Many articles have said that Cold Calling is dead, and that is just not the case. As someone who has years in Sales and Marketing too numerous to admit, I am a big believer in other forms of lead generation to build your sales, but one should not dismiss the old tried and faithful standby of cold calling. Unlike most small business owners, I hate to cold call. I was made to do it throughout my life, and sometimes the thought gave me hives. It had nothing to do with not liking to talk on the phone, as I have never been accused of being lost for words or being afraid of the phone. It is all about having the proper opening and catching that person's attention in the first 15-20 seconds.
The use of cold calling also depends on the demographic to which you are selling. If Gen Z or Millennials run the business, sending texts or emails may work, but if you are selling to larger corporations or selling to Gen X or greater that did not grow up only communicating via text or email, cold calling is still a very viable option.
Traditional Selling Versus Social Media
I am curious to know how many articles I have read by marketing proponents saying traditional selling and marketing is dead and that it is all about Social Media. Social Media can help build awareness, credibility, and connections, but I have not been able to attach a revenue figure to what I have made from utilizing social media. Others talk about email marketing, which can also be very useful, but is one medium that is overused by many. For some reason, those that are business card collectors love this medium. We all know them. You meet them at a networking event; they want your business card and the next thing they have determined you are a fit for their product, and it is ok to add you to their "spam" Newsletter blast that goes out every week or so. I don't know about you - but I spend much time deleting or unsubscribing to email blasts I never agreed to receive. Though there are laws outlining SPAM, this has not dissuaded too many small business owners who think they are below the Government's radar and will not get caught. In Canada, you actually need to have "permission" or have them subscribe to email.
Business to Business Versus Business to Consumer
If you are selling to consumers, you have to be aware of the Do Not Call List in Canada and need to check the numbers on the list before calling. You can check phone numbers through this government website. The Do Not Call List does not apply if you are selling to businesses.
Engaging the Listener and Knowing Your Target Customer
Cold calling does work if done correctly. I will be the first to admit that if someone calls and engages me in the first 15-20 seconds without the monotone script voice, I will continue listening to what they are selling, who call about business-related products or services. It is also essential to understand your target customer before making that call. As a consulting and coaching firm, we have had competitors trying to call and sell us like services because they needed to do their homework before making the call.
Getting the Appointment or Next Call
Most prospects will only make a snap business decision to purchase something over the phone if they are ready to buy, so the goal you should have in mind is to get an appointment with the prospect. Sometimes, it will just require an additional call, but this depends on the product or service. Here are some tips to keep in mind to increase your chances of getting an appointment or call.
Work on developing a targeted list to call. Do more than just open the Yellow Pages and start calling. You should understand the type of customer most likely to require your product or service. This would include industry, company size, and geographic region information. Make sure you either have the name of the economic buyer or ask for the person who makes buying decisions regarding your type of product or service. Look at purchasing a list from a reputable broker if you do not have one.
Create a Script
Create a short script that hits the key points and, within the first 15-20 seconds, engages the person. The prospect will decide at this point if the product or service could be a fit for their business. Memorize and be comfortable with the script, do not read it, as the caller can tell, and this is one way to get most people to hang up the phone, as they think you are a call centre.
Have backup material available to handle objections, as you will most likely get them. It would be best if you were prepared and not caught off guard.
Call to Action
What you offer depends very much on your business. A call to action will increase your chances with the prospect. A call to action could be a discount, an event, a draw, or a white paper.
Have your schedule available and know when you can book an appointment. You have the person on the phone, do not tell them you will get back to them. You made the call to get an appointment, so be prepared.
Determining Hard or Soft No
If they tell you they are not interested, determine if that means never interested or just not now. If it is just not now, ask for a time frame of when they will be looking at making a decision. Capture that time frame and confirm that you have all of their information and that it is correct. You might ask if you can send them some information in the meantime and then be sure to follow up when they are looking to make a buying decision.
If you know they are not interested, be polite and thank them for their time. You never know when you might reencounter this person.
If they are willing to make an appointment with you, then be sure to capture all of the relevant information about the client: name, title, address, phone, email, notes about the call, and the time and date of the appointment.
If the appointment is more than a couple of days from now, either email them or call them to confirm the appointment, especially if you are meeting them somewhere outside their business.
Closing the Sale
Understand what it will take to close the sale for this client. It is about getting an appointment or the next call. Once you have a meeting with someone and they are qualified - your close sales ratio should be high. This all is very dependent on your product or service. It could require a demo of the product or having the ability to check references with other clients.
Using Others For Cold Calling or Training
If you know cold calling will work for your business, but there is a need for more time or skill to do this in your business, this service can be outsourced easily and cost-effective. Do not do this on the cheap, thinking you can get anyone to cold call. Who you hire represents your business, and if they make a bad impression, the client remembers this. Look for a firm that has a guarantee on leads or appointments. Do more than just pay for someone to call and charge for the time they are dialling for dollars. Do not hire and pay for those that base this on an outrageous telco rate. They should have Voice over IP and not charge as call centres did in the dark ages. Check their references as well. You want to ensure that if you make one or two sales, you have covered the cost of the service. Also, look for a firm with experience in selling into your industry.
There are many firms that are focused on sales training. If you would like to gain the skills for cold calling and other sales skills, it is suggested that you look to hire a firm to train your sales personnel.
It is true Social Media is free, and it is easy to send out an email Newsletter blast, but before you spend all of your time doing that trying to figure out impressions, clicks, and conversion rates - don't give up on cold calling, because it is not dead yet and can be measured. Combining inbound marketing with calling becomes warm calling and gives you an even better chance of sales close rate success.