Recently you may have received a cold call from someone using an old-style linear sales script. You probably recognized it as a cold call because the person sounded a bit robotic and kept talking without allowing the conversation to "breathe."
If you’ve been selling for a while, chances are you’ve been asked to use sales scripts yourself. Consequently, you’ve probably used them because they were the only way you knew to start a cold calling conversation.
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
• How do you really feel when you use a script?
• How do your potential clients feel when they know you’re using a script? (And they do know.)
• How many sales are you losing because you’re using a script?
When people call me and ask how they can throw out their scripts and cold call the natural way, the first thing I do is ask them whether they’re willing to role-play with me using their script.
After a few moments of listening, I gently stop them and tell them they’re sounding like a totally different person from the one who called me and talked with me so naturally about their sales issues. You know what they always say. "Ari, you are so right. When I use a script, I feel as if I can’t be myself. I feel like a robot or an actor, and it’s awkward and uncomfortable. Is there any way I can be myself again?"
Here are five ways to throw out your linear selling script and be yourself again:
1. Admit that Scripts Make You Sound "Scripted"
When you begin your sales script, potential clients detect the very subtle change from your natural voice to your unnatural scripted voice within seconds.
"Fine," you might say, "I’ll just work on making myself sound natural." However, that in itself creates a conflict. You can’t "work at" being natural. Really, you either are or aren’t.
2. Start your Cold Call as a Conversation, not a One-Way Pitch
If you’re used to scripts, you’re probably wondering, "How the heck will I know what to say without a script?"
You might want to ask yourself why you think you won’t know what to say, because the reason for that is important. It means you’re basing your cold call on what you have to offer, and not on what’s important to the prospect.
Pitching your solution as soon as you begin a cold call is one of the biggest problems with linear sales scripts. That’s because you trigger sales pressure by doing that. This causes potential clients to react with defensiveness or immediate rejection.
3. Create Openings Rather than Forcing a "Yes"
Selling scripts are designed to be linear and step-by-step so you can move cold calls in the direction you want them to go. From the traditional cold calling point of view, that direction is toward a "yes." The belief is if you don’t get a "yes" at the beginning of the cold call, you’re not "selling." However, that’s the biggest problem with scripts. They give you only one path to follow.
If you can start a conversation that triggers a "What do you mean?" response from your potential client, then you’ll find you can explain yourself in a natural way. It creates a two-way dialogue, which in turn lets you learn what you need to find out. You flow with the conversation without feeling you’re getting off-track.
4. Tape-Record yourself talking with someone you know. Then Record yourself Reading your Script.
Have you ever heard yourself calling a potential client and reading your script? The answer is probably not. Most people who use scripts think they sound natural because they’ve never actually heard themselves before. If you do this simple exercise, you’ll hear the same kinds of differences I hear when people role-play with me.
In our day-to-day relationships, we simply want to get to know and communicate with others. However, when we go into cold calling using scripts, we have an agenda, which is to make the sale. People sense this immediately and put up their guard. Between our hidden agenda and their reaction, there’s no chance to build trust through communication.
5. Set a New Goal for your Cold Calls
Focus on simply opening the conversation rather than trying to control it, so that potential clients feel comfortable telling you the truth about their situation. We've been taught for too long that we have to control the process. We never stop to think that scripts make it impossible for us to be flexible in how we communicate.
Surrendering your use of a script probably seems scary. Nevertheless, when you are able do this, you can begin to engage total strangers on the phone in ways that feel as comfortable as calling a friend. Yes, it’s possible, and don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not.