Two words send shivers down entrepreneurs’ spines and send them running for cover. “Cold calling.”
I have interviewed prospective employees who indicate that the sky is the limit in regards to their ability and what they can bring to a position. But mention cold calling–and you’ll feel the breeze as they run out the door, never to be seen again. All right, I’m exaggerating a bit, but typically it’s the least favorite duty of many entrepreneurs –including me. At least, it used to be.
Cold calling is approaching prospective clients, typically by telephone. It’s termed a “cold” call because the person receiving the call is not expecting it or hasn’t specifically asked to be contacted by a salesperson.
It’s something you’ll have to do at some point as you start your business and continue to grow. It’s not as scary as it sounds. Here are some cold-calling tips that have worked quite well for me:
1. Have a script ready. Prepare a script of what you want to say to the prospective client.
When I prepare my script, I make a list of the top three points that are vital to get across to the client about my product or service. Below my three main points, I add some additional talking points that are important as well.
Take the time to review your list and fine-tune it. Don’t write a 500-page novel. Provided with the opportunity to speak with a potential client, you need to keep it short while explaining what makes your product or service stand out from the rest. You only get one chance to make a first impression; make sure it’s a good one.
One call that stands out from all the calls I have made was when the vice president of marketing picked up his phone and I introduced myself. He then said, “You have two minutes to tell me what your call is about and why I should do business with you.” I did it in two minutes with no problem, and he was interested. I liked his take: Tell me the facts, and I will tell you if I’m interested.
2. Smile. The tone of your voice changes when you smile. Smiling when you are speaking on the phone will make you sound pleasant and warm to your potential client.
3. Speak slowly. Take your time when you speak. This is very important. Don’t speak too rapidly or too slowly, and speak at a steady pace.
Don’t try to get everything in as quickly as you can before your prospect has a chance to speak. When I first started cold calling, that’s exactly what I did. I was so excited to be talking to the president of the company that when he answered the phone, off I went. It sounded like I had had way too much coffee. When I paused, I was actually out of breath.
4. Be polite. Phone etiquette seems to be a thing of the past in this fast-paced world we live in. I can’t tell you how many times I have received compliments and been thanked for a pleasant phone call. When potential clients tell me they are not interested, I thank them for their time and the opportunity to speak with them, and I ask them to keep us in mind for the future should the need arise.
I’m surprised by how many cold callers aren’t polite. One gentleman not only thanked me for the call after he had declined our service, but he also asked me to send over my materials anyway. He was impressed with the way I had handled his rejection.
My prospect told me he had received a call from a salesman a few weeks earlier regarding the same type of opportunity I was offering. When he declined, the salesman became very rude and went on to inform this person that he needed this, that it was a perfect fit with the marketing the company was currently doing and that he was making a big mistake. Based on what I hear from my clients, this is not uncommon. This underscores the importance of accepting rejection gracefully and politely.
Remember that cold calling is not something to be scared of. The more you do it, the more natural it will feel, and the more confidence you’ll build with each call.