19 mistakes, killing the effectiveness of a cold call script

  • Nov 3, 2016

In this article, you will learn how to evaluate cold calling scripts, what mistakes should be avoided when designing them and how to improve their effectiveness.

Several times a month we receive different scripts and we are asked, ‘Could you, please, look what can be improved here?’. To do this, there is a very simple checklist of 19 points. If we evaluate a script according to each of its criteria and modify it, its efficiency will increase significantly.

First, we need to understand what the difficulty in evaluating the scripts is. The degree of the difficulty is determined by whether a script beginner can evaluate a script following the chosen criterion. If some special knowledge is needed for this, the complexity is higher.

For example, after a minimal instruction any person is able to evaluate a script according to the criteria like ‘There are no blocks in which the manager has to speak in his/her own words instead of reading’, ‘The script is easy to navigate and you find necessary answers quite quickly’, ‘There are no blocks longer than 4 sentences or 30 words’.

In order to evaluate the criterion of ‘A script goal or goals are clear (a specific action of a person or a manager)’, one needs minimum necessary knowledge or serious coaching. To evaluate the criterion of ‘There are basic scenarios for the development of dialogue’, a person is supposed to already have a serious understanding of the sales process, and perhaps even the sales process in the given area.

I will comment on all the 19 criteria.

1. A script goal or goals are clear (a specific action of a person or a manager)

What is the meaning of this criterion? Quite often, the scripts are written to fill up so-called holes. They are a scattered set of speech units, a common goal of which is absolutely incomprehensible. So it is not clear what the ideal specific result should be. In some cases, only one goal of a dialogue is prescribed.

Suppose the goal of a ‘cold call’ is to arrange a meeting, and this is a perfect end result but in some cases it is not needed. For example, there are a huge number of additional goals. The minimum purpose is to get information about the decision maker (DM) and agree with him on the next contact.

If we have found the decision maker, talked to him, clarified the potential, defined if the customer is or is not ours, but he did not want to meet with us, then our small goal can be considered achieved. At least, we know the potential and the decision maker and we can keep working. The maximum goal is an agreement on the next step.

Ideally, in the script, these goals must be clearly visible (from the editor: for example, in the Sales Script Prompter service all goals and end nodes of a dialogue are highlighted. This allows you to visually see how many goals there are in the script. Visualization allows you to see what actions a manager should take depending on the achieved goal (to appoint another call, include an appointment on his/her schedule, register the interlocutor for the newsletter, send him/her an article, gift, etc.)) When I design the scripts, I make sure the manager immediately sees what I want from him/her and I draw the arrows which lead either to the first, second, or third result.

2. The basic scenarios for the development of dialogue are foreseen

What do I mean by this? I regularly come across the scripts which are designed for some ideal victorious war when the customer must agree with us and say ‘yes’. It is assumed that the customer is almost always very loyal, and the script gives only an ideal dialogue version. Only occasionally, in one or two cases, there are instructions in case the customer says ‘no’.

I believe that in any version it is necessary to foresee that a person can say both ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and that he can ask a counter-question. For example, recently I developed a script for a company that collaborates with architects offering them to use ‘smart house’ technology in their projects.

The first phrase of the script was: ‘Hello, John. You have been recommended as an architect involved in the elite segment. Is that so?’ See, there are four possible options of his response.

The first option is when a person says ‘Yes’ and he agrees. The second option is when a person says, ‘No, I am not involved in designing in the elite segment’. The third option: ‘And who recommended me to you?’ - That is, it is a counter-question about a particular person. The fourth option is any other counter-question, for example, ‘What do you mean by an elite segment?’ So, I gave four possible answers, and all the answers correspond to these four modules.

Note: in order to understand the adequacy of goals and their presence minimal knowledge is required. But to understand the basic scenarios of a dialogue, special knowledge is often needed including that of an industry.

3. There are no blocks in which the manager has to speak in his/her own words instead of reading.

I regularly come across the scripts with a couple of statements that something should be said about advantages. What kind of advantages? What exactly should be said? And all this is left at the mercy of the manager. From my experience I know that the most serious failures happen here because the manager often begins to speak complete nonsense.

Therefore, a perfect script is a script in which everything is foreseen. Even for the first ‘cold’ call it is absolutely possible to do this, and it is possible to foresee every possible way in which a call develops.

I must say that I find it difficult to implement scripts for people who already keep up with the subject and who have already made ‘cold’ calls. And, interestingly enough, the first calls they make according to the script, are better than the next ones. Why is this happening? In their first calls they have to read the text, and in subsequent calls they think that they already know what is going on and begin to rearrange words and make classic mistakes.

