Two years ago, I walked into my family room as my four children were watching television wondering why none of them were doing anything about the phone being off the hook. I asked, “Why is the phone off the hook?” They looked at me with blank stares. After asking the same question two more times I realized they had no idea what I was talking about. Holding back my laughter and amazement I picked up the phone and turned it off.
One of them said, “We thought it was out of batteries.” Another said, “What do you mean by it being off the hook?” At that moment I was embarrassed because I realized my wife and I were doing them a disservice by always texting another parent if they wanted to have a friend over or setting up FaceTime to call their grandparents. My oldest is now 13 and has his own phone and the only way he communicates with his friends is via texting. What does this mean for future generations in the sales industry and workforce for that matter because most parents I know do the same things?
As sales leaders, I can assure you that the challenges you are facing today with cold calling reluctance from members of your sales team is only going to get worse as time goes on unless you have a proactive plan. Some will argue that if you have members of your sales team who are hesitant to pick up the phone, to get rid of them. First, we know it’s not that easy. Second, ask yourself if you have done all that you can to develop the skills that are necessary for those team members.
Please note that I believe in having a well-balanced prospecting strategy. Your team should have a mixture of telephone, in-person, email, social selling, text messaging, referrals, networking, inbound leads, trade shows, and referrals. The time allocated for each of these depends on your industry and product. Jeb Blount says it best in his book Fanatical Prospecting, “Putting all your prospecting eggs into one basket is stupid. It’s career suicide.”
However, contrary to many articles online, cold calling is not dead. Nothing can replace having a live and authentic sales conversation with an influencer and/or decision-maker.
Below are four actions you can implement today as a sales leader to diffuse call reluctance within your team.
1. Train for Skill
Whether you bring in outside expertise or conduct training internally, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your sales team has the necessary skills to make an effective cold call. This is critical. Helping them learn the appropriate cold calling frameworks (transactional, consultative, information gathering, hybrid, etc.), as well as closing techniques, will vary by industry.
There are plenty of statistics and data on the internet when the best days and times are to call, how long to leave a voicemail, developing a follow-up cadence to build a pipeline and more. Unfortunately, not everyone on your sales team is a rock star and they will not know these things. It’s incumbent on you to help them develop these skills and competencies.
It is important that the training curriculum is applicable to the level of experience of the team member. It may not make sense to have your top producers attend all training sessions.
2. Coach for Performance
Without consistent coaching on performance, there is a strong chance that their newly learned skills will be forgotten. Coaching should be a 1:1 event and ideally in a safe environment. Bring the salesperson into your office or go into a conference room and shadow them on some calls. Give them constructive feedback and stay positive.
3. Get in the Trenches
A leader should never ask any of their team members to do something they aren’t willing to do themselves. Several years ago, in a sales management position, the Senior VP I reported to challenged me to do a 2-hour workshop with all the investment real estate brokers in my office. They were to bring in five names and five numbers each for me to cold call and try to schedule a meeting with. Of course, many of them brought in five names of their most difficult prospects. I was anxious because the brokers specialized in selling different property types across the country (office, apartments, retail, industrial, self-storage, etc.) and I was in management.
However, the purpose of the workshop was to work the cold calling framework I had trained them on with the goals of providing value and closing for a meeting. I made some mistakes and gave myself candid feedback after each call. We had fun, several laughs and six new meetings were set. Most importantly, I gained more credibility with my sales team by showing them I wasn’t above making cold calls.
4. Develop Team Leaders
There is only so much time in the day, particularly with the golden hours of prospecting. As a sales leader, you have numerous responsibilities and cannot spend all your time training and coaching (although too little, if at all). Develop several of your top producers into becoming mentors for less experienced sales reps. Incentivize them if necessary.
Reviewing these four actions remind me a lot of how my wife and I try to parent. There is not a one-size fit all for perfect parenting and sales leadership; but, the fundamentals are similar. Train for skill, coach for performance, lead by example and develop team leaders.