Dining out is one of my favorites activities. I love the experience, the opportunity to be social and of course the food. But, what irks me is when the waiter shares the specials too early after being seated. I need to get acclimated, have a drink, and conversate before being barraged with information. Explained simply, I am not yet in the right state of mind to consider a decision about my meal.
What does this have to do with cold calling and agency new business?
Decision-makers have a constant string of meetings. Between meetings, they’re invariably scrambling to finish a project or struggling to stay afloat in a sea of emails. If your prospect picks up, it’s probably because they thought you were someone else. Our Sales Directors at Catapult New Business see live connection rates of 5-15%. If you do get the decision-maker on the phone, consider their state of mind. They’re mentally engaged in one place, and now, like the waiter, you’ve popped up expecting them to shift to another.
Even if you’ve previously left your prospect voicemails and sent them emails, or if you have software to track engagement and know that the prospect has opened your email or visited your website—they will not remember you or your agency at that moment.
Like an untrained waiter, many salespeople dive right into their pitch—disregarding the prospect’s state of mind. Thirty seconds into the call, the prospect, caught in the onslaught of details, stops the salesperson, and says that they already have an agency and are happy with their services.
The Goal of Cold Calling
The goal of cold calling is not to conduct a needs analysis, pitch, close or even to engage in a conversation. The purpose of cold calling is to move from an interruption into a scheduled meeting where you will have the prospect’s undivided attention.
How do expert sellers do that?
It’s not by sharing all of your information upfront in a 30 to 60-second elevator-style pitch. Instead, seasoned sales professionals create call scripts engineered to ask questions that yield predictable answers. This back-and-forth helps transition the prospect’s state of mind and leads to an increased likelihood of securing a meeting.
A Waiter’s Script
Using our restaurant example, an experienced waiter might approach their table with several scripted short questions before sharing the specials with the customers:
- How are we doing today? — The answer will likely be “Good, and yourself?” The server will respond and then ask…
- Have you dined with us before? — If the answer is “no,” the server will likely then provide background on the restaurant and then ask…
- What brings you in? — Perhaps the customers will say that they’re celebrating a special occasion. The waiter has now begun to engage the customers. Armed with information on the occasion the waiter can introduce the topic of the specials and personalize it to the group.
- We have several fabulous specials, perfect for celebrating your occasion, would you like to hear about them? — The waiter has essentially “scheduled” time with the group to share the specials.
Each question the waiter asks yields a predictable response. This is by design. The more back-and-forth you create, the greater the likelihood that you’ll succeed in shifting the prospect’s state of mind.
Agency New Business Prospecting Script
Here’s an example of my script for cold calling. This script format has led to generating millions of dollars in new business for agencies small and large:
Hi Mr. Prospect. My name is Christian Banach, and I am with ABC Agency. Are you doing well today?
(NOTE: This begins the interaction with a question that has a predictable answer.)
Prospect: Uh. I’m fine.
That’ great Mr. Prospect. Have I caught you at a bad time?
(NOTE: This question has three predictable answers: “Yes,” and they hang up. Or, “No,” and you continue. Or, “Yes, but what’s this about?”)
Prospect: I am about to run to a meeting. What’s this about?
I understand and promise to be brief. Again, my name is Christian Banach, and I’m with the creative shop ABC Agency. I’m calling because we’ve helped clients like you drive sales at retail.
Can I ask, are you familiar with ABC Agency?
(NOTE: Now I’ve succinctly restated my name, the agency name and shared our value proposition. Unless you’re one of the top 10 agencies in the world, most marketers haven’t heard of you. However, when they say no, that’s your invitation to share more information.)
Prospect: No, I’m not. What do you do?
We’re a fully integrated creative agency that helps clients in your business category like Client A, Client B, and Client C. Our clients tell us that we’ve helped them improve their sales at retail by up to 89%.
Can I ask, are you still VP of Marketing?
(NOTE: Now I have succinctly provided background on the agency and provided proof of credibility by naming clients. I’ve also restated our value proposition and tied it to tangible results. To keep the prospect engaged, I end with asking another question with a predictable answer.)
Prospect: Yes, I am.
Great. Well, I know you’re busy. And, although I don’t yet know if we are a good fit for you yet, why don’t we schedule a brief call. Most everyone gets value from learning how we have improved our clients’ sales at retail.
Would that be of interest?
(NOTE: I’ve demonstrated empathy, restated my value proposition for the third time, and asked for the meeting.)
Often, that’s all it takes. In that brief exchange, the first step of your sales process is completed.
The Mental Shift
Notice that even when the mental shift began to happen in the above example, I did not launch into a 30-60 second pitch. What agencies are selling is much more complex than a chef’s award-winning Margarita Grilled Chicken. The cold call is not the right time to pitch.
Further, having the ‘discovery/sales’ discussion in real-time puts sales reps at a disadvantage. On a cold call, we’re in sales prospecting mode. More importantly, at that stage, we haven’t done the appropriate research to understand the prospect and have a rich conversation.
The responsible goal of a cold call, therefore, must be exclusively to schedule a meeting. At an arranged time, both you and the prospect can come adequately prepared to enter the conversation in a state of mind that’s conducive to a mutually satisfying outcome.
Keep perspective—when you do meet your prospect for the scheduled meeting, you have all of the rights and permissions of a person with an appointment. You have your opportunity to take your prospect’s time to present your services and make your case for its benefits. That’s your time to make your pitch.
By shifting the prospect’s state of mind with short questions with predictable answers and focusing only on scheduling a meeting, you’ll discover yourself bringing into better balance the necessary components for success in the great combined art and science of cold calling.