Does Cold Calling Still Work in 2024?
With Guest Marcus Chan
Cold calling remains a powerful tool for personalized outreach and connection.
The How To Sell More Podcast
January 17, 2024
In this episode of “How to Sell More,” host Mark Drager examines the importance of mastering basic sales techniques like cold calling in today’s technology-driven environment. He’s joined by Marcus Chan, a Wall Street Journal best-selling author of the book, Six-Figure Sales Secrets and a three-time SalesForce Top Sales Influencer to follow. Marcus walks us through his approach to cold calling and breaks down all of the barriers, fears, and reasons why most of us are not willing to cold call.
- Effectiveness of Cold Calling: Cold calling stands out amidst automated spam calls and digital noise, offering a more direct and human interaction.
- Building a Quality Prospect List: The importance of a well-researched and targeted prospect list is crucial for successful outbound sales.
- Differentiating Inbound and Outbound Strategies: Understanding the difference between strategies is key for preparing the framework of your calls.
“When you actually focus on truly serving on a deep level, that's when you start to really master selling.” -- Marcus Chan
Links to This Episode
- Cold calling works - When was the last time you picked up the phone to call a new prospect? Cold calling remains a powerful tool for personalized outreach and connection and, when done properly, helps you stand out from the competition.
- Know who to call - Prospect research allows you to niche down and have a clear understanding of the unique challenges and responsibilities of different decision-makers within an organization.
- Fine-tune your messaging - Inbound leads often have an existing pain point or need, making the sales approach more about presenting solutions. Outbound sales involve proactive discovery and engagement, often introducing solutions to problems the prospect may not have actively considered.
Top 3 Reasons to Listen
Throw out the script: Fixed sales scripts are limiting and don’t leave room to adjust to the different needs of each prospect. Flexible, scalable frameworks that encourage critical thinking skills are a more effective, client-friendly approach.
The traits of the successful: According to Marcus, the best salespeople are resilient with an “intrapreneurial” spirit. They have high expectations of themselves and continue to learn and adapt to whatever challenges come their way.
Serve, don’t sell: When you focus on the selling process, people can smell the pushiness. Instead, focus on serving. Discover what your prospect’s problems are and how you can help solve them.
Follow Marcus Chan on Social
For more about his book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Six-Figure-Sales-Secrets-Overfilling-Salespeople-ebook/dp/B0B981BB9H
For more about Marcus: www.closewithchan.com
More About Today's Guest, Marcus Chan
Helping Sales Teams + AE’s 2X Results in<90 Days | 3X Salesforce Top Sales Influencer | LinkedIn Top Voice | WSJ Best-Selling Author | Sales Coach
Marcus Chan has cracked the code to B2B sales. He went from broke underperformer to a top 1% earner. Promoted ten times in ten years working for two Fortune 500 companies, he has been featured and endorsed by the largest organizations in the world, including Forbes, LinkedIn, and Salesforce. He has now directly trained more than 11,173 sales professionals worldwide. He currently helps Founders and their sales teams 2X their sales results in less than 90 days. He has been featured in Forbes, Yahoo! Finance, MarketWatch, Entrepreneur, and more.
A Transcription of The Talk
Mark Drager: So Marcus, before we hit record, we were talking about the fundamentals, and how too often sales reps, business development people, marketing people, business owners, like we get so caught up in technology and funnels and acquisition models, we get caught up in all of this stuff. And it's like, what about the fundamentals? What about the fundamentals? So you have an amazing book that has a chapter in it that focuses on some of these fundamentals, section three, section three of your book. And this isn't a pitch for your book or anything, but you can pick it up audience if you want to section three, how to prospect like a badass. And what you break down is the fact that cold calling or reaching out to people on the telephone, like calling them up and talking to them in real-time, that's still a thing that happens and works. Can you dig into why this is so powerful, even today in 2024, and why we should be using this in our sales strategies 100%?
Marcus Chan: First off, thanks for having me on. What's interesting is, I always think about what's really emerged in the last decade or so is amazing technology. So there are so many critical outreach tools now, where you can literally scrape a list, you can plug into software, you can push a button, and you can send thousands of emails a day to thousands of prospects.
Mark Drager: I think that's happening, isn't it?
