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Warming Up to Cold Calls: How to Get Millennial Employees More Comfortable with Phone Prospecting

Are there millennials on your sales staff? If yes, you may have noticed that these young employees are especially uncomfortable with phone prospecting–not surprising when you consider that their generation prefers alternate communication channels like texting, emailing and social media. The truth is that, even with the rise of social selling, the ability to build a relationship with a prospect by phone is still an essential sales skill. Here’s what you can do as their manager to help them learn the ropes:

Share your own story. As a sales manager, chances are you spent some quality time phone prospecting at some point in your career. If that’s the case, try sharing a funny or embarrassing story about your own struggles as a young salesperson. It can be a very humanizing experience for a new recruit to realize that the manager they look up to and respect was once in their shoes.

Role-play a variety of situations. Role-playing, rehearsal, practice–whatever you want to call it, role-playing is an effective and fun way to help your millennial warm up to the phone while building a relationship with them:

  • Sit together back-to-back, facing opposite directions. Your employee can’t look prospects in the eye over the phone and you don’t want them to have this benefit now.
  • Ask your employee to pretend-call you and deliver the pitch. Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes and see how their words and tone of voice land with you.
  • Surprise them with pushbacks. React to your employee’s “call” with a variety of responses, including hostility at times. Feel free to go a little over the top since it will make real-life situations feel more manageable. Listen for any trouble spots and debrief the call together at the end.
  • Practice leaving voice messages. Many prospects don’t answer the phone these days unless they know who is calling. The ability to leave a great voicemail message is just as important as delivering a pitch to a live person.

Let them design their own mix of prospecting touch points. Millennials are collaborative and like to feel involvement and ownership of their work. Unless your company has a tried and true formula, let them experiment with a mix of touch points (including phone prospecting) that works best for them. Make it competitive and fun by seeing which mix yields the most results (email->call->email vs. call->email->call).

Keep their expectations realistic. A University of North Carolina study indicated that the success rate for setting appointments using cold calling is just 0.3 percent. You don’t want your employees to make excuses for poor results, but don’t let them lose stamina over a string of no’s either. Let them know that even the best sales professionals face rejection and give them sample performance metrics in addition to their quotas to keep them sane.

Thought it may not be their preference, a little extra coaching can help your millennials warm up to the phone and prepare them for more strategic positions down the line. What else has worked for you? If you are a millennial tasked with phone prospecting, what has been your experience?

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