Don’t Be Afraid, It’s Just Cold Calling

By all accounts, the economy is improving — slowly. That lack of speed means that you and your staff still may have more time on your hands than you would like.

Does it make sense to use some of it to “cold call”? That means making telephone calls or visits to “someone who is not known or not expecting contact, often in order to sell something,” as Answers.com puts it.

The following items can help you decide.

THEY CAN BE EFFECTIVE
“Cold calling may be the sales tactic that gets no respect,” Nicole Gull writes on Inc.com, “but it really can work — if you do it right.” When people are bombarded by pitches via e-mail, direct mail and even instant messaging, Ms. Gull adds, this can be “an extremely personal and effective way of making contact.”

KNOW YOUR OBJECTIVE The crucial first step in making cold calls is to understand your goal. People new to the process think it is about making a sale. It isn’t.

“The main reason for calling is to get an appointment,” says Eric Wolfram In other words, it’s about getting the chance to make the sale.

HOW TO DO IT If you are looking for some tips on cold calling, the number of results in an Internet search for “how to cold call” can be intimidating — you get 56.2 million hits.

Fortunately, Susan Ward writing on About.com does a good job on the basics of how to cold call effectively. Here are her suggestions:

1. Do research. Find out in advance as much as you can about the company or individual you’re going to cold call. That way you will be able to explain how your product or service fits their needs.

2. Prepare your opening statement, which should include not only your greeting, but a reference point — something about the prospect and the benefits of your product or service. Here’s an example that Ms. Ward provides: “Good afternoon, Ms. Marshall. This is Ken Brown with Green Works. I read in the local paper that you recently broke ground for a new office complex. We specialize in commercial landscape services that allow you to reduce in-house maintenance costs and comply with the city’s new environmental regulations. I’d like to ask a few questions to determine whether one of our programs might meet your needs.”

3. Ask for an appointment at a specific time. Say, “Would this Thursday at 10 a.m. be a good time to meet?” You want to get a definite commitment.

ADJUST AS NECESSARY “If the call went well, take a few moments to congratulate yourself,” writes Geoffrey James on BNet.com. But if it didn’t, “spend a few moments figuring out why. Decide what needed to be different in order for the next call to be successful. Then do it.”

REHEARSE, REHEARSE, REHEARSE The final word about this comes from WiseGeek.com. “Above all, practice, practice, practice. While cold calling may never be much fun for you, you can get better at it, and the more you practice, the more effective a sales tactic it will be.”

LAST CALL This joke, shortened a bit from the version that appeared in Friday Funnies, may bring back (unpleasant) memories from the Internet bubble.

A stockbroker was cold calling about a penny stock and found a taker. “At $1 a share, this one will really move,” said the broker.

“Buy me 1,000 shares,” said the client. The next day the stock was at $2. The client called the broker and said, “Buy me 5,000 more shares.” By the following day, the stock was at $4.

“Get me 10,000 more shares,” said the client. By Day 4, the stock was at $9. Looking to cash out, the client called the broker and said, “Sell all my shares!”

To which the broker responded: “To whom? You were the only one buying.”

BY: PAUL BROWN