Marcus Chan: Yes, it's called spamming. And it has become almost the norm for a lot of organizations. And then it worked out very well initially when you first got started. And now it's gotten worse over time because the operators are doing a good job. And that's because it's so easy to do. You start thinking about what's hard to do. And what's hard to do are things that aren't being automated, like actually making calls, you know, even if you have an autodialer. Being called, you actually call people, you're going to stand out because I love good outreach tools. I love the Sales Navigator tools, I love all those tools you can integrate as part of your process to be omnipresent. But when you can also incorporate actually calling someone, having a conversation where they can hear your tonality, they can hear your presence, they get to speak, and you build on everything else, you can cut through the noise pretty quickly. And this is really powerful. Actually, cutting through the noise actually does it because most people are scared to actually make the call.
Mark Drager: For myself, I've always found I've not done a lot of cold calling in my business, I tend to prefer inbound, mostly because for my selling style, I need someone to present me with a challenge or an opportunity. If you give me your challenge, if you give me your opportunity, I will work with you until we arrive at the perfect solution. But when I'm calling someone up, I don't really feel like I've got a good enough reason to waste their time or to make the connection. And even if you're like, "Come on, treat everyone like you're going to save their life or something," it's still like, "Hey, I'm interrupting you to hope that maybe you'll talk to me to give me a challenge or opportunity so I can solve your problem for you." But they're not going to do that. So if people are like me, how do we go about cold calling better?
Marcus Chan: Great question. It's important to understand, like, that there is a completely different mindset of inbound versus outbound. Right, like, typically, when you get inbound leads, even if there's an opt-in, nothing's going to call those leads to have some sort of like pain of some sort, maybe it's a lead magnet. So you think, okay, they have some sort of interest, you can call it a little bit of a warm, right? Or if it's an inbound request for a demo, you know, they have some sort of need. So it's clear, they have some sort of need of some sort. Now your goal is to hopefully show them why you're the best solution. On the flip side, when it's outbound, you're typically building a list, and then you're calling them with the hopes that you can book a meeting with them. So before you even start making the call, the first key fundamental is, that you have to actually build a quality list. That's number one. The mistake a lot of people make is they build a general list of an ICP ideal customer profile, that's very general, very broad. So for example, they're like, well, we sell to software companies in the US. So they do a big search. And they find there's like 30,000 prospects potentially. And they're like, I'm sorry, call these people. But here's the reality. Let's just say for example, we call, let's call them the CEO, the CEO of a company barely doing a million ARR versus one doing, say, 100 million ARR is very different, a very different organization, different management pains. So the first step is you actually want to really niche down to have this very clear ICP. So this is like old-school marketing 101. It's like that dream target, that avatar, what's that person look like? And your list should reflect that first. Because if you know, let's say,, for example, you're calling CEOs between they're doing between eight to 10 million ARR. They have a team size, let's call it you know, 50 to 100. But now, they have probably more similar problems within their same industry. Have other people on that list as well.
Mark Drager: And so you're doing this segmentation. So you're gonna you're gonna break everyone down based on vertical, you're gonna break them down based on company size. And then would you then look at, so in your example, someone who's doing eight to 10 million in annual recurring revenue? As a CEO, they probably have a similar portfolio set to an EVP, VP, or SVP of a much larger organization, right? So you start to break out everyone into these individual lists or segmentations. That way, you can start to understand their unique responsibilities and challenges before you ever reach out.
Marcus Chan: Absolutely, 100%. Because now your messaging can be really spot-on, right? Because you're going to find like, you call that CEO, the founder, really, of the $8 million company, they usually control everything for the most part, and everything they do is going to be directly impacted. You call the VP of a large organization with a different list size, they're going to have different concerns, pains, issues, issues with managing up, they're only going to make sure, well, 100%, 100%. So like, the people that you're calling on, are going to be very, very different, right? So the mistake I see some people make is, you know, like, let's say, for example, they sell customer success, like software, like a chatbot, or something, right? Like an AI chatbot for customer care for people, you know, for new customers and for current customers, right? So when they're calling like, a customer success manager, that success manager has very different problems than the actual CEO. So like, for example, like, you know, like, I'll give you examples of this happening last week, I was talking to an account executive, and they're calling these customer success managers. And the biggest issue customer success managers have is they're using to do manual support tickets. So they're very frustrated because our team is missing tickets, it's taking a long time people are getting really mad. And then they have to do all the issues so that they have their that's their specific pain, and the solution to help solve that. But here's the reality. If that customer success manager went to their VP, their CFO said, Hey, I've asked who makes my job easier. They're not going to care. You're not going to care. It really isn't. So I asked the rep. I said, Hey, listen. So what compensation have we have to use? Is the CFO in the situation for that size business? I'm like, what does the CFO care about? Like, well, they care about cash flow, they care about efficiency, and about profit margins. Great. So how is your solution tied to actually achieving that, like, well, you know, like, if they have a better tool in place, they're gonna stop losing tickets? So this way, they're gonna lose customers, which will increase the lifetime value of customers reduce their customer churn, which will increase cash flow, and they also sell to us customers more, make more money, at least. And it's like this, like, spinoff, like beautiful. So now, when you actually are reaching out to the CFO, how should your messaging switch? Because the light goes off, oh, my gosh, you're right, I can't be talking about how we're gonna make the job that customer systems vendors easier, we need to leave the solution that's next can help make them more properly increase cash flow, and reduce your customer churn.
