The Art Of The Cold Call

Posted on July 12, 2016

The telephone probably hadn’t been around all that long before an intrepid salesman decided he’d use it to try to make a sale. Even with the introduction of email and other digital forms of communication, cold calling has remained a pillar of sales techniques.

But does anyone like cold calling? Doubtful. It can feel awkward, disruptive and ineffective. To improve your skills and your confidence, here’s a refresher guide on how to cold call effectively.

Don’t Wing It

Take the time to rehearse your call. We don’t recommend memorizing a script — that would be a bad idea — but you want to master your voice, tone and pace. Make a few speaking notes and run through a pretend call from start to finish. Practice how you’ll respond to certain situations — an annoyed prospect, an early rejection, a curious prospect and a tentative yes. To identify any weak spots in your approach, record your practice sessions and play them back.

Look For a Connection

Having something in common with your prospect can go a long way in successful cold calling. It gives you something to talk about and, depending on what the commonality is, helps legitimize you as a salesperson.

Pore through Google search results, read their employee biography, look at their LinkedIn profile and peruse any other public social media accounts. Having mutual connections (friends, friends of friends, old colleagues, etcetera), being alumni of the same high school or university and having grown up in the same area are strong commonalities you can mention.

If you have a close enough relationship with one of your mutual connections, ask if they’d be comfortable acting as a reference and if they’d allow you to drop their name. Being able to say “so-and-so recommended I call you” can be the difference between a firm no and a warm maybe.

Master Your Introduction

Your biggest, most basic goal when cold calling is to avoid having the proverbial door slammed in your face. So much of this comes down to how you begin the call. Assume you only have 20 seconds to stop the prospect from hanging up — every part of the call matters.

First, you need to sound friendly and confident; speak loudly, clearly, sincerely and take your time. Introduce yourself and the company you’re calling from.

Next, it’s time to gently push the door open. Don’t waste time asking if you’ve caught them at a bad time (they’ll let you know); instead, prompt them into a conversation. Ask a question about their business or be transparent about why you’re calling. A few ideas:

  • “I know I’m calling you out of the blue but I have an idea on how we could work together. I was hoping we could have a brief conversation now, or schedule another time.”
  • “I know that [the business problem your company solves] can be a major headache for your industry and I was hoping I could take a minute to outline how [your company name] can tackle it.”
  • “I apologize for the cold call but I know how easily emails can get lost in the shuffle. I was hoping we could have a conversation about how our companies could work together.”
  • “We help companies do [your company’s offering] and I wonder if we might be a good fit for [the prospect’s company].”

Know When to Back Off

You need to read your prospect and react accordingly. Don’t try to persuade someone who tries more than once to get you off the phone — you’ll only leave a bad taste in their mouth. If a prospect seems wary but isn’t shutting the call down immediately, then ask if you can call at a better time or if you can ask some questions. As Kenny Rogers sang, you’ve got know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

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