Cold Calling: Pain or Pleasure?

Cold Calling Success

Are you someone who loves to strike up a conversation with strangers in an elevator? Or would you rather have a root canal without anesthesia before you would pick up the phone and call a complete stranger and ask for an appointment? I suspect more people fall in the latter category. But the truth of the matter is we may all have to make contacts with people whom we don’t know for our business. Even if it is a referral from someone, we still need to get comfortable in order to engage with them.
Here are some tips to help you become successful:
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Did I mention prepare? Clarifying what your message is before you pick up the phone or knock on the door can help you feel more comfortable and at ease. Approach your call as you would a speech in front of an audience. Write a script that is both informative and engaging. Keep in mind your goal: getting the person to help you out, whether by giving you an appointment or purchasing your product or service. You want to give them a reason to say yes to you. Talk about value and benefits to them. Use open-ended questions to engage them; ask for their input, don’t make it all about you.
Here is a link to template to help you get started:
Part of your preparation will be handling the inevitable objections. If they don’t have time right then, offer to schedule a short introduction at their convenience. If they ask for materials to be sent, ask them some qualifying questions so you can target your message to their needs.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Did I mention practice? You will want to get comfortable with your pitch so that you sound sincere, personable and conversational, not like the telemarketers or worse, robocalls, we all receive. You want to rehearse, but not over rehearse. It may help to practice with a trusted friend who will provide feedback or record and play it back to make sure you sound the way you intend. Be prepared to go off script when the other person engages with questions or comments.
Don’t forget to use pauses or silence to allow the prospect to process your message. And heaven forbid, don’t speak so rapidly and without intonation that you sound like an automaton from a bad 60’s sci-fi show.
Research, Research, Research
Who will you be calling? Why are you calling them? When will you be calling? If your target market is contractors, don’t expect to reach them between their prime working hours of 7 AM to 4 PM. Or if you do reach them, they are more likely to be annoyed by the interruption. Doctors will not interrupt their office hours to see your latest medical device since that is their prime revenue making time. Research them and what their needs might be prior to the call and leverage this information to make a connection. Use Google, LinkedIn, their website, their blog, whatever is at your disposal these days to get a better handle on the prospect. Respect their time and don’t expect to monopolize the conversation.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Don’t expect success on your first contact. Research shows that 80% of sales happen after a minimum of 5 contacts, so be prepared to follow up and follow through. Use other forms of contact, including a follow up note or email or sharing an interesting article that may be of value to them. Be polite but not pushy, persistent but not obnoxious, personable but not pandering. Remember to smile so that your personality comes through in a warm, engaging manner. A tip I have heard is to stand when you make the calls so that you sound more energized and active.

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Leave a Voicemail or Not?
With the pervasive nature of technology, the gatekeeper in many instances has shifted from the traditional protective executive assistant to voicemail. Statistics show that when people encounter voicemail rather than a human, over 60% will not leave a message. Be in that less than 40% by leaving a well crafted, short (read not rambling or overly sharing) message with an introduction and contact information. Let them know you will be calling again in case they don’t return your call so that you can set that expectation.
For many of us, cold calling is a dreaded and daunting task that strikes fear in the hearts of even the most polished marketer. Unfortunately, it is a necessary evil. Hopefully, these tips will help you the next time you start dialing for dollars.