By: Marshall W. Northcott
Cold calling has to be the one activity in most sales professions that is the least desirable. I think that some people would subject themselves to electric shock therapy rather than have to make cold calls. A woman in one of my workshops stated she would rather die than have to make cold calls. I’ve heard the theory that as a business development activity, cold calling is slowly phasing out of existence. Some would argue that the return on time invested is very poor compared to other business generating activities but I for one have found cold calling to be an extremely powerful method for uncovering new opportunities.
There is some confusion among sales people, especially rookies as to what exactly cold calling is. My definition would be as follows; a face to face or over the phone activity where by the sales representative initiates contact with someone with whom there is no previous existing business relationship.
Cold calling is one of many prospecting activities available to sales professionals. In some industries there is no need for cold calling because of the nature of the business. If you are constantly calling on the same clients or the market is mature and there are no new potential accounts then obviously cold calling is not necessary. In other instances, I’ve encountered people who have mastered other methods like referral based selling to the extent that they are able to avoid cold calling. Then, there are those who act like cold calling is beneath them. More than once I’ve meet someone who felt this way about making cold calls only to discover that at some point afterwards they had closed their business or quit their sales profession because it wasn’t giving them the returns they expected. If you are too dignified to make cold calls you may want to consider the alternative—poverty!
If however you work in an industry where there is untapped market potential, you are looking for opportunities to lure business away from competition or there are prospects that exist but you must seek them out because you, your product or your service is unknown, then cold calling may be an excellent way to increase your chances for success. Cold calling can be enjoyable if you are determined to make it fun.
To set yourself up for maximum results while cold calling, there are several important points to remember. Whether over the phone or in person, know what you intend to say. Have something committed to memory but be flexible so that when you are thrown a curve ball it doesn’t throw you off track. It may take you many attempts before you produce consistent results. Remain professional but at the same time relax, don’t be mechanical or overly rigid. Create a standard way of introducing yourself, your company and the product or service that you represent. Write down and simplify a quick and easy way of describing what you do so that when you explain it to the person your speaking with it will be easy for them to determine who to direct you towards. We call this your 30 second commercial or your elevator speech. In case you were wondering, no, they often don’t listen, it’s just a fact of life so get over it!
Understand that it’s nothing personal when people screen your calls, they are just doing their job! It’s your job to win them over, get them on your side so that you can speak to the person who makes the decisions. Don’t waste your time selling to the receptionist, it’s embarrassing and annoying! Once you have the attention of the person you need to speak with it better be good! The number one concern of most people you will connect with is, “Is this person going to waste my time?” Well don’t! Know what you intend to say and say it. Clearly and concisely! I recommend documenting some statements that are attention grabbers so that the decision maker will agree to an appointment. These statements are referred to as; General Benefit Statements and they should be tailored to specific needs that your prospect is likely to have based on your understanding of their business or industry. Give yourself some time to see results, if your industry has a 60 to 90 day sales cycle then that is how long it will take for your efforts to pay off, so be patient and give it time! If you can get past this hurdle there isn’t much else that will slow you down on the road to success in your sales profession.
“Fear carries a man farther than courage but not in the same direction.”