It’s right up there with the fear of death, the IRS and public speaking: making cold calls. For most entrepreneurs – and even for a lot of sales pros – the last thing they want to do is telephone, e-mail or drop in on a potential customer who has no idea whatsoever they’re about to be pitched.
But cold calling can be a great way to generate business, and in the case of your business, maybe even the best way. It is possible to be good at it through certain cold calling techniques, which can take a lot of the sting away from having to cold call.
Perform due diligence
Before you ever pick up the phone or Mapquest that prospect’s address, it’s crucial that you know as much as possible about your target. At a minimum, that means you’ve got to understand their individual role in the company and just why the business is so interesting to you. There’s nothing worse than wasting someone’s time with a cold call (it doesn’t do you any good, either), and nothing better than impressing a prospect with your knowledge of their business strategy and needs.
Grease the skids
It can’t hurt to send a prospect an e-mail, or deliberately leave them an off-hours voicemail just to let them know that you’re going to be calling. In some strange way, this little ‘wedge message’ can create a low-grade sense of obligation in your target to actually take your call!
There’s no reason to beat around the bush about what the purpose of your call is: you want to this person’s business! It’s OK to be blunt about that, and most times, prospects will appreciate the honesty.
Namedrop, and then do it again
As quickly as possible, veer from your standard pitch into touch points that you know this particular prospect can relate to. That could mean relating your product or service directly and specifically to one of his. Or you can mention references and customer testimonials. By all means, namedrop – not in a distasteful way, but as tactfully as you can. Mentioning someone with whom your prospect has at least a professional acquaintance can be golden.
Plant a hook
Todd Eberhardt, CEO of Comm-works, a Minneapolis-based telecom-services firm, tells his sales reps to ask prospects to name their biggest, most intractable problem – the one thing that seems to defy solution. And then in subsequent calls, Comm-works reps ask about the problem and offer potential solutions until they come up with one that works. The point is to insert something into your cold call that provides a reason – alright, an excuse – for you to call again, like a second-date opportunity! Or maybe you send follow-up information immediately after the call; candy and flowers are optional.
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As in the rest of life, sometimes it’s more important to be liked than to be understood - same with cold calls. Whatever you do, trust the instincts that you’ve built in relating to people for a few dozen years on this earth and make them like you. So ditch the huckster shtick. And remember that nothing succeeds in breaking the ice like humor. A little smile can divert people from thinking of you in strictly business terms to a thinking, “This is a nice enough person; maybe I can spend a minute with them.”
Our Bottom Line
Next time a customer says to you, “Wow, I can’t thank you enough.” Tell them, “Actually, yes you can.” They can thank you enough by putting their gratitude in writing. Get customer testimonials from existing clients so you can acquire new ones. Reference accounts speak volumes, so let them speak for you.