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Cold Calling: It's Chilly Out There

Aug 17, 2007
Who likes to make cold calls, you might ask? The short answer is that there are probably few who relish the activity and fewer yet who are good at it.

I think we've all run into someone in our professional lives who seems to excel at cold calling - whether it's on the phone or in person. They seem to have a natural, relaxed approach to meeting prospects (or maybe I should say suspects) for the first time. But they seem to be the exception to the rule.

Most often even those who enjoy meeting new people and who are socially adept cringe at the idea of dialing that phone one more time or knocking on one more door.

So what distinguishes those few who relish the idea of "exposing their vulnerabilities" from those who would rather starve than make another cold call? The most telling differentiator is their ability and willingness to make the call about the customer (prospect/suspect) and not about themselves.

Break it down

Let's make a little sense out that last paragraph.

Why do you dislike cold calling? There are any number of reasons that might seem valid to some observers. For example, some salespeople think they are intruding on their prospect in making their call. Some may lack confidence in their abilities or in their level of product knowledge or expertise. Others despise the potential tedium of the activity while some may be a bit on the shy side. Or maybe it's as basic as fearing rejection. After all, with every call you're risking a "hang-up", a "no", being ignored or being challenged about the worth of your product or service, your company or even yourself. And, of course, in many cases you won't even get to speak with the person you're attempting to contact: voicemail, gatekeepers, personal assistants, scheduling and avoidance get in the way.

It's easy to see why you might lack a certain fondness for cold calling. But what if you changed your approach to cold calling?

All of the reasons mentioned above for disliking cold calling come to be only if we make the sales call about us. Our guilty feelings for interrupting our prospects, our lack of confidence, our boredom or impatience, our shyness, our fear of rejection and our perception of having failed when we're temporarily stymied by voicemail or other roadblocks can only have their negative effects if we allow them to by focusing on our own needs and agendas and on the desired outcomes we most desire.

Shift your focus to that of your prospect and you'll immediately see a difference in your attitude about, and your approach to, cold calling. And you'll notice a positive change in the reception you'll receive from your prospect.

Warm it up

So then, how do you get started on this new, enlightened path? It's easier than you might imagine.

First: Reenergize yourself and recommit to cold calling. You won't accomplish anything unless and until you "get off your butt" and take the first steps toward revitalizing your cold calling program. Make it a habit. Stay busy. Just do it.

Second: Boost your confidence. Make sure you're competent by learning everything you can about your company, your product or service, your industry, your competitors and your prospects. Become an expert in your field.

Third: Practice, practice, practice. Write a script that you will use to keep yourself on track, but don't memorize and recite or read it. Instead, become the script. Know your "stuff" so well that it just flows in your conversation with your prospect. The more you practice, the easier and more natural cold calling will feel to you. And your prospects and customers will recognize that you're a real pro. They'll take comfort in the confidence that you bring to the process. They'll be ready to accept you as a trusted advisor.

Fourth: That's right; I said "conversation." Using your script as a guide, begin a conversation with your prospect. Ask questions. Explore areas in which your prospect may need help (within the context of what you offer.) Invite further discussion to help determine compatibility between your prospect's needs and what you offer. Relate the results you've achieved for other customers under similar circumstances. Determine if there's a "fit" - business and personal - between you and your prospect.

Fifth: Stay focused on delivering good results or outcomes for your customer. By placing your own agenda on the back burner, you'll find it much easier to concentrate on meeting your prospect's needs. And your prospect will be much more willing to continue the conversation and engage in the sales process. Sounds to me like a win, win.

Once you've had this conversation, recognized a fit and established your expertise and value in solving your prospect's problem, you're free to propose a specific solution. Of course you'll need to continue to learn about your customer, their industry and their needs in order to best adapt your solution to provide maximum value for them.

And, of course, follow up. Implement and support your solution. Don't become a "one hit wonder." Stay in touch with your customer. Continue to add value to your relationship. Be in it for the long haul. You'll soon find that your need to cold call will be reduced by the repeat and additional sales you'll make to existing customers.

Taking this approach at the beginning of the sales process will allow you to carry your customer-focused approach throughout the entire process. Using this approach you can't help but to increase your sales, your profits and your customer loyalty.
About the Author
Pat Hassett draws on more than 30 years experience in sales and business to help you become more competent and confident in your sales efforts. Learn more at his Website and his blog.
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