For example, the script says: ‘Dmitry, hello!’ - with an exclamation intonation. Instead, the manager reads with a question intonation: ‘Hello. Is that Dmitry?’ And then the call effectiveness and efficiency fall. After all, when a familiar person calls, he says: ‘Dmitry, hello!’ with an affirmative and exclamatory intonation. When an unfamiliar person calls, he says: ‘Hello. Is that Dmitry?’ An interlocutor immediately understands: ‘So, someone whom I do not know is calling’ and s/he immediately strains himself/herself. In general, the script begins to work worse and worse.

4. The script is easy to navigate and you find necessary answers quite quickly.

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5. There are no blocks longer than 4 sentences or 30 words.

I have laid down such a rule for myself. When I look through the script, I find the longest speech module and count the number of words in it. Ideally, there should be up to 30 words. The top limit is 35 words. As soon as I see the speech module of 40-50 words, a kind of a long story, I do not even read this speech module. I immediately cross it out, it needs to be rewritten.

Why am I doing so? There are studies saying that a man can hold attention for about 20-25 seconds, and a woman can do the same for 40-45 seconds. What do we mean by attention? This means that a person is not distracted, he does not start an internal dialogue, he does not begin to come up with various excuses, that is, the person is completely focused on what we are saying to him. All this should fall within these time limits.

You may ask: what about the product mini-presentation or service in the later stages of the conversation? Firstly, I believe that it is best to have a mini-presentation during a personal meeting. Secondly, if we carry out a mini-presentation either on telephone or at a personal meeting we have to make so-called ‘breaking off’.

What is ‘breaking off’? We have talked for about 30-40 seconds and then ask a question which can be called a question hook, for example: ‘Tell me, Ivan, it is important for you to have the delivery free of charge, isn’t it?’ or: ‘Our service is carried out in this way. Are these terms of service suitable for you?’ That is, what do we do? We give a voice module, an arguments module, but in 30-35 words we ask the question provoking the person to answer if this is interesting for him or not. If he says ‘no’, we switch to another conversation scenario.

6. Each speech module ends with a counter question.

One of the biggest mistakes that occur in the scripts is when the speech module ends with a full stop. That is, the manager has said something, has put forward an argument and is waiting for the customer`s answer.

Why is it a mistake? Because the script with its questions should direct the customer at your desired option. It is like, you know, how dogs urge a flock of sheep. Dogs run around the flock, bark, and sheep understand where they need to run. But if the dog barks somewhere in the centre of the flock, the sheep just run away in different directions. If the manager makes a wait-and-see pause after the approval, the customer can ask any question and completely break down the script. If the manager has asked a counter question, the probability of ‘failure’ of the script is much lower.

7. The script is written in a colloquial language, not in a literary language.

You know, my worst battles over the scripts arise when I talk to the head burdened with a good knowledge of Russian literature and, even worse, when this head has a philological education. What happens in this case? I bring speech modules and the script and then it begins: ‘Well, what`s this? The writing is not literate enough.’ And a pen is taken and the head begins to give a literary image to the speech modules.

The current best-selling book called ‘Sales Scripts’ was edited by a literary editor. After that I picked it up and saw that some of the excellent working speech modules were suddenly turned into some kind of emasculated phrases like ‘I would like to offer ...’ I thought, how can it be? I always fight with this, cross out all similar phrases, and here, in my own book, there are phrases like ‘I would like’.

That is exactly why you should always strive to ensure that the expressions are colloquial, to make an impression that the person does not read a piece of paper but speaks in simple and understandable phrases. For example, I insert the word-type dampers like ‘I am actually calling because …’ and then the phrase comes. Such words are very rarely used in scripts.

I mean, look what happens. First, a designed script is edited by the head, and then the managers believe that it can be reproduced as a basic idea, well, and after that depending on the situation. As a result, we have very low conversion.

8. There is a unit for the secretary

What do we mean by this? We mean things that need to be said to the secretary in each case. In a good script, there is a small separate script to work with the secretary, and then the script to work with the DM.

9. The introduction phrase gives a clear idea about who is calling and why.

What is meant here? The context of the conversation should be clear. Please note it is not said, for example, ‘I'm calling to sell you some coaching’. In general, from the first seconds it should be clear what sphere of activity will be discussed, it should be clear that, for example, John Smith is calling, and the purpose of the conversation is to discuss issues related to this subject.

10.When introducing him/herself to the DM the manager does not use the words like ‘sales manager’, ‘want’, ‘offer’, ‘cooperation’.

Why is it that important? As soon as the manager says, ‘Hello, I am a sales manager. I'm calling to offer cooperation in the field of supply of stationery’, the DM’s reaction will automatically be ‘We do not need anything’, although perhaps they do need some of the proposed products or services.

