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February 4, 2016 // 8:30 AM

Sales Prospecting in 2016: 9 Tips for Effective Warm Calling

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In 2016, salespeople need to change the way they approach prospecting.

First, work your inbound leads. Let your marketing team work the top of the funnel. You don’t have to call all the leads who are just looking for information or education -- those leads need to be nurtured, and Marketing is the right team to do it.

But what if you don’t have enough inbound leads? You still have to keep your pipeline full, so how do you create net new opportunities if your inbound leads are running dry?

You warm call.

What Is Warm Calling?

I consider warm calling to be connecting with a company that you’ve proactively identified as a good fit although they haven't demonstrated an interest in your product or service yet. Based on your knowledge and experience, they fit the profile of your successful customers.

It’s okay to reach out to good fit prospects who haven’t converted on your website yet. You just have to do it correctly. The key is to be efficient, effective, and add value in the first 15 seconds. That’s right -- only 15 seconds.

9 Tips for Effective Warm Calling

1) Identify good fit companies.

The best prospects are the ones that look like your best customers. They’ll have similar pain, which means they’ll be easier to sell to and have higher retention rates. Study your buyer personas and learn to recognize your ideal buyer quickly. Review your customer base and identify key similarities between your most successful clients so you have a finely honed sense of what to look for.

One caveat: Don’t just focus on the whales. While it’s important to identify your largest target accounts as early in the year as possible, whales don’t come around often. Concentrate on understanding your business’ bread and butter -- the type of customer that buys again and again.

(HubSpot’s free CRM includes a database of 19 million prospects to get you started: Check it out here.)

2) Research the company.

Preparation is essential in warm calling -- after all, you can’t deliver value if you don’t know what your prospect cares about. I use LinkedIn to read a bit about the company and collect specific information.

At a minimum, you should know how many years the company’s been in business, the number of employees, and their location, and read their business blurb. This may sound obvious, but knowing these basics is important. It helps me determine the type of problems this business is likely to face and helps me tailor my introduction. For example, a 10-person company’s business pain is very different from a 500-person company’s pain.

3) Research the company’s executives.

I always do research to find out if I know any of my prospective companies’ senior executives or am connected to people who do. I want to find any information I can that’ll make it easier to connect -- for example, whether he’s a Midwestern football fanatic or she’s a San Diegan surfer. 

I dig for educational background, I examine their LinkedIn photos for clues to their personality and try to determine the most critical problems an executive in this role would have.

4) Perfect your opening.

Calling an executive is theater. You have 15 seconds to capture their attention and demonstrate value.

I like to make calls in the morning before the craziness of a workday hits an executive’s desk -- from 7:30 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. local time. If you call earlier, you’re more likely to catch them at their desks. About 25% of the time, the executive picks up!

My opening is: “Hi Chuck, this is Dan from HubSpot.” Then I’ll pause and wait for them to respond.

It’s important to sound powerful and in control. If you’re warm calling an executive, they won’t have any idea who you are and may not have heard of your company. It’s crucial to sound assertive -- executives are more likely to respond to someone who’s confident and authoritative than a rep who’s clearly nervous.

5) Be human.

A sales rep’s secret weapons are voice tone and a sense of humor. Your voice tone can put people at ease or on edge, and an ability to make people laugh will go farther in making them trust you than any sales pitch.

Executives are extremely busy, so be as pleasant as possible and show that you understand the demands of their positions. Smile when you’re warm calling (they’ll be able to hear it!), especially if it’s early in the morning.

6) Prepare your talking points ahead of time.

Referencing a piece of specific, non-generic information and asking a great question establishes a level of trust and opens the door for a professional conversation.

The key is to get as detailed as possible on a topic with which the executive is familiar. For example, here’s a talking point I could use:

“I saw that you posted a blog article last week on cybersecurity at your company with a really intriguing title. I read it twice, and the paragraph about X strategy was really interesting. I thought I’d pick up the phone to talk with you to see if it was successful.”

Do you think she’s ever had a call like this? This hyper-tailored opening changes the game. It compliments the prospect, engages her right away, and leads to follow-up questions about why the company chose this strategy, whether it succeeded or failed, what they plan to do next, and how you can help.

7) Keep the call under five minutes.

Even though you may find that your product is a great fit, a warm call is still an interruption. Use your best judgment if the conversation is flowing well, but be respectful of your prospect’s time. After five minutes, ask, “Do you have a few more minutes, or should I email you information?”

Your first call is just an opening, so don’t worry about cramming in as much information as possible. Find out which other stakeholders should be included on the email (see #8), then let your prospect know that you’ll be their point of contact for solving their business pain.

8) Follow up with an email.

Your first call should have touched on your prospect’s biggest business pain. In your follow-up email, thank your prospect for their time and include specific, detailed information that will help her solve her problems.

9) Define a tangible next step.

Every communication you have with a prospect should be designed to drive the sales process forward or determine if you should disqualify them. Include one clear ask in your follow-up email so your prospect knows what’s coming next. Even if the response is negative, you’ve laid the foundation for a future relationship.

Cold calling doesn’t work in 2016, but that doesn’t mean any unsolicited phone call is ineffective. Instead, take the time to carefully research good fit prospects before offering them specific, targeted value, and reap the benefits of warm calling.

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