Cold calling is a numbers game, and anyone who tries to tell you differently is lying to you.
For outbound sales teams, cold calling is often the first—and arguably the most important—step towards creating sales opportunities. The goal is to make the first contact with a person or company that fits your ideal customer profile, briefly introduce your product or solution, and determine if there’s enough interest to move forward.
How to Qualify on a Cold Call
Qualifying leads is the primary goal of cold calling. After all, you need to know pretty quickly whether it’s worth investing your time in a lead or not. If they’re not going to buy, you need to be able to move on to leads who will.
Traditionally, qualifying is done on an initial cold call. These days, though, lead qualification is a process — a process that should involve not just you as a sales rep or SDR, but your marketing team. If your sales organization follows an inbound model, your marketing team will pass along leads they already know are viable, and it’s your job to figure out their exact needs and sell to them. For outbound teams, the foundational work of finding qualified leads often falls on the sales reps themselves.
Briefly, let’s go over which parts of the qualifying process your marketing team should be doing so we can move on to what aspects of qualifying should still take place on your cold call.
It’s best to do as much qualifying as possible before you get on the phone. Your prospects aren’t interested in answering a hundred questions, especially when they know you could have found the answers on your own. Plus, pre-call research helps you disqualify prospects before you even pick up the phone, saving you valuable time.
Generally, you should look to qualify based on buyer persona. Does the lead work at a company with the right amount of employees? What’s their job title? Can you tell what exactly they’re responsible for? LinkedIn and Google make it possible to answer the vast majority of such questions without ever talking to anyone.
If possible, you should also take a look to see if the lead has taken the right high-value actions on your site that indicates they’re interested in talking to you. The good news for sales teams at companies with inbound marketing is that your marketing team should have the capacity to qualify leads based on both website behavior and buyer persona data.
Effectively, that means that your marketing team can determine through various nurturing programs if a lead works at a company with the right amount of employees, if a company is in a relevant industry, and other characteristics that align with your buyer persona. It also means marketing can determine if a lead has taken the correct website behaviors to display interest in talking to an actual human about your product.
Ultimately, you’re going to have to sit down with your marketing team and discuss which high-value data points they are capable of measuring to define what an SQL (sales qualified lead) is to your company. In general, your team should be able to gather data that qualifies the lead as being in your target audience and may even be able to identify who the lead will be in the buying process (influencer or decision-maker).
Alternatively there are companies out there who will sit down with you, discuss your target audience and build up your perfect dataset of SQL's. Email campaigns are also a highly effective 'ice breaker' that enable your Cold calls to be that little bit warmer whilst giving the call structure and credibility.
Popular Cold Call Qualifying Methods
There are a number of methods with various acronymic names for qualifying prospects on cold calls. Let’s take a look at some of them.
BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline)
BANT was created by IBM salespeople quite some time ago and is the oldest method of qualifying on a cold call that we’ll mention here. BANT is generally considered to be fairly outdated because it doesn’t really take into account all the lead nurturing that a marketing team will be doing.
With the BANT method, salespeople focus their qualifying questions first on determining budget, next on determining whether or not the person they’re talking to is the decision maker, then on what the company’s actual needs are, and finally what the sales timeline will look like for that company. If it seems odd to you that BANT firmly encourages a salesperson to find out what a company’s budget is before finding out if they even need your product, you’re not alone. That’s one of the major reasons other methods have been invented.
CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, Prioritisation)
CHAMP is essentially NABT. While it follows the general principles of BANT, CHAMP prioritizes learning your leads pain-points above all else, making it a more customer-centric method. Additionally, where salespeople following the BANT method will drop a lead if the qualifying questions surrounding Authority reveal an influencer rather than a decision-maker, CHAMP salespeople will continue to work with the lead, trying to get a conversation with the decision maker.
Red Flags to Watch For
Even the most perfect SQL definition won’t stop you from getting some leads who just aren’t interested. The following behaviors should be considered disqualifications:
Short answers. If your lead isn’t providing you with much detail throughout your call, they’re almost certainly not interested.
Inconsistent answers. If your lead is continually contradicting themselves, they probably aren’t really interested in you or may not even have enough of a problem that they need to solve it yet.
If the lead purposefully blocks you from speaking to the decision maker, it’s time to drop them. You can’t make a sale if you don’t speak to the person/people making the decision.
If the lead appears only mildly interested in solving their problem or changing products, don’t waste your time. Let them know they can find you when they’re more interested.
Refusing to nail down a timeline. In the modern world, by the time you speak with a prospect, they should know they have a problem and have a pretty decent idea of when they need it fixed. If your lead doesn’t have an idea yet, they’re not ready to buy. Again, let them know how to get in touch, and don’t waste your time.
Any sort of unethical or generally creepy behavior should also disqualify your prospects. It’s not worth jeopardizing your and your company’s professional reputations for a lead.
Qualifying your leads is such an important step for salespeople. It should never be skipped. Rather than throwing things at a wall and hoping something sticks, approach each potential prospect strategically and only continue the conversation if they’re interested in purchasing.
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