Taking the Fear Out of Cold Calling

Cold calling – that activity that strikes fear into the heart of, well, just about everybody. And yet, so critical to business success. Because your sales process relies upon continual feeding of the pipeline and those new leads have to come from somewhere. Remember: selling is just having a conversation. Best way to do that if you can’t be face to face? On the phone!

So how can you make it easier and more likely to lead to success?

First, and most important, recognize that you will have to use the phone.  And email too. Because people don’t always answer their phone. So we’ll talk about voicemail too.

Ready? Here we go.

Kim’s Tips for Successful Cold Calling

1.       Prep

Just like painting, there is a lot to be done before you pick up the phone to make a cold call. It helps to have drawn up a target list of potential clients that you have ranked in order of how important their business is to you. And this is really important; you need to start at the bottom of your list. Because as you go through your list you’ll be improving your cold calling skills so that when you reach the top of this list, those clients that you really, really want to work with, you’ll be a seasoned pro. And cold calling won’t seem so scary either!

2.       Research Your Target List

You should also have done some research on your prospects that will help you establish rapport. The consensus out there is that anything in the public domain could be helpful in this regard (see this article on 8 ways to start a sales call), but tread carefully here so that you don’t come across as creepy.

3.       Practice your Pitch

It helps to have thought about what you want to say before you pick up the phone, even writing out a script if you find that useful. Obviously the skill of a salesperson is in adapting to how the conversation goes and being able to accomplish whatever goal you’ve set for the call. Some people find that practicing the call beforehand is helpful, especially if you prefer to use a script. It’s VERY important that you don’t sound like you are using a script.

4.       Schedule It

If you’re not already scheduling your work day into chunks of time, at least make sure that you schedule your cold calling time and treat it like any other meeting you need to attend. Choose the time of day when you are at your best if cold calling terrifies you. Although once you’ve got some calls under your belt and are feeling a little more confident, you might want to consider the best time to reach your prospects. One of my clients finds that she has more success reaching people on a Friday afternoon, possibly because they are already winding their week down and are more willing to talk. Another one of my clients calls people before 9am, and there is some research that suggests this works well, although you wouldn’t get me then! Generally you want to avoid Mondays, and mornings seem to be better than afternoons.

5.       Prepare Yourself

Like a lot of things in life, the thought of cold calling is far worse than actually doing it. So a little mental preparation won’t go amiss. Take some deep breaths, make sure you’re in an environment that is conducive to making calls, remove other distractions, and Just. Get. Started. Set yourself up for success – make sure you have something to drink, a way to record notes, and your target list to hand. Sure you'll hear a lot of 'no', but you'll also have more successes than you thought you would.

6.       Use Your Voice

That sounds silly doesn’t it? Of course you are going to use your voice! But what I mean here is use the phone to your advantage – focus your energy on your voice and making it as warm and engaging as you possibly can. The person on the other end of the line is likely distracted, but by doing this you’ll be able to direct and hold their attention to you and what you are saying.

The Dreaded Voicemail

So you’ve done all your preparations, practiced your opening lines and the phone is ringing and ringing while you sit in anticipation. And then, voicemail. Argh! It is disappointing not to get a real, live person on the phone, but don’t squander your opportunity. After all, you’ve prepared well and you still have something to say.

But please make sure you have a voicemail plan too. Because the reality is, you’re going to leave a lot of voicemails. (Some tips from Hubspot here.) Which you should be following up with an email wherever possible. Now you’ve given your prospect two ways to contact you should they want to engage at this stage.

How to Ensure Cold Call Success

Record any notes from your conversation/voicemail and then SCHEDULE your follow up! After all the effort you put in to making this cold call (well done you!) you wouldn’t want to waste it by not making a second, a third, or even a fourth attempt to connect with your target, right? One of two things will happen: either you’ll connect with your prospect, or you will decide to move on up your list. You always have the option to revisit another time.

Cold calling has NOT gone away. Sure, technology has made it easier for people to not answer, but I’ve found that I’ve had more success from cold calling than any other method of prospecting. When you reach someone in person, you’ve essentially created an ad-hoc sales meeting. And look how efficiently you are able to make things happen when you have direct, two-way communication! Hopefully I’ll have made you a cold calling convert now too.