The Cold Calling Flow To Keep Them On The Hook

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One of the topics I end up speaking most about probably is cold calling and how do you make your cold calls? And I think the first thing about cold calling we have to understand is that the objective of cold calling is not what a lot of people think. The objective is not to impress people. It’s not to get them excited, to get their attention. The objective of a cold call and prospecting is really about moving from an interruption where you’re interrupting somebody’s day, they are answering the phone, they are not expecting your call, to a plan for conversation.

In a lot of cases what I will even say is to our first scheduled interaction. Do my little calendar thing here, a scheduled call, and as such it’s really important to understand that most traditional cold calling techniques, really do a poor job of making this conversion because they are trying to wow somebody, the elevator pitch, etc.

So I’ve done lots of writing on cold call scripting and objection handling, etc., but I thought it would be useful to go through a high level workflow map, really a step-by-step workflow map of how the cold call works in a visual format, and if you want more details about exactly how this would work and the scripting and all that fun stuff, I am pretty sure there is a link down here some place; hint, hint, hint.

Anyway, so I will tell you that the goal of cold call flow, the goal of the scripting, the process I use is to make the entire process at least as predictable as possible. It’s hard, it’s difficult. You’ve got to be very attentive and paying attention, and able to think on your feet. So the fewer variables we can have, the more variables we can take out of the equation at bat.

So we’ll just start from the beginning, and the idea is we’re going to make a bunch of calls, and I have talked about a calling paradigm. (A lot of people really don’t like my phone icon, but I am sorry. I am old school.) So anyway, everything starts with the phone, or from making a phone call. At some point in time the prospect is going to answer, and what we’re hoping for is where they say, “Hey, hello!” or “How are you?” or “Hello, you’ve reached,” what have you.

So what happens next? Well, first step is we’re going to start with a basic introduction. “My name is,” “Hello, So and So, my name is…,” and one of my, I don’t want to say pet peeves, but one of the things I am really insistent on is always asking for the prospect’s time. “Have I caught you at a bad time?”

Now, I will tell you one thing. We studied this question. We studied this intro over literally millions of phone calls and found out that, “Have I caught you at a bad time?” works far better than, “Have I caught you at a good time?” Don’t ask me why. I am a statistician, not a psychologist, but fundamentally this is the open, “Have I caught you at a bad time?”

One of the nice things about this process or, “Have I caught you at a bad time?” is it’s going to yield a couple of predictable responses. Number one, “Yes, you have,” usually followed by a click. Not always, we’ll talk about that in a second. Number two, “No, you have not. It’s a great time.” Very rare. However, not as exciting as we’d like, more often than not what you hear is this, “Yes, but…” “Yes, you have, but what is this about?” So either way you’re getting essentially what you want at least in two out of the three of these where you’re now able to enter into conversation. You’ve asked them the question. It is their turn to respond.

Now you’re going to say, you’re going to do your intro. I have gone through this in a lot of detail in my scripting, and again, the documents you’ll find below, but essentially the intro is something like a thank you, or “That’s great!” It doesn’t really matter. Once again, “My name is…”

And here is where it really gets important. Unlike traditional cold calling approaches which say, pitch ‘em, wow ‘em, give them the elevator pitch, tell them all the things that are great about your company, we’re going to do something very, very simple, and that is state the purpose of the call. Why are you calling in a cold call? What are you trying to accomplish?

Well, the answer we’ve already said is we are trying to move from an interruption to a plan for a scheduled interaction. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to say something like, “The purpose of my call is I am looking to get 10-15 minutes next week on your calendar for a brief introductory conversation,” blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard me say this before. You can find all the scripting here, but the important thing is don’t spend a lot of detail.

Some of the blogs I have written and some of the things I have talked about illuminate the fact that one of the challenges of this first 8-10 seconds of the conversation is the fact that the prospect really isn’t hearing you. They’re task switching. I think in one of the blogs I actually to talk about how we study this, but the task switching, they are trying to move from what they were previously doing, talking to you, or at least listening to you.

So stating your purpose is very powerful. “I am looking to get 15-20 minutes on your calendar early next week, 10-15 minutes, to formally introduce myself and my company.” What is going to happen here is very, very interesting. Essentially you’re causing a major disconnect in their brain. It’s called, the term I like to use is a ‘pattern interrupt’ because they are expecting something along the lines of what they hear from most people, which is, “My company does this, and here’s how great we are, and here’s the value proposition, etc.” But really when asked for your time, I have no other choice, or you have no other choice than to say, “Well, wait a minute! What is this about? What do you do?” Whatever the variant is, and by the way, this could be nice, “I am sorry. Have we met each other? Do we know each other? What’s going on?”

It could also be rather abrupt, “Who the heck is this? Why are you bugging me? Why the hell would I meet with you?” But fundamentally stating your purpose, which as I said is a meeting. My purpose is not to explain what I do, get you excited about it, make sure you know what I do. It’s simply, “I am calling to get a meeting.”

