We’re all familiar with the dreaded cold call. You know the drill, the phone rings, you’re given a brief introduction, and before you even realize it you’re being sold something. In most cases you are probably quick to hang up, or budge into the rehearsed speech with a blunt “I’m not interested.”
It’s a shame, really. Cold calling has cast a dark cloud over the sales cycle and has turned many businesses away from the phone altogether. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. B2B sales calls, paired some expression of interest online, can be a powerful combination. We’ve adopted the term warm calling to explain how to make effective industrial sales phone calls.
As online advertising, paired with sales and marketing technology, continues to evolve into the accepted standard for industrial sales teams, the potential for effective B2B sales calls has grown. Rather than wasting time dialing a random list, it is now easy to contact only the prospects who have expressed interest in a product or service based on their activity online.
Strange as it may sound, the first key to warm calling success is recognizing that you are not actually trying to sell anything at all.
Think about it, industrial sales are often complex processes. Buyers evaluate technical specs to determine if there is a fit with their existing operations. Usually, they consult with others in the organization and go through different levels of management to buy expensive products or sign large contracts. With this in mind, the chances of making a sale during your initial phone call are pretty close to zero.
Instead, warm calling should be about making an introduction and building a relationship. Remember, these are prospects who are already interested in the products or services you offer. A call, presuming it is not overly pushy, will generally be accepted. Your goal, instead of making a sale, should be to arrange some form of follow up contact, whether it is an email with more information or a meeting.
So what exactly do warm B2B sales calls look like?
Start the call with a brief introduction of yourself and your company. Prospects are easily confused when they don’t know who they are speaking with or which organization they represent. In some cases, prospects will recognize your company based on their previous research online. In others, a call can help you stand out from the blur of companies they may have browsed through online.
Next, highlight your company’s experience in a prospects specific industry. The person on the other end of the line is more likely to remain on the call once they realize that you have direct experience in their industry. Highlight this experience as early as possible in the call.
You now want to define exactly what makes your company different – but be careful! Remember, you aren’t trying to make a sale right away, and coming on too strong here might put a prospect on edge. Provide enough information to get them interested in the potential advantages of your product or service. Be as specific as you can. For example, saying that you are the only company making valves rated to 40,000 psi with a 10 year warranty goes further than saying you have a quality guarantee. Every business should have a quality guarantee, so generic statements like these rarely make an impact over the phone (or anywhere, for that matter).
Now it’s time to reach for your goal. Depending on your preferred method of follow up, ask to schedule a meeting or permission to send them an email with more information. Honesty never hurts; make it clear that you aren’t trying to sell them anything today, but want to be on their radar the next time they need a similar product or service.
Once you’ve arranged a follow-up, end the conversation. Thank them for their time, remind them that you will be following up, and get off the call. Your prospects are busy, and so are you, so this entire process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.
Seems easy right? On paper it is, but as we all know, not every B2B sales call will go this smoothly.
The important thing to remember is that your goal is to start a relationship, not to make an immediate sale.
But what can you do to help your calls go smoother?
The most important thing you can do to make your warm calls more successful is to do your research before picking up the phone. This is advice is applicable to any sales situation, but for industrial sales it carries extra weight. Industrial buyers are technical experts. Often, they are professional engineers, mechanics, millwrights, or plant operators. Being able to concisely describe how your product improves a buyer’s current operations is the best way to build a relationship.
Finally, engineers and technical professionals are notorious for dismissing salespeople. Heavily scripted B2B sales calls are immediate red flags. In small sales teams, try to avoid scripted calls. Instead, team members should work together to create a call outline guide. The outline prevents a call from sounding scripted, while keeping salespeople on track to schedule a follow up contact of some sort. Step into your buyer’s shoes when planning a call outline and ask yourself this: What information do buyers need right away, and what can they read about later? Eliminate any secondary information from the call guide, stripping it down to the bare essentials of what makes your company different and how you can improve their business. Everything else can be discussed later. Your call guide will evolve over time. As you try it out in different sales situations be sure to review it to see what is working and what can be improved.
Email marketing has proven itself as a powerful tool, but in an era where we are overwhelmed by email on a daily basis, a simple phone call might be an easy way to accelerate the sales cycle. The key to success with B2B sales calls is dialing only the prospects who have expressed some interest in the products and services you offer.
If more salespeople adopted this approach, maybe the dreaded cold call wouldn’t be so dreaded after all.
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About Fred Yee
Fred Yee is the founder and CEO of ActiveConversion, a company that makes online marketing work for industrial companies. Fred was voted as one of the 40 Most Inspiring Leaders in Sales Lead Management in 2017, and his work with ActiveConversion has helped hundreds of businesses succeed online. ActiveConversion is Fred’s third successful company, and he continues to explore the possibilities of technology in industrial sales and marketing.