Cold calling even the name is enough to strike fear into the heart of many a small business owner! What image comes into your mind? Sitting in a lonely damp office, surrounded by paper, two-day old coffee cups and a stack of outstanding work. In other words, something not very nice!
Why do we hate cold calling so much? Why does the very thought of it send shivers down some people’s spine? Firstly, what were we taught at school and by our parents? Don’t talk to strangers! It’s no wonder when you pick up the phone to call and speak to someone you have never met it causes stress.
What about every small business owner’s fear – the fear of rejection. That’s enough to find any reason not to pick up the phone. Here’s another one – lack of self-confidence and the nagging doubt that you won’t live up to the expectations you put in your prospect’s mind.
I think that’s enough! Perhaps all the excellent reasons why you may find it hard to pick up the phone but to be successful in business, it’s a necessary evil. Yes, you can convince yourself that you are too busy servicing your existing customers and looking after their every need, but unless you get out and bring in new business, one day you may find yourself with a weak and sold-out customer base.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can do it. All it needs is careful planning and a structured approach. If you can see the error of your way and understand the impact this lack of action is having on your business, I’ll show you how you can become a successful cold caller. You have got it made if you follow this structure:
Identify, Preparation, Just Do It! and Review.
Let’s consider each of these steps in turn.
The first step is to identify who you are going to cold call. How do you go about building up a list? Here are some ideas:
- Ask your customers who they think you should be talking to; who could benefit from your product? Referrals from happy clients can be very powerful when speaking to your prospective customers. It tells them that if their colleague was pleased to pass on their name, then that’s a good recommendation
- Go through your old database and identify companies that no longer deal with you. Unless you messed up the first time around, they might appreciate a call
- Read all your local newspapers and magazines. Is there a story which would be a great excuse to call them up? “I read about your award in the newspaper and …”
- Use networking events and any other social gatherings to make new contacts
- E-mail everyone in your mailing list and tell them that you are on the lookout for new leads!
- Train your brain to spot new opportunities
It doesn’t matter how outlandish your first draft list seems, stick the name down and get thinking about how to reach others.
The first task in the preparation stage is to tidy it up. Take another look at it and pick the top 5 which are likely to succeed. Why do this? Because to be motivated to carry on with something, there is nothing like success. Failure will not spur you on, but success will. So, go for the ones which are likely to yield positive results. With practice, you will be able to tackle the more challenging ones later!
Next, set yourself an objective. What do you want to achieve out of your phone call? An appointment, an agreement to send a sample, a sale? Being realistic, the best you can hope for is an appointment. Be clear on what your aim is and focus on the outcome during the rest of your preparation.
The most crucial part of the preparation stage is your research. Find out whatever you can about both the company and person you are going to call. What exactly do they sell? Who are they buying from now? How many employees do they have? Do you know of any problems which you could resolve? What is the perception in the marketplace? What can you learn from their website?
All this information will help you in the next part of your preparation – your opening statement and subsequent words. Actors don’t go out on the stage without thoroughly learning and rehearsal and neither should you. Write out your opening statement, which says who you are, which company you are with and what you do. Keep it short, focused and punchy. Remember that many businesses receive cold calls all the time, so what is the benefit in the person spending some time with you? Think of a clear benefit statement to include in your remarks.
As in any selling situation (which a cold call is after all), you are very likely to be met with objections – can’t see you, too busy with a rush order, its Audit time, too many staff on holiday, etc. Try and think of every objection and write down what your response will be. Being this prepared will keep you ahead of the game.
Bearing in mind your end objective, how are you going to go in for the kill? What are you going to say to get that appointment?
Going through all this preparation will give you a much-needed confidence boost, ready for the next step.
Just Do It!
If you have identified some names, set aside a whole morning or afternoon to make your calls, it’s easy to say to yourself that you will do one call today and another tomorrow. Athletes know that you perform better when you are warmed up, so doing some calls in a row means you will get better each time – remember what I said earlier about success breeding success. Put the time in your diary and stick to it!
When should you call? Some people will say it’s better to avoid Mondays and Fridays. On Mondays, people are recovering from the weekend; they are too busy planning their week or clearing up the mess from the weekend! On Friday’s people are winding down and are recovering from a hectic week.
But think about it – if people are planning their week, wouldn’t Monday be a great time to call? If people are winding down on Friday, they may be in a good mood with the weekend approaching, so more willing to talk and agree on an appointment. The bottom line is that there probably is not an ideal time – just do it!
Now you are ready to go. Before picking up the phone, relax your body and muscles, take some deep breaths and ‘see’ yourself achieving your objective. What does it feel like to have reached your goal? What are you doing to celebrate all those appointments you have got? See yourself as a success!
Now you are ready to go. Pick up the phone, ask for the person you want to speak to and in a confident, crisp and clear voice, start with your opening statement. Be warm and friendly. Don’t switch off into your own ‘self-talk,’ really listen to what the other person is saying; listen out for those specific objections. When they come, answer straight back with your prepared answers. The standard complaint is that they are too busy to talk now. If so, agree a time when you can call again as this will avoid telephone tag, where you keep missing each other. In the end, you will become a nuisance, and you want to avoid this at all costs.
At the end of the call, summarize what was agreed so you are all clear on what will happen next. You don’t want any potential costly misunderstandings.
You will be glad to know that the final step is a review of what took place! After you have put the phone down, sit back and write up your notes, put the agreed meeting time in your diary. Think about what went well; what could have gone better; how you could have approached things differently. Do you think you sounded confident? Did you anticipate all the objections? Did you successfully handle the ones which were unexpected? Did you meet your planned objective? If so, then celebrate!
Armed with all this new information, pick up the phone and dial the next person on the list.
You may feel cold calling is a bit of a chore. But if you follow these steps, then you will very quickly find yourself with a growing customer base. That’s not a bad problem to have!