In 1897, newspapers reported the death of the great American writer Mark Twain. Twain responded by telling journalist Shelley Fisher Fishkin that “the report is greatly exaggerated.”
In recent years, a number of media commentators have reported the death of cold calling. The upsurge in social media and online lead generation, they argue, has created a business environment in which we no longer have to rely on the cold call to acquire customers.
I’m here to say the report of cold calling’s demise is also greatly exaggerated.
There’s still a big place for the cold call in business.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of social media marketing. It’s powerful and effective. It’s also a long-term, slow-burn strategy. It takes considerable time for your efforts to gain traction with your target audience.
Cold calling is equally powerful and effective – but the results are immediate. In business, decision-makers are often flooded with impersonal marketing messages, so a personalised phone call is the best way to secure an instant response and ensure your message is heard.
"Business people are also more loyal to people they have spoken with and have begun a relationship with."
Telemarketing is the quickest, most effective way you can create a professional business relationship. Successful telemarketing begins, more often than not, with a cold call, especially when you haven’t had the time or resources to develop a substantial list of qualified leads through social media or any other means.
Cold calling is still a vital component of selling, marketing and supporting the business bottom line. It will continue to be so in the foreseeable future.
How do you do cold calling well? Here are my tips.
Call early, call often
Successful cold calling is about confidence and momentum. Too many people hesitate, procrastinate and don’t even begin making their calls until the day is half over. By then, they’ve often magnified their fears and insecurities to the extent that they sound nervous and unsure of themselves.
This approach is unlikely to inspire trust in your prospects.
Much better to take the leap into your calls as early in the day as you can, and to make as many calls as you can as soon as you can.
This helps you blast through your fears. Even if your first calls are not successful, your nervous system quickly gets the message that rejection isn’t nearly as bad as you had feared. And the more you do, the better you get. Your chances of success are magnified.
Early morning is also the best and easiest time to reach decision-makers. Not only that, they’re likely to be in the most receptive frame of mind.
Sweet-talk the gatekeepers
If you don’t get straight through to the right decision-maker in a company, you may end up speaking with a receptionist, an executive assistant or a colleague. These are the decision-maker’s gatekeepers.
The gatekeeper can be your enemy or your ally. To an extent, it’s up to you. This is where your rapport-building skills come to the fore.
Try to be as friendly and pleasant as you can be. Learn their name, and use it. Treat them with respect – they may have a lot more information and influence than you imagine. Show appreciation for any help they can provide, even before they’ve offered assistance.
Every time you reach a decision-maker, your opening statement should be clear, friendly, relevant and compelling. Within the first 30 seconds, your prospect should know who you are, where you’re from, why you’ve called, and what relevance your call may have for them. You should also transition quickly and seamlessly into a two-way conversation.
"Hi John, this is William Lee from Speedy Couriers.
I’m calling because we are already picking up from and delivering to businesses around your area (state street/ suburb) and we would like to see if you’re open to looking at our current promotion that’s designed to save you time and money.
You see, right now we can courier your items with just one phone call or click of a mouse and, because of your location, we can give you a fantastic price."
Now I don’t know enough about your courier needs to know if this would make sense for you, so would it be okay for me to ask you a couple of quick questions?
Make a reasonable request at a reasonable time
A cold call is generally not when you try to close a sale.
Of course, this depends on your ultimate objective. If you’re selling $5 raffle tickets on behalf of a charity, asking the prospect to buy is a reasonable request.
If, however, you’re selling a product worth $10,000, your cold call should be designed to generate interest, develop a relationship and schedule an appointment to demonstrate your product’s functionality.
Each time you have a conversation during a cold call, your prospect is likely to raise an objection.
Where you can, be ready for typical objections such as “I don’t have time”, “I can’t afford it” and “I already have a supplier.”
With an unexpected objection, regardless of how you respond at the time, make a note of it at the end of the call. Then devise an effective response that you can use in future calls when the objection arises again.
A simple way to handle objections is the FEEL, FELT, FOUND strategy. For example:
"I know how you feel about the price, and in fact many of our clients initially felt it was expensive, but they’ve found that our payroll solution actually saves them 20% of their current administration time. So our solution actually ends up saving them and pays for itself within just 6 months."
On some days your cold calling will be extraordinarily effective and successful. On other days you’ll experience rejection after rejection. It’s difficult to predict.
The secret to effectiveness is to keep going, no matter what responses you’ve received on your previous calls. Set yourself a daily target of calls to make or prospects to speak with and keep going, every day, until you hit the target.
And remember: you just never know when you’re going to get a positive reaction.
"The more calls you make, and the more experience and practice you get, the more likely you are to reach the right person, at the right time, with the right offer, and achieve the right result. Cold calling is a numbers game – the more calls you make, the more opportunities you’ll uncover."