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  • Writer's pictureRichard Palmer, SureTrain

How Do I Book More Sales Appointments, or, The Challenges of Cold Calling and How to Overcome Them!

I recently ran a poll on Linkedin, asking the question - What is the most difficult part of cold calling new business prospects for you or your team? I gave four options and these four options are things that I hear from delegates in my training rooms up and down the country.

1. Overcoming Fear and Demotivation

2. Getting Past the Gatekeeper

3. Gaining Interest from the Prospect

4. Closing for an Appointment

The results really surprised me.

I thought, based on what I hear in my training classrooms, that I could predict how these results would come out, but one particular thing really took me by surprise.

The results came back like this:

Overcoming Fear and Demotivation - 31.6% of the people responding said that that was a key problem for them.

34.2% of people said Getting past the Gatekeeper was the biggest issue.

26.6% said Gaining Interest from the Prospect once we're having in a conversation with them.

7.6% said Closing for an Appointment was the biggest issue that they faced when trying to book appointments in B2B.

For me, the real surprise was that such a large percentage of professional sales people struggle with the motivation to pick up that phone and cold call. Some of them actually experience fear and, when you consider this is what they do for a living, this becomes a statistic that is quite interesting. It gives us something really to work on with these people to increase that motivation and decrease the fear, giving them more opportunities.

Just imagine what it must feel like to somebody brand new to sales who's never made a cold call in their life or who doesn't normally do this activity as part of their job but now needs to. Or for sales people who might usually need to cold call but they don't because they're too busy managing accounts looking after existing customers, but then have to come in to cold calling when the business requires it because existing business might be tailing off. They're not used to it. There's no culture of it.

So, it was definitely a surprise finding that high percentage of people saying their biggest problem was overcoming the fear and finding that motivation for making calls.

Let's look at each of these situations in turn starting with overcoming fear and demotivation.

Why do we think it exists? In my conversations with people and having followed up on some of the people who responded to this poll, the biggest fear is that fear of the unknown. What's going to be said?

What's going to happen at the other end of the phone?

Am I going to be told no?

Am I going to be rejected?

Am I going to be offended by what is said to me or am I in danger of offending people?

Is this actually a fear that I'm creating because I’m scared, I’m worried that I’m going to disturb people or interrupt them from what they're doing? As a result, they won't welcome my conversation and they won't want to listen to me in order to ascertain whether they need to engage with me or not.

So, what's the solution?

Well there is no one solution but one of the best ways to overcome fear of demotivation is not to address the fear and demotivation itself but to address the prospecting process.

The first thing we need to do is look at why people are rejecting you, why people are saying no I’m not interested in your service, why they don't want to talk to you.

If we look at the process we're using and change that to increase the conversion rate, in other words more people are willing to talk to you because of the approach you've got, that should help you to overcome the fear and also drive motivation because you can see that it's actually working! That it actually delivers on what you want it to do and that should motivate you. It will also mitigate that fear to a degree.

There are other things we can do as well, particularly to do with things like attitude, belief, visualizing success but mainly just accepting the fact that if you're going to make cold calls, a big part of that job is being told no.

As soon as we accept that some will buy, some won't buy, it doesn't matter, let's move on to the next one, our attitude changes. As soon as we adopt the attitude that actually the no's don't really matter, then the yes's become more valuable and we want to work harder to get those.

What about getting past the gatekeeper?

Unsurprisingly, 34.2%, the highest percentage, said that this was an issue. This is the common one that I would have expected to be at the top.

Why do we struggle to get past gatekeepers? Is it because we see them as difficult? As obstructive? Are we nervous when talking to them? Do we find that actually we're getting a lot of rejection from them without the gatekeeper getting as far as referring to the person we want to talk to, to find out whether our products or services are even relevant to them?

We see gatekeepers as an issue. We see them as a barrier, as an adversary to overcome!

I think that causes us some kind of psychological problem, in as much as, the more we see them as a barrier the more we treat them in such a way that creates that nervousness. It also creates a situation where we're not having a great conversation with these people, we're just treating them as somebody to get past. In other words, they're just in the way and we don't really want to talk to them because we want to talk to the person that makes decisions!

Now that is the biggest flaw in our approach! What we really need to do is embrace these people, not as being barriers, as gatekeepers, but as being positive influencers.

These receptionists, these wonderful, influential, knowledgeable people that pick up the phone, whether that's what they do every all day every day or whether it's a one of these offices where everybody picks up the phone, these people can influence our decision maker as to whether they should take our call or not.

If we start seeing these people as influencers, people we have to positively work with in order to help them understand why they should put us through to the right person, then we change our attitude. We change our approach and we change our language towards the gatekeeper. We then start to improve our chances of getting through to the right person. If we get through to more of the right people, we'll book more appointments and we will make more sales!

That leads us on to the next part of the poll - Gaining interest from the prospect.

26.6% of people said this was a problem. Once we get through to the right person can we actually get them interested and get them talking to us?

Why do some people struggle with this bit? I think the problem we have here is that so often we have the wrong opening, the wrong starting point for our conversation. Sometimes we're too salesy, sometimes we're not salesy enough. Sometimes we're going straight in trying to grab some interest from this person by throwing a whole load of benefits at them of what we do and how we do it and sometimes we're too far the other way, trying to be friendly and conversational.

I think what's happening here is we just don't have a consistent approach which helps that potential decision maker to see the value in having a few minutes of conversation with us.

We need to find out what is that opening paragraph? What are those first words that we're going to use to gain the interest we need, but also what's the attitude? What's the behaviour and body language / tone of voice? How are we going to project ourselves towards this person to make them think “I want to speak to this person. This sounds really interesting. This person sounds enthusiastic, energetic and passionate about what they do and I like the idea of that!”

We do have one big advantage and that is so few people are using cold calling at the moment. It's all about email and Linkedin etc. It's all about anything other than “let's pick up the phone and talk to people”. As a result of that a lot of decision makers are willing to spend time with people who take the trouble to phone them. So give it a go! See what happens but make sure you've got that approach right!

Finally 7.6% said Closing for an Appointment once the decision maker has had some time on the phone with you.

Why do we think that might be an issue? I think possibly this is an issue because we don't have the right sales process once we get on the phone with the decision maker. We're not taking that conversation in a direction which is naturally going to end up with an appointment.

Quite simply, we need to think what's our start point, what's our end point, what's my process that takes me from one to the other and how am I going to pull this this decision maker gently and logically down that line to the point of agreeing positively to an appointment.

It's a fascinating subject and it's one that has an awful lot of different answers. There are a lot of things we can do to help the whole prospecting process and turn more opportunities into appointments.

The New Business Sales Academy can help you and your team with all of these areas, providing a proven return on investment and a money-back guarantee so there's absolutely no risk at all. Just great skills and methods that will bring you more sales and profit! Just click the link in the comments below or look for the new business sales academy page on our website.

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