| In 1995, I wrote my first book, Red Hot Cold Call Selling, Prospecting Techniques that Pay Off! It was selected as one of the best business publications of 1995 and went on to become one of the top selling sales books in the world.
In 2004, my publisher, AMACOM, came to me and asked me to update Red Hot Cold Call Selling for the "21st Century". My first reaction was to balk. After all, cold call selling is probably as old as the telephone and so far, has been able to survive the advent of voice mail, do not call legislation and the Internet. Why should we tinker with success? However, it is these very changes in our business environment that mandate a change in our approach. Red Hot Cold Call Selling, 2nd Edition was released in 2006 and it seems only appropriate to update the "10 Commandments of Prospecting" as well.
"Remember, the objective of the prospecting call is to get the appointment."
21st Century Commandment I: Commit to making two prospecting dials per day and grow from there.
The original commandment was "Make an appointment with yourself for one hour each day to prospect".
What I have learned over the last thirteen years is that most sales professionals don't have the time to set aside one hour per day for prospecting. I still suggest that you make an appointment with yourself each day to prospect but if one hour per day is too much for you, I now offer an alternative.
Start at two dials per day.
This is something that anyone can do! Once you find that you can accommodate two dials per day, increase your daily total to three, four or five -- whatever you can accommodate. More prospecting will only help you sell more. There are no adverse health effects to increasing your daily commitment to prospecting.
21st Century Commandment II: Track Your Progress and Compare Your Key Prospecting Indicators to Industry Norms.
Since we have already discussed the number of calls you are going to make in Commandment I, what I would suggest you do in Commandment II is track your progress. First, it is important to know that you are making your two dials per day or ten dials per week. Second, it is important to understand how your key prospecting ratios compare to the market. The key prospecting ratios and the norms that we have seen with our customers follow:
|Completed calls to dials
|Meetings to completed calls
|Opportunities to meetings
21st Century, Commandment III: Make Your Calls Brief
This is still a huge challenge for today's sales professional. If anything, products and services have gotten more sophisticated, not less. The desire to provide the prospect with too much information over the phone is probably greater now than it ever has been before.
Remember, the objective of the prospecting call is to get the appointment. You cannot sell a complex product or service over the phone unless you are a telesales professional. For field sellers, it is crucial that you get in front of the customer. That is where you will do your best work.
Your prospecting call should last approximately two to three minutes and should be focused on introducing yourself, understanding the prospects needs at a very high level so that you can provide them with a compelling reason to spend some of their valuable time with you, and most importantly, getting the appointment!
"Make sure that your prospecting script has a strong business orientation."
21st Century Commandment IV: Use World Class Market Intelligence Resources to Support Your Prospecting Success
This advances the 20th Century, Commandment IV: "Be prepared with a list of names before you call".
When we last wrote this article we advised you to be prepared with a list of names before you begin to call. With the advent of the Internet, we can provide you with a host of ways to get your list in great shape. The resources that I recommend and use myself are:
Some of these resources are free or relatively low cost (Google Alerts, Jigsaw, Linked In) and others are more pricey (Hoovers, ZoomInfo). However, all should yield an excellent return on investment for you and your company. In fact, these resources are all so powerful that it makes me wonder how one ever sold without them!
- Google Alerts
- Linked In
- Euro Profiles
21st Century Commandment V: Make Certain That Your Prospecting Script Has A Strong Business Orientation
This advances the previous 20th Century, Commandment V of "Work without interruption". Interruption is almost an assumption in the 21st Century. If you listened to what Bill Gates, the outgoing Chairman at Microsoft said at this year's Consumer Electronics Conference; things are only going to get worse. Well, Bill Gates didn't really say that; this my interpretation of what he said for us as sales professionals.
Gates said that today everything is connected. However, it is up to us to make the connections work. Tomorrow, he went on to say, the connections will be seamless. This means that we will be bombarded with even more information than we are today! Because it may now be impossible to work without interruption, I am going to take you in a completely new direction.
Make sure that your prospecting script has a strong business orientation. We have found that there is a marked difference between "calling to introduce yourself" and "calling to help the prospect solve a business issue." The latter method will greatly enhance your meeting to completed call ratio.
To insure that your script has a strong business orientation, you may want to consider a statement such as "One of the chief concerns we are hearing from others in your position is the need to increase sales results as our economy heads into a potential economic downturn." I think that a business-oriented message is a lot more impactful than saying "I am the new account manager on your account and wanted to stop by and introduce myself."
21st Century Commandment VI: Prospect During Off Peak Hours as Much as Possible as This Will Significantly Improve Your Prospecting Results
This advances the previous 20th Century, Commandment VI: "Consider prospecting during off peak hours when conventional prospecting times don't work".
This is and "oldie but goodie" and still provides us with sage advice. Conventional cold calling hours in the United States are between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM. "Off peak" prospecting hours can yield vastly improved results in your ratio of completed calls to dials. In the US, "off peak" times are considered to be earlier than 9:00 AM, 4:00 - 6:30 PM and 12:00 - 2:00 PM. My personal experience has shown me that "off peak" completed call to dial ratios can be as high as 80% on a great day. "Peak" completed call to dial ratios can be as low as 0% on a poor day.
Having traveled and done business in almost every major market in the world, I can add one new twist to Commandment VI. "Peak" and "off peak" prospecting times vary by region. For example, if you work in a Latin American country, it would not be a good idea to prospect during lunchtime. Yet, in the US, it would. If you work in India, on the other hand, starting at 8:00 AM may not work very well either. Yet, in the US it would. You know your culture a lot better than I do and should have a firm understanding of what the "off peak" hours are in your region of the world. More…