Mention “cold calling” or “telemarketing” to B2B marketers, and you can all but watch them cringe.  And yet, for most B2Bs it’s an absolutely critical element of the sales cycle;  if your company isn’t doing it, chances are good that you’re literally leaving money on the table …or, more accurately, sending it over to your competitors.

So, why all the dread??  Talk to marketers, and you’ll hear some or all of these…

  • I’ll probably never get past this guy’s Admin, anyway.
  • I’ll just get voicemail and never get a return call.
  • I really don’t think this person is interested in our widget.
  • She’ll never buy from us, after I interrupt her from doing the annual plan (or whatever).

All this anxiety really stems from two basic causes:

  • Classic old psychological fear of rejection; and
  • Misperceiving the goal as a one-call close …which raises the stakes absurdly high

It helps enormously to get into a whole different way of thinking about calling prospects for the first time;  in particular…

  • Xonsider it a process, not an event:  your goal is simply to begin creating an ongoing relationship, not to close a sale today.
  • Subject to a small issue of timing, if this prospect has genuine business pain in an area for which you have a solution, then gaining relevant information from you is very much part of her job …and she’s very much aware of that.

In his recent guest post over on the ZoomInfo blog, Brian Carroll lists a number of phone prospecting rules that map perfectly into the calling mindset just described;  some of those are…

  • Make every call count.  Even if you can’t reach the target individual, don’t just go away;  try being helpful to the Admin, verifying your CRM database record, or identifying an alternate decision-maker.  And always seek opt-in to your email newsletter, if this target hasn’t yet signed up.
  • Lose the script.  They’re very apparent (and off-putting) to the prospect, and leave insufficient room for real conversation.  Try a simple, branch-structured outline.
  • Respect the Admin.  Anyone who has your target contact’s ear as much as this person does is very clearly the 2nd-most critical relationship you need to build.
  • Be prepared.  The worst thing you can do is call someone you know nothing about.  You should know as much as possible about this person, his job, and the company …and of course seek to add to that knowledge during the call.
  • Always follow up – with precision and relevancy to the prospect’s needs, and in the manner (s)he requested (email, snail-mail, phone).
  • To these, we would add a few more…

    Lead with their pain, not your solution.  If you can’t gain your prospect’s agreement that they indeed suffer from the business problem that your widget was designed to solve, guess what:  both parties will be wasting their time by continuing the dialogue.  Determining that early on is not failure at all;  in fact, it frees up more time for you to find and work on real prospects.  This should also help you lose that fear of picking up the phone:  it’s a numbers game, and there are probably more non-prospects than prospects on your list …so “rejection” isn’t really that, it’s simply discovering a non-match.

    Respect your target’s time priorities.  You can generally tell when your prospect is actually in a meeting or embroiled in developing the annual plan;  and if so, you won’t be remembered favorably by charging ahead anyway and blurting out what you had planned to say.  Instead, try simply stating the reason for your call (not selling your widget, remember? …alleviating her pain) and seek another time when she can allocate 5-10 minutes for you without disrupting her other work.

  • Smile!  It should go without saying, except that too many marketers forget to do it …and the person you’re calling can very easily hear it in your voice.

Try this approach to tele-prospecting, and see if it doesn’t start to feel much less cringe-worthy.  You might even become an advocate of making it the indispensable arrow in your marketing quiver that it really needs to be.