Cold calling and selling in the pandemic required a new strategy. Everyone thought that when the pandemic ended, their sales process would go back to “normal.” But no. People like being remote.
According to Forbes and WFH Research, in 2023, 12.7% of full-time employees work from home, while 28.2% are hybrid workers. That’s nearly half the workforce working remotely at least part of every week.
For a salesperson, that means it’s not any easier to reach prospects now than it was during the pandemic. Your approach to them has to change – permanently.
The Cold Calling Challenge
With people working remotely, they are harder to find, not just harder to access.
Fewer businesses have receptionists who can connect you. Phone systems are automated. Prospects’ phone numbers may be forwarded from an office or may ring to nowhere. More likely, they are mobile numbers or unlisted altogether. Company voicemail boxes may go unchecked.
Even with all the right phone numbers to reach a prospect, you still may not connect.
The new definition of cold calling
This gives cold calling a whole new definition. It’s not just reaching out by phone. It’s expanded to prospecting using any means you can use to reach a cold contact. (Any ethical means within reason!)
What’s a cold contact?
A cold contact is someone you’ve never spoken with before and who didn’t request a call or email. They may have looked at your website or downloaded information, but they didn’t ask for follow-up. They aren’t expecting to hear from you.
You have to use all your sales prospecting skills to not just reach a contact, but to generate interest with them in a way that they will want to set a first appointment and hear more.
Should you stop cold calling?
Given how difficult it is to reach contacts, you may be asking yourself that very question.
The answer is an emphatic no!
One-on-one outreach is a critical element of your B2B lead generation system. Marketing alone is not enough. While marketing will drive traffic, interest, and leads, it won’t convert without a strong MQL follow-up strategy driven by your sales rep.
The 2023 sales prospecting challenge
2023 has had the added challenge of economic uncertainty, due to a 4.5% United States inflation rate, following an 8% rate in 2022 and 4.69% in 2021.
Prospects have pulled back their spending, making it difficult to reach them, because they don’t want to be reached.
Business owners may need your services and know it, but they don’t want to spend money. To avoid temptation, decision making contacts are dodging any interactions they think may lead to a sales discussion.
Use consultative sales skills
To get past the avoidance roadblock, one of the top hunter sales skills your salesperson must have is consultative selling. Using consultative skills, their approach messages must sound compelling. When they do, executives will want to talk with them – even when those decision makers are unsure they want to spend money.
It’s Time To Change Your Prospecting Strategy
For successful hunting, your salesperson’s strategy must be flexible, adapting with the economy, target market, and technology. Ideally, you’ve put a repeatable cold call process in place for the company and it, too, should allow for shifts.
Step back, examine your prospecting strategy, and see what needs to be adapted to improve results. Incorporate these five strategies.
1. Don’t Ignore LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a treasure trove of information about prospects and an alternative to phone and email. There are many ways to engage and reach contacts using LinkedIn prospecting techniques.
Ways To Engage
- Connect with a contact
- Ask a shared contact for a referral
- Comment on a prospect’s posts
- Read their articles and comment
- Join groups they participate in
In a 2023 poll of our community, 34% actively participate in LinkedIn groups. You aren’t limited to a prospect accepting a connection invitation to meet and engage. If they don’t accept, use a different strategy.
6 quick tips for using LinkedIn to prospect
1. Don’t send LinkedIn spam messages
Connect with prospects, send messages, and don’t come across as desperate for a meeting or as robotic. Contacts can tell when you send a generic message. They despise self-promotional messages. Take the personalization techniques you successfully use in emails and adopt them for LinkedIn.
2. Integrate LinkedIn prospecting with your Bloodhound Follow-Up Strategy
Follow the cadence outlined in The Bloodhound Prospecting Strategy to weave LinkedIn naturally into your hunting strategy. Mix in a connection invitation, commenting on posts, and sharing useful information to avoid looking like all those salespeople who are spamming.
