This article relates to a new series of articles based on different methods of lead generation. First, I think I should explain what I mean by leads;

I call them possibilities or possible opportunities. lead generation is about seeking out these opportunities from lots of available data. Effective lead generation is about being able to seek out the most valuable leads or 'hot' leads as we often refer to them as. A hot lead is one that is qualified and fits the criteria. So, for example, it could be a prospect who has the budget and is actively seeking a supplier. As opposed to a not so hot lead which could be a company going into administration.

You are the best person to know what you are looking for, so the best-qualified leads will be those that you generate yourself. Even if you obtain leads from someone else or another department, you are still probably going to have to make a call and check that they qualify. So this series of articles will focus on how best to generate those qualified leads. Hopefully, you will find my tips of value.

I think it would be fair to say that leads are generated mainly by, cold calling, LinkedIn/social media, as well as email campaigns and also networking events. There are other innovative or more old fashioned ways which can be just as impactful if executed well, so please don't limit your approaches to just these. If you want to share ideas on different forms of generating leads that are not listed above, then please join the Facebook group 'wise me up to sales' Where I will be happy to discuss those with you.

Taking each of these main lead generation activities one by one, I'm going to share with you 5 crucial habits that I think you should adopt to be successful in each one, and in this article, I'll start with cold calling;

The 5 Crucial habits for successful cold calling

1. Be Prepared

Even if it's just a quick glance, do look at the prospects website to make sure you know what they do as a business, and who they are. Perhaps the structure, size, and type of operation, and note it down. You may already have this information from the last time you looked them up or perhaps you were provided with this information when you received the data. In either case, I would suggest you do read it and remember it. Some people may not agree that this is important at this early stage but please, believe me when I say that you never know when you will need it. You never know when a decision-maker or gatekeeper might ask you something like,

"So what makes you think you can help me in my business?"

Or

"what do you know about my business?"

These questions are the questions that can throw you early on in a call if you are not prepared. Another part of being prepared is making sure your knowledge of your own offering is up to date. What it is that you have on offer and what is its potential value to the prospect. How does it fit with the current market climate? Its always good to give your self a refresher on what you are selling and why? It helps with motivation and especially help you to think about how to use the climate to your advantage. For example, right now, businesses are struggling with to survive the Corona Pandemic. My advice to you at this moment in time would be to decide if your product or service can support businesses during the pandemic, or would your offering be a more significant help to companies when they are looking to rebuild themselves after the impact of it.

Preparation is probably the most essential action in sales. I am often asked; "What is the most important skill in sales?" And my answer is always "Preparation. Because if you don't prepare then no matter how skilled you are, you are not ready to apply those skills strategically to get the most out of the opportunity" It makes sense to be prepared in the same way as you would for a vacation. You check things like weather, facilities, routes etc., all in advance because you want to make the most of that vacation. So why not be prepared to make the most of each of your call opportunities?

I have another article called '5 things to do before making a successful cold call' This gives a little more details about preparation for calls. If you want to join our Facebook group, you can find it under 'wise me up to sales', and we can discuss this in more detail there too.

Remember each opportunity is a window and it's not going to be open forever so don't waste it, just want it, and be prepared to win it!

2. Keep it FRESH.

FRESH is an acronym that I learned many years ago and adopted into my working practices. I like it because it works for everyone. It is variable according to you as an individual. Each letter can mean what you want it to mean and can represent you, be a reflection of who you are. The word fresh itself is an excellent way of saying different and exciting. So keeping it FRESH is about You being you, an individual and not just another sales caller. Someone different from the last and the next callers. Someone easy to listen to and someone who is not just there to bombard the listener with their own words. I'm sure you will have received sales calls yourself, and some of those may have been so typical in the approach that you could actually 'smell the sell'. I love receiving calls because it helps me to do my research on them, and analyse them. Having done this more recently, I gave names to three categories of cold calling approaches for my book 'wise me up to cold calling many years now I have

Category 1: The submissive caller. Sometimes I receive calls from salespeople who come across a little too timid and shy. They seem almost unsure of why they are calling and then they tend to use words like 'I'm sorry to bother you" Politeness is excellent on a call so don't lose that but be mindful of how your words might put you across on a call. Using words like "Sir; madam; I'm sorry" might be second nature to you but it's not about you or your culture it's about who you are calling. Quite often, salespeople don't understand their audience enough to use these kinds of terms and end up putting themselves in a more vulnerable position.

Category 2: The Generous caller. This, I have to say, is the one that I dislike the most. Mainly because the lines used in the approach are intrusive and sometimes quite personal, lines such as 'you have qualified for.. or we are calling to help you regarding a recent accident you had, or we want to help fix your PC virus. Sometimes the caller's line is constructed to threaten your comfort zone,. for example: "your internet is at risk from viruses, and we want to help prevent it." These are blatant lies, or bluffs. Personally I'm always tempted to call their bluff. They almost invite you to do so. If you were on the receiving end of one of those calls, I'm sure you too would want to tell them where to go. These callers create a false start which means a broken trust even before you begin.