Remember, how Pavlov's dogs drooled when the lamp was switched on? A DM’s standard habit of saying ‘no’ works in a similar way. Most of these phrases are, in fact, triggering a backlash. When there are these words in the script, the DM’s automatic reaction is as follows: ‘Thank you, we do not need anything’, or: ‘Send us your offer by e-mail’. These words, in fact, generate resistance.

11. The first phrase captures the DM’s interest, attracting his/her attention.

What does this mean? As I wrote above, the phrase ‘I’m calling to offer you’ does not excite any interest. Compare: ‘John, you have a large retail chain, and we are a manufacturer of a certain food product line. How could we begin working with you?’

See what is happening. We have begun with the customer, we have said, ‘You have a large chain, and we are a manufacturer’. Or: ‘You are a well-known company in our region, we are the largest IT-distributor. Tell me, please, how we could take the first steps to cooperation?’

Here the conversation is quite different, that is, the answer ‘we do not need anything’ is not practically assumed.

Or: ‘John, I'm calling to provide you with some customers’. – ‘What do you mean?’ – ‘The point is that we have many common groups of customers, so I am calling you to discuss, first of all, the conditions under which we can work with you and, secondly, to exchange customers with you’. And then a kind of continuation follows. Please note, a similar beginning of the conversation does not provoke resistance from your first words.

12. There is a unit on a customer’s qualification/ information gathering.

Collecting information from a DM on the phone during a ‘cold’ call is a bad idea because the dialogue is on the verge of hanging up the receiver as it is. Therefore, it is necessary to formulate just one or two questions with the help of which you can tell yourself: ‘This is our customer, it makes sense to meet him’, or ‘This is not our customer’.

Our task is to ask a few questions, or maybe one question to either DM or another communicant on the switching stage to understand if the customer is ours or not. Otherwise, there is a high risk of losing a whole working day when we appoint a meeting, come to some town near Moscow, but when we are already there we find out that coaching cannot be sold: the company has no sales department, the director carries all the negotiations him/herself.

13. There are different conversation scenarios for different groups of customers.

This item is optional, and it is not always used. For example, we assess the customer according to the previous point: whether he is ours or not. It is the question of things being black or white, the answer being yes or no.. Possible classification of customers is according to three options - A, B, C, where customer A is a major potential customer with whom we want to work, a middle size customer is a customer of Group B, and a customer of Group C is a small client. Small customers are interesting for us, but we are not going to them. We will keep pressurizing them on the phone or include them in the mailing.

Ideally, after the classification of the customers is carried out, it would be good to design different scenarios. In fact, this point is closer to the first paragraph which states that the objectives in working with each group of customers will be different, so the scripts must also be different.

14. An appointment or a benefit is sold not a commodity/service.

Let me explain. There was a man who was selling tools in the US. His name was Zig Ziglar. The utterances of this man are quoted everywhere. His most famous utterance is that ‘people do not buy drills they buy holes in the walls’. He said that people, in general, do not care about the drill or some other tool. For them, the main thing is a well done job, not a commodity itself, but a benefit.

Two errors are possible here. The first big mistake is when the caller begins to describe in detail how wonderful the offer is, how wonderful their company is. About eight years ago ‘ConsultantPlus’ ordered a very interesting study from one of the consulting firms. A group of the best telemarketers who had the highest percentage of appointments and a group of average telemarketers assigning fewer meetings were picked out. They did not consider the weakest ones.

They identified about 30 parameters according to which they began to evaluate calls and note what some people are doing and what the others are doing. For example, telemarketers called chief accountants of the companies, who told them: ‘You know, we don’t need your system. We work, for example, with ‘Garant’, or: ‘You know, your system is not necessary to us. We look for all regulation acts online.

What do you think average telemarketers did at that point? When the chief accountant said that their company, for example, used the Garant system, which actually meant that they were working with competitors, they said: ‘Do you know, our system is different from the Garant system because ...’ - and then a long story about the characteristics of the system went on.

Average telemarketers said, ‘But you possibly use distorted information because of which your organization will suffer financial losses’ - and the further communication went according to the principle ‘one person read in a newspaper that smoking was harmful, so he gave up reading newspapers’. That is, when someone is trying to convince people that they happen to make a mistake, these people just stop communicating with the person who is trying to brainwash them.

And what did successful telemarketers do? They said the following: ‘Our specialist who will also bring you a bulletin ‘News in Accounting Legislation’ will tell you about the differences between our system and the Garant system. He can come at any time convenient for you. Please tell me if you prefer this or that time?’ We need to sell a meeting, not a commodity.

