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Common Questions and Answers
It’s a rare person who really enjoys cold calling. This is the sales equivalent of going to the dentist, except salespeople have to do it far more often than every six months. Many salespeople work hard to build referral networks so that they’ll have as little cold calling to do as possible, but few people can establish so many referral sources that they can cut out cold calling altogether. So since cold calling remains a fact of life, the trick is to make it as productive and pleasant as possible.
Organize Your Information
Before you pick up the phone (or leave the office to knock on doors) you should pull together everything you’ll need for the calls. If you’re cold calling over the phone, first collect your lead lists, research notes for your leads, scripts, offers or promotions, calendar for scheduling appointments, pens and notepaper for jotting down details, and your contact information to give to prospects. In-person cold calling requires sales materials (e.g. brochures), lots of business cards, a list of addresses and whatever details you’ve gathered ahead of time on those leads, and a cellphone to call the office in case a prospect comes up with a question you can’t answer.
Work With the Gatekeeper
It’s rare to reach a decision maker immediately. Often you’ll have to talk to someone else first and get permission from her before you can proceed. In B2B calls this gatekeeper might be a receptionist or the decision maker’s assistant; if you’re selling to consumers, it might be a family member. Either way, you can’t just bull past the gatekeeper, and trying to trick her into letting you speak with the decision maker will create big trust problems down the line. Just tell the gatekeeper who you are and what you’re selling, then ask nicely to speak with the appropriate decision maker. If she won’t connect you, ask for both the gatekeeper’s name and the decision maker’s name so that you’ll have an easier time proceeding onward on your next attempt.
Sell the Next Step
Once you reach the decision maker, your goal is not to sell him your product on the spot. It’s to sell him on the next step in your sales process. Typically, that means arranging a face-to-face appointment in which you will give him more information about the benefits what you have to sell. Since prospects are usually busy people who don’t want to waste time talking to unknown, random callers, the first few seconds of your interaction are crucial. Have an opening statement planned out that will both pique the prospect’s interest and leave him wanting more. Ideally, your opener should elicit the response, “Tell me more,” from your listener. Once you have his permission to proceed, explain what you are looking for (e.g. “I’d like to schedule a 20 minute appointment so that we can discuss your needs and see if [Product] will be a fit for you.”). Try to throw in something you can give him during the appointment that will benefit him whether or not he decides to buy, like a free assessment of his current setup. Be creative.
Close the Call
Closing is a crucial part of every sale, and a cold call is like a mini-sale: you’re not selling your product, but you are selling the appointment. So just like any sale, you’ve got to close the cold call by getting a commitment to proceed from your prospect. The best approach is an assumptive one, which means that you use language that assumes your listener is ready to proceed. For example, instead of saying “Would you like to set up an appointment?” you might say “What time next week would work best for you? I’m available either Monday afternoon or Thursday morning.”
As you cold call you’ll probably encounter some hostility from your leads. Some people might yell at you, use profane language, or just hang up on you as soon as they realize you’re a salesperson. Don’t let these reactions upset you. These people are not rejecting you. In fact, they may be hostile for reasons totally unrelated to you or your call: a fight with a spouse, a car that broke down this morning, health problems, or just a generalized bad mood. So don’t get upset or take these reactions personally. Instead, move on to the next call and remember that it may be one that leads to a huge sale!
About the author
My first sales position was a summer job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. I continued through a variety of sales jobs ranging from retail sales for a storage company to selling bank products for a Fortune 500 financial institution.
As a small business owner, I now focuses on selling for my own company, Tailored Content, a website content provider. I write on a wide range of topics but my primary focus is sales and how to sell effectively.