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The Dos and Donts of Cold Calling

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Having your fingernails removed!

Many salespeople would rather have their fingernails removed slowly than make a cold call. And it's no wonder; with the abundant number of resistance-inducing techniques out there, salespeople set themselves up for failure. However, New Business Development is a major key to a company's long term survival. Ask yourself, what would happen if your number one client stopped buying from you today! Well, I think we all know the answer!

Here are some common sense "do's and don'ts" to help you set more quality appointments on cold calls:

1. Learn about your prospective client first

The more you know about your prospect before placing a cold call and speaking with them, the better your chances of an appointment. It will help you prepare a more customised opening and better questions, plus it impresses the prospect.

Conversely, if you have to ask, "Mmm, what does your business do?" you could be labeled as a time-waster. Your main objective with the initial call is to get information on the company and get a name of the person who makes the decisions.

Even before you make that initial call, do some research on the internet - if the company has a website (not many these days do not), have a look and see what they do.

You can work with the screener or anyone who answers the phone, or you could actively speak to a department where you know you will get relative information that can be turned into a client's need.

"I hope you can help me. First, I'm looking for the name of the person there who deals with the training requirements of your company. (After getting the name, continue.) Thank you. So I'm better prepared when I speak with them, there's probably some information you can help me with, first."

You could get almost all of your qualifying questions answered by people other than your decision-maker on your cold calls.

2. Don't send information before the cold call

Busy decision-makers toss unsolicited, bulging packages of literature with form letters (regardless of how many times your word processor mail merged their names into the body). Starting out a cold call with, "I sent you a letter, did you get it?" rarely elicits a response like, "Oh, yes I did. You're that guy. I want to meet with you!"

3. Don't believe cold calling is just a "numbers" game

The lottery is a numbers game. Cold calling for appointments is a quality game. Approach each with an attitude of accomplishment and desire. Don't burn through the list of prospects as fast as you can with the expectancy that your number will be drawn eventually.

4. Don't ask for a decision in the opening of a cold call

Never open the call by including the silly phrase, ". . . and I would like to drop by Tuesday at 2:00, or would 4:00 be better?" People are resistant when faced with decisions before they see any value. Also avoid the equally inane question, "If I could show you a way to ___ , you would, wouldn't you?" No one likes to be "techniqued." The only way they'll consider investing time with you is if they see some value in doing so.

5. Do have an interest-creating opening on your cold call

Here's one you might be able to adapt:

"Ms. Bigg, I'm ____ with ____. My company specialises in (fill in with the ultimate result customers want and get from you, i.e., 'helping organisations improve the efficiency of their company by developing the skills of their workforce'). Depending on what you're doing now, and your objectives, this might be something worth taking a look at. (Now you ask permission to continue the call) - I'd like to ask a few questions to see if you'd like more information."

6. Do ask questions on the cold call

Some people suggest that you should go for the appointment on a cold call quickly and never divulge information. No! Those are likely people who are insecure with their (in)abilities to communicate by phone. If someone doesn't have potential, I want to find that out now from my office rather than wasting time setting up a meeting to learn the same thing. And if the prospect is qualified and has interest, I can pique their curiosity a bit by phone and pre-sell them on what we'll speak about when I arrive. For example:

"Pat, based on what you told me, it looks like you could show quite a significant labor savings with a system like ours. The best thing to do would be for us to get together so I can ask a few more questions about your operation and show you some of our options to see if we have a fit. How about next week?"

Then narrow down a convenient time for both of you.

7. Do make a confirmation call after the cold call

Some might suggest this gives them a chance to cancel. That's right. And if they're of this mindset, they either wouldn't be there when you did arrive, or they wouldn't give you the time of day. A phone call gives you a chance to address either situation and save time.

8. Do keep cold calling

And don't let a "no" get you down. The last call has nothing to do with the next unless you let negative feelings strangle your attitude. Talking to people generates income, but avoiding the phone, stuffing envelopes and walking around do not. Set a secondary objective, one you can accomplish on every call, such as simply qualifying someone as a prospect or not, so you can have a success of sorts on every call.

Kevin is co-founder of Blue Eskimo Solutions and has had a successful track record in business management, sales and marketing for over twenty years. Kevin spent ten years with Bass plc where he held various senior positions within operations and general management. For the last ten years Kevin has enjoyed a very successful career working in the IT training industry with companies such as Informatics Group, as business development director, and at QA Training where he served first as e-learning director then sales and marketing director helping the company achieve some ?45M revenue per annum. Before setting up Blue Eskimo, Kevin was also the managing director of Vizual Learning plc a subsidiary company of OneClickHR plc delivering HR software solutions.

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