CS: Prospecting – Anatomy of a Cold Call

The Clarity Series is a series of posts all on one subject.  This particular subject is prospecting.  While the context is commercial real estate, these steps and principles can be applied to any sales.  To read the introduction of this series, click here.  To read an overview of the entire prospecting system, click here.  Thank you for reading!

In the last two posts, we have discussed the purpose and philosophy of cold calls as well as how to gain confidence by solid cold call preparation.  In this post, we are going to talk about the ideal anatomy of a cold call.

Make the dang call! via iStockphotot.com

Make the dang call! via iStockphoto.com

Anatomy of a Cold-Call

Opening StatementMike Lipsey calls this the IBS – initial benefit statement.  The key here is to get right to the point. Communicate quickly and with clarity why taking this call will benefit the prospect.  In Part 2 of this post, I discussed that you want to find the prospect’s website.  What you are looking for is their mission statement, core values, etc.

For example, let’s say the prospects mission statement is to “Add value to the lives of our clients by providing unmatched products and world-class service.”  Your opening statement could then be:

“Mr. Prospect.  My name is Bo Barron.  The purpose of my call is to help you add value to the lives of your clients by providing you with world-class service and unmatched expertise.”

Notice that I didn’t completely plagiarize their mission statement, but I’m talking the language of the prospect.  The prospect will know that I’ve done my homework.

While I don’t believe in scripts, I do believe in crafting your opening statement before you call.  Most salespeople have the most problems with how they start the call.  ”Uh, hi.  My name is Bo Barron and I’m with ABC Co.  Uh….how’s it going?”  Terrible!  

Knowing your opening line will give you confidence.  It will also grab the attention of your prospect.  This will give you a much better chance of landing the meeting.

Follow Up QuestionOnce you have gained the prospect’s attention with a killer opening statement, it is now time to ask the perfect question.  What is that question, you ask?  It is one that gets the prospect talking.  If you can get them talking about a problem or an opportunity – even better.  Here are some sample questions:

  • What problems are you having with your vacancy?
  • Many owners are struggling with their management.  What difficulties are you having?
  • When you purchased this property in 2004, what were your thoughts about how long you would keep it?
  • I see that you own 3 properties in this area.  What are your continuing growth plans?
  • How long do you feel like your current capacity can handle your growth?

I suggest that you have two questions ready.  If you bomb with the first, then you are ready to fire with the second.  Also, human dynamics make it very difficult to say no twice.  That is why a door-to-door salesman always has a second item to sell you when you shoot down the first.

And do not ask ‘yes/no’ questions.  They will tell you no.  Ask the prospect a question that leads them to share a little bit about their property, their plans, their frustrations, etc.

Value for Free - Here is where you can set the hook.  Have something of value to offer the prospect for free.  This could be a market report, trend report, or something in the news that could affect their property.  The best thing, though, is a comp.  Ideally, you have just sold something in the neighborhood.  Owners want to know about deals that have happened.  They want to know the details.  They want to know who was involved.  If you have that information, they will talk to you and meet with you.

Your thinking should be, “Even if I don’t uncover a possible relationship or transaction, this prospect is going to gain something valuable from taking my call.”

Close for the Meeting - At this point, you have shared with them the purpose of your cold call.  You got them to share a little bit about their property or their business.  Now you have piqued their interested in some information that you have.  Now it is time to close.

Most of you stop here.  Don’t.  You have to ask for what you want.  Ask for the meeting!

Now, you have just offered the prospect information that they want.  Do not give it to them over the phone.  Do not email it to them.  Require that they meet you face to face.  But make the requirement as whimsical and gentle as possible.  I use the assumptive and alternative calendar closes the most.

First, I assume the prospect will meet with me.  Then I give them two different dates and times that I can “pop by.”

  • I like the alternative calendar close because the answer to the question is not “no.”  I am asking the prospect to choose between two dates and times.  This increases the likelihood of a positive answer.
  • The term “pop by” is one I learned from the book How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins (affiliate link).  This is a great book on the tactics of selling.  The term “pop by” just sounds quick – like you will just be there for a few minutes.  Maybe you will.  Regardless, it is easy for the prospect to agree to.

Within these 4 steps of the anatomy of a cold call, the conversation can go anywhere.  You need to be ready to improvise and go where the cold call may take you.  But remember, you have to actually ask for what you want.  Ask for the short meeting.

I would love to hear some of the questions that you use on a cold call.  Or how you ask for a meeting.  My way suits my style and personality.  Yours will be different.  Leave your comments below!

CS: Prospecting – The Purpose of a Cold Call

The Clarity Series is a series of posts all on one subject.  This particular subject is prospecting.  While the context is commercial real estate, these steps and principles can be applied to any sales.  To read the introduction of this series, click here.  To read an overview of the entire prospecting system, click here.  Thank you for reading!

via iStockPhoto

via iStockPhoto

I may have told this story before.  About a year ago, I was riding with a couple of guys through rural Kentucky.  As we drove through this one-stop-light town, we passed a Dollar General Store.  Because I was clear on my specialty and had built my database, I was able to look up the owner.  Before we were out of that small town, I was talking to the owner.  What started off with, “Hi, sir.  My name is Bo Barron and your Dollar Store in Perryville is not on fire,” ended with me in his office the next day.  Cold calling works.

The subject of the cold call is a big one.  I expect to break this up into at least three parts – the purpose of a cold call, the preparation of a cold call, and the anatomy of a cold call.  In this post, I want to address the purpose of a cold call and my philosophy of a cold call.  This first part will be a bit more philosophical.  The next posts will get into how to practically pull off a cold call

The Purpose of a Cold Call

The purpose of a cold call is very simple and there is no debate.  It is to get a meeting.  That’s it.  It is not to spend 20 minutes on the phone.  It is not to build a lasting relationship.  It is not to make the sale.  The purpose of the cold call is simply to get a meeting.

I had a guy who worked for me for a time.  Cold calling was not his favorite thing.  When he would call, though, he would make a new best friend.  These would be 30+ minute conversations.  He would have two of these in a day and think he cold called for an hour.  No!  Cold calling is a numbers game.  These calls should be short.  The more calls you make, the more meetings you will have.  The more meetings you have, the more proposals you will make…and on and on.

I want you to build lasting relationships with your clients and prospects.  I want you to know about their kids and their dreams.  It simply should not happen on a cold call.

My Philosophy of a Cold Call

I am going to give you the secret script to wealth and riches.  Regardless of what you are selling, if you use this script, you are golden.

Wrong!  I can’t tell you how many of my coaching clients have asked me for scripts.  Scripts don’t win in sales.  Connecting wins.

Many of you have probably read How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins.  This book is full of great sales tactics, closing techniques, and scripts.  I have read this book and use it as a resource.  You should too.  It is one of the best.  However, it was written 33 years ago for the previous generation.  It suggests that if you know the right words to say in any situation, you will always make the sale.  I disagree.

Sales is not manipulation.  Sales is about connecting and providing something of value that makes someone’s life better.  A cold call is the first touch of that process.  You need to have a plan for the call.  You need to prepare for that call.  You need to have great questions ready.  You need to be ready to listen and adjust.  You don’t need a script!

My next post will deal with preparing and the anatomy of the cold call.  But before that, what are your thoughts about scripts?  How do you try to connect with someone on your first call with them?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

And on the note of comments, this Clarity Series on Prospecting has been generating some great sharing of information and has led to conversations off-line.  I encourage you all to keep leaving those comments and engaging with each other!