Typical cold calling mistakes and how to avoid them

7 min read
Vlad Kovalskiy
July 15, 2014
Last updated: April 5, 2023
Typical cold calling mistakes and how to avoid them
Cold calling, despite being disliked, is still a powerful way to generate new leads and sometimes the only option your inside sales team has. Today we talked to two cold calling experts Kelly Robertson of RobertsonTrainingGroup and Michael Halper of SalesScripter.com about typical cold calling mistakes and how to avoid them.

What is the biggest mistake or mistakes people do when they first try cold calls?

MH: Trying to sell the product on the cold call. A cold call should only last between 2 to 5. This is not enough time to fully sell the product (unless it is very transactional – one call close type of sale). With that the goal, and thing to close, should be the appointment to discuss more. The initial sell is to sell the prospect on having a conversation.

KR: The biggest mistakes is that most people don’t do any pre-call research and treat every call the same way. They use the same opening, the same value proposition, and as a result, they sound exactly the same as every other person calling that prospect.

When you call business executives you need to stand out from the competition and give them a compelling reason to take your call. Demonstrate that you have expertise or knowledge of their business or industry by referencing your research or trends and then by asking them thought-provoking questions. Too many sales people simply launch into a pitch which automatically puts the prospect on the defensive and gets them thinking, “How do I get rid of this person”. Or, it causes a kneejerk objection such as, “We already have a supplier” or “We’re not interested.”

Another common mistake is trying to close the sale on the first call. Your only goal on the first call is to determine interest and to set up an appointment with the prospect.

Plenty of people hate telemarketers. How do you write a script that gets you the results you want without being too pushy and salesy?

KR: For B2B, it is critical to use an outline but not a tightly written script. Once again, the key is focus on the prospect and an issue that they may be dealing with in their business. Skip the “Here’s what we do” opening and concentrate on establishing a two-way dialogue.

MH: Talk about the product as little as possible. Focus more on value that the product offers. Focus the call more on the prospect than on you (the salesperson, the product, the company). You do this by having pre-qualifying questions in your script. This gets the call focused on them and gets them talking. Focus on their pain. Focus on the pain that you resolve. Do everything you can to not sound like a sales person.

Confirm that they are available at the beginning of call by asking if they are in the middle of anything? This will decrease your pushy-ness to establish the call and gets their permission to proceed and buys you 2 to 5 minutes.

Don’t try to overcome objections – someone says they are not interested and you try to make them interested. Instead, redirect the objection by asking a question that keeps the call going.

A good chunk of cold calls end up in the voicemail. Can you give a few pointers about leaving messages that result in returned phone calls?

MH: The first tip is to never leave a voicemail with the goal of getting a returned call. If you are cold calling decision makers, they don’t return voicemails from cold calls – they are too busy and get too many, they know that if you are a good sales person you will be calling back. Use a mix of no voicemail left with leaving voicemail. No voicemail left (hanging up) gives you the opportunity to call back more frequently. Leave a message periodically and use this as an opportunity to educate the prospect on why they should talk to you when you call them back (mention pain that you fix, value you offer, client example, etc.). Follow every voicemail with an email.

KR: First, the message MUST be brief. No longer than 20 seconds, 30 at the most. Anything longer than that is likely going to get deleted because business executives are too busy to listen to long, drawn-out messages. Get to the point and give them a compelling reason to listen to your message.

Second, skip the information about your company and what you do. Instead, just like your opening on a live call, demonstrate your expertise and knowledge of the prospect’s business or industry. Reference a growing trend in the industry and ask if the prospect is facing a similar issue. Or, mention a significant issue in your client’s business and a problem that they might be facing. For example, let’s say you sell IT consulting services and you are targeting a company that has just acquired another organization. You could say, “Companies who go through mergers often struggle with integrating different operating systems. I know you just acquired ABC company and I’m wondering if you’re facing this challenge?” This approach shows that you have knowledge of their current situation (which separates you from the competition) and it also demonstrates that you have insight into a particular problem.

Thank you!

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