Today's salespeople are afraid to pick up the phone. Yes, phone anxiety is real.
At ValueSelling, we recently conducted a survey on B2B sales reps' top prospecting challenges and found that 50% of sales reps surveyed feared making cold calls. Half of the respondents we surveyed had anxiety about this essential part of their jobs.
Perhaps it's generational -- after all, what millennial makes a phone call instead of texting or using social media? However, I believe it all comes down to sales reps not being sure how to initiate a discussion that will add value.
If their prospect answers, the rep is afraid they won't know what to say. If I they get voicemail, they're afraid they don't know how to leave a concise, compelling message. And so, they'd rather not put themselves in the position of getting stuck and sounding irrelevant to the prospect in those situations. They're afraid of looking inept or feeling uncomfortable.
To justify the lack of phone calls, they'll rationalize, "No one answers the phone anymore … so I'm not going to call." But that's a mistake. In this post, I'll discuss my tips for overcoming phone anxiety to get better results prospecting.
Does this phone anxiety translate to missed opportunities when prospecting? Absolutely. Respondents in our survey said the phone was the second-best method for reaching new prospects, with 46% selecting phone calls as an effective prospecting method (Gaining referrals was the most effective method).
How to Get Over Phone Anxiety
So, if you're a sales rep feeling some phone anxiety, start with these tips for overcoming it:
1. Start by picking up the phone.
The phone is still an incredibly powerful tool for communication. Believe it or not, some people still answer their phones -- even in today's age of caller ID. Once you get through to your prospect and talk in real-time, you'll stand out and have the chance to build rapport -- if you add value, that is. Even if you leave a voicemail message, they'll hear your voice which provides a different level of connection than just an email or LinkedIn InMail.
2. Plan for multiple touches in multiple ways.
Of course, the phone is only one method of outreach. Phone calls are powerful, and should be part of an orchestrated approach to gain access to your prospects. But you'll need to leverage multiple vehicles of communication over time to successfully reach your prospects. Online connections such as social selling, email, and webinars should be balanced with offline (in-person) touchpoints, such as trade shows and networking events. It's important to be present and show up at the places where your buyers might be. A cadence-based approach using multiple different types of touchpoints help reps crush their metrics and build a strong pipeline.
3. Dedicate a calendar block each day, and be persistent.
Our research showed that, overall, 54% of initial meetings require more than five touch points to set up -- and that 10% require 11 or more touches. The one thing that we know for sure is consistency is key in prospecting. Calendar management and calendar blocking are key to success. So, look at your calendar and block out times for calls and your other outreach, and then stick to it, each day.
Our study also revealed that most people underestimate the number of touches required to get through to a prospect. At the same time, sales reps over-report the number of times they actually reach out, by about 50%. In tandem, this diminished effort will deliver diminished results.
4. Make your interruptions valuable for prospects.
At the end of the day, we need to realize that when we are prospecting, we're interrupting people. We hope it's a value-added interruption, but it's considered an interruption nonetheless. As a sales professional, your goal is to get the prospect to engage with you, and ultimately, to buy from you. You want to meet their needs and add value to their businesses and to them personally.
So, when sales reps ask, "How do I get more appointments?" I point out that they may be asking the wrong the question. I suggest they ask themselves, "Why would any prospect ever want to meet with me?" If they can find a way to add value for their prospect with insightful information about that prospect's business, they will succeed.
It all comes down to valuable content: not just information on your product or your company, but how you can help successfully solve your prospect's business challenge.
5. Deliver content that's relevant to your prospects.
We all probably get dozens of outreach emails or phone calls a day from sales reps. Although they're asking for my time, very rarely is the content of those messages relevant to me. It's usually, "Let me tell you about my company. Let me tell you what I do. Let me tell you how cool our new program is." But this doesn't entice me, and it usually doesn't convince me to get back in touch with them.
You need the business acumen to confidently have a business conversation with an executive. If that's a skill gap for you, it is something you should work on getting the training to resolve. I'm often asked, "What is the number one thing I need to do to sell to the executive level at my prospects' companies?" Well, you need to become fluent in the language of business so that you can have a business conversation.
6. Prepare bulleted notes
You'll hear varying points of view regarding how much you should format or script your conversations in sales. Some reps swear by templates while others argue scripts kill all natural flow in conversations.
If you're dealing with phone anxiety, having easy-to-read, bulleted notes can keep you focused and on subject. Use your bullets to guide your conversation. Here's an example of bulleted discovery call notes:
- Thanks for time and brief introduction to me and company
- Tell me about your role and day-to-day pain points
- Why is this a priority today?
- What does a successful outcome look like?
- Biggest roadblocks?
- Who are stakeholders in this process?
- How can I help?
- My initial thoughts on a solution
- Wrap-up and next steps
- Schedule next meeting
This bulleted list is straightforward and bare bones. But if you find yourself rambling, getting flustered, or feeling anxious, you can refer back to your call outline for a productive, organized meeting.
7. Embrace the hold
Struggling with anxiety on the phone can be debilitating. What if they ask a question you don't know the answer to? What if you get overwhelmed? What if you can't catch your breath?
If you ever need a moment to collect your thoughts, don't be afraid to ask the prospect if it's alright if you place them on a brief hold. A quick, "I don't know the answer to that, but if I can place you on a brief hold, I can get you an answer ..." can be a quick way for prospects to get the information they need, and for you to take a quick break.
This survey provided us with some validation on the challenges of prospecting, and the fact that today it is harder and harder to get meetings with prospects for a number of reasons. So, we must engage them by creating messages from their point of view.
You should continually ask yourself, "What is the value we can add to that prospect?" Once you get that process down, it is much easier to create those value-added messages and become a value-added interruption. That is, once you pick up the phone.
To learn more, read our list of lead generation strategies next.