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!