Mark Drager: And so in this example, it sounds like there are two potential paths to arrive at sales. You can go to the customer success manager and provide them with the tools they need, and then hope that they'll be able to sell up and maybe even empower them to sell up. Or you can go after the CFO, you know, the veto, the decision-maker, and then have them implement. But in both areas, these are typically unbudgeted expenses, you know. So unless we're falling into the trap of saying, like, let's make sure we add this to next year's budget. In both cases, we need to try and create such interest that we can get the demo or we can get the meeting to be able to prove our case, and then build up enough need and proof points to create a budget when the budget hasn't even been set aside for this. So in your experience, is it better to go lower and work your way up? Or should you just go after that top decision-maker?
Marcus Chan: Primarily, speaking generally, I go for the top decision-maker. Because if we can go in and get executive sponsorship upfront, for example, let's say we address the CFO. We say, “Hey, my name is Marcus with company X. The reason I'm reaching out is that I'm working with other CFOs, such as X, Y, and Z, providing really simple solutions to actually increase profitability, reduce customer churn, and increase the LTV of their customers for 2024 and beyond. Do you have some time Friday for more details?” They might say, “Okay, well, tell me more. Is this a good time to talk?” So now we have a conversation. And I believe in the hypothesis, right? So hey, this is why it's obviously happening in other organizations, is it happening to you? I want to get their buy-in. So I'm not going to do a full demo. My goal is like, hey, is this a real issue that you're having? Can I get your sponsorship on this? If they say yes, okay, cool. “Marcus, I want you to talk to the director of customer success. Now, go get the details, find out for me, I'm talking to these people as well.” So now, I can start multi-threading, that deal has started going down into the weeds of your organization to see the real data, work with them as well, and continue to keep that person in the loop as well. So it can kind of work the deal together to actually close, right? And if you do a really good job, what you can actually do is you take someone and they have what I call a latent need. A latent need is a need they don't realize they have, but only through education, only through discovery, can you uncover that need, right? So for example, here's a story within a story. It's kind of like, “My teeth feel totally fine. I go to the dentist. I think things are totally fine. They start looking at my gums, they're measuring something, and they say, ‘Oh, Marcus, actually, looking at your gums, it's been receding drastically since we last saw you.’ Wow. Show me. They showed me. ‘Hey, if you continue down this path, you're probably going to develop gum disease, and you'll probably have to remove your teeth and get like dentures or something crazy.’ I'm like, ‘Oh, wow, let's get this taken care of.’” So that was a latent need I didn't know existed, and they created and turned it into an active need. So if you do a good job in your sales process, you realize most people have a latent need for the inbound lead, they don't even realize they just have said, “This is how things are.” But if you can help them realize how much pain they're at the lower level and how it directly impacts their business objectives and initiatives. Now, you potentially might have a business case. So if you can get them to understand this to be the case, you start moving through the process, right? Does that make sense so far?
Mark Drager: I love it. And if I could deconstruct what I think I've heard you say, so even with your initial script, so you make contact, you establish a quick rapport. But essentially, what you're looking to do is say, “Hey, I'm reaching out to you for this reason. I've been working with...” and you list a few people for proof points, so that way they can get their mediated decision, establish proof points. “I’m reaching out for these reasons.” And really, they may be unknown pains within the business. So I'm used to a framework that I typically work in terms of, you know, whether clients are problem aware, whether they're solution aware, whether they're vendor aware, whatever you have, but we're establishing that these pain points might exist within a business. And we're simply asking them if they would acknowledge that they may be happening in theirs. You set a hypothesis, and you asked for buy-in and in this case of the example, you've been given, essentially an internal referral, and you've been told to connect with James. And when you call James up, you can say, “James, your CFO said, I need to reach out to you because I'm in the process of doing bla bla bla bla.” And now you have full authority to jump again to this. And on top of that, you've moved to a consultancy point of view, because now you can come back to the CFO, and essentially say, “I have done all of this work, we have established a need. And here you go.” And when you use this, does this actually hold on? does this actually work? Or does this sound good with what you and I kind of spitball on it? It's simple. It's not easy. Okay?
