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The Sales Clinic: Why Your Cold Calling Isn't Working (Part 1)

Whenever I'm talking to business owners or their sales teams, the topic of new business development—and cold calling, in particular—always evokes interesting reactions.

Cold calling is one of those topics everyone has an opinion on (even those who don't do it). And the salespeople and business owners who do it normally fall into one of the camps: love it, loathe it, or tolerate it.

But regardless of which camp you or your team fall into, most people just don't get the results they want from cold calling. Below are some reasons why that's the case, along with some ideas on what to do about it.

1. Lack of preparation. Most people fail to prepare for their cold calling sessions properly. You'd be astounded how many times I see people "start" a cold calling session by looking for their list of people to call, trying to find their diary, finishing off an e-mail, taking a call from an existing client, tidying their desk, going to get a drink or have a quick cigarette…pretty much anything except actually making the calls.

Often, this means the calling session that had been due to start at 10 a.m. now really starts at 10:40. By the time the salesperson has made a few calls, the session is over. The salesperson may well have achieved their objective of "avoiding" the session, but has the session really contributed to the success of the business? Hardly!

Cold calling is best done in focused sessions with no interruptions. And if the session is meant to start at 10, then the first phone call had better be at 10.

2. Lack of belief. A number of business owners and salespeople I meet still aren't convinced cold calling actually works, or could work for them and their company. And those people are usually the ones who have tried it (or are currently doing it) and aren't getting the results that they could. Alternately, they haven't tried it but have already decided it won't work.

I always find it interesting when I talk to people who have this belief. "Cold calling just won't work in my industry, they often say. Then, when I ask them what they do, it turns out they are in the same industry as someone else I've trained who is getting great results from cold calling. Perhaps what the people with the negative beliefs really mean is, "I'm unsure of the right approach that would make it work for me."

Whatever the reason, if you or your team is making cold calls with the belief it doesn't work, don't you think that might stand in the way of your potential success?

When you start with that sort of belief, your activity levels will be lower, your voice tone will be monotone and boring, you'll accept the first objection too easily, and (as mentioned earlier) you'll do anything to avoid doing the calls. Is your lack of success truly a surprise, then?

3. Inability to deal with rejection. This can affect anyone, particularly if you're new to sales, new to cold calling, or only do it as part of your role. For example, if your role consists of mainly account management, if your boss has just told you that you need to start making cold calls, or you've started up your own business and need to start cold calling, this could be affecting you right now.

Let's face it: If you're cold calling, you're going to face some rejection. Some of you will have to deal with the fact people are going to give you objections. Some of these people will say "no" directly to you, and plenty of them will be hanging up on you.

The fact of the matter is, you're not expecting to get a "yes" on every call; indeed, you're expecting at least 90 percent of them to say "no." The very reason you're calling is to get that smaller percentage of people who are going to say "yes."

4. Failure To stay motivated. Cold calling can be difficult. And because of the amount of objections and rejection you face, it can sometimes be difficult to stay motivated. But your failure to do so could actually be causing you problems with your cold calls.

Many people I talk to find selling over the phone difficult, particularly if their role involves selling face to face. When you sell face to face, you can read the other person's body language, build rapport faster, and watch their reaction when you deliver your price. However when you're selling over the phone, all you have is your voice tone and your delivery.

And if your role involves a lot of cold calling, it's very easy for your motivation levels to drop later in the day if you're not careful. For many people, cold calling is about sounding bright, enthusiastic, confident, and certain. And all these traits can be heard in your voice tone, can't they?

And yet, I've lost count of the amount of calls I've heard when the salesperson or business owner isn't motivated. Their voice tone has gone from being bright and enthusiastic to bored, tired, and disinterested. You don't have to be a genius to deduce the outcome that sort of call will produce.

In the second part of this column, we'll look at four more reasons why your cold calling isn't producing the desired results—and how to rectify them.

Andy Preston is an expert authority on selling for small businesses. Visit him online at www.andy-preston.com and www.salestrainingbreakfastclub.com.