In situations where cold calling is the only lead generation method available, there are some basic steps an originator can take to improve effectiveness.
If you have read my previous articles on this topic, you will get the impression that I do not think highly of "cold calling." Sales people actually ignore previous and present customers as sources of additional business while they spend their time focusing upon cold calling for new business. We spend much time and resources bringing in this business and our easiest source of additional business is our existing relationships. Yet, bookstores are filled with works teaching us how to become effective cold callers through advanced solicitation techniques.
In fact there are some situations in which sales people are going to be expected to be able to cold call. If you are moving into a new sales position in a new geographic area and/or are selling a new product, you may not have a base of existing business or relationships from which to build. Also, you may be selling within a very specific business niche which requires new contacts be initiated. So in deference to our own advice, Here are a few tips for cold calling.
Address your problems with call reluctance upfront. If you are consumed with call reluctance, cold calling may not be for you. On the other hand, there are those who are reluctant to call upon those with whom they have a close relationship and may prefer cold calling. In most situations, sales people will be more effective utilizing those relationships as a basis for their calls -- and we stick with this advice even as we move to help our readers be more effective calling sources with whom they have no relationship. The bottom line is, whether you are cold calling or networking, if you do not prospect your sources, you will not succeed.
Have a unique offer. If you can offer something of value that no one else is offering, you are more likely to be successful. If you are calling with the same offer as everyone else, you will be facing an uphill battle from the start. The worst call someone can make is the same offer the prospect received within the past 24-hours.
Qualify quickly. Have a brief statement ready to frame the offer and/or qualify the prospect. Do not waste your time probing unqualified prospects and putting them in the position to say no further down the line when it is more uncomfortable. Find out quickly whether they are in a position to purchase your product and if they are not, move on.
Do not sell by voice or email. Today you are more and more likely to reach a voice mail (or send an email) when making the initial call. If you state your case over the phone (or computer) before you reach your target live, you are much less likely to receive a return phone call or email. Give them a reason to return your call instead of an excuse not to. Your message may be as simple as leaving a name and phone number or a short statement such as "I have a compelling offer for you/your firm."
Accomplish the research step before making the call. Just because you don't know your target personally doesn't mean that you cannot find out something about them. In the Internet age, finding information is easier. If you are calling upon a real estate agent or broker, review their Web site first and check with their vendors such as title companies.
Attempt to warm up the cold call. Before attempting to meet with a new client, try several points of contact via faxes, emails, letters or flyers that are designed to familiarize the target with your company and/or your product. It is much more difficult to garner their attention if they have never heard of you when you are making the first live contact.
Know what you are going to say. If you sound hesitant over the phone or in person, you will not move to stage two. People react to those who have confidence. You cannot project confidence if you don't know what you are going to say -- especially with regard to answering their stated objections. This does not mean that you should be reading from a script. Though scripts are helpful in guiding us, a rigid statement is not always appropriate and can hamper us in the needs assessment process.
Get to know the person. Successful sales are derived through the art of developing relationships. Start the process from day one by listening and finding out about their wants, their needs and even their interests as an individual. Use, positive verbal "body language" to get them talking. For example, if you ask a question you must invoke a pause to give them the time to respond.
Above all, you must take the final two steps to be successful in cold calling. If you do not achieve some level of success, your call reluctance fears will be confirmed and you will not be motivated to move beyond these fears in the long run. The keys to final success? Asking (at the right moment) and following-up. If you don't ask, you will never sell and if you do not follow-up, you will waste the progress made during the prospecting stage. Our time is way too precious to not take advantage of what we have accomplished yesterday and the day before. Successful cold calling will not happen by accident. It happens because we have taken the right steps to prepare and are utilizing the right tools for success.