COVID-19 has been a challenge for everyone, especially salespeople. If you’re having trouble, try out this cold calling advice to help you boost your business!
Since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the United States in spring of 2020, virtually every business has been affected, but especially those that involve sales. With high unemployment rates, people are spending less, though that doesn’t mean they aren’t spending at all. New prospects are still out there, but you may need to tweak your approach a bit. Fear not. We’re here with a little cold calling advice that might come in useful.
A recent study by McKinsey & Co. indicates that some 50% of B2B customers are holding off on buying during the pandemic, which can be read two ways: There are 50% fewer opportunities, or 50% of your potential customers are still out there.
In less ambiguous news, the study also found that 70-80% of B2B decision makers actually prefer the new remote model of buying and selling. While virtual sales is enjoying a forced renaissance, phone sales have barely dipped, percentage-wise, compared to pre-COVID levels. In short, while in-person sales have decreased, and virtual sales have increased, phone sales have remained steady.
Still, phone sales require a little more tact and strategy than they used to. With this cold calling advice, however, you’ll hopefully be able to get back on track.
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7 Pieces of cold calling advice that could keep your business doors open
1. Demonstrate empathy
Empathy is always a critical sales tool, but perhaps now more than ever, which is why it ranks so high on our cold calling advice list. On the surface, calling a stranger to sell them something during a pandemic may seem insensitive. Rather than leaving the action open to interpretation, call it out from the beginning. “I hope you and your business are doing well during this pandemic. I realize there is a lot of uncertainty right now, but I think our product/service will help you with [identify current need or problem].” Addressing it head-on shows that you’re sensitive to a new customer’s potential financial circumstances while also demonstrating that you’re there to help.
2. Spend even more time researching leads
In that same vein, you’d ideally only call leads who have successfully maintained their business. Our second bit of cold calling advice is to do your due diligence and then do it again. Dig deeper than usual. Make every effort you can to figure out someone’s situation before calling. Check them out on LinkedIn or google their business to see how business is doing. If it seems a lead might be in dire straits because of the recession, make a note in your CRM to look them up again in a few months. In all likelihood, you’ll still reach people who are on tough times, but if you can reduce the risk, your pitch stands a much better chance.
3. Ask more questions
Making inquiries of new customers is good cold calling advice in the best of times, but it’s extra important now. Do your best to understand their current circumstances and the circumstances of their customers (assuming you’re selling B2B). It may be that there’s interest, but the sales cycle will take a little longer. Asking questions can help you to gauge interest independent of COVID-19 as well as to determine an adjusted timeline for closing. An added bonus? Those questions will go a long way towards showing the empathy that’s necessary for creating a relationship.
4. Engage in small talk
Sure, you’ve got a lot of calls to make, but don’t let that rush you. Quality over quantity always goes a long way. Many people have been isolated or under-stimulated. They may be unusually conversational with someone over the phone since in-person interactions are practically at a stand-still. If someone starts going a bit off track, go with them for a little while, see where it leads. This may seem particularly unusual cold calling advice, but if you take the time to listen—even if it’s a little off-topic—you may be surprised how that can generate interest in your product or service.
5. Light-heartedness helps
Times have been challenging for everybody. We all need little pick-me-ups where we can get them. Be the person who makes someone’s day. Practice being upbeat and pay close attention to your tone during a call. We also suggest coming up with a few witty, entertaining anecdotes that might make someone laugh. For some, your humorous quips may be the brightest part of their day or week. This goes beyond cold calling advice because apart from establishing a new connection and potentially making a sale, you can take comfort in knowing that, if nothing else, you’ve helped improve someone’s day—a gesture they’ll probably remember when you follow up.
6. Double down on follow up
The reality is that even leads who remain financially stable, cold calls are probably less likely to convert immediately, or even after standard follow up. Instead of toning it down, follow up sooner and maybe even more frequently. Doing so will ensure that the lead remembers you. Of course, don’t pester or annoy, but put in the extra effort to be someone who leaves a mark on people when they’re so preoccupied with other things.
7. Be flexible with bottom lines
Finally, be as flexible as you can on your lowest prices. This probably isn’t the most welcome cold calling advice, but we all know that when business is slow, lower prices result in more sales, even if not as much revenue. And while it’s a bit of a last-resort sales philosophy, the reality remains that some revenue is always better than none.
It’s impossible to ignore the fact that for almost everyone, life is a lot different than it was. That includes the way we do business. There’s no need to belabor the issue, but don’t be afraid to address something so profound that it’s impacted literally every person in the world. And as always in sales, go with the flow and adjust as you need. That’s always the best way to close a deal.
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