What should you say when you're making cold calls? Is there a magic script that gets everyone to say yes? We get asked these questions every week from our listeners. In this blog we'll give you an approach that you can use on a consistent basis to close more customers.
What makes our industry unique is that almost every customer or shipper operates by their own best practices. They have unique standard operating procedures and different ways that every one of them distributes or tenders their freight, and that's only the half of it. The other half is how each shipper determines their procurement steps. All that is just a fancy way of saying that each company makes its decisions to work with brokers based on their own policies. While all of this provides for a lot of different opportunities, it also creates a unique challenge.
If all of the shippers make decisions differently, how can you use one script to influence them? That's all a cold call is, right? It's the process of reaching out to someone we've never spoken to with the goal of influencing their decision to work with us. We're not convincing, debating or manipulating them. We are simply trying to engage them, establish trust and then locate an opportunity or issue they have that we can provide the solution for. So rather than giving you specific words for you to read, I'll take you through the structure of the call and what you should be achieving in each step.
First, know what's in it for them. As in, why do they care? Think about when you're cold called. If someone doesn’t get to the point quickly and engage you, what happens? You hang up, right? That's exactly what so many people do wrong. They begin their calls by announcing who they are, who they work for and why they're the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then, they expect the person forced to listen to their little song and dance to be so impressed that they stop what they're doing and send over a bunch of business.
Then, there's the approach of “Hey, this is Ben from Acme Brokerage. I was just calling to see if we could discuss the possibility of us working together.” Imagine if you got this call. Would you stop what you're doing so that a sales person could have a conversation about selling you something or convincing you to work with them? Probably not.
Tips That Work
So, what does work? It starts with having an approach and an intention before you pick up the phone. It could be that you deliver loads to their location. It could be that you have drivers legitimately looking for backhauls from one of your other customers. It may be that you specialize in their specific commodity niche like heavy equipment or building materials. It could even be that your brokerage only works with companies in their industry and their competitors use you. It doesn't necessarily matter what it is that you lead with as long as it answers the question of “What is in it for them?”
Now where do you go from here? Now that we have their attention, we better deliver on what we began with. My go to is leading with “we have trucks delivering to your area weekly, and I'd like to discuss if we may be a fit to work together.” From there, I pivot to asking about a few specific lanes that I've prepared. These are just best guesses at lanes I believe they're likely to be running.
For example, "We've got more than a handful of drivers interested in heading back north out of your facility, and rather than having them continue to work the load boards for backhauls, we thought it could be a win-win -win for you, our drivers and actually our other customers. You know this: the less our drivers are loading at new facilities every week, the less they have to worry about detention and unpredictable loading docks. We've heard from other drivers that you’ve really got your operations buttoned up and efficient. How has it been finding capacity for your northbound lanes?"
Your Secret Weapon
We always want to follow up each statement with a question, so we can engage the other person in further conversation. A great tip to remember is that God gave you two ears and only one mouth. Use them proportionately. Listen twice as much as you're talking. Rapport is established mostly when the other person is talking and we're actively listening. The key word is actively listening…to not only what's being said, but how it's being said. Think about the tone of voice and the rate of speech. You'll want to mirror that tone and rate of speech with your own. For instance, in the New York area, folks speak faster, louder and more abruptly. They value time and efficiency. Respect that by picking up your pace and tone. In the south, you'll typically have a little slower rate of speech. These are clearly generalities and each human is different. Sometimes one person can be different from one day to the next. That's why your secret weapon is listening. Not just waiting for your turn to speak.
How You Project Yourself
Stand up and smile. Your voice will also change based on your mood and posture. One of the best ways to get some pep into your own voice is to stand up when you're making dials. It will immediately add energy to your voice. Motion creates emotion. Walk around, do some jumping jacks. Get that blood flowing. No one wants to do business with Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. Smiling also changes your tone of voice. Have you ever wanted to work with someone that's miserable? Neither do your prospects. So, put a small mirror above your phone and remind yourself to smile before making those calls.
Lastly, make sure you have a prepared list of questions to ask as the conversation progresses. Here is a list of a few to get you started. These fall under the category of operational questions.
- Can you tell me a little about how your shipping is organized?
- How many FULL truckloads do you ship on an average week?
- Any LTL?
- How about during your busy season?
- When is your busy season?
- Do you use outside carriers?
- Do you have any of your own trucks?
- Could you tell me about the carriers you are currently using
- How long have you been working with them?
What all of these questions have in common is that they are all open ended questions, meaning that they cannot be answered by a yes or a no. That's important, we don't want to ask close-ended questions because we don't want to give them the opportunity to say no, and we want them to talk as much as possible so we can learn as much as possible from each exchange. So, remember that when you're preparing your list of questions.
All of these tips and structures will help you organize your thoughts and execute much better calls. Make sure you don't forget the most important aspect of calling anyone for business. Asking for it! No one is going to come out and offer you their business. We need to close them by asking if they have anything right now on their desk you could cover or assist with? It's not only the most important, it's also the one most rookies forget. So, put another reminder above that mirror that reminds you to ask for the business.