When you start talking to people who haven’t been introduced to you or your business before, you are cold calling them. That is, you’re talking to someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to warm up to you or your organization. Often you are actually on a telephone when you cold call, but the techniques of successful cold calling work in person, too!
In other articles we have talked about the importance of developing “an elevator speech” to introduce you and your business to new contacts. (Read “Meditation on an Elevator Speech” and “Creating an Important Elevator Speech”.)
That elevator speech is particularly useful when you cold call prospects. A good introduction will make the difference between a quick hang-up and the start of a relationship.
The key to cold calling is not to make your total pitch too early.
One good approach is to introduce yourself and say, ‘Do you have a moment?’ If the person is busy, you can say ‘thanks’ and call back later. If they do have a moment, use that moment to deliver your elevator speech. And then ask if they have a few more moments - you can then go into more detail about what you can do for them.
If they are willing to talk, that’s great. You’ve started a conversation and you have the chance to learn a bit about the person you are talking with and perhaps gather some useful information about their business. Listen attentively so that you can absorb what they are saying. Many people are so busy composing what they are about to say that they do not make room to listen. Hold on to the emotional issues in the information they share with you. This will help you frame your offer when you make it.
The important thing is not to immediately ask your prospects to buy anything. The moment they say ‘no’ to that question, the conversation is over.
The most likely outcome of a first cold call is that your prospect will not be interested. For example, they will often have a relationship with someone who already supplies them with the goods or services that you are offering. But you should generally take their ‘no’ as meaning ‘not right now’. Ask if they mind if you call back in three months’ time. Keep calling and be prepared to accept several rounds of knock-backs.
You can expect a one or two percent success rate in your cold calls first time around. The rate might double on your second call. However, by your third call, you are likely to find that acceptance rates are around 15 percent. By the time you get to your fifth call you can find you’re getting up to sixty percent. These are the estimates put together in a popular book on marketing called Choose & Grow Your Own Business In 90 Days.
The 90 Day Rule and Keeping in Contact
Wendy Evans, the author of this book, finds that 90 days is a critical time period in marketing. Leave more than 90 days between contacts and you start to drop off peoples’ mental radar, and you’re back to square one.
When you make contact, you should preferably do so verbally, rather than in writing. And you should make basically the same pitch each time.
Stick close to your elevator speech when you introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid of boring people with the same message.
As Evans points out, Coca Cola feels no need to make regular changes to its sales pitch. Its message is consistent and dependable.
Of course, you don’t need to be robotic in your consistency. If you can’t get through to someone on the phone, send them a note with your business card attached.
A few other things to keep on your radar
Organize your call at a strategic time. Steve Richards writes about this in his Harvard Business Review article when he suggests that you should separate your cold calling into two activities: prospecting to find the right person, and call blitzing to get the person on the phone. He says that prospecting is done during normal business hours while call blitzing is done before 8:30AM or after 5:30PM when the administrative team is gone.
Do not talk too much. Speak only one or two sentences at a time so as to allow your prospect to speak. Studies have shown that the brain can only hold on to 20 – 30 seconds of information at a given time. Make good use of this fact.
It’s normal to get voicemail. Many people do not answer the phone when it comes from an unknown number. Write yourself a script to use when you leave voicemails. Rehearse it but don’t let it sound robotic when you leave it. It should pique curiosity and have some sort of value proposition that makes them want to call you back.
Smile to the point of a grin. Believe it or not, this can be detected by the caller and it also affects how you speak. It builds rapport and reduces stress.
Ask good questions. Here is where you get to use the information you heard when your prospect was speaking. This is not easy, but it gets easier with practice.
Pick up the Phone Fearlessly
Cold calling makes some businesspeople uncomfortable. They are apprehensive about putting themselves at risk of rejection after rejection.
The difference between that timid cold caller and you is critical. They are casting around for what to say when the prospect answers the phone and how to engage and follow up. You, on the other hand, are prepared! So, pick up that phone and earn some new customers.