Calling prospects takes a good degree of courage, talent -- and yes, some luck. You might never be able to control whether the person who picks up is having a good day … assuming they pick up at all.

But great salespeople do everything they can to succeed regardless, from proactively boosting their confidence, staying focused, practicing their techniques, and honing their skills.

So if you want to get great results even when luck isn’t on your side, follow these 16 sales call prospecting tips.

Mindset

1) Be confident

Your first impression hinges on how confident you sound. After all, prospects don’t have much else to go on -- if you seem nervous, they’ll assume you don’t have a good reason to call, but appearing self-assured and in command will make you seem credible.

Worried you’ll come across as anxious? Listen to a pump-up song right before you call, take a few seconds to play a mental “highlight reel” of your greatest selling hits, and picture the best possible outcome of the conversation. And most importantly, make sure you’re well-prepared. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll automatically feel ready.

2) Don’t worry about mistakes

It’s okay if you stumble a couple times or don’t answer every question perfectly. You’re human, which means you’ll occasionally mess up. Not only are prospects willing to overlook the occasional blooper, they may even see you as more relatable. Just say something like, “Oops, got something caught in my throat,” or “I think it’s time for another coffee.”

3) Count your nos

If you’re struggling to stay motivated, try Jeff Hoffman’s tip: Count the “nos” you get. Rather than feeling dejected when you’re shut down, you’ll feel like you’ve made progress.

To make things a little more exciting, challenge another two or three salespeople to race you. The first rep who gets a certain number of nos wins -- maybe they get to pick the next lunch, free drinks, or just bragging rights.

4) Remember your motivation

Keep your enthusiasm up by periodically reminding yourself why you’re doing this. Maybe you have a financial goal. Maybe you’re trying to set a personal record or beating a team member’s. Maybe you’re trying to grow your business. Keeping that “why” in the back of your mind will help you overcome disinterested prospects, hang ups, and no responses.

Strategy

1) Warm them up on social media

You’ll get a much better reaction if you seem familiar. People can’t help it: Thanks to the exposure effect, we naturally feel warmer toward those we know.

That’s why you should try to interact with buyers on social media before you call. Request to connect with them on LinkedIn, like and retweet their posts on Twitter, and so forth. By the time you say “This is Jim from Dunder Mifflin,” they’ll know your name.

2) Do prospecting in chunks

Set aside a block of time each day for making calls. It’s much more efficient to make several outreach calls in a row than call one prospect, prep for a demo, go to a meeting, make a few more calls, connect with 10 people on LinkedIn, and so on.

Not only are you staying in the prospecting mindset, but you can keep all your materials close at hand.

3) Vary your prospecting times

That being said, calling a prospect at the same time every time rarely works. If they didn’t pick up in the morning the first two times you tried, they probably won’t pick up the third time. Mix it up to maximize your chances of connecting: Try the morning, mid-afternoon, and early evening.

Conversation

1) Find a commonality

Research shows humans are hardwired to like people who seem similar. Capitalize on this by mentioning something you share with your prospect -- and don’t worry if you didn’t go to the same college or grow up in the same place, this strategy still works even with statements like, “I’ve visited Japan as well! What did you think?” and “Saw on Twitter you’re a big fan of chess pie. My grandma used to make the most delicious chess pie ever. Where did you get your recipe?”

Proving you’re a real person just like them will soften your prospect’s defenses and make them likelier to stay on the line.

2) Explain why you’re reaching out

The first question in your prospect’s mind you need to answer (or risk losing their attention for good): “Why are you calling me?”

There’s a great formula to use in your response: “I’m calling because we help [type of business] companies like yours with [pain point or opportunity].”

For example, if you’re calling a small ecommerce company, you might say, “I’m reaching out because we help recently launched ecommerce companies like yours make their website look trustworthy to consumers.”

The more specific you can get, the better. This reinforces the importance of doing research: Knowing key details about your prospects helps you customize your messaging, and it also helps you weed out bad fits.

3) Avoid the cheesy pitch

You might be tempted to follow up your reason for calling with an overview of your solution -- how it works, why it’s so great, and which companies are using it. Don’t do this. Hard selling will only turn off the person on the other end of the line; just picture how you’d feel if your day was interrupted by a stranger launching into their product pitch.

Instead, ask one simple question: “Is that a [challenge, opportunity] you’re [experiencing, interested in solving]?”

If they say yes, you can ask for some time on their calendar to discuss some strategies.

4) Have a plan …

But be prepared to pivot. Going in with a roadmap, some relevant statistics, and a few pre-written questions is smart. However, if you’ve written an entire script, make sure you’re comfortable straying from it. There’s almost zero chance your prospect will say exactly what you expect, so if you’re thrown off by any deviation, the call won’t end well.

The takeaway? Have your notes in front of you, but try not to read them word for word, and expect the conversation to take unexpected turns.

5) Don’t give up immediately

Prospect hits you with an objection? Don’t be defeated so easily. Sometimes, you need to provide some value before the buyer sees you as worthy of their time.

With that in mind, be cheerily persistent -- and more importantly, helpful.

Let’s say your prospect says, “No, we’re not dealing with that issue right now.”

You’d say something along the lines of, “That’s good to hear. Can you tell me a little more about your [strategy for X, Q4 plans, etc.]?” Try to dig for more information and find a chance to offer suggestions.

Post-Call

1) Add your notes immediately

As soon as you hang up, log relevant details in the CRM. Did the prospect mention they’re using a competitor? Write that down. Did you build some rapport around a specific topic? Make a note of it so you can bring it up in your next email or call.

You should also schedule any reminders or next steps. This ensures you’ll never let an important activity slip through the cracks.

2) Follow up

No matter what you do, don’t forget to touch base later that day. The post-call email might be the most important part of the process; you can’t assume you’ll stay top-of-mind without a timely follow up.

If you promised to send them some materials, do so now. You should also confirm your next call and -- if you assigned any homework -- what they’re supposed to do before then.

3) Ask for feedback

Your sales manager probably has a ton of tips and helpful strategies -- don’t let their wisdom go to waste. If you’re not already meeting with them once per week to listen to a recorded call and discuss it, ask if that’s an option. You can also reach out to a senior salesperson for their help; although they’re usually extremely busy, they may be flattered enough to say yes. (At the very least, they’ll agree to one session.)

Another alternative: Ask a peer if they want to review your call, and in exchange, you’ll review theirs. This is a great opportunity to help each other out.

4) Try a conversation analytics platform

Call intelligence tools like Gong and Chorus are getting more sophisticated every day. These can transcribe your call and analyze it for key insights like, “The prospect mentioned another vendor on the second call, which is a strong buying signal,” or “You spoke 80% of the time; ask more questions."

According to HubSpot Research, most salespeople find prospecting the hardest part of sales. With these tips, you can prospect more effectively -- meaning you'll dread the task far less.

Want more? Learn the best time to make a sales call next.

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Originally published Oct 24, 2017 2:20:00 PM, updated April 18 2018

Topics:

Call Prospecting