Improve your Cold Calls
Cold calling is a widely used method of prospecting for new customers. Any business owner with a telephone knows that two or three times a day someone they have never met will contact their company with some kind of proposal like seeking an opportunity to quote against an existing supplier.
It’s not easy to make cold calls and those who have the job of making them often feel uncomfortable about their assignment. But there are ways to ‘warm up’ to the task so that you will feel more relaxed and in control and make the whole process a lot less scary.
1. Send an advance notice
A cold call is usually an interruption for the person on the other end of the phone. Understanding their needs is one of the most important parts of cold calling. You’ll only have a brief period of time to get your ‘foot in the door’ before the prospect begins to resent the intrusion, and making the most of that small window is essential.
Calling completely cold is probably the biggest mistake cold callers make. Arrange a mailing so that your prospect has a day or two notice that you’ll be contacting them. Send them a simple brochure or leaflet - nothing too long or flashy - that outlines the basics of your offering and promises that you’ll be in touch shortly. They may not be exactly looking forward to your call, but at least they’ll have seen your name and product and know where the conversation is going. This also allows you to introduce yourself by telling them you sent them a communication and enquire if they had received it.
2. Know something about your prospect
The more you know about the prospect’s business the more confident you can feel about asking the right questions and giving them the right answers to their questions since you’ll already have a rough idea of how you might be able to help them. Look for their advertisement in the Yellow Pages, and if they have a website go through it carefully.
3. Know what you want to say
This doesn’t mean reciting a script word-for-word. Nothing sounds worse or is more likely to get a “Sorry, not interested” response. But if you work out what you’re going to say before you make the call you’ll be more confident about making it. You need to introduce yourself, explain the purpose of your call, and get through the ‘screener’ to reach the decision maker. Once you’ve got the right person the real call begins. Developing a checklist to track things during the call is a good idea to ensure you cover all the main things you want to get across.
4. Talk in terms of helping rather than selling
Be natural and friendly. Explain briefly what you do and end with a statement that you’d like to see whether you might be able to help them. Explain that you’d really like to meet them and that there’d be no obligation on their part; you just want to explore the possibilities for satisfying a need in their business. If you’re sincere and don’t start selling something right away you’ll have a much better chance of turning the call into a conversation. All you want is a meeting, not a sale.
5. Have an offer ready
Because you’re already taking up their time, and want to take up even more of it, find a way to make it worth their while. You might say, “Look, I’ll set aside whatever time suits you on Thursday morning and I’ll take you out for breakfast or a coffee, whichever suits you best.”
6. Rehearse your call lines
Rehearse with someone on the phone who can answer your call and take the role of your prospect. As they come back with a variety of responses you’ll get the feel for handling them. The person you want to speak with may be out, may be busy, or may just not want to talk with you. Success in cold calling is frequently the result of the way you convince the person screening the calls more than anything else.
Rejections will happen and they’re nothing personal so don’t take them that way. Some people may be rude or hang up on you - it’s just part of cold calling. However, your call may remind them to take another look at the leaflet you sent them and they might call you back later. You can never tell.
Just remember to be yourself. If you believe in what you do and that you can really help your prospect’s business, there’s every reason to be confident that you’ll win through with the prospect and eventually get the opportunity to present your product to them.