I’ve made over 20,000 hours of cold calls. I guess if I had listened to Malcolm Gladwell, I only needed 10,000 hours to reach that Mozart level.
I’ve analyzed more calls than I can remember recently. The flaw I’ve noticed in nearly all the prevailing call scripts is that the perceived polarity never shifts.
As long as the focus remains on the sales rep and not the prospect, the rep is limiting their success.
99% of the systems start calls this way (Beta vs. Alpha):
“You don’t know me but... ” = Beta (focus on me - not you!)
“The reason for my call is...” = focus on the seller (beta)
The polarity needs to be prospect first! Listen first!
I have found that executives have little attention for long-form content or beating around the bush. Get the prospect talking about themselves and “what they control” immediately at the beginning of a call. Identify their immediate sphere of influence and get them to open up.
I discovered this trick back in 2007. I sold a piece of fundraising SaaS software that was so similar to others on the market that everyone I called would respond, “We already do that” or “we already have that in place.” I’d call 100 numbers and connect with seven out of ten executive directors and get shut down.
I noticed that prospects responded favorably when I mentioned their full name and remembered Dale Carnegie’s maxim, “The most beautiful sound in the English language is the sound of the prospect’s own name.” So we started the call correctly because I always got a nice warm response pronouncing their full name right. But then every template I learned moved the spotlight right back to the seller:
“You don’t know me, but….
The reason for my call is…”
And a million variants.
I started to think about “decision-making” itself, spheres of influence, and what the prospect could control. Not their government, not their family, not the entire company… but what they could actually control was the little fiefdom of their P&L.
When you ask one specific type of question, you trigger the prospect to exercise their power. They puff out their chest like a proud peacock. This is like pointing a spotlight at the prospect and keeping it on them. “Who’s in charge of your mobile strategy?” shifts the polarity to get the prospect talking. But this pattern interrupt could be any question that holds focus on the prospect.
I have to admit calling a VP of Mobile and asking, “Who’s in charge of your mobile strategy?” was a bit like a Captain Obvious Jedi Mind Trick. Wouldn’t it offend them? “Hey, bozo, go look at my LinkedIn profile – of course.” But 99.9% of prospects said either “I am” somewhat proudly or made an immediate referral. Within seconds they forget I’m a solicitor and shunt me to the decision-maker. I can get back on the horn and drop their name. Suddenly I have leverage in the account vis-a-vis referral.
I talked with Ashleigh Early from “The Other Sales Coach,” and she said her go-to call opener is, “I’m calling in regards to your IT analytics…” She also was cluing into routing around the organization to find the person that handles the problem. Her second step includes a bit of enablement and education on the topic. I like both of these moves because you’re not going in pitching. You’re getting them to talk!
Imagine calling a prospect, and instead of asking them “how they’re doing” or starting to pitch, you could instead shift the conversation to help them acknowledge their power. (ROUTE) I call this technique “route” because you are just trying to figure out “who’s who in the zoo.” Not everyone with the title of IT actually handles IT. There are 31 flavors of IT now from security, analytics, fraud, compliance, risk, systems, infrastructure… ad infinitum, especially if you sell into the Fortune 1000.
Instead of cajoling, persuading, and convincing, you figure out how they are doing their current process even if they’re leveraging a competitive vendor. (RUIN) - Ask, “How’s that working out for you?” And just listen. Now when they tell you the competitor or build vs. buy story, VALIDATE the prospect. Tell them why they’re right ––– No one does that!
I’m zooming way into one aspect of my Route-Ruin-Multiply (RRM™) call framework from our previous post because I genuinely believe there is a magic moment on every cold call that can help you to be causal over the outcome. It’s a POLARITY shift.
Once you get them talking (ROUTE) and peel the onion on their existing process (RUIN) and you’ve asked, “How’s that working out for you?” Just lay in wait…Eventually, as you validate them and talk more and more about the current vendor and process, they do this really odd thing where the Polarity shifts, and they ask you, “Wait, what does your product do again?” Or, “Tell me more about Acme Corp.”
The minute the polarity shifts, you suddenly have traction. I call this Vampire Rule because legend has it; a vampire can only come in if invited over the threshold by their prey.
You’ve created desire, and now they have an interest. Pick up SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham and make sure you study the (i) Implications and (n) Need-Payoff. These are also called “next order value” questions.
Remember, what appears to be the problem is often just a system of deeper underlying issues.
I have seen the same dynamics shift in major deals. The seller is pushing on a rope. They are driving all the follow-up, relentlessly driving toward the next step – checking in, checking in. We have all been there! It’s exasperating. Unfortunately, this “high pressure” selling has become a proverb in SaaS.
There’s a far better way…Polarity! Until the polarity shifts, and the prospect starts to drive the conversation reciprocally – drive for documents, drive to do final meetings – this is not a piece of business I even want to close.
If you are the only one pushing on a deal to close, imagine the stall when it hits fulfillment, and you are no longer driving it!
You drive the front half of the sale, but the prospect drives the back half – to effectively set a meeting with anyone from a cold call, to effectively close a business deal. Shifting the polarity is then a science almost as precise as electromagnetics, and the formula above can accomplish this seamlessly. We are magnets in communication. Two plus signs repel. Communication must flow from the strong to weak force and shift back and forth, just like the electromagnetic current. Great communication has “great chemistry” – it’s electric.
“One cannot get blood from a stone, and one cannot keep pushing on a rope.”
We must learn to sell the way our prospects buy and follow a basic understanding of neuroscience to make emails and phone calls effective. You need to start thinking of your calls like Social Aikido. Have you ever watched a 100 lb. woman flip a 300 lb. man effortless with Aikido techniques? You use their force and weight to reposition and deploy their motion to your advantage—so many parallel metaphors to tactical selling. Use the force of motion of the prospects resistive “brush offs” to shift their weight like a tiny aikido master can flip a massive assailant. As they push the weight toward you, shift the energy right back with relevant questions and active listening.
Once you’ve finally peeled the onion on the pain and they’ve conceded to a path forward, let them reach out to you with desire. Once prospects drive the sale - the next steps, and the contract, it’s game over. You’re going to do that deal!
There’s so much research on the “listen to a talk” ratio. I’ve seen it for and against the seller dominating the first interactions of calls and discovery calls, even in the Gong studies.
This post is really simple. People love to talk about themselves. It’s about THEM.
Their problems, challenges, and opportunities. Even people that seem to be doing well are churning under the surface, seeking self-improvement. We are bombarded with thousands of ads a day, which condition us to be dissatisfied. These techniques are somewhat of a safe crack. Without them, you’re just fighting through quicksand, pushing on a rope, and dragging an elephant.
Let’s move toward a paradigm of “Social Aikido,” even “Social Tai-Chi,” where we artfully encourage our dream prospects to open up about “what’s working,” which puts them into a safe position of trust where they can reveal their “gaps.” Active listening, like therapy, puts our prospects in a headspace where they can at last “self examine.” We are the facilitators of self-actualized change. They often don’t even know where to improve until a great seller (doctor, detective) helps guide them toward the light.