Even business owners who are experienced in sales may shiver when they hear the words “cold calling.” While contacting potential customers you have never met may feel intimidating, this sales technique can be an effective way to get new business, especially if calls are targeted to people with a likely interest in your products or services.
The most difficult aspect of cold calling is handling rejection. People who would not dream of being rude to someone in person may think nothing of slamming down the phone on a cold caller. Cold calls can result in frequent and even hostile rejection, making your efforts feel futile. But by applying a few basic techniques, you can reduce, if not eliminate, outright rejection and improve your chances of selling.
Depending on your market, it may be possible to identify the private individuals or business contacts most likely to be interested in what you have to sell. Most importantly, knowing the name and position of your contact—and pronouncing the name correctly—can improve your chances of engaging the person in conversation.
If you are calling businesses, research each firm online or through professional organizations before dialing. The company representative who takes the call is likely to respond better to an approach that is specifically tailored to the needs and interests of the firm. If you know the name of your contact, you could send an introductory email, a letter, or a small promotional item before making the call.
Even without a list of prospects, you can target potential customers for your products or services based on income levels or other easily obtainable demographic information. To narrow your target audience, you may want to consider purchasing information from market research firms.
Before making your calls, practice with a co-worker or friend. Since the most important part of the call occurs in the first few seconds, formulate some fresh opening sentences that are likely to grab the attention of your contact. An opening statement for a cold call generally includes a friendly greeting, a mention of your name and your company, a brief description of the reason for your call that includes a customer benefit, and a question or statement designed to engage your contact in a dialogue. You may, however, want to experiment with varying opening statements to find the most effective approach.
Although it may be helpful to have a basic script of the points you wish to make, avoid sounding like you are reading text off a page. Be sure to prepare your responses to potential questions or objections. Some contacts may be more interested in chatting than in making a purchase. Allow for some small talk, while redirecting the focus of the call to the main points. Set a rough time limit for each call, arranging appointments to meet with serious-minded prospects with an interest. If the caller seems uncertain and not yet willing to meet with you, agree to call back at another time.
The best time of day to make cold calls is usually in the morning, when both callers are fresh and less likely to be busy. If you must make your calls in the evening, avoid the usual dinner hours or calling after 7 p.m. Try smiling while making the calls, as this will naturally give you a friendly and open tone of voice. Maintain records of your calls, including a note of the outcome.
Some entrepreneurs who have tried cold calling in the past refuse to try again because of the high frustration levels. But as in learning any skill, practice can make you a better cold caller. Trial and error can help you discover what approaches work best for you. If you are reluctant, consider hiring a professional agency to make cold calls on your behalf. Listening in can be instructive and may give you the confidence to start making calls yourself. Above all, maintain a positive attitude and a belief in your ability to meet the needs of the person on the other end of the line.