Marcus Chan: Just like anything, it's simple. It's not easy, right? Because this means a few things. Number one, you need to be able to hold your own having a conversation with an Exec. So some of the mistakes some people make is, they're really good at the lower level, right, they're really good with people that are kind of at the same level as them. But when they go to the exec level, they aren't able to hold their own, they lack the confidence and the composure to actually have an executive conversation. Because what happens is, most people are so focused on the product, the product focused. So what they want to do is, they get in these conversations with executives and say, “Hey, I'm glad we're talking. Let me show you our product here. It's XYZ benefits, blah, blah, blah.” And the CEO is like, “What are you talking about?” So like, below me, they don't say that, that's, that's how they're thinking, right? So versus when we lead with a problem, or really that hypothesis, or how it's actually going to help their business. Now, it's very different. And when you start thinking this way, it becomes far more effective. Execs are more inclined to move down into the process. Now, in some situations, that's a perfect world, right? In some situations, you can reach out to that top person over and over multiple channels and not get a hold of them. So you might go a little bit lower, it's the point of kind of mapping the account, maybe you can only get in at this customer success manager level, at a lower level. So if you go in there, you'd still do your best to go inside there. But now it's a little different. So now, once you go inside there, your messaging is different, right? You go in there, and now you're diving deep, you're trying to map out the whole account. But you're also trying to uncover what's really important for all the key stakeholders in the deal. And how your solution can help align with those stakeholders' needs as well. And how can you progress through your sales process to involve the right people to actually get approval for it? It's obviously more work to do. It's a separate linear thing, right? But if you know any, there are multiple players in the deal to get close. How can you identify as fast as possible who the players are, and what's most important to them, now can be a laundry list of what each person needs, right? So it's very simple to say, it's very hard to do in real life because you have to deal with human beings at the end of the day.
Mark Drager: And I find people that tend to be too precious with these outreaches or these contacts because you don't want to burn an opportunity and many people will sit on the opportunity rather than even pursue it and burn it. Is that a real concern? Or is really volume our friend here because we're just going to be able to learn through pattern recognition?
Marcus Chan: Well, I think there's a balance, right? You want the quality, not just the quantity as well over time. And it's not a black-and-white answer, because it depends on what you're selling, deal sizes, for instance, if you're selling to the enterprise where you might have a book of business of like, say, 40 accounts total. And that's all you sell for the whole year, you have to be much more strategic about that versus if you're an SMB rep, you know, or you sell to the SMB market, it's like, I mean, thousands of people you sell, right. But at the end of the day, when you're able to have really relevant messaging and have real conversations, you can have success, even on a grander scale. Just as the deal sizes go up, the stakes are bigger, so you take more time to actually be strategic in your outreach. And what's interesting is, that the higher up you go, the more the common rules kind of break with relevant messaging. Because typically, at the SMB level, you go for really short, simple emails, and like, kind of irrelevant, you can take off like 50 words to last you pretty well. But as it goes to really big opportunities, you can break the mold, and and have a hyper-personalized email, it's pretty lengthy. But if it's like super relevant, and you do a good job of your outreach, you can still cut through the noise pretty nicely, too.
Mark Drager: So it comes back time and time and time again, to just really understanding your audience, understanding your targets, your prospects. I don't think I've had a single person on the podcast who hasn't referenced that in some way. Which I find interesting. Now, when you're working in these larger organizations, often the things that you're handed come in my experience in two ways, either one, the organization has done the job, and you as a leader have done the job to equip your team with the exact thing that works, do not deviate. It's proven, it works. In most cases, though, I think people think it works. And it probably doesn't. And that's why we find that there are these superstars who are able to just completely outperform everyone else. Because at the end of the day, they're there. And I think maybe you were one of these people, you got 10 promotions, over 10 years at all of these different organizations. I have to imagine you are breaking the mold.
