Cold calling is dead…long live the telephone!

Mention the words “cold call” and you’re quite likely to be met by fear, derision, annoyance or some similar negative thought. Tighter regulations, TPS, voicemail and of course well-trained gatekeepers are focused on making it really hard work to succeed with this sales tactic. So should we bother? Can the telephone still hold its own as an effective low cost way of generating business?


Well firstly let’s agree where the telephone most definitely belongs in the sales process. It’s a low cost and easy way of staying in touch with customers and prospects, ensuring you’re getting the best R.O.I from your marketing and sales activities.


1. You can reactivate LAPSED customers: check your database and get back in touch with people who haven’t bought from you in a while. Find out why and what you can do to rekindle the fire.


2. Call LAPSED prospects: people who enquired previously but never bought - maybe now the timing’s right. Perhaps they never actually bought at all or maybe they’re unhappy with their choice – find out.


3. Increase talk time with CUSTOMERS, don’t over-rely on email: if you haven’t spoken recently to your customers and explored their needs, you might be losing out.


4. Increase Top-of-the-Mind Marketing with Prospects via the telephone: potential customers often need multiple and varied contact before deciding on you. Stay fresh in their mind so that when they need your product or service they think of you. You may be filed away… forever!


Now for the harder bit, cold calling. Does it deserve to be so unpopular?


Well, from a buyer’s standpoint, calls are often intrusive, badly timed, unwanted, rude, arrogant, scripted, false and quite often the seller is clueless. As a seller, particularly if sales is not your area of expertise, this is often the scariest part of the sales process. Yet most of us in business recognise the need to get proactive and engage with new prospects, but can this be done effectively via the telephone?


As someone who has both bought from cold callers and initiated powerful relationships with great clients via cold calls, I know cold calling works! Successful cold calling is partly down to luck (right person, right product, right time) but fully down to skill, planning, attitude and motivation. The following are some tips to consider to increase your chances of success:


1. Turn cold calls into warm ones by making best use of referrals from clients, associates, networking. Start off by referring to someone the buyer knows who has suggested you call; this will help to remove barriers on both sides.


2. Research the business and buyer before you make the call. This helps to build a mental picture of who you are calling so that it feels less cold and allows you to fine tune your approach to the specifics of the individual. They feel less of a number, it feels less cold.


3. Mind over matter – believe in what you are doing or forget it. If you feel no-one will want to talk to you and that you’re probably wasting your time calling, then you are! Think positive. Recognise the value of your product and service and commit to spreading the word. If you don’t believe in you, why should the buyer.


4. Forget “selling”. Don’t build the call around needing to sell, build the call around wanting to understand the customer and establish rapport. Aim at finding out how you can help them. How do they currently do what you’re planning to help them with and could this be done more effectively (with you). Develop your questioning technique, rather than your “dumping technique”.


5. Listen carefully: If you do the above, you need to listen and understand what the customer is saying and not saying. Pick up on everything. See opportunities for you and them. Think big picture.


6. Be focused, be clear – what do you want to say, what do you want to ask. Don’t waffle. Get to the point quickly but speak slowly.


7. Understand “No”. Not everyone out there needs you today but you’re always getting closer to a yes. Also remember a no today, if handled well, can turn into yes tomorrow. Aim at being remembered and keeping the door open.


8. Learn to turn no around. No often doesn’t mean no, it's just an automatic response - you need to be ready with a comment, question, bit of chat to engage the prospect and turn it around. Deal with their concerns – don’t run!


9. Be prepared for the gatekeeper- you will inevitably have to deal with receptionists and PAs. Be ready, don’t get frustrated, they have a job to do. Be friendly and respectful, be direct and to the point, ask for help when and if necessary. Don’t resort to lies or you’ll alienate for future calls.


10. Be genuine and natural. Be you. Don’t script too heavily and say things that sound false or insincere. You don’t need to be too slick or too perfect to make an impact. Sometimes being friendly, passionate and honest can make a refreshing change.


11. Follow up effectively – do what you promised. Build a database and stay in touch. Have a plan to convert a short-term no into a long-term yes. No today, maybe yes tomorrow.

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