3. Get an introduction on LinkedIn
You used to ask a colleague at an event to introduce you to their connections. You know you can do the same on LinkedIn. Yet few people take advantage of this feature anymore. Integrate asking for introductions into your prospecting strategy and make your connection requests stand out. Find your top prospects on LinkedIn and check for mutual connections.
4. Make emails pop with personalization
With all that great information people share in their profiles, you’ll find everything from where a person went to high school and jobs they’ve had to causes they care about. Take what you learn about a prospect and add it to your cold emails and LinkedIn messages to heighten the one-on-one, personal feeling.
5. Nurture your connections
You probably have thousands of connections on LinkedIn. Hidden in those connections are people you haven’t spoken with in years, and some you may never have met. Identify contacts who fit your target market to reach out and reconnect.
6. Join groups where your target market hangs out, and get active
As you do, you’ll meet new contacts. Many of them will be with companies you weren’t aware of but who fit your ideal client profile. If you and your team aren’t using groups, listen to this YouTube video with Stacey Hall for How To Leverage LinkedIn Groups To Make More Sales.
2. Embrace Video, Smile, and Hit Record
KLA has always been a virtual company, and we were comfortable with video before the pandemic hit. Now, it’s a natural part of doing business for everyone. Still, there are people who resist. Use that to your advantage and distinguish yourself.
Master selling on video
You can’t read important cues and body language on a phone call, but appearing on screen can be intimidating. Despite using video frequently, salespeople admit that they aren’t comfortable being on camera. If this is you or your team, here’s video expert Julie Hansen sharing how to deliver a memorable value proposition in a virtual meeting. It’s time to overcome reluctance and embrace video for all calls.
Appearing on camera is a critical sales tool. Turn on your video from the very first meeting – even if your prospect doesn’t. It’s a way to establish a relationship, allowing people to get to know, like, and trust you. When your camera is on, they get the full perspective of you.
Send sales prospecting videos
Meetings with a prospect aren’t your only opportunity to leverage video. Record a short message and send it with an email or LinkedIn message. Tools like Vidyard.com and BombBomb make it easy to create quick videos. It’s a way to make your prospecting messages stand out and get noticed.
In our 2021 video poll, 82% of people said they did not send cold email messages with video in them. Yet a Vidyard study reported on Business Wire that same year found that more than 70% of sales reps who do use custom videos in the sales process experienced higher prospect engagement.
In 2023, video continues to be uncomfortable for many reps and business owners. Buck the trend. When prospects receive a video you’ve made specifically for them, they notice it.
Ways to use sales videos are:
- Recap a meeting
- Share the purpose of a meeting
- Send a proposal
- Provide references
- Provide a reference introduction
- Introduce them to another team member
- Thank them for a referral
- Thank them for an order
When prospects and clients see you on video, you distinguish yourself from your competitors. You’re engaging in a personalized way. Decision makers notice and remember the extra steps you took during the selection process.
Evaluate and improve
Remember the first time you heard a recording of your own voice? You probably thought That’s what I sound like? Recording video prospecting calls can be equally eye-opening.
The next time you’re on a video call, hit record. Then, set aside time to evaluate your performance and what you can do better.
As the manager of a sales team, review their videos together.
What to evaluate
Pay attention to how they come across on camera and pinpoint areas for improvement. By playing back the recording, you’ll catch bad habits and identify key places to coach your salesperson to elevate their skills.
3. Integrate Drop-by Cold Calling
Also known as door-knocking, canvassing, and face-to-face cold calling, there are some salespeople who are most comfortable when they can meet people in person, rather than attempting to connect digitally.
One of our top client’s sales team loves dropping in at manufacturing plants to meet new people. It’s their primary prospecting strategy. They know that being inside prospects’ businesses allows them to speak from a different perspective when they can look around and see what is happening at the company. When COVID hit, they were lost. There was no frame of reference to start a conversation. They couldn’t establish a relationship the way they were most comfortable.
