||Ringing up total strangers to chat
about your business and persuade them to set up a meeting has got to
rank first on the list of "Top 10 Things New Business Owners Find
Cold calling is
very hard to do. Simply picking up the phone takes courage. But
turning cold calls into actual sales calls -- that takes confidence
and thick skin as well as skill.
Prospects may react with hostility or
courtesy, but that won't change the odds. You face a firestorm of
rejection for every spark of interest you ignite. Even seasoned
salespeople shudder at the thought of cold calling. Plus, with many
marketers reluctant to take risks these days, the challenges of cold
calling are even greater, especially for start-up entrepreneurs.
Start your selling
If you can't take rejection, you shouldn't get
into business. As an infant entrepreneur with scant resources, low profile
and few (if any) client testimonials, you must practice what New York sales
trainer Stephan Schiffman call interruptive marketing to get your message
out and find customers.
`The economy has everyone at a four-way stop
sign. No one is moving,`` says Schiffman, author of the best-selling Cold
Calling Techniques (That Really Work). `So your No. 1 competition right now
is the status quo. Forget ROI (return on investment) or cost or colour or
anything else. Every buyer will ask: `Does buying this product make sense
for me?` You've got to give him that reason.
When done right, with smart research, scripts,
presentation and delivery, cold calls do land business -- even if money is
Here are seven expert tips to help your cold
calls yield some hot results.
1. Aggressively target your
The more you can define your markets, the greater your chances of
differentiating your business and gaining access to decision makers. `Too
many new business owners don't write a business plan or they just do one for
bankers, so it doesn't cover marketing very well,: says Jim Brown, executive
directory of the Russ Berrie Institute for Professional Sales at William
Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. Entrepreneurs often skip the upfront work
of narrowly identifying markets appropriate for their services. As a result,
sales efforts are all over the map. It's a waste of time,` says Brown. It's
also a waste of money. Every owner should have a plan. Until you know the
companies or consumer markets that are ripe for your wares, don't pick up
the phone. You need to distinguish yourself and your company from random
Invest in research.
At BenefitFocus.com, an application
service provider of employee benefits, the sales team is trained to suggest
solutions to client problems rather than to simply present online
demonstrations. `More often than not, sales associates are in competition
with `the way it has always been done,`` explains Bob Stevens, vice
president of sales and marketing for the Charleston, N.C.-based company.
``Our sales associates are encouraged to research a company they are going
to `cold call,` so they know something about the company's business and
their human resources needs.``
Craft a good script -- and use it.
You can't wing it. Despite the fact that
you're passionate about your baby business, communicating the benefits of
your product takes distinct skills. With limited time on the phone, a
written script lets you focus on points you want to make. In a few short
sentences, you must provide both a description of your services and
compelling reasons why the prospect should buy your product. You can then
move on to secondary benefits or news. "The script shouldn't be word for word," says New York sales trainer Wendy Weiss, author of Cold Calling for
Women: Opening Doors and Closing Sales. It's a way to prepare yourself for
the conversation. You decide ahead of time how you want to present yourself,
what reaction you want to get and how to ask for what you want,`` Be ready
to counter possible objections with specific explanations, statistics or
case studies. If an objection arises that you hadn't anticipated, react best
you can. Then write it down and prepare a detailed response before the next
call,`` Not everyone is born a salesperson. Luckily, there are things you
can do to improve those skills, like hiring a coach or reading a book,``
Warm up every cold call.
It helps if you don't start on thin ice.
Before calling, send the prospect a smart, useful introductory notice. `You
should send a short, personal letter saying something like, I'd like to
introduce myself. I've developed a new product and I specialize in your
industry, I'll be calling,`` sales professor Brown. `Wait two days after
they've gotten the letter, then call. `There are obviously many introductory
options, depending on your targets and products. `When possible, we precede
calls with a mail or e-mail campaign,` says John Rarrick, a marketing
consultant in Nyack, N.Y. `This allows us to use introductory phrases such
as ``Hi, I'm just following up on the brochure we sent you. Did you receive
it?`` White papers or special reports are useful for consulting services.
Introductory discounts may stand out for suppliers or retailers. Make sure
you enclose a note describing your services and indicating that you'll be
calling in a few days to gauge interest. Then, promptly follow up.
Be nice to the gatekeepers.
An executive screener's job is to guard the inner sanctum. Becoming
irritated, frustrated, or rude with such assistants will only hurt your
business. Think through strategies to get gatekeepers to open doors. Create
a friendly mood. Learn screeners` names and preferences. By making the
gatekeeper an ally, you'll win access more easily.
6. Practice, practice, practice.
Like most skills, the more cold calling you do the better you'll get.
Rehearse your pitch out loud with friends or associates. Some experts
suggest standing during calls in order to give your voice authority and
energy. Everyone always says smile while you talk, because that will be also
conveyed in your voice. Some trainers advise facing a mirror so you can see
when your energy or body language flags and you can adjust. All such
strategies attempt to substitute for the visual clues of conversation, which
some studies pinpoint as 80% of how people communicate. Whatever helps you
infuse warmth and confidence in the calls, try it. Weiss suggests dividing
all your leads into A, B, and C lists: ``Practice on the Cs before calling
7. Then customize your delivery.
But don't become too attached to any
particular script or language. Once you have a framework, you must be able
to fine-tune it to fit individual prospects. Every customer has specialized
needs and preferences. Edit your calling script to hit nerves for each new
audience. Make sure you're up to speed about your community and industry or
market news. You want to sound plugged-in and connected whenever you call
Cold calling is difficult and daunting work. But
it does pay off. To be successful at cold calling, Weiss says, `You need to
be targeted and focused and to call only on those people who are ready to