Keep the Pipeline Flowing: 5 Best Practices for a Great Initial Call
Many sales teams think they’ve got it all figured out. Though they have a complex offering, their product reps are true experts, able to explain all of the offering’s features and benefits thoroughly and with enthusiasm, answer all of their prospects’ questions, and close the deal.
Eventually, though, they realize there’s something missing: the top of their pipeline has completely dried up. Could it be that their reps who are so skilled at nurturing prospects are actually struggling to attract them in the first place?
The answer, in fact, is yes—it’s quite common for reps who excel at downstream calls to struggle with setting appointments. Many organizations don’t realize that making that initial call effectively requires an entirely different skillset, which is best entrusted to its own group of experts.
So what makes a great initial call? What do the best cold-callers do?
Here are five best practices:
1. Keep it short.
By definition, a cold call is unscheduled. The person receiving it isn’t likely to want it; they’ve been interrupted in the middle of a busy day.
Since the prospect isn’t expecting it, the initial call must be short and crisp. Within the first two sentences of the conversation—or about 30 seconds—callers should be able to identify themselves, explain the purpose of the call, and make a clear, direct, compelling case for why their offering is helpful. Then, as quickly as possible, they should try to schedule the next appointment.
It’s also important to realize that keeping calls short not only respects the prospect’s time, but also helps you maximize yours. Cold calling is largely a numbers game—the more dials you make, the more conversations you’ll have, and the more appointments you’ll set. While approaching a downstream call slowly and methodically increases the likelihood of converting it to a sale, taking the same approach to a cold call merely results in reaching fewer people.
2. Touch on both the emotional and financial value of the offering.
Because the initial call is so brief, the initial caller need not be an expert on what they’re offering. What’s far more important is that they’re able to concisely convey the offering’s most tangible benefits to the prospect.
These tangible benefits usually fall into two categories: emotional benefits (such as making a difficult, cumbersome process significantly less frustrating) and financial benefits (such as saving costs or generating additional revenue).
These features have universal appeal and are most likely to pique a prospect’s interest in learning more. Save the more technical details for the downstream calls—after all, those are the ones that will be handled by your expert sales reps.
3. Quickly capture useful information—without focusing on it.
There’s usually not time on an initial call for a lot of questions. Therefore, a skilled cold caller must deftly capture whatever fragments of information are required by the sales rep—sometimes without even asking for it.
Sometimes this means taking cues from prospects’ demeanor, mannerisms, or tone of voice. Other times, it means capturing information quickly when a prospect reveals something about themself.
Often the caller can sneak in a few questions while scheduling the appointment—but it can be counterproductive to do so before. After all, the main objective of the first call is always to schedule the second!
4. Refer most questions to the downstream call.
A cold caller shouldn’t necessarily answer all of a prospect’s questions, either. Their role is to act as an intermediary between the prospect and the sales rep—thus, they should treat complex questions as indications of interest and opportunities to put the two personas in touch.
Somebasic questions can be answered on the first call, of course—if for no other reason than to avoid sounding robotic. Even in these cases, though, answers should be concise and focused towards setting up an appointment. Which leads to our final point:
5. Don’t pretend to be an expert!
We’ll say it again: being a great cold caller and being a great sales rep require two different skillsets. Just as your reps’ wealth of knowledge can end up hindering them on a fast-paced cold call, asking cold callers to become completely familiar with the ins and outs of an offering creates a lot of pressure—and is almost always distracting.
This might seem like a lot to keep track of, but for a skilled cold caller with the right experience and demeanor, it’s all quite simple. After all, a great cold caller is ultimately laser-focused on one goal: make contact, set the appointment, and send the opportunity off downstream!
VSA’s thorough onboarding, training, and continuous BDR (business development representative) skill-building ensure that we’re always able to provide lead gen teams who are up for the job. In an industry that’s notorious for high turnover rates, most of our team members have years of experience—they’re both good at what they do and enjoy it.
If your sales team is hindered by an empty top of the pipeline, we can help. Let ours be the only number you have to call!