Or, if we talk about the benefits what should be meant by the benefit? When asked why we should meet, we say: ‘John, as a result of our meeting you will receive an offer proposing at least an extra discount compared to the services of the company you are using at the moment’.

See what we are doing. We say that we will meet, and the very minimal result will be an offer from another company, and the company will just move those with whom they are now working to the background. And that's a benefit. But if we say: ‘I'll come to meet you and I will spin out why we have such a wonderful product’, who needs it? No-one.

15. There is a unit for work on rejections, objections, doubts.

Very often people design only a certain ideal version and do not suppose that someone can tell them: ‘No, I do not need it at all’. And when it is said, the next unit can follow: ‘Thank you. Goodbye. And will you mind if I call you back in a month?’

16. There are three stages of work with rejections, objections and doubts.

There is a nice phrase that the sale begins when the word ‘no’ sounds. Well, from my point of view, the minimum number of steps to work with rejections, with resistances which should be included into the script, is three. That is, the DM must say ‘no’ at least three times before the seller hangs up.

You can bring the number of stages for work with failure to seven, and I do not recommend more than seven because then emotional intensity will grow, and only those who are relaxed and positive will withstand. For those who initially are in the negatively closed position, three rejections is the limit.

17. Speech modules at each stage of the work with rejections affect different needs.

Look, people have different needs. There is a need to earn: your organization can get more profit. Another option is a need to save: your organization can cut costs.

Another group of needs is branding which lies in the fact that many leading enterprises of some sphere are already using this technology. There is a theme of comfort: ‘Starting to work with us or considering our offer, you will be able to minimize your efforts and either in the near future or after some time you will be able to sit back and do nothing’.

There is a theme of novelty. There are innovators who always try something.

The basic idea: if we first try to brainwash a person in terms of profit or benefit but s/he yields to no persuasion, then there is no sense in hammering the same need. We need to act in terms of comfort, image, novelty, that is, to reveal some other nuances.

In my opinion, it is wrong when the client says “no” to the manager and the manager says: ‘Well, thank you. Will you mind if I call you back in a month? And the thoughtful manager continues to call back every month, though the customer still does not feel like buying. This script is not working, and there is no result.

18. A ‘break off’ is used to draw attention to a product.

What is a ‘break off’? This is useful information materials. This is not a brochure praising your company declaring "Our company is Number 1", which your customers don’t care about. A ‘break off’ is really useful information for the customer. That is, when you are preparing a break off, get ready to give an answer to the question what kind of information, what book, what program and what training course would the customer buy? It doesn’t matter where the sum is 300 or 500 rubles.

When you find the answer to the question what the customer would buy, you call him and say: ‘John, our company has developed a book called ‘How Suppliers of Pipes Deceive Customers’, will it be interesting to you?’

Let's talk a little more about it. In one company which manufactures pipes, they found out that they do not have a unified database of construction regulations on pipes. They employed a person that brought together all the construction regulations, and as a result, they began to make appointments under the following pretext: ‘Our expert will bring you a unified base for construction regulations’.

If the customer was too far and it was difficult to come to him/her, they said: ‘John, I can send you a base for construction regulations’. So what happened? This ‘break off’ is sent to the person and the agreement goes on: ‘John, I'll call you back in 2 or 3 days to be sure if you have received the construction regulations. It will be important to know your opinion to what extent this information is useful for you’.

In the case of the book How Suppliers of Pipes Deceive Customers, sellers called and said the following: ‘John, I'm calling to find out which of these methods of fraud you have come across, and what other ways exist that are not described in this book. Can I include them?’ And the contact began, the conversation continued in a completely different way. That is, once again, before hanging up the phone, you need to offer sending a ‘break off’ and the call on the ‘break off’ is already the next contact.

19. A speach for achieving an agreement on the next contact and next steps with target customers has been created.

Please note that we are talking about the target customers, not all in a row.

It’s definitely very tough to control all the points in real time conversations your telemarketers. Most professional sales managers are spending too many hours on listening phone calls recordings. That’s why we strongly recommend using online services like Sales Script PROMPTER.

This online service will help you in a few seconds not only to identify “bad” and “broken” conversations and part of scripts. Also you’ll be able to see a transcript of all the voice recording and start listening conversations from any exact part of the transcripts.

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Dmitri Tricomi

One of the best sales trainers with 15 years of experience, sales consultant, including the development of scripts for various types of businesses. Author of bestsellers "Scripts of sales", "Corporate debt: collection and return". Advised such well-known brands as Sony, Siemens and 700 other companies. Conducts seminars on sales development in European countries

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