Cold Call or Root Canal? 5 ways to make it better.

Cold Calling is no fun...                                                                photo by Hamed_Saber

Smiling and Dialing!

I’ve had several conversations with clients recently specifically on the topic of cold calling.  Most of the people I talk to feel fairly strongly that it’s not effective and more than likely it’s counterproductive because it annoys potential prospects.  On top of that – they really hate doing it.  Most people don’t want to be perceived as annoying.

There’s a reason why there are state and federal laws that prohibit telemarketing to consumers.  People became so fed up with the annoying intrusions into their life that they demanded legislation.

Why would we think that business owners would feel any differently about receiving cold calls?

Having said that, if you need to generate business quickly, you don’t have a lot of options – here a few things that you might consider to make it better.

Warm Up the Call

Part of the problem with a cold call is that by definition you are dealing with a total stranger.  You likely no very little about them (other than some demographics from your list) and they certainly don’t know anything about you.  Here are a couple of ideas to help warm up those calls:

1.  Combine the calls with Direct Mail

The idea is to find a very targeted list for your services and then send them a series of direct mail pieces (postcards, letters, maybe a combination) with then intent of educating them on what problems you solve, who you are and why you would be worthwhile to talk to.

A local company here in Kansas City has really perfected this approach and they now offer a solution on painless cold calling as a very inexpensive product.  In fact they also offer a service to do the initial mailings for you – leaving you with just a warmed up call.

Their personal results from using this system increased their positive response rate by 3 to 4 times compared to just making a cold call by itself.

2.  Put yourself in their shoes…

Hopefully the list  you’re calling from is based on something other than a straight alphabetical listing.  Ideally you’ve identified a target market that generally has a problem that your product or service can solve.

Assuming that’s the case, start the call by letting the prospect know that you’ve successfully helped people just like them previously and would they be interested in learning more. 

As an example, I have a client that uses an advanced eBay auction process to successfully sell retired Longaberger Collectible Baskets online.  This is a problem for a lot of salespeople that don’t have a good way to get rid of last year’s baskets.  By demonstrating up front that he understands this issue and has a solution, they are much more likely to want to talk to him.

3.  Get an introduction before the call

We already said that this was a cold call – by definition you don’t know the prospect you’re calling…but depending on the situation, there may be a good chance that someone you know does know that prospect (or at least someone at that company).

This probably works better when you’re targeting bigger companies, but it’s worth a try – especially if your product or service is a little higher dollar.

My recommendation would be to use a tool like Linked In and do some quick research on the company you’re trying to sell into.  Linked In currently has over 25 Million users with hundreds of thousand more being added every month.  If it’s a decent size company, there’s a good chance that someone there is on Linked In.  Once you find the right contact, then work back through your network and see if you know anyone that knows that contact.

Ask for an introduction and suddenly your cold call is much, much warmer. 

Try something different…

Because you and 10,000 other people are trying to cold call your prospect for a quick sale, it’s likely worth your while to try a different angle.

4.  Don’t sell – educate

When ever you’re calling someone, they are looking for the hard sell and they are prepared to shut it down.  It’s what buyers have been trained to do over the years.

However if you’re not trying to sell them anything and instead you want to give them an educational piece that actually has value to them, you will likely find a much warmer reception.

Here are a couple of keys to make this work:

  • Your report (or whatever) cannot be a sales document.
  • You must provide education and help for the problem at hand
  • Make it easy for them to follow-up if they’re interested

Obviously your report is going to list your product or service as a solution, but if it is truly a useful document that will almost be an unnoticed afterthought, putting you in a much more credible position when you follow-up with them.

5.  Spend your time going after referrals instead

You likely know hundreds of people fairly well (through your neighborhood, church, schools, kid’s sports, work, whatever).  Those people also know hundreds of people – many who are probably good candidates for your product or service.

Enter into a formalized referral network with people that you know that are likely to have good contacts for you.  If you’re starting out, you could offer compensation for good referrals that generate business or you could get the process started by finding them a referral first.

A networking group like BNI is a good way to facilitate this process – if you’re interested in learning more about BNI or coming to visit the chapter that I’m in, just let me know.

If you’re in a strong referral group, it’s possible to get more than half of your total new business from that group (some people do more than that).

It can be less painful than the drill

Prospecting is a challenge and the longer term answer is to make sure you are using multiple  marketing techniques to keep you from having to rely solely on a cold calling approach.

If you’ve got suggestions on other ways to make cold calling more effective, share them below.                                            

  Photo by tanakawho

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

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