How To Make Cold Calling Work For You
There are many different and often complicated and expensive methods by which to actually find your customers. If you are selling your own services or products the most direct method of getting new customers is the age-old staple of cold calling. This is especially true of when we are looking for employment or contracts and where the person you are making contact with has not heard of you, your services or what is actually on offer.
So what exactly do we mean by this? Cold calling typically refers to the first telephone call made to a prospective customer. More unusually these days, cold calling can also refer to calling face-to-face for the first time without an appointment at commercial premises or households. Cold calling is also known as canvassing, telephone canvassing, prospecting, telephone prospecting, and more traditionally in the case of consumer door-to-door selling as ‘door-knocking’.
Good cold calling – performed properly and not as merely an indiscriminate ‘numbers game’ – is a fundamental and highly transferable capability, whose basic principles are found in the behaviours and techniques of all great entrepreneurs and leaders. What we drill down to in all of this is the art of approaching someone, professionally, openly and meaningfully, with a sensible proposition.
All great entrepreneurs and leaders possess this ability or they would not have become successful, drawing upon strong skills of initiative and action.
Determined and people with a strong focus see cold calling as a good means by which to both generate sales but also to get instant feedback on the offer and how the potential customer sees the pitch. Handing out leaflets will never give you this information. On the other hand if viewed negatively or passively, cold calling is merely a numbers game, where the sales person’s calling (sometimes called ‘canvassing’ in this situation) is no different to a junk-mail leaflet. Somebody might respond – maybe one in twenty, maybe one in a hundred.
What are the keys to success?
Important basic cold calling techniques are:
Be prepared – really know the product or service that you are selling. Know it inside-out and back-to-front. No excuses! Do not even try to bluff this as you will only get one chance to impress. Be sure that what you represents fits into the market within which you are selling (this may sound obvious but many sales people ignore this and then start “pedalling” something irrelevant to the buyer). Painful to watch, painful for all concerned.
The Introduction – be very clear about who you are and why you have a very persuasive reason for making contact in the first place. Use key phrases explaining and positioning yourself and your purpose. Keep this concise and strategic – not detailed and specific.
Questioning – think about exactly what you want to ask and the sorts of responses you are looking for. This must be done in advance and with some real care so that you can steer the conversation in the way you want to making sure that you are controlling the initial stages of the meeting. Do not cajole or push with the questioning – this will only antagonise the prospective buyer.
Objectivity –be fair and neutral – objectivity is the mark of an advisor. You need to come across as an Advisor, someone who can be relied upon and definitely not a sales machine as the more you ‘push’ your own solutions and services, and the more you slag off the competition the more you will damage your chances. Consumers want and need advice on making choices so the sales message has to be subtle and measured. Remember the buyer wants to be comfortable in that they have made an informed decision and not that they have been “bounced” into buying an item they did not want.
Listen – practice active listening skills by adapting and interpreting your message to what is said back to you. The very worst thing that you can do is to be a biased and one-sided sales machine – what you should aim for is providing helpful advice to let the buyer make their minds up on a purchase.
Inform – use your position as an expert in that particular field. If you have not fully prepared and sorted out the correct level of knowledge that you should have about the product you will be found out very quickly. This is all about education and giving the customer the information that they need to decide; it is not a race and may take some time. Remember that you are there to be a helper and a guide – it is not a pure selling exercise!
Involve – this is never meant to be a one-way street and get the buyer to be an active participant. At this stage you need to be the link between your organisation’s systems and those of the buyer – you and you alone will be the glue in the process.
Maintain contact – make sure that you maintain full notes and keep clear records of the cold call at all stages. Also take notes or keep yourself informed as the situation develops, whether the development of the opportunity remains your responsibility or not. Do not forget that you have a responsibility for all relationships that you begin as customers, especially personal contacts who put great faith in you at the beginning of the relationship, will expect and appreciate your staying in touch – if only as a last resort in the event of unresolved problems.
So, grasp the nettle and prepare carefully – cold calling can be an excellent way of generating business and then converting the customer into a serial repeat customer.
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