Millions of salespeople rely on calls as part of their ongoing sales strategy. And since phone calls have been a reliable channel for sales for the past several decades, you’d think that we’d have it all figured out by now.
Unfortunately, many of the pearls of wisdom you hear, or intuitive strategies for implementing sales calls effectively, aren’t rooted in fact—but have instead been distorted after getting passed around long enough. Learning to recognize and compensate for these myths is essential if you want to secure more sales over the phone.
The Most Persistent Myths
These are just some of the most persistent sales call myths that just won’t go away:
- Cold calling doesn’t work. Cold calling may seem like an ineffective strategy; you’re reaching out to people who haven’t expressed interest in your services, and we’ve all been annoyed on the other end of that communication. But the reality is that cold calling can be effective—as long as you utilize it correctly. You should start with a list of prospects you can trust—one filled with people who might genuinely be interested in your services. And make sure cold calling is only part of your strategy; some people will never respond to cold calls, so you need alternative methods to contact them.
- Your network is already tapped. If you’ve spent some time calling your existing professional network, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your network is already tapped. You might believe—rightly—that none of your current contacts are interested in your services. But remember, your prospects’ needs might change over time, or they might be able to refer you to other people they know. A phone call keeps you top of mind, and exposes you to more potential sales.
- Emailing is better than sales calling. Which is better: emailing or calling? Instead of thinking them as directly competing, think of them as complementary approaches, both of which are valuable to your overall strategy. The best overall campaign is one that leverages multiple channels simultaneously, harnessing the power of calling, email, and social media in a way that works together.
- One call is enough. After making a phone call and getting a voicemail, many salespeople are tempted to move on. Some might make two phone calls, or three. But in reality, it takes an average of eight cold calls to reach a prospect—and that’s just an average! Some prospects might need a dozen phone calls or more before they pick up the phone. Persistence is key if you want consistent results.
- Once you have a working script, you shouldn’t touch it. This is the process most companies follow: start with a script, start making tweaks, and as soon as you have a script that works, you keep it—indefinitely. The first part of this process is solid (and necessary if you want to get a framework that works), but you shouldn’t be satisfied just because you’re seeing a higher level of closes or appointments. Don’t get complacent with a single script; try new variants, experiment with new approaches, and always allow your staff some degree of flexibility to try their own techniques.
- You need to pitch as soon as possible. A lot of new salespeople try to rush to the pitch as soon as they get a prospect on the phone. The idea here is that a prospect will be tempted to end the conversation as soon as possible, which means you need to get the pitch out, and fast, if they’re going to hear it. This approach usually ends up turning people off, however; you’re better off warming up with friendly conversation and building rapport.
- The gatekeeper is an obstacle. Most sales callers see the “gatekeeper”—the person you speak with in the process of getting to your real prospect—as an obstacle that needs to be overcome. The problem with this is that you immediately enter the conversation in the context of an adversarial relationship, and whether you intend it or not, your words and tone may reflect that. Instead, think about the gatekeeper as a friend. Invite them to a casual conversation, be warm, and build a personal relationship—if you do, you’ll be much more likely to get to the contact you need.
Adopting a Flexible Approach
One of the biggest lessons here is that you shouldn’t trust everything you hear blindly—or even trust your own instincts. Sales calls are complicated, with no surefire formula for success. You’ll need to keep an open mind, experiment with lots of different approaches, and rely on objective data over subjective data when evaluating the effectiveness of your strategies.