I am a LinkedIn lurker. I rarely ever comment on things, occasionally I’ll “like” a post, and sometimes even wish someone a happy birthday, but primarily, I read. Since I got into business development I’ve joined quite a few sales/business development/best practices groups and some that are aimed exclusively at sales leadership titles. I did this because I enjoy reading the kind of questions these executives are posting, their pain points, success stories, etc. One of the most common themes in these groups relates to cold calling: is it dead? How do you do it? Why are the millennials so bad at it? The responses include comments bashing the values, priorities, skill, and/or demeanor of the millennial – not all, but a lot.
There seem to be a lot of questions regarding millennials and how to successfully train them to be good at cold calling. What I’ve noticed is that most of these questions are both asked and answered by Gen X’s and Baby Boomers.
Here’s the thing; I am a millennial, I am good at cold calling, and when I first got into business development, I absolutely hated it. I hated the rejection, I hated calling someone out of nowhere and trying to convince them to give you the time of day because you have this amazing thing you want to tell them about, I hated it all. Soon enough I started seeing business development as giving someone a different perspective, rather than convincing them of anything and once I started to understand more about what I needed in order to be successful, it definitely got easier for me. Luckily for me, when I told my managers what I needed, they listened. I am going to share a little bit about what I think, not just millennials, but anyone cold calling can benefit from.
- Lists, lists, and lists. Sales leaders, train your BDRs to do their own prospecting and get them the right tools to do it well. There are too many platforms you can get contact information from, including LinkedIn, to be paying for lists with bad contact information. Not only do they not get the right contact info, but they hit a wall because they aren’t trained or equipped to work around it. Save your money and invest in tools that will help your BDRs navigate the world that is business development. When a BDR helps create a list, it establishes familiarity with it and somewhat of a game plan.
- Robotic scripts. I am all for scripts. I love having guidelines and ways to overcome common objections written down to reference, so definitely keep writing those up. However, remember that these will be spoken to an actual person, LIVE. So many scripts sound like commercials on the radio instead of conversational. When training and role playing with your BDR’s try saying things like “start a conversation with me about this product/service” instead of “pitch me”. It’s easy to remember a 3 sentence blurb about a product but if your BDR can’t casually start up a conversation, maybe even make a joke to the prospect, then they aren’t confident in what they are selling and probably need more product knowledge. When you understand how your service or product HELPS someone, it’s easy to talk about it. Write up a script that starts a conversation, outline responses and objections, and how to overcome them, conversationally.
- Set reasonable goals. Cold calling is not an easy job, not because cold calling is hard, but because there are SDRs out there (I was one of them) who sit for 8 hours and… cold call. The only thing more defeating than rejection is an unattainable goal. Don’t base your goals off of what you hope to get out of the campaign, base them on cold, hard, data. What do your trends look like? Every industry, team, and person is different. Set attainable goals and increase them as your reps develop.
- Remember that times are changing. I hear executives talk to their teams about how back in their day they closed millions of dollars in deals by cold calling. While that’s great, it isn’t motivating. Back in “their day” prospects didn’t have the internet. They didn’t have cell phones. They didn’t have options. If they wanted to learn more about a product or service, they couldn’t watch a demo online and decide that they know everything they need to know, they didn’t have a choice but to schedule a call to learn more. According to TeleNet and Oviation sales group, in 2007 it took an average of 3.68 sales calls to reach a prospect versus the 8 attempts it takes today. And that was in 2007. Do I think cold calling is harder? Yes. Do I think it’s dead? Definitely not. Technology is changing and with it, so is sales etiquette. Keep that in mind when comparing results you had cold calling 10 years ago to the results that you see from your team.
- Feedback. Give it, receive it, all the time, everywhere. This, in my opinion, is the most important of them all. Sales leaders are good at giving feedback and having the “you aren’t on track to meet your goal” conversation, which is a good thing, but it needs to go further than that. I remember the first time that one of my managers asked me “What do you need from me to make sure you meet your goal?”. We worked collaboratively on every outbound campaign since then. We met once a week, discussed what I was doing, assessed whether or not it was working, and adjusted accordingly. This adaptive approach makes it so that both me and my manager are held accountable for the success of the campaign, and I as a BDR feel supported.
Instead of asking a group of non-millennials how to make millennials feel supported, well equipped, and motivated; ask them. This should be the rule of thumb for any group of people trying to achieve a common goal. If I know anything about millennials, it’s that we like to use our voice and feel empowered, I guess that comes with some of that “entitlement” everyone keeps talking about (hehe). Every team is different, so ask yours what you can do for them.
I offer my perspectives to those who wish to hear it. We are all learning and that is the beauty of getting to voice your successes/failures. This is what worked for me and what I hope works for you and your team. Have you seen other ways to make cold calling successful? Let me know in the comments below.