When it comes to relationships, most are like coffee – the warmer, the better!
That’s definitely the case when you want to connect with a decision maker by phone.
For decades, cold calling was seen as one of the most powerful tools in any sales pro’s kit. However, even in its heyday, cold calling had a dark side.
It took up a tremendous amount of time and energy for seller and prospective buyer alike. And, the average salesperson dreaded making those calls and the average buyer dreaded receiving them. It’s a lose-lose situation.
A tiny handful of sales experts may have built successful businesses on the back of cold calling, but for each one who did, there were hundreds or thousands who simply wasted their time.
Today, cold calling is being supplanted by a much more valuable alternative: Warm calling.
Warm calling is an approach to prospecting that puts relationship-building first by highlighting common interests.
When you come in cold, you are asking someone who has never heard of you before to sacrifice an uncertain amount of their time for a conversation they have no reason to look forward to.
On the other hand, warm calling ensures a prospect has an enticing taste of the value you can offer.
When companies embrace warm calling along with an end-to-end inbound marketing strategy, they build deeper customer relationships on a foundation of respect.
It’s not just a temperature thing.
Cold calling and warm calling fall on completely different sides of the spectrum when it comes to prospecting. Here’s some of the biggest differences:
This is the biggest thing that distinguishes a cold call: It’s an interruption.
The seller picks out a name, dials a number, and expects to be patched through immediately. Attempts to find the “best day” to make a call hardly softens the underlying assumption that others owe you their time.
Unlike cold calls, the best warm calling comes after buyers show an interest in what you offer. Ideally, this means a personal recommendation from someone they trust – but that’s not the only way. Buyers often signal interest when interacting with your content.
For example, if someone downloads The Ultimate Blogging Checklist offer, they have signaled a pain. They want to start blogging, or they’re interested in what’s needed to start blogging efficiently.
Cold calling is usually adopted as a way to hurry through the sales process as quickly as possible.
To capitalize on the expected time savings, cold callers generally look at statistics like company size, industry, region, and recent buys. They know little (or nothing) about the individual buyer.
With warm calling, you use personal insight to create a genuine connection with a buyer.
You can see what pages on your website he or she has read, for example. Researching the challenges and opportunities confronting the prospect can help you foster trust.
The theory behind cold calling is that you can “drum up” business.
Cold callers don’t really expect to connect with someone interested in a solution like theirs: Instead, they want to create a desire that’s not there. Thus, cold calling is early in the sales process … often, step zero.
On the other end, warm calling is a natural outgrowth of an ongoing relationship with your brand. It’s up to you to find the sweet spot where prospects know a bit about you and are ready to have a meaningful conversation.
Cold calling is all about the seller’s needs. If you’re not interested in a given solution – or don’t even think you have a problem – that’s ok.
As long as you fit the profile, you are a prospective buyer, and the seller will do everything possible to exhaust (“overcome”) your objections.
The final goal of warm calling is to motivate sales, of course, but the strategy is very different.
When you warm call, you acknowledge not everyone is a good customer for you. Open-ended questions and active listening are crucial to truly hear what buyers have to say.
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Warm calling starts by selecting a prospect based on your business goals. The more carefully you’ve considered your buyer personas and segmented your list of prospective buyers, the better.
Once you’ve identified a prospect, it’s time to dive in his or her background as much as you can.
You’re on the hunt for some “kindling” you can use to spark a professional relationship.
That usually means one of three things:
A trigger event is a change in the prospect’s business situation that causes them to have new or unmet needs.
Trigger events can be positive or negative. Although it’s a lot easier to get people to talk about positive events, negative ones can be even more urgent.
Some of these include:
Trigger events are usually related to the company as a whole. Your goal is to figure out how the individual prospect fits in: When you can talk about how their individual effort contributes to corporate goals, your conversation partner will know you invested real effort.
In virtually any sales or marketing situation, the best advantage is to come recommended.
Sites like LinkedIn make it incredibly easy for you to find common connections. However, this does introduce another step that can take a few days.
Many LinkedIn users add people they don’t know personally, so you should message the common contact first.
If you find your contact has strong first-hand insights about your prospect, it might even make sense to have them introduce you via email or LinkedIn. This way, you can segue into requesting a conversation with some momentum behind you. You’re much less likely to get rejected.
If you can’t find anything big and strategic to talk about, it’s ok.
You can set up warm calling by introducing something you have in common. This is where you can deploy your knowledge of your prospects’ achievements, for example – if they gave a speech or they won an award, attribute that to them, not just the company at large.
Common interests can include anything from where you grew up to where you went to school. Some of the best warm calling experts routinely bond with their prospects over their shared love of basketball.
It’s not right for everyone, but it means you get people talking about a subject that interests them.
No matter what approach you take, this is the part of warm calling that makes it warm. You want to start discussing the prospect’s world, then get him or her to agree to a quick phone call.
The opening minutes of a warm call can make a tremendous difference in the outcome. Luckily, you’re much more likely to reach your goals this way than if you called up out of the blue!
Remember these pointers:
Decision makers, especially in B2B, have a lot on their plate. They could have a dozen calls and meetings in a single day.
It might seem obvious, but the first thing you should do is ensure they remember how you met. If you built rapport, the recollection starts you off on the right foot.
On a warm call, asking lots of open-ended questions is especially important.
You should think of this as a “discovery call,” since you might have limited information about the prospect’s needs. This helps you tailor your answers (and your solution) to the situation at hand.
Active listening is vital on a warm call.
When you set up the call, you give your prospects an invitation to talk about what matters to them: What they need done, fixed, or solved right now is usually near the top of that list. Repeat key phrases so they know you are absorbing everything.
A cold call often turns adversarial as the caller tries to get a word in edgewise over the prospect. With a warm call, be prepared for the possibility that 75 percent of the conversation may be the prospects talking.
Once they’ve got it all out of their system, shifting to solutions is easier.
When it comes to convenience for your prospect and better outcomes for both of you, warm calling blows cold calling out of the water.
Plus, it sets the tone for a productive, long-lasting relationship – and that’s the inbound way of doing business.
Although a warm call has several steps and requires a lot more research than the average cold call, it’s likely to double or even triple your response rate. Your follow-up emails and calls are also more likely to inspire action on the part of qualified leads and current customers.
If it seems complicated or you hit a snag, remember the golden rules:
Take a genuine interest in others and…
Always look for ways to add value!
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