Great news! Drop-by prospecting has fully opened up again in 2023. No longer are people worried about having a stranger walk into their company. No masks means receptionists and front desk staff see your smiling greeting and welcome you.
When to use in-person cold calling
As I noted earlier, 12.7% of full-time employees are working from home and 28.2% work a hybrid model. This means that 59.1% work in the office and may be there when your salesperson stops by.
Select target companies carefully and consider what level person you want to meet. In companies that have offices, business owners and executives often need to be on site to be available to staff at least part of the week. Of course, they travel and may be out meeting with clients themselves, but that’s no different than in the past.
Here are 3 situations when you want to use face-to-face cold calling in your sales process:
- If your prospects are hard to reach and you know their office location, add drop-by cold calling.
- If you want to shake hands with business owners, even for five minutes to schedule a longer meeting, visit in person.
- If your team prefers drop-by cold calling, do it.
Which are the best days to cold call in person?
With the possibility that your prospects may be working from home part of the week, plan to stop in on a Tuesday or Wednesday when more people are likely in. Offices are 60% occupied on Tuesdays and slightly below that on Wednesdays, according to Korn Ferry.
How to plan drop-by cold calling
- Schedule mid-week drop-by cold call days on your calendar.
- Carefully plan whom you’ll visit to avoid long travel distances.
- Plan one full day a week or a half-day every other week, depending on your account responsibilities.
- Make a list of 5–10 businesses you’ll visit.
- Have an opening greeting prepared.
Hunters with no existing account responsibilities may spend more time drop-by calling. Account managers who are visiting a client for a regularly scheduled business review meeting can drop by businesses in the surrounding area.
When not to do door-knocking prospecting
For a salesperson who is selling in a highly populated territory, like an office building or an office strip, dropping by to visit prospects is an effective way to meet people face-to-face and introduce yourself.
However, if your rep’s territory is spread out, for example the states of Wyoming and Colorado, this won’t be feasible. Too much time is invested driving to a city or town to do it. In that case, build it in when they are already in the area meeting with other clients or prospects.
Test drop-by effectiveness
Face-to-face prospecting takes a lot of time, so do some testing. Examine:
- How many new contacts does a rep make on average?
- How many leads does a rep get from dropping by in a week, versus using other strategies?
If the door knocking numbers don’t make good business sense:
- Train your rep before giving up. Prospecting in person is different than traditional cold calling.
- Accompany your rep on some sales calls and give coaching tips to improve.
- If your rep is performing well but it still isn’t working, drop-by prospecting probably isn’t right for the geography or market, and it’s time to remove it for this area.
4. Be an Active Remote Participant
When you attend conferences, do you silently move about the event, not talking to anyone? Of course not! You start conversations with other participants. You network.
Now think about what you do when you attend a webinar or other virtual event. If you’re like most people, you listen. Maybe you ask a question, patiently wait for the answer, and take no further action.
It’s time to start acting more like you do at in-person events to get noticed and do some remote networking.
This is a networking opportunity. Take advantage of it.
You may meet people whom you can collaborate with for referrals, or possibly even some who could be prospects.
How to comfortably network at a webinar and virtual event
- Arrive at your next webinar or virtual event a few minutes early.
- Familiarize yourself with the platform and look for opportunities to strike up conversations with participants.
- If there’s a chat, share your name and where you’re joining from. Don’t wait to be invited to do so.
- Throw in a fun fact to encourage others to chat with you.
- Participate in the chat conversation. Comment on what the speaker is saying. Answer the speaker’s questions. Ask your own questions.
- Pay attention to people’s names and look them up on LinkedIn during the event. Send a connection invitation mentioning the event or something from the chat. Suggest a short call to network and continue the discussion.
Once you get the ball rolling, other people will be more likely to follow. You’ll expand your network and create opportunities for future lead sharing to streamline with your cold-calling efforts.