So I am going to state my purpose. I am going to get a question out of this. Whether they say it nicely or not, it’s still a question. As we’ve talked about before, a conversation requires two people talking, so the more I can pass the ball back and forth, the better. Additionally, the more, I don’t know, think of them as hops back and forth between the prospect and myself, the better chance they are actually engaging me.

All right, so what’s going to happen next? Well, my favorite is with some, we’ve got a question here, so let’s answer the question. So when they say, “Well, sorry, what is this about?” or “Who are you? Why the heck would I be talking to you?” We are going to respond right back, and we’re going to say, “Well, thanks for asking.” You’ll hear me say this a lot, and some people make fun of me. I actually stole this from an old VP of Sales of mine, VP of Sales which I thought was a great thing, “Thanks for asking. I am going to ask another question.” Because I need the ball to go back to you so we can keep it going. Not had, “Have you heard of my company?”

So I want to kind of create some context here. Chances are the answer is, “No.” I am cold calling. You would’ve heard me, but I get another question here, and that’s just fine. That’s perfect. So now I am going to keep the conversation going. “Have you heard of me?” And the answer most likely is going to be, “no,” followed by, guess what, they are going to answer me a question again, “What? Who are you?” or “What do you do?”

One of the most important questions you can be able to answer is, “What do you do?” And we’ll talk about that in about, I don’t know, 10-15 seconds here, but, the bottom line is I am prompting them for a, “Who are you? What do you do? Have I heard of you yet?” And that’s just fine because that’s where I really want to get to on this.

Now this is, if you ask me, where the very most important part of the entire process comes in, and that is answering for the prospect who you’ve obviously through this whole process gotten to the point where they are actually listening to you, they are engaged, they have asked you twice, “What do you do?” What do you do? You’ve got to answer that question.

Now, think about it. When somebody is being interrupted, when they are being cold called, if you will, what they are trying to do is search for context. They are trying to understand, do I know this person? Have you spoken before? They are trying to put you into a box, so using a lot of fluffy, crazy language is not going to work. Using a bunch of marketing, fancy words is not going to work, and I will tell you what is not going to work is stuff like explaining all the components of what we do.

So basically what I say to folks is, functional doesn’t work, and I will put the line here so you’ll know where I am going with this, and similarly let’s call this, let’s call this conceptual terms don’t really work well. What does work, and what I’ve found to be exceptionally effective is something that I have referred to as a referential answer, a referential explanation to what we do. Long story short, this is my little buzzword. I have got lots of writing on what this is, but a referential explanation of what we do answers the question, “What do you do? Who are you?” by basically explaining to them, and I will write this slowly, how we have served others like them, with the emphasis on them. Really, really important.

By way of example. When somebody says, “Hey Townsend, what do you do?” I can say, “Well, I help people implement Salesforce,” or “I teach people how to make cold calls,” or “I can help grow your revenue to 100% in 24 months.” Instead, what I tend to say is, “I serve, I work with CEOs, founders, principles, owners of companies in the $1-10 million range who are trying to make the leap from entrepreneurial selling to professional selling.” Typically they share with me that they are frustrated with their CRM not working for them, their people not making cold calls, etc., but I am referring to others like them.

Now, don’t stop when you’re done. Don’t stop with the explanation because you’re just going to have this weird awkward silence and nobody likes that. The next step is really important, and that is get back to your purpose. “I am calling to schedule 15-20 minutes of time on your calendar,” blah, blah, blah, “So we can have an introduction in a conversation.”

I have made it this far. I have given you some context. Don’t allow the conversation to devolve into a lot of, “How do you do that?” or what have you. Make sure you ask again for what it is that you are looking for. Get back to your purpose, which is the meeting.

Now, following this process, does that mean you’re going to get the meeting every time and there’s no further conversation? No. But think about all this context. We’re probably 45 seconds, 35 seconds into a conversation. We’ve asked several times for a meeting. We’ve stated what we do. We’ve stated our purpose pretty clear.

At this point you’re not out of the woods because you’ve still interrupted them, and they still don’t want to talk to you, and it still is cold calling, etc. But really, all you’re going to deal with at this point is objections. And that’s part of the process, and again, some sort of link here, some sort of document that you’re going to have to deal with, or I suggest you should download in order to get some of the tools here, but just understand that if you follow this process, you handle some objections, you’re going to get a lot of meetings.

You’re going to have to handle objections. In fact, I tell a lot of my clients, if you’re not hearing objections from your prospects, they are not really listening to you. Objections are a logical part of the conversation. So you need to learn how to deal with objections, but if you follow this process step-by-step, you’re going to have a minimum amount of divergence from this basic script, and you’re going to be able to get to one where you handle a couple of objections. Keep asking for the meeting, and you’ll get the meeting.

So I hope this was helpful. Look forward to your comments, questions, let me know how I can help.

By Townsend Wardlaw

photo credit: by kasperbs on