy, authenticity and empathy. That’s not a typo. Empathy is a pillar in nearly all successful, complex business relationships. Now, more than ever, you have got to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes, not just in the beginning but throughout the sales journey. And this must come from an authentic place in your heart which means you’re also going to be vulnerable. I could write chapters around these ideals; I’ve seen successful cold callers churn out calls without a care in the world and I don’t mean that in a good way. This is an emotional play; you can’t truly be real without investing a piece of yourself into every syllable and each dial.
Use the phone, love the phone
Start by calling all your existing customers. Seriously, this is your bread and butter and you already have common ground. Ask about their business, ask if you can do anything more, schedule an account review, send them lunch. Do whatever you can to establish, or re-establish, an open, honest relationship.
If you don’t have an existing client base, your company does, and if your dealership doesn’t have a list of current customers for you to contact, find a new job, now. Get a list.
Warm up the call
Cold means you haven’t spoken with the decision-making contact, but it shouldn’t mean you know nothing of their world.
It’s good to stay within a niche or industry you are familiar with so you can have common conversations between contacts. Calling on real estate offices? Then you should know the current market for housing sales. Dialing up construction companies? Please know the difference between general contractors and home builders; between HVAC and concrete. Same for manufacturing, accountants, advertising agencies, property management companies, legal, food service, distribution, etc. Today, basic knowledge of every niche is a couple of clicks away.
Set the formula
The real numbers do not matter; you could easily say, “200 dials, 80 contacts, 40 appointments.” It’s the formula that counts.
If you don’t have a guideline, go with 100/10/1 for now. Those are low goals, but a good place to start. Keep track on a notepad of your dials, contacts, and appointments. As you get more comfortable, your ratios will rise from five appointments per 100 to 10, then 15 and so on.
Keep at it, this will happen.
Have the right equipment
All you need is a phone, mirror, pad of paper and pen. Sure, a headset is fine, but when making cold calls from the beach, letting your prospect hear the waves is a good thing. The mirror, we mentioned before, could be the most effective tool in your kit.
Do not get hung up on technology. Auto dialers, conversation tracking software, computers and CRMs are great tools, but in this day and age, it is easy for the hardware to get between you and your prospects. Keep it simple.
Know your script
Bullet point the landmarks of your conversation. I know, I know, we all hate scripts. But scripts seem to work in the movies, don’t they? Write your script word for word and repeat to yourself until you own it. By “own it” I mean, you understand the concept and direction you’re moving so that no matter what is said to you from the other side, your internal compass will help you navigate the conversation.
Once you’ve mastered the dialogue, place a 3×5 card nearby with bullet points on subjects you want to cover as reminders. Simple.
Yes, leave a voicemail. The importance of voice mail has waxed and waned over the decades. We find ourselves in a period where leaving a voicemail is important. Again, be ready for the voicemail with a canned and casual message:
Your first name – “Hello this is Greg,”
Your company – “from ArcDrive,”
Your contact information – “I can be reached at … ”
Reason for call, third party referral – “I’ve been working with Frank over at EDC Business Solutions. We helped them easily realize additional revenue streams and I thought you might be interested in the same thing.
Call to action – “If this sounds interesting please give me a call,” or “I’ll call you back Friday the 13th at 7:30 am, looking forward to talking.”
Like I said before, there is so much content around cold calling – almost too much. Just get out there and do it. COVID-19 can’t keep us down, and economic struggles will not rule the day.
I asked a friend, Art Post, who is making his numbers all through COVID-19, for some phone cold call tips and ideas:
- Call before 8 am and after 5 pm, call on Saturdays too.
- Center your talk track around Pre-COVID-19 print volumes versus print volumes of the new normal.
Things are different today. Talk about it.
- We’re finding more companies need to right-size their print volumes and align along with hardware.
Don’t be afraid to “downshift” from A3 to A4.
- Also, I talk about “only pay for what your print.”
This means no minimum volume contracts and more flexibility.
Thanks, Art, for the quick tips! Good stuff. Sell on!