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B2B Marketing

How to Overcome the 3 Biggest Mistakes Salespeople Make During a Cold Call

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The biggest mistakes that your sales team will make during a cold call with a prospect can easily be avoided. But, some salespeople lose track of their goal, take shortcuts, or jump ahead in the sales process.

Through years of industry experience, I have concluded that the three biggest mistakes salespeople make boils down to a lack of preparation. The inclination to skip the details and go right for the sale has undermined too many good salespeople.

If your sales team is coasting or underperforming, consider how to address these mistakes made during a cold prospect call and how to avoid these mistakes all together. Then, reach out to me to discuss how ProSales Connection can work with your sales organization to have more effective communication with prospects.

1. The Salesperson Tries to Accomplish Too Much During a Cold Call

The biggest mistake I have seen from salespeople is trying to accomplish too much during a cold call with a prospect.

When making cold calls, it is critical to remember that you just interrupted the prospect’s workflow or their overall day with an unexpected call. Your prospects are not sitting around waiting for your call. They have deadlines to meet, priorities to deliver on, and teams to support.

When you finally get a prospect on the phone you have a limited amount of time to talk to them, so do not try to cram too much into the call or force the prospect to make a decision on the spot.

The point of this call is to:

  • Get the prospect’s attention
  • Explain who you are and what company you represent
  • Confirm that the prospect is the right person to talk to about your solution
  • Share the value proposition of your solution
  • Confirm their interest and/or need for your solution
  • Sell the next steps to advance to the next conversation

This call should be 3-5 minutes in length. You’re not trying to sell your solution during this call. It’s not realistic or even effective because you could end up pigeonholing yourself into selling just one solution when the prospect may have a bigger need for a completely different or more lucrative solution.

If you are fortunate to encounter a prospect who is in a talkative mood and the conversation goes 15-20 minutes, you should still resist the desire to sell your solution. Instead, keep asking questions. This will allow you to gather more information that the sales team can use during a scheduled discovery meeting.

If you go any further than gathering information and sharing the high-level value proposition, then you have been on the phone too long. Collect the information, confirm interest and need, and get off the phone after confirming the next steps.

Why do salespeople often make this mistake of trying to sell the solution during a cold call? Usually it’s because they lack a goal. The mentality is reactive: “I’ll see where this call goes and decide next steps in the moment.”

Unfortunately, reacting on the fly leads to sales people under-selling or over-selling their solution. Either they limit the scope of their solution or make promises they cannot keep. Both can and should be avoided by sticking to the primary goal of the cold call to gather information and secure a next step, which is usually to schedule a discovery meeting or demo.

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2. The Salesperson is Not Prepared for the Conversation

There are any number of reasons why a salesperson will walk into a conversation with a prospect unprepared. All of these reasons are avoidable by taking the time to prepare and learn about the prospect ahead of time.

- Internally, the salesperson is not clear about their own solution or the value that their solution will provide to the prospect.

This lack of preparation manifests itself during a phone call when the salesperson is unable to answer questions about the solution. This seems elementary, but too many salespeople are unable to explain the purpose of their call to the satisfaction of the person on the other end of the phone call.

- Externally, the salesperson is not aware of the prospect’s role in the organization or what challenges and opportunities the organization is currently facing.

If you should be talking about the solution with someone else in the organization or if you reach a company that is faced with a challenge that your solution cannot address you will find yourself having awkward, unproductive conversations

For example, the company has a major p.r. headache about software they recently implemented. Instead of calling the prospect to offer a solution that can help them address the headache, you call to discuss something completely unrelated.

Clearly, the prospect is not going to be interested in hearing about anything that does not address their current highest priority when the company is working night and day to resolve a software problem that is causing their stock price to drop.

But, if you did your research ahead of time, you would know what problem the company is actually facing. The best salespeople do their research, leverage that knowledge into a relevant conversation with a prospect, listen to how that problem affects the person you are talking to, and lead the conversation to how your solution can address their need.

This example applies to any number of circumstances that the company might be dealing with:

  • The company is looking to grow
  • Management is considering a new, untapped market
  • There is a financial challenge or difficulty
  • The company is dealing with an aggressive competitor or a disruptive solution in the industry

When you align your solution to the company’s actual need and speak to the right person in the organization, you have a better chance of converting the prospect. That requires being prepared when making initial contact.

3. The Salesperson Does Not Listen to the Prospect

This is where salespeople make the mistake of delivering a monologue instead of having a dialogue. Yes, you should be prepared with talking points to gather information from the prospect. But, your overall goal is to engage the prospect in a real conversation, not deliver a speech.

You should be listening carefully not only to what the prospect is saying, but how they are saying it. There are clues in their responses that give you an idea of the challenges or opportunities the company is facing that may or may not have anything to do with your solution.

And, if you know your solution like you should, then you can adjust accordingly to better understand how it addresses your prospect’s pain point.

However, you cannot uncover that point point without listening. Then, you can leverage the information to formulate a response to walk alongside the prospect, working with them to create a potential solution. You may need to be empathetic, understanding, relatable, or even humorous.

Salespeople who apply a one-size-fits-all approach to prospecting make a big mistake by not understanding the position of the person they are talking to and how their solution can address the company’s real need.

How to Recover When Making These Mistakes

All of these mistakes fall into the same advice category: Just Don’t Do It!

Don’t try to accomplish too much during a cold call, be prepared, and listen.

But, if you do not have time to prepare ahead of time or find yourself trying to sell too soon, then take a step back and make sure you listen to what the prospect is telling you.

The prospect has the answers to determine interest and need for your solution. But, if you do not listen, then you are compounding the mistakes you have already made.

When you listen to the prospect, though, you can guide the conversation to selling next steps to continue building to a discovery meeting for your sales team. This will help overcome the biggest mistakes salespeople make during a cold call.

To learn more about the ProSales Connection process for prospecting, fill out this brief form about our No-Risk Appointment Setting Program to review your company’s needs. Or, contact me directly to have a conversation about how ProSales Connection can help your organization increase sales productivity.

Mike Faherty

Mike Faherty is Founder & CEO of ProSales Connection, LLC a Sales and Marketing firm based in Houston, Texas. ProSales Connection specializes in helping B2B and technology companies grow through sales appointment setting and outsourced inside sales programs.

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