Category C: The undercover caller. This is the one who hides behind association words. By this, I mean they generally introduce themselves in association with big brands or household company names to put you into a false sense of security. A great example of this is when a utility comparison outfit calls you to convince you to change provider. They usually start by emphasising the name of your current supplier if they are well known. I received one exactly like this recently. A caller who said they are calling on behalf of EE, but they weren't from EE at all. They do it to put you into a false sense of comfort, but at some point, the prospect will ask or realise that the caller is not who they portrayed themselves to be. All that time you spent building a good rapport and influencing is lost.

So guys stay away from being any of the above typical annoying salespeople. Have an approach that is reflective of you and therefore, how you want to be perceived. I use the FRESH acronym because it means what it says. It's about standing out from the rest. You are different from everyone else, so don't become like everyone else. There's more on FRESH in the article titled "5 things to do to build a better rapport with the gatekeeper.

Use fresh to help you to channel who you are into your call and build your rapport and trust on a FRESH foundation. Else it might just crumble at any point.

3. Be a listener

If you are the sort of salesperson who talks for more than twenty seconds when a prospect answers the call, then stop right there. Just for a moment here, put yourself in the prospects shoes. Think about how often you retain everything some random caller throws at you in the first few seconds. When you are not expecting a call, and you don't know the person who is calling you, then those first few seconds can be a blur, and more so when the caller talks fast. You are wasting your time by throwing too much information across too early. Not a only because you don't know yet if the person on the other end is the best person to be throwing your pitch to but also because you will sound a little desperate or even aggressive. Nobody likes to be talked at. I listened to a call very recently where the caller was talking to one of the decision-makers, and for the whole 15 minutes of the call, I counted the customer's words as thirty-two in total. How crazy is that? 32 and that includes the prospects concluding words, "Send me an email with all the information ad I'll have a look at it.". 15 words at the end. The caller did ask questions during the call but also answered their own questions, and sometimes went on to give a multiple choice of answers but still answering themselves. The prospect did try to speak about three times and each time they made a concerted effort, but after the three failed attempts the prospect simply gave verbal nods because they knew that this salesperson wasn't going to give them any airtime. By this time the prospect was just politely waiting for the end of the call. Some might have just hung up. I know this sounds like an extreme case and you might be thinking "that's not me, but have you ever listened to any of your calls and worked out the percentage of time that you speak compared to how much the prospect speaks? Talking too much is an easy trap to fall into when you're not prepared. You have valuable stuff to say, but don't throw the impact of that value away.

4. Questioning.

You must have a list of questions that you know will help you to qualify the potential value to you of this opportunity. In other words, how much of your time is this prospect worth? Questions could be simple: "who have you used before?" or impactful: 'What do you look for in a supplier?". Having questions ready to fire at the gatekeeper or the decision-maker also keeps you on the call for longer giving you more opportunity to build a rapport with the prospect, gain mutual respect, and it stops you from talking too much. Instead of just talking about you, questioning gives you thinking time while you listen and take in what the other person is saying. If you switch your focus onto what they are saying rather than on what you want to say, then you will start to find that you automatically gain control and a greater understanding of how much the opportunity is worth to you. This is you being engaged which they will then mirror and there you have the start of a sale. Be prepared for silences. Don't be afraid of them. Ask a question and then shut up for at least 3 seconds. Being able to hold silence after a question shows confidence and professionalism. It's a sign of excellent communication skills. It also says that you genuinely want to hear what they have to say.

So remember telling is not selling!

5. Ditch the script.

If you are working with a script, then you might want to rethink it or at least have a listen to one of your own calls. I can tell you now that you will probably want to ditch it after you do. Don't get me wrong I think scripts are great but for actors and presenters only. Why? Well because actors and presenters are either delivering a monologue or a dialogue. For monologues the script is straight forward. Where there is another person involved, the other person has that script too, so the result is a correctly flowing conversation where both parties say just what the other person wants to hear. Hence a comprehensive discussion. If you need a script to make a cold call, then I would suggest you go back to the drawing board and start to research your product or service and understand the value of what you are offering. If you believe that you already do know all of this, then you don't need a script. You see the prospect does not have the half of your script, so you will inevitably have to go off it meaning you leave yourself open to losing control of the conversation and the outcome. Remember each opportunity is different from the last so prepare for the unknown by having the relevant questions ready, a bit of research into them and an open pair of ears. I mean really, when's the last time you needed a script to tell you how to communicate with another human being? Your prospects are just human like you, and they will be as warm as you are if you ditch the script and use your FRESH.

So that's five tips on lead generation through cold calling. I hope they are helpful in this challenging time.

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