Have you ever made a call where you failed to get through to the decision maker whether cold call or warm call? Have you ever had a gatekeeper be rude to you? Or maybe you have even had a gatekeeper put the phone down on you? Then you need to read these old school cold calling tips.
When I run sales seminars the vast majority of delegates tell me that they find getting past gatekeepers a major frustration and something that they wish they could improve upon.
They say that they find their cold calling sessions constantly derailed by their inability to reach decision makers. Well, these tips are for you. They can be used when cold calling, warm calling or even calling your existing clients! However you utilise them, they will help you to effortlessly improve your call to client contact ratios.
1. Be assumptive.
When dealing with gatekeepers we must be polite but assumptive. One of the key strategies here is to change the word “please” to the word “thank you”. I know that this sounds deceptively simple but it is an incredibly powerful techniques. The reason for this is that “please” is a request and “thank you” presupposes that the listener will take action.
Try, “If you could let John know that it’s Gavin, Gavin Ingham on the line for him. Thank you.”
“Yes of course you can, I’m calling from Gavin Ingham Ltd. If you could just let him know that I’m on the line. Thank you.”
2. Give information sparingly.
I have coached literally tens of thousands of sales professionals, made tens of thousands of calls and listened to thousands and thousands more! One of the biggest challenges with dealing with gatekeepers is that most callers give out too much information.
Let’s consider some of the most common objections from gatekeepers… “He wouldn’t be interested!”, “Send some literature through on that!”, “We already have a supplier thank you!”, “We’re not looking at the moment!” and “We have no budget at present!”
Think for a moment and tell me what all of these have in common. That’s right! They’re all objections to information that you gave the gatekeeper.
The less information you hand out, the more work the gatekeeper has to do and the fewer the objections you invite. What’s more, if you give information sparingly you often know what the next question or questions will be.
This means that you can plan and practise your responses remembering to finish them with a polite, “Thank you!”
3. Answer only questions asked.
Now this is a point that is relevant for a lot of salespeople in many other places in the sales process too. When we’re under pressure we tend to hear what we believe the client is going to say rather than believe what they actually did say.
A lot of salespeople answer questions that they were never even asked and thus create their own objections. Give information sparingly and only answer the questions that you are asked. Don’t be worried about repeating yourself and remember, the answer to a closed question can be as short as “Yes” or “No!”.
4. Believe that you will be put through.
To actually achieve a result you need to believe that you can achieve it first. In life, salespeople tend to get what they believe and they don’t necessarily believe what they get!
What do I mean by that?
Well, think about it for a moment. If you believed that most gatekeepers were difficult, aggressive and that you were unlikely to get through how would you feel? Pretty lousy I bet! You’d probably be saying stuff to yourself like, “Why me?” and “This is doomed to failure!” More than likely you’d get a bad result and when you did you’d say to yourself, “See! Knew it!” Even if you got a good result you’d note it down as “Well, that was just good luck!”
Conversely, if you believed that you were going to get through and that you had the authority, importance and seniority to be put through every time how would you feel? Fantastic! You’d be saying stuff to yourself like, “I’m going through!” and “Yes!”. Chances are you’d get some pretty good results!
What’s more important here is that if and when you do fail you’d just say something like, “Well even a great cold caller like me can’t win them all!!!”
5. Transmit seniority.
Senior people get put through without getting beaten up by gatekeepers. It’s a fact of life. If gatekeepers beat senior people up they’d get the sack so they cannot afford to be rude to them. But they don’t mistake senior people for salespeople though do they.
The answer’s simple, senior people transmit seniority by sounding senior. Simple as that and that sets them apart.
Listen to directors in your business and listen to directors on the phone. Model their pace, tone, pitch, pauses and emphasis. As a general rule senior people speak more s-l-o-w-l-y so this would be a great place to start!
Take some time and think about how you will convey seniority on the phone…
6. Create the impression that you’re known.
People who are known to decision-makers get put through. You don’t ring up your friends and not get put through so there must be several things that go on at the start of the call that suggest whether you’re known to the decision maker or not.
Use of first name terms, not giving too much information and sounding senior are some of the most important.
Another is using the PA’s name. It’s well worth finding this out before you make the call. Then you can say,
S: “Hello, Mary. I hope you’re well today. Is John in the office?”
7. Use downward inflexion in your voice.
Here’s a great cold calling tip. Up to 50% of cold callers have an upward inflection on the ends of sentences. This turns the statement into a question and invites objections from the prospect. It also sounds very unconfident, therefore not senior, and more likely than not, a sales call.
By ensuring that your voice goes down at the end of sentences you turn a statement into an order. Practise doing this and still sounding polite.
“If you could just let her know that I’m on the line. Thank you .” (going down).
8. Use client’s first name.
You’ll have noticed this already in the short scripts that I have used. First name terms implies you’re known to the client. It also implies equality therefore seniority. I always use first name terms when cold calling.
This is a point that sometimes gets challenged by salespeople in seminars as “impolite”. They say that they would prefer to use surname greetings with people that they have not spoken to before i.e. Mr. Johnstone. First things first, you must do what you are comfortable with because if you think something is rude then you will more than likely come across as rude.
That said, it is true that occasionally a prospect may object to you using their first name but I believe that this occasional blip is worth it for the advantage you have of using first names the rest of the time. What’s more, these prospects may well have objected to the call in any case and this is just the first opportunity they have to object!
Footnote: There may be one or two industries or types of clients where you decide to use surnames and titles. This is why it is critical for you to know your clients, your market and to make an informed decision yourself.
9. Pre-plan your approach.
Despite the fact that dealing with gatekeepers poses a challenge for many salespeople, most do not take the time to pre-plan their approach. If you think about it, there are only a handful of responses that a gatekeeper can give you. The more you practise your approach therefore, the more successful you will be.
If you get stuck with a certain response don’t stay on the phone and get confrontational! Thank the PA for their time, finish the call and ask yourself, “What do I learn from this and how will I deal with it differently next time?”
When you have an answer, write it down and go over it a few times in your head. That way, next time you get into the same situation you will be prepared with your more flexible approach.
10. Practice with a friend.
Whilst the techniques in this article are simple they will not happen as a result of you just reading the article. You will need to review the article a couple of times and then consider what you currently do and how you can improve it.
Once you get to that stage you will reap massive rewards if you sit down with a friend or colleague and practice together. That way you can have several “dry runs” before you actually pick up the phone with your powerful new techniques.