5. Give Prospects a Reason To Engage With Your Cold Emails
Sales prospecting isn’t only about using the phone. It’s a mixture of strategies, and email is an important one. Email is easy to send and easy for prospects to respond back.
If you aren’t getting results from your cold-call emails, it doesn’t mean you should send fewer emails. I think it points to the need for better emails.
In 2021, we polled salespeople and asked them to share the best and worst subject lines in their inboxes. Multiple people flagged “Can we talk?” and “Meeting soon” as top offenders.
In 2023, these continue to be ineffective subject lines.
When you don’t have an established relationship with your prospect, they don’t see any reason to meet with you. Unless your company has strong brand recognition, contacts don’t know who you are, or what you do.
Switch up your subject lines and increase open rates
Subject lines today must feel more personalized. They have to make prospects want to open and read your email.
Use these three cold-call email techniques to stand out:
1. <Prospect’s name> + topic
Insert the prospect’s name along with the topic of the email. Make the topic related to the problem or issue you’d like to discuss. Then mention that same challenge in the body of the email to link it to the subject line.
2. Promise to solve a problem
Use the subject line to promise to solve an issue you know your prospect is facing. In the body of the cold-call email itself, provide a quick tip to fix the problem and, at the end, ask to talk. Suggest a time to chat and include a link to your online calendar, such as Calendly.
3. Be invaluable
Like solving a problem, when your subject line conveys you understand your prospect’s problems, they’re more likely to engage with your cold-call email and you. In the body of your email, briefly demonstrate your subject matter expertise.
Make your cold emails warmer and more personal than in the past
The more personalized your emails feel, the more likely you’ll get a response. Have you noticed that the warm intro “I hope you’re having a great day” or something similar is back in the opening of emails?
While I’m not fond of such a generic, personal opening, it demonstrates the trend.
Inviting, warm, personal emails are a relationship-building tool and people are responding to it in 2023.
An example of a personal, cold email opening
Find a way to open your emails with something personal and relatable to form a connection with prospects. “This summer has flown by. With all the weird weather, I don’t feel like we’ve really had a summer.” Then on to the topic.
Interestingly, people are responding to these personal openings better than if you dive into it with, “Salespeople are struggling with cold calling. Our research shows ….”
Combining the two is more likely to get a response than starting with the business issue, skipping personalization, or leaving it until the end.
Read this fun blog post with six email personalities to avoid, especially for prospecting emails in 2023!
Combine https://www.klagroup.com/6-email-personalities-to-avoid-if-you-want/emails and cold calls to increase response rates
Combining the two approaches increases the effectiveness of your cold outreach, giving you twice the opportunity to connect with contacts. If they are ignoring calls, they may read your cold-call email.
If you’re using the Bloodhound Prospecting Strategy, they’ll see your name pop up in calls, emails, LinkedIn messages, calendar invitations, and videos over a 30-day period, making you hard to ignore. Suddenly, they may respond to one of your cold emails.
Cold Call Where Your Prospects Are
Remote work increased reliance on chat platforms, like Microsoft Teams. These apps are now ingrained in how businesses operate. Some of your prospects have started taking full advantage of features like chatting with people outside their organization.
This is a new avenue you should explore for hunting.
I have no doubt that, at some point, we’ll be able to use chat as a cold-call opportunity, but we aren’t there quite yet. Don’t immediately start chatting up prospects you don’t have a relationship with, but in your discussions, ask which platform they use. You could do this in LinkedIn messages, with receptionists who pick up calls, and email.
Then, if you have access to the same platform, offer to send documents, share interesting content, and provide updates via the app instead of email. Suddenly, you’ll find yourself in a chat conversation with a prospect.
Use chat platforms to prospect in client accounts
If you are in account management and have access to a client’s chat platform to work with others in the same organization, cold chat new contacts in the company to set first appointments. Think of it as a digital platform referral!
