It’s that time again -- time for the dreaded round of cold calling that plagues sales professionals and new business owners alike. It might not be fun, but that investment of time can definitely be worth it if you find yourself with a handful of new, well-paying clients or customers. Some companies prefer to play the numbers game and to simply start cold calling everyone whose numbers they can get their hands on -- but you can do better than that.
Here are some tips for sparing yourself some time and also fostering successful collaborations through your cold calls.
1. Think positive
There’s no doubt that cold calling is a difficult thing to do. But if you adopt a defeatist attitude from the start, your prospects will be able to sense it. Don’t think about the number of people who are going to say no today. Instead, think about the one or two prospects that are going to turn into collaborators as a result of your work together. If you find your positive attitude faltering, take a short break, go for a short walk, or do another brief activity that helps to lift your spirits before getting back to it.
2. Work from a targeted list
You’ll have the most success with cold calling if you call people who might actually need your services or products. Developing a market strategy and working to define your target customers should have been part of your company’s business plan, but if you’re not privy to that information -- or you skipped that step when you developed your business plan -- you need to do it now. Define who your customers are and what their spending habits are. If you’re targeting a business, spend time researching the company and its needs, and make notes of what you find. Based on your research, you may be able to shorten your list of cold calls to a more targeted list of people who will truly be interested in a new collaboration.
3. Send an introduction letter first
Not all calls have to start out totally "cold." By sending a brief email or even a postcard ahead of time, your prospect may have at least heard of your name by the time you’re making the call. Even if they haven’t reviewed the brief value proposition that you’ve sent ahead of time, you’ll have inserted a small nugget of information -- such as your company’s tag line, for example -- into the person’s mind. That way, you can say that you’re "following up" when you call your prospect. Naturally, that’s going to mean you keep records of when you sent out that original pitch or note, so that you can follow up a day or two after the prospect receives it.
4. Get the prospect talking
Successful collaborations are those in which both parties benefit -- but since you’re the one making the case for your product or service, you’ll bear the burden of showing the prospect how you can help them. How do you do that? By asking lots of questions.
Don’t start out talking about yourself or what you have to offer, reminds sales training expert Brian Tracy. Instead, ask questions about the prospect’s needs, budget, market and other details that will help you make the best pitch possible. Tracy also recommends that you don’t make your pitch in the first call; using that time to develop a relationship instead.
5. Follow up with a targeted pitch
Throughout the initial call, you should be making notes about the details the prospect has shared. This is where putting off the pitch for later can really help. Based on the information the prospect gives you, make a pitch that factors in all of his needs. Show him that you care about him being successful, and that you’ve got his back. If you do that, you can go from a cold caller to a valuable collaborator in a short amount of time.
Cold calling can still be exhausting and discouraging, but with these tips, you’ll hopefully save yourself some time and get better at the process along the way.