That’s a bit jarring to say out loud. Its amusing to watch the response of friends and family when they ask about my work. I work(ed) in the Software as a Service (SaaS) industry as a Business Development Representative (BDR), also known as SDR. I worked as a BDR for 10 months before being promoted to a sales position. Continuing the theme, these are the 10 things I learned making 10,000 cold calls in 10 months.
You’ve got Nothing to Lose!
The score is tied at zero before making a cold call. You may not be able to predict the outcome of the call, but losing is guaranteed if you don’t call. On more than one occasion, I would feel some sort of call anxiety prior to making the call. Pushing through it, I ended up having a great conversation and setting a demo at the end. I distinctly remember thinking, “good thing I called.”
Call Anxiety is Natural
There are infinite numbers of outcomes prior to making the cold call. The human mind is designed to keep us safe from harm in any form. This leads the brain to error on the side of protection (or not making the call). Emotional pain is no different than physical pain as far as the brain is concerned.
Even after having successful streaks where I set 5+ demos in a day I would still feel it at times. The trick is to recognize this as it’s happening, let the feeling pass and make the call.
Our brain is like any muscle in the body. It needs to be exercised. By pushing through every time this feeling arises, you are essentially rewiring your thinking patterns and will have less and less anxiety.
You Can’t Blame The Leads
Sales professionals have been blaming the quality of the lead since the beginning of time. I have found that it doesn’t matter if I have accurate information or not. I should be able to pick up the phone, call a company and request the information I am looking for. If I have a few minutes I can quickly search on LinkedIn for [company name] + [position] and find the correct name of the person in that position. Then go into the call asking specifically for them.
Instead of blaming the quality of the lead, I would instead try to call companies from their corporate website and get to the decision maker. I once did this with a lead from Disney. He was located in New York, but the number was incorrect. I called the 1–800 line, the operator transferred me and told me to “have a magical day.” After a few more transfers I got the the guy. I set the demo as well. That was a great day.
It’s a Numbers Game
To be successful cold calling, you must be able to remove emotions from the equation. In a sales call between two professionals, the person who keeps their emotions in check, greatly increases their odds of success.
After you have had time to ramp up (1–3 months) find out how many calls it takes for you to set a qualified demo/appointment. Is it 1:50? 1:20? 1:10? Then plan accordingly. If your quota is 20 qualified demos and you set a demo every 50 calls on average. Then you know it will take about 1,000 calls to hit your number. The caveat is not everyone shows up to their demo/appointment. I was paid on the number of demos that completed, not the number I set.
Prospects are Flakes!
For one reason or another prospects will fail to show up to your schedule appointment. I’m not sure what industry average is, but mine was between 15–20% on average. Nothing is more aggravating and this proved to be the hardest part of my job. I hate wasting time tracking down prospects only to schedule them with another appointment they may or may not attend.
The biggest piece of advice is further qualifying them while setting the demo. I always tried to get them to open their calendar and look for availability. If they don’t accept the calendar invite ahead of the meeting, then I will give a courtesy call and see what’s up (without giving them an out).
Another pro tip is to try and get them to invite others to the meeting. Painting it like a learning opportunity for those in the prospects department increases the likelihood they will forward the invite on to multiple people. Increasing the probability they will show up.
Always Schedule a Follow Up Call
The majority of time I connected with prospects I found they were likely to answer most of my questions. If we had a good conversation, but they were unable to commit to an appointment I’d try to ask for a specific day and time to follow up with them. Asking for a time of year, or “a few weeks” is not specific and does not count.
This follow up call is a great opportunity to reload your strategy and try again. Maybe you’ll catch them in a better mood, maybe they will have done some research and became more familiar with your company. Who knows, use this opportunity and don’t make a commitment to follow up, if your not going to.
Ask For What You Want
You’d be amazed what prospects and gatekeepers will disclose. Simply asking for what you want to know will yield valuable information. If they aren’t willing to answer that is their problem. You need to know when your prospect will be out of their meeting, so ask.
Too many times do I hear people give in the the first objection they hear. “I do it in house” leads to a “oh okay, well I’m not here to create pain. Have a nice day.” What is that? I mean I’ve done it more than once, haven’t you? The next question out of your mouth should have been, “what does that mean when you say in house?” You’re acknowledging and moving on. Do this to gain more information and to get the subject off of the objection. All you have to do is ask the next question.
Handling Objections is Easy
As a BDR/SDR you will hear an objection on every single connection with a prospect. All objections are pretty much the same. They don’t trust you or your product. That leads to this knee jerk reaction known as an objection.
To handle objections with ease, all you have to do is acknowledge and move on. As I mentioned above, “you do things in house? What does that mean exactly?” Your acknowledging the way the like operate, but asking for more information with an air of curiosity. You may find that “in house” is code for, we’re not doing anything, or we’re paying several people full time salaries to handle it. The goal isn’t to make them feel bad about their situation, but to get them to self identify their gaps and then you step in with the solution.
You are Mining for Pain
Your job is to be a miner for pain. By asking open ended questions you are opening your prospect up. Inside you may find treasure or you may find nothing. Once the prospect is opening up, get your listening hat on. Your looking for changes of tone, negative statements or anything that leads you to believe there is an unsatisfactory condition. This is your dinner bell.
I’ve had prospects close their door because they don’t want to speak too loudly about their situation. I’ve had prospects tell me they’re about to jump ship. I’ve had prospects give me nothing. When you find pain, that’s when you drill. Stop asking probing questions at this point and focus only on the pain. This is where you will make your money. Where there is pain, there is the potential for motivation. Fear is the strongest motivator. Pain is fear.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Culture is everything. Making cold calls is hard enough. If you work in a shark tank, in seclusion or anything besides a supportive team then your doing it wrong. It takes a team of motivated individuals with an abundance mentality to make it happen.
On many occasions I would get leads for a company someone else was working and vice versa. We happily exchange leads like we’re giving the other person a gift because we know that it will come back around and that there is plenty for everyone. The world is in abundance not scarcity. There are endless people to call and endless opportunity. Anything less is not reality.
If you’ve made it this far
Thank you! I am really probing around to see if there is potential for a future book and or website revolving around cold calling. A lot has been written by “gurus” but who wants to learn from a millionaire in another generation that makes a living off public speaking and books? I like learning from people in the trenches. They may not be the most polished, but the information is raw and real.