Although most of us would like to avoid them, we all need to make cold-calls from time to time. Perhaps we are prospecting for new clients, or looking for a new job or consulting assignment, or seeking help with a problem, or helping raise funds for a charitable foundation. Regardless of the reason for the call, few of us love calling a stranger.
We're usually afraid. Afraid of rejection, or afraid of embarrassment, or afraid of annoying the other person. Good preparation can help reduce the fear and make a cold call successful.
Here are some things that work for me - and for great sales folks - in cold calls.
- If at all possible, warm up the call. Avoid completely cold calls. Ask the people in your network if anyone can provide you with an introduction. A quick email from a mutual friend turns a potentially frigid call comfortably warm. Use LinkedIn and other sites on-line to find a connection if you can't find one within your close network. At the very least, send a brief but compelling letter so that you are not completely unknown when you call.
- Research the person and company you are calling. Look for questions you will ask, and for problems you might be able to solve.
- Plan the call. Jeffrey J. Fox (How to Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients
) suggests writing down your objective, the questions you plan to ask, the concerns you are likely to encounter, your key points of difference, benefits to the person you are calling, the dollar impact of those benefits, how you will handle objections, how you will close the call, and expected surprises. I like to make a bullet point list that covers these issues. I also find it useful to write out my script in case a gatekeeper answers, and my script for voice-mail, in case that's what I get.
- Practice, practice, practice.
- Dial it! This is the hardest part. With calls I am dreading, I find it works best to dial the call the moment I hit the office - no coffee, no bathroom runs, no water-cooler chat. This works for me for three reasons. One, it gives me very little time to worry. Second, I'm more likely to get an answer, before the other person gets fully engaged in the day. Third, when the call goes well - and it usually will - it gives me a great start to the day. Get your desk ready the night before - notes out, script out, phone number out. Get in and get dialing!
- Stand up and smile during the conversation. Ask questions and listen carefully. Paraphrase to be sure you understood what you heard. Work your plan.
- Follow up after the call. If you promised specific follow up, do it. If not, send a thank you e-mail or note.
- Take a minute to enjoy your success, then sort out what to do even better next time.