If at First You Don’t Succeed With Cold Calling …
Keep at it. Don’t stop. In normal times it takes 9–11 attempts to connect. Now it’s over 12 tries. Not everyone is willing to put in this level of effort, which gives you the advantage if you make it part of your sales process.
Prospecting is a numbers game. Even if you aren’t confident and your message isn’t as strong as it could be, you will connect – eventually.
So you mess up in a message? So what? Will that prospect remember? Probably not. They’re busy people. Keep going. Call again in three days and leave a new message. Then call another prospect.
If your rep is afraid to cold call …
- Have them start with low-risk prospects to practice.
- Don’t support their prospecting avoidance. Ignore the excuses.
- Monitor their activities and hold them accountable.
- Listen in on their calls and review their emails to offer coaching.
- If cold calling and prospecting aren’t your skill set or you don’t have time for shadowing, sign them up for how to cold call training or sales coaching.
Here’s what’s possible if you eliminate cold call fear:
A client of ours hired an appointment setter, Dan, who is new to cold calling. Dan had never been in sales but was interested. Our client engaged us to conduct Dan’s onboarding sales training. We started by coaching and training him weekly over several months. We trained Dan how to identify the types of companies to target, the messages he’d use, and his approach.
Dan, being new to sales, did exactly what we taught him. He didn’t worry about rejection or sounding stupid. He was learning best practices and had no preconceived notions of what would or would not work.
Dan was fearless. He trusted what he was learning and used it.
One Wednesday in his third month, Dan sent 32 calendar invitations. Two people immediately accepted, four people declined, and two people responded “Not now.” That’s a 25% response rate – to cold email calendar invitations!
Dan was pleased. His boss, the owner, was ecstatic.
When you set aside the fear and doubt, and follow the process, it works.
A cold call pep-talk
Dozens of unreturned calls and messages are discouraging. I get it. You want to give up on a particular contact, target market, even cold calling entirely.
As you may know, I love selling. I still sell and cold call as time permits in my role. There are points when I’ve wanted to give up on a prospect after five and six attempts. Instead, I take a deep breath and press on.
Over time, I connect. And always, the conversations are valuable for both of us, frequently uncovering opportunities to work together.
Don’t give in to the voices in your head saying a contact is never going to respond. Ignore the head talk that your message is wrong, the contact probably doesn’t want to talk with you, your competitor has better services. Keep at it, and let the fear and frustration go.
Be the salesperson who sticks with it after one, two, 10, and 12 attempts.
Call, send emails, reach out on LinkedIn. If you’re determined, you will capture your prospects’ attention. Download our guide The Bloodhound Prospecting Strategy for the contact frequency and methods to use over a 30-day period to connect with your prospect list. It works, just like it did for Dan.
Cold Calling Can Work for Your Business
At the start of the year, many decision makers sat on the sidelines waiting to see what would happen with staffing and economic challenges. They weren’t in a buying mood. Salespeople held back, using inflation and slow sales processes as their excuses.
Then there were the salespeople who realized someone had to be buying.
Not every executive was cautious. Business had to go on. And it has. Yes, buying decisions took longer. Total revenue values were smaller in many instances. But there were companies buying.
The reps who are pushing forward, like Dan, are uncovering opportunities and making sales.
Now, after two years of a pandemic and nine months of high inflation, many companies are realizing they must continue to invest to successfully run their businesses in this new environment. They can’t wait to make critical decisions.
If you or your sales team have been sitting on the sidelines, it’s time to get back in the game.
Find those companies who are moving forward. Don’t let your business suffer while you wait for prosects to bounce back and approach you. Challenge your salesperson to hunt. Monitor what they’re doing.
If your salesperson or team isn’t being successful, we can help with cold call training and sales coaching tailored to your company. Schedule a meeting with me today or call us at +1-303-741-6636. We’ll discuss your vision, sales situation, and how we can help get your team cold calling for new prospects. Stop waiting.
Editors’ Note: This post was originally published in January, 2021 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.