Marcus Chan: Yeah, I mean, it's most things where I heard this term from Patrick Bet David a long time ago, and I always love the term. He said that there are certain people in organizations where they treat what they do like it's their own business. He called it an intrapreneur. And I find an intrapreneur, when you have a mindset, like whatever you're handed, whether it's a good or bad tech stack, whatever the recessions are, the market conditions are like, whatever your leadership is, like, certain people will say, regardless, whatever it is, I'm going to take that hand, I'm gonna do my best with it, right. And I find the most successful salespeople always think that way, as well. I've always done right. So in the first role, I was in, we had no tech stack, we had nothing, we didn't have any framework, and there was good luck. It was very much like playing the numbers game, high volume, that's what they want us to do. And there was no training, right? I had to figure it out and figure out how to have some success over time. And then in my next role, I went for two major companies. Well, I switched companies, like five years later, they actually had a playbook in place. But it was like really, like kind of old school like just like, it was like the 1930s. And I'm like, I mean, yeah, I'm anxious to an extent, but there are things that I figured out over time based on human behavior and psychology, and my own study of what people are really like that are actually applied better. So actually took even some of the bases of what they had, and I simply applied critical thinking skills, and I mixed them where I'd done before, and I was able to have really cool results because of
that, right? So what kind of school he's like memorize facts, the memorize numbers, you memorize certain things, you can only go so far you get a good decent grade, but not only amazing grades you not only a great life but if you can't understand why to think there's the certain way why sort of frameworks for why psychology works, how people actually act to move, then you could take that you can adjust a tweak to fit you, right. So I think it's better to focus on having really good frameworks and understanding why people take action versus trying to memorize a script. And always picture like, if you have a good sales process. It's kind of like if you're driving a 10-lane freeway, everyone's had the same direction. But depending on who's on the road, different cars, and people driving their speed, you can speed up slow down, go left, go right merge different lanes, get off the freeway gigabit to get back on your site in the same direction. You know, the framework, I think the mistake a lot of people make is just for companies is they say, Hey, here's a script, is it cool, and they either try sticks out late, going super slow, though, you're gonna be on the truck, and you're gonna be late to where you want to go, right? Or they could really go off the freeway, or whatever thinking they can figure it out, which doesn't really work either. So I like frameworks, the frameworks are actually scalable. They teach you thinking and critical thinking skills versus saying do exactly like this.
Mark Drager: And if I'm in a sales role myself, or maybe I'm a leader looking for a great salesperson, what traits should I be developing? What traits should I be looking for?
Marcus Chan: Hmm, so obviously, resilience is probably pretty common, resilience, and all of that, right, being able to persevere and push through the kind of that. I love the ones who have the intrapreneurial spirit. So like those who have the internal drive, a motor to just take things on their own, and just like solve things, I love that. I also love people who have really high expectations of themselves. So like, for example, you typically will see that people who consistently win everything in life, like every sport, touch everything they pick, and they seem just like, sell. There's no drive, you can't, you can't create that. Either you have a drive, or you don't, you can't create that drive, right? And you try to motivate them, I compliment it's short-lived. What I also like is coachability, that's a really big one, just being coachable. So even if they are highly successful, are they coachable? Like, are they open to actually, you know, to actually learn and adapt and change and pivot as a result? I also want to see what their potential untapped skills are, and their future potential. So I believe a lot of people have skills within them. They're just waiting to be untapped.
So I have to see what's their bandwidth like right If they haven't coachability because they're coachable, then you can help squeeze at that max potential to get them to move beyond what their current role is. Fun, I think is important. Like you don't want to hang up poor people, at least I don't like I have to have fun with them. I think it's literally the key and I think any of them missing our key if they have some innate sales abilities always a little bit nice for sure. So that's not necessarily a must but like a narrative some intrinsic sales, already spaced out the personality which is great. See, there are a couple of outcomes by a sub I like these I think these help I think in process and structure long term, if they can think that same way as well he gets really really nice as well because then they'll hopefully make better like they'll be they'll make better business decisions in the field. And it's actually selling good business versus like just trying and close a deal close a deal to actually understand like negotiation and just how businesses work etc. So it's a plus two, but it's probably a handful of things not for sure. When I'm hiring people for myself or what other teams we want to look for those characteristics.
Mark Drager: This has been amazing. I've been speaking with Marcus Chan, the author of the book "Six Figure Sales Secrets." If you'd like a free copy of the book, you can go over to closewithchen.com, and he has an offer over there. Marcus, I do have one question for you before we wrap up this talk: what is your number one tip for us to sell more?
Marcus Chan: So, number one tip, okay, super simple. Stop trying to sell. Stop trying to sell, and I know you're like, “What do you mean by that?” What I mean by that is, that when you focus on the selling process, people can smell the pushiness. The desperation, it's just commission breath, you know, you don't want that commission breath.
Mark Drager: You know that skunk on Warner Brothers or whatever, you know, Pepe Le Pew? Just, it's everywhere.
Marcus Chan: Yeah, exactly. Instead, focus on actually serving, right? And what I mean by that is, only focus on serving. Then you start realizing you're going to actually focus on what their problems are, and how you can really help them with the problems. And if you really can't help them, you'll let them know and do your best to guide them towards the place that they can. When you actually focus on truly serving on a deep level, that's when you start to really master selling.
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