Cold calling isn’t dead. But you know what is dead? The expected canned scripts, and monotone voices and personalities.
“Hi, this is Peter from XYZ, did I catch you at a good time?” That’s not only dead, it’s been 6-feet-under since the 1990’s!
But the sad thing is, 87% of companies still take this cookie-cutter approach to cold calling. Since their set rates are abysmally low (like 0.005% low) they are forced to call at high volume. I’m talking 10,000-20,000 calls per month to acquire a couple of customers or clients.
That’s not what we do around here.
We work smart and hard. And you should too. Part of working smart in sales is using a little technique called pattern interruption.
Pattern interruption is simply saying or doing something shocking to jolt your prospect back from boredom or apathy. It’s like a glass of ice cold water to the face of your buyer. It wakes them up and definitely gets their attention. And it works!
So in this article I’m going to show you why it works and how to use it in your sales process.
Why Is Pattern Interruption So Effective?
You might be wondering why this sales tactic even works. Well, it works because when people are caught off-guard, they can’t respond with their normal default response. They are forced to reckon with their assumptions about you in just milliseconds. And they are forced to come up with a new and novel response.
The average cold call opener is easy to deflect by the prospect. “Did I catch you at a bad time?” Yes. “Do you have a moment to talk?” No. “We sell widgets for X industry…” Not interested.
Instead, you want to craft an opener that demands a thoughtful response, or at least a response that plays into your hand. In the next section, we’ll cover exactly what these openers are.
How to Interrupt Patterns in Sales
Let’s say you’re an SDR and making daily dials to generate pipeline. Below are a few pattern interrupters you should try. And if you lead a sales team, you should really consider coaching your team on these and putting them in circulation to test.
Keep in mind that some of these are controversial within the sales world. And I’m fine with that. I know what generates pipeline for my company and my clients, and these have all worked for me at one time or another. Let’s have a look.
First to Fire opener: “Hi Josh… Josh, can you hear me okay?”
Why it works: This opener gets your prospect to say their first “yes.” And when you’re the “first to fire,” or first to speak, they get to hear your tonality and energy before they even have the chance to shut you down. On a psychological level, in just two seconds you’ve involved your prospect in a mission to help you hear him better. He’s now in the foxhole with you. He’s on your team.
The Honest Truth opener: “Hi Richard, my name is Max. Look, you don’t know me. This is a cold call. So you can either hang up now or roll the dice and hear me out for 20 seconds. It’s your choice.”
Why it works: The honesty of this opener can completely disarm a prospect. It totally interrupts the normal cold call pattern. By putting your cards on the table (“This is a cold call”), it shows you have zero tricks up your sleeve and you can be trusted. It’s also a permission-based opener, giving the illusion of power to your prospect. They feel in control. Plus, it’s just fun. Who doesn’t want to roll the dice and gamble a little on a Monday?
The Unbelievable opener: “Hi is this Jack? [Prospect confirms] Jack, you won’t believe this… I’ve actually been speaking with some of your competitors, can I have 13 seconds of your time?”
Why it works: This opener offers mystery and intrigue, which is critical when interrupting patterns. You have “inside baseball” on their competitors that they can have for just 13 seconds of their time. That’s a fair trade. And 13 seconds is so specific (and short) that it disrupts the normal pattern of “30 seconds of your time.” And look, just because you said 13 seconds doesn’t mean they will whip out a timer and count the seconds. The floor is all yours. Just remember that this isn’t a time for your pitch! It’s a time to introduce yourself, ask thoughtful questions, and begin building a relationship.
The Quick Question opener: “Hi Brenda, how are you?”
Why it works: This little opener is deceptively straightforward. It’s not exactly a pattern interruptor, but it’s still worth a mention. (Just hear me when I say this one is ultra-controversial in the sales world.) That said, it works because sales is all about trust and conversations. People say “how are you” to open any conversation. But most importantly, this question gives you key intel about the willingness of the prospect to take the call. If they respond coldly, “I’m OK” then you know their guard is up, and you can proceed with that knowledge. If they respond, “I’m gooooood, how are you?” then you know a great conversation is coming and you don’t have to rush anything. In other words, asking “how are you” gives you intel to set the pace of the call.
The Pace-changer: Slow and steady does the trick
You should actually never rush when cold calling. Rushing the call or rushing to speak is a surefire sign that you’re desperate for the sale. It has a domino effect, which usually results in the call being ended by your prospect. And C-level executives simply don’t deal with desperation or what I call “sweaty-palm salespeople.” So, a great way to break this pattern is to change pace seemingly out of nowhere. At the moment your prospect expects you to speed up to get your words out (maybe you’re about to overcome an objection), this is precisely the time you should slow down. Speak slowly, very slowly, at about 25% of your normal pace. You might even lower your voice, almost to a whisper. This will shock your prospect back into the conversation. And they will remember that you’re very much a stakeholder here and part of the negotiation process.
Once you interrupt a pattern, you have to lead your prospect to a desirable place. You have to use their undivided attention to continue the conversation. In other words, you never just interrupt a pattern for the sake of interrupting a pattern. If you go right back to boring business as usual, you are sure to lose your buyer and their trust.
Also remember that certain pattern disruptors will become cliche over time as more people use them. That’s why it’s critical to always be sharpening your sales tools, including doing the research to learn which pattern interrupters are fresh and effective.
Finally, keep an eye out for part two of Pattern Interrupting in Sales. Whether it’s during the cold call, during the sales appointment, during the close — or really at any point in the sales process — you can use pattern interrupting techniques to increase your numbers. So in part two, I’m going to show you how to interrupt patterns further down the funnel. You’ll definitely want to read that one, as there’s cake involved. (Seriously, there’s cake.)
Until next time…