Sure, you can make 25 cold calls an hour, but how often do you reach the decision maker? Three times? Four times? The toughest part of cold calling isn't making the sales pitch—it’s actually getting the opportunity to talk to the decision maker so that you can make that sales pitch. So how do we as salespeople increase our ratios of dials to decision maker conversations?
Most decision makers, particularly in larger businesses, are protected by one or even two layers of screeners—a receptionist and an executive assistant. Since they are the gatekeepers for the person you need to talk to, it is important that they become your allies. In fact, winning over the executive assistant can actually turn that cold call into a warm call when you finally do reach the right person. The gatekeeper often keeps the pulse of the organization, and is a good information resource.
It takes persistence and assertiveness to reach the decision maker, but being assertive doesn't mean being impolite. Remember, that receptionist is just doing her job of protecting the boss from unnecessary interruptions. Make her see that you are necessary.
When calling a company for the first time, don't waste time trying to reach the wrong person. Make sure that you verify who you need to speak to. To qualify the call when you are unsure of the decision maker, ask the receptionist for the person you want by title first. "I'd like to speak to the vice president of sales. Is that Sue Smith?" If you ask for Sue Smith first, you may be transferred to her so quickly you don't have a chance to ask if she is the person in the position that you need. Try saying, “Before you transfer me, can you tell me such and such…” That will interrupt the receptionist’s usual pattern of transfer and answer your questions.
Find out the receptionist's name. It is one of the quickest ways to build rapport. Receptionists are so often unnoticed and ignored that taking the time to learn his or her name, and using it, will give you a leg up, especially on that next call. Get the extension of your prospect as well.
Since it often takes several dials to reach the decision maker, take the opportunity to ask questions of screeners and colleagues. Questions might revolve around the prospect’s staff size (if that is relevant), whether the company uses your service and what that situation looks like, and other questions that non-decision makers can answer. Knowing all you can about the company will help you make a better pitch when you do reach the decision maker.
Remember, reaching the decision maker may take time, but in the end, it will earn the appointments that will win the contracts.
Amanda Puppo is the CEO of MarketReach Inc., which provides business to business outbound telephone marketing. She can be reached at Amanda@MarketReach.biz or 609-448-6364 x100.