For most people, cold calling’s appeal falls between having a kidney stone and relaxing in a sleeping bag full of rattlesnakes. To be fair, cold calling for sales purposes is not for everyone. For the select few that enjoy the challenge of turning a first-time meeting into a mutually beneficial relationship for years to come, I offer you a few tips to increase the chances of turning a stranger into a friend and business partner.
1. Plan your day and your routine.
In my world, nothing derails the success train faster than a bad plan or, worse yet, no plan at all. We can’t all be R. Lee Ermey in a military movie, making up memorable dialogue as we go along as if what we were saying were part of the script. For the majority of us, we are more like Bill Belichick and Peyton Manning, planning and strategizing so as to be ready for all possible scenarios during the game/call. Keep to a routine and a course of action, and know why you are calling.
2. Do your homework.
Few people can pass a Calculus exam without at least some prior studying. Having a successful cold call is no different; know the person on the other end of the line before you call. Research, research, and research some more. Perform an internet search for the company and familiarize yourself with their history, their culture, and their products. Look up the client on LinkedIn and get to know them. Know their title, their work history, their educational history, and any other interesting tidbit that could keep the conversation cruising toward Salesville. Knowing a thing or two about a thing or two gives you confidence that is almost palatable over the phone.
3. Find a common denominator.
Don’t make the call exclusively about business. This is a conversation between two people getting to know each other, so bring up something you have discovered you both have in common. Or, if you aren’t aware of any commonalities, just ask. Topics such as food, movies, music, and sports are generally considered to be approachable for anyone, so take a crack at one or all of them. The point is to find some common ground that will keep the conversation going.
4. Get information.
If you don’t know, ask. If you do know, ask for elaboration. Asking questions is the best way to get the person on the other end of the line to open up. And when they open up, you can keep the conversation going. But be careful not to dominate the phone call; ask a question, then shut up and listen.
5. Take notes.
Unless your brain is a combination tape recorder and sponge, you don’t readily absorb everything you see/hear with one look/listen, so take notes. For the luddite-leaning folks out there, a pen and a paper should be by your side constantly during the day. For those of a techier bent, keep your computer/laptop/pad near you as much as possible. The more notes you take, the more information you have at your fingertips for future conversations. And there WILL be future conversations with the person on the other line, right?!!
Cold calling doesn’t have to be as pleasant as bear hugging a Saguaro cactus. With an adequate amount of preparation and practice, cold calling can be an enjoyable way to increase your sales and your bottom line. So what are you waiting for? Start dialing!
An empty pipe is merely a cylinder taking up space. Likewise, if your “pipe” of contacts is either empty or stagnant, you’re wasting real estate— and losing potential revenue streams.
The Alaska Pipeline would be an 800-mile eyesore if not for its function as a transport system for oil from Prudhoe Bay, AK to Valdez, AK. Why, then, do some people insist on making their contacts pipeline an eyesore that sits on their desks, collects dust, and does nothing to increase sales?
A good salesperson keeps their pipeline flowing with contacts, deals, referrals, network events, and any other useful items that will keep their business growing and flourishing. A good salesperson uses their pipeline as a spring board for increasing future monetizing opportunities as well as maintaining positive relationships with current prospects and contacts.
Whether you’ve decided to scrape the rust off or simply increase the flow, here are a few suggestions to keep your pipeline in optimal working order:
1) Identify prospects
Prospects are like mosquitoes in Texas after a heavy rain: They’re everywhere, and it’s hard to miss them. But instead of applying a healthy layer of Off! to keep them at bay by not initiating contact, you need to go outside with a huge sign pointing to where the best blood can be had. And by ‘outside’ I mean trade shows, networking events, chambers of commerce, alumni events— it’s harder to NOT find an event/location than to find a prospect.
2) Ask for referrals
After closing a deal, ask for leads. You’ve sealed the deal by, I assume, making a positive connection with a prospect who needed what you had to offer, so what better source to find others with wants similar to theirs with whom you can build a working relationship?
3) Generate leads
Utilize landing pages and QR codes; they are your new friends. They work 24/7/365 without food, water, or a paycheck. Put a call-to-action in EVERY piece of collateral. Why? Your business is to drive business to your business. How will your targets know where to travel if you don’t give them a map with directions?
So pipe up, not down, when it comes to your contacts/leads/referrals. In sales, there’s no such thing as a clogged pipe; rather, in our parallel world, an empty pipe is a sign of trouble to come.
Two things that are mandatory in sales: you must be a people person, and you must set goals. While not everyone is (or necessarily should be) a social butterfly, everyone, from a small child to an elder statesman, can (and should) set goals.
In sales, goals keep you reaching and striving to be better than you were yesterday, than you were 5 minutes ago even. They should challenge you to climb the next highest peak, to lift that extra weight. But don’t start out trekking up Everest on your first hike or trying to bench 405 pounds in your first workout; rather, set reasonable and realistic goals that require incremental growth, using your current ability as your baseline.
While most sales goals are number related, they shouldn’t be restricted to them. Take a more holistic approach to goal setting. Set goals for growth, both in terms of yourself and your business sense. Growth in one area helps in another area, which helps in the next area, which, well, you get the idea.
During several points in my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience as much as 52% annual growth in sales. In fact, I’ve recognized a consistent 38% growth for a little over 5 years now. How did I do this? Did I sit around waiting for a genie to magically appear and grant me 3 wishes? Did I step over everyone in my path and use them for my own gain? No, and hell no. What I DID do was set goals. I saw a prize, I went after it with all I had, and I earned it. This was between me and the endgame at the time. This wasn’t about twiddling my thumbs or making enemies. This was about challenging myself to do more than I could at that time. Was it easy? No, but like that great family man from the “Vacation” movie franchise, Clark W. Griswold, once said, “Nothing worthwhile is easy. We know that.”
Along the way, I made (and still make) daily affirmations to get my mind set on the destination for that day. Think of affirmations as a good cup of coffee that awakens the brain and the spirit after a good night’s rest. Your affirmations support larger goals (annual or life goals) by slowly chipping away at them with daily, weekly, and monthly goals.
Some daily affirmations that will assist you in achieving your goal(s) are:
- Take 15-20 minutes to read a sales blog
- Subscribe to 3-4 weekly sales training newsletters and READ them
- Set up a sales training Twitter feed and check it daily
While there is no one-size-fits-all formula for setting goals, your chances of achieving them are improved if you find some balance between the following factors:
- Your skill and abilities
- Your rank against your competition
- Your prospect challenges
- Your market ‘barometer’
- Your hunger factor
I tend to place the most importance on hunger. Without hunger, you’ll starve in the sales world— heck, life in general. You have to want it, you have to attack it, and you have to leave unsatiated and ready for the next challenge. (Don’t confuse being ‘hungry’ with an excuse to be greedy. Unlike what Gordon Gekko believes, greed is NOT good; greed will backfire on you in the end.)
What are you waiting for? Tomorrow is too late. Set your goals NOW. Start advancing toward them NOW. And with every step that brings you closer to your goal, remind yourself of where you are going and why you are on your way. Don’t look back, and don’t slow down.