Speed kills… cold calls, that is

Patrick Morrissey

I’m sure many of us have unsuspectingly picked up the phone only to be ambushed by a fast-talking sales pitch. Despite making our best effort to extend professional courtesy, we simply don’t have time to listen to a sales pitch most of the time. The result is that we will typically do our best to end the call as quickly as possible so we can get back to work. Whether we are “in a meeting,” “late for our next meeting” or we simply choose to hang up, we will rarely feel any guilt about our narrow escape. We need to get back to work and the person on the other end of the line does not seem concerned about our time. So why should we feel any guilt about ending the call? Otherwise, we are stuck on the call waiting until the salesperson unwinds, often making a sales pitch that has nothing to do with us, our problems or our role within the company.

As an inside salesperson, I myself have been guilty of making the same mistakes when making cold calls, at least when it comes to talking fast. As salespeople we are aware that our customers’ time is limited and we often talk faster in an effort to be considerate of our customers’ time. We also may talk faster because we are conditioned to believe that we only have a few seconds to make our point before the customer wants to end the call.

The reality is that by speeding up the tempo of the call, we are putting our potential customer ill at ease from the very beginning. Fast talking makes the customer fear that they are trapped, stuck on the call until the salesperson is done with the sales pitch. This activates the customer’s “fight or flight” instinct, and they can be counted on to choose “flight” most of the time. They may even activate the “fight” instinct as well, with a jab or a dig just before they hang up the phone.

Slow And Steady
Ironically, I have found that my customers respond more favorably when I slow down the pace when making cold calls. At the very least, I don’t sound like just another sales call. This also gives my customers space to interrupt and end the call politely if they need to. This shows my customers that I respect their time, which allows them to feel safe continuing with the call. And why not? They can always cut me off and tell me if they are not the right person or they are simply not interested. This also helps me get more referrals. Customers often feel comfortable giving me the name of the decision-maker because they know I will not ambush that person with a fast sales pitch either.

There will always be people who won’t talk with you on cold calls. However, I have found that following the short list of rules below has improved my results dramatically.

Slow down. It’s much easier for the prospect to write you off as “just another sales call” when you talk to fast.

Respect their time. Make sure it’s an “okay” time to talk. It is probably never a great time to interrupt someone’s day, but the call will surely go better if you confirm that they are not preoccupied or dealing with an emergency.

Don’t be afraid of silence. This is really an extension of point 1. Oftentimes, the prospect is simply thinking, or looking up contact information for the person they want to refer you to. Silence is good!

Never talk over the prospect. The prospect may be trying to help you and provide guidance. Even let the customer interrupt you. It’s much more important to for you to hear what they have to say than it is for them to hear what you have to say.

Don’t sell too early. Keep value and benefit statements to an absolute minimum until the prospect invites you to sell. Just tell the prospect what your company does and ask for guidance on how you can engage with their company. Otherwise, you are just another salesperson and they don’t have time to be sold. Your first priority is to ask for guidance to see if you have a prospect in the first place. (Less is more!) They will tell you if and when they want to learn more about what you do.

Avoid buzzwords and acronyms when possible. The person you are talking with may have no idea what you are talking about. But they can point you in the right direction if you use plain language.

Patrick Morrisey is senior account manager at ConnectLeader, a provider of innovative technology used by B2B sales reps to accelerate the sales process.