Sales reps can’t survive on luck when trying to get prospects on the phone. You can’t just block out two hours of your day to make your cold or warm calls because it suits your schedule. If that’s your “strategy,” then you’ll likely emerge from your office having left a series of voice mails and messages that have a slim chance of ever being returned.
Prospecting with insight requires careful and thoughtful planning. You’ve done your homework to find a target organization that has a likely need for your products or services, researched further to identify the best contact in the company, and tailored your insights to create the perfect pitch to get them interested enough to have a deeper conversation or meeting. But all of that preparation won’t mean much if you can’t get the prospect on the phone.
Set Aside Sacred Prospecting Time
The time and effort you need to put into prospecting depends on the amount of new business you are expected to self-generate. You have to set your priorities. If prospecting is vital to your success and livelihood, then carve out discrete blocks of time that you need to dedicate to it and let other activities take a back seat. Literally, block the time in your calendar for yourself so that others know the time is reserved.
Schedule your telephone time to coincide with when your prospects are most able and receptive to talking to you. There will be times when your prospect is inaccessible or simply too busy to talk. For example, finance
and sales leaders are typically very busy near the end of the quarter and the end of the year. In addition, research shows that executives are more likely to answer calls on Wednesday and Thursday over other days of the week. This is because people get slammed on Monday, dig out on Tuesday, and check out on Friday.
Research also suggests that executives have a greater tendency to answer calls from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. This is because they are less likely to be in meetings during those blocks of time. Don’t fight nature! If you are really a hardcore hunter, consider working two- to five-hour shifts, and use time zones to your advantage:
- 6:30-8:00 a.m.: Call EST and CST
- 8:00-10:00 a.m.: Call CST and MST
- 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.: Call MST and PST
- 12:00-3:00 p.m.: Do non-call work; all prospects are eating or are in meetings
- 3:00-5:00 p.m.: Call EST and CST
- 5:00-7:00 p.m.: Call CST and MST
- 7:00-8:00 p.m.: Call MST and PST
You would also be wise to schedule dedicated time on your calendar for researching target organizations and prospects. Consider how much time has elapsed between when you generated your target lists and conducted your research on them. If you compiled a list that will take several weeks or longer to get through before making your calls and pitches, be sure to do a quick search to see if anything new has happened that could help or play into your message. You want to be seen as current and forward-looking, not out of touch and irrelevant.
When the Prospect Answers, Remain Calm and Professional
This might sound like common sense, but it bears mentioning: consider your attitude, demeanor, and voice when your prospect actually answers the phone. Especially if you call early or late in the day, try to hide your shock, surprise, or relief that they picked up. Otherwise, you can come across as sounding:
- Desperate (“Thank God I got you!”)
- Unprofessional (“I can’t believe you actually picked up this early!”)
- Critical (“You’re a hard person to reach — do you ever answer your phone?”)
If they mention that you called at an unusual time, keep your response professional and straightforward. “I know that you have many demands on your time throughout the day, and I didn’t want to intrude on your busy schedule. I thought that calling you now might better accommodate your schedule.”
The right attitude and response can signify (even subconsciously) that you’ve thought about your prospect’s workload and schedule, that you know something about their business and how they work, and that you’re conscientious and willing to work hard (and possibly inconvenience yourself) in order to meet your clients’ needs.
Prospecting is a very important activity, but few sales reps would say it’s their favorite thing to do. Like anything we don’t like (even if it is good for us), it is easy to come up with excuses to not do it. Effective prospecting requires discipline, persistence, resilience, practice, and coaching.