Out In The Cold
Cold calls are almost never pleasant. While they can be nerve-wracking for you they can be irritating (at best) for those you hope to turn into clients. We’re all busy – never more than at work it seems – and have enough to do without fielding phone calls that are useless to us.
The seemingly constant calls we get for mobile services and printer cartridges during dinner have given the cold call a worse reputation than ever, but it can still be beneficial if done right.
Perhaps the most important step happens before you even pick the phone up; targeting. The reason those telemarketing calls are so irritating (but work for their purveyors) is because of their wide-net approach – they barely need one out of every hundred targets to sign up to make them profitable.
If you do the same, you’ll waste lot of time and annoy a lot of people. Research your potential clients and the services of yours they might need. Only then is it time to pick up the phone.
You know your business, your services and even your name intimately. Your mark will know none of that, and if they’re busy and not in the mood for a sales call they’ll lose almost everything short of a few keywords that you say as soon as it reaches their ears (so use the right ones).
So don’t overload them. Introduce yourself and where you’re from and describe the service you’re offering succinctly. By the time you finish a five second pitch there’s still every chance they’ll have forgotten your name.
Then, the ball’s in their court. A lot of advice about cold calling says you should ‘own’ the conversation and the message, but it’s more important to just be aware of the track you want the conversation to go on and be prepared to steer it.
So after your initial pitch, let the mark respond. They might say ‘no’ outright, which makes steaming ahead with the rest of the information a terrible idea. Just ask if you can try them some time down the track (more below) and let it go.
If they respond and continue the conversation, great. Your job now is twofold. First, they might be interested but not very forthcoming, leaving you to drive the ‘narrative’ of the phone call. Be ready to do it by giving them cues, asking questions and knowing the answers to any they might ask you.
Stronger personalities might tell you exactly what they want you to talk about, so be ready for that too – and you’ll have the added challenge of making sure you work in everything you need to get across despite not being in the proverbial driver’s seat.
Second, keep a good sense of balance when it’s your turn to speak. Speak clearly and with a smile in your voice, but don’t be too familiar if it’s someone you haven’t dealt with before. Be concise and time conscious but relax so you don’t rush. Be faultlessly polite even if they’re not – tell them you won’t keep them long, thank them for their time, etc.
You should also look for balance in the content of your pitch. Have a script (or points to cover) by all means, but don’t sound too scripted. Respond to the speaker the way you would in everyday life – they might want to talk about the football or they might be no-nonsense. Your innate sense of how to read people will tell you how to behave.
We all know what it’s like to have to say no five times before those telemarketers finally get the hint (unless you’re brave or annoyed enough to just hang up on them). Nobody likes a pushy salesperson. If they say no, they mean it. Don’t continue. Tell them you appreciate their time but use the opportunity to ask if you can get in touch down the track in case the situation changes.
If they get the sense you’re not going to make their life hell and call every week, they might be quite open to talking some other time, and many people will even tell you when you should try again. If they don’t, note the best time to approach them again in your records (more below) based on the usual life cycle of your service and when they might be in the market for it again.
And we can’t overstate this enough – diarise everything. You should know at a glance the companies you’ve tried, who you spoke to, when you spoke and the best time to try again.
There’s a strong school of thought that sending your initial approach by email and then following up with a phone call is better because it’s even less intrusive, but if you ask us the jury’s still out on that (especially due to Spam laws). Email can be too easily ignored and often you need to stand in front of someone (figuratively) to get their attention.
Plenty of customers during a cold sales call will just tell you to email them the information, and if you do so, nobody will have a problem with you calling at a later stage to make sure they go it and see what they thought. Be prepared to send the same email more than once and if need be and ‘working’ the client through several phone calls and emails over time.
So take a deep breath and good luck!