First, cold calling is as much fun as a trip to the dentist. No one wants to do it. It’s embarrassing, frustrating and sometimes even humiliating. Oh, and it’s not very productive.
Often, you’re interrupting the call-taker who’s involved in something more important than listening to a pitch. Sometimes you’re lucky to get past the receptionist.
Yet, cold calling is an aspect of lead generation for many small business providers, and even sellers of big ticket items. I know a couple of car dealers who expect sales staff to cold call when things are slow on the lot. Frankly, this is busy work and unproductive busy work, at that.
Cold calling is an effective business strategy for many businesses – if undertaken carefully. When done properly, cold calls do work. They do generate leads. When done improperly the results drop to almost zero. It’s not even a zero sum game when the callers are salaried employees. You’re business is losing money.
So, here are some tips for boosting conversion ratios on call success. You won’t close the deal every time but you will see more business.
1. Research the company.
Before you pick up the phone, conduct a web search of the company. The web site will (should) tell you everything, from what the company does and sells to what its service area covers. The complete business model is laid out right in front of you in pixel form.
Don’t use the information contained on the Contact Us page. The telephone numbers listed there are usually for web site customers – queries, tech support, billing and so on. But check the Contact Us page in any case. Often, with small company sites, there’s a single contact number.
Now, if the company is really small, who knows, the owner may pick up the phone and give you five minutes of his or her time.
2. Getting past the receptionist.
One of the jobs of company receptionists is to weed out cold calls. Never ask to speak to “the person in charge of buying office supplies for your business.” It’s like asking the receptionist if s/he’d be interested in a case of leprosy. Always ask for an individual by name.
Once again, do your research. If you have a pulse (and even if you don’t, actually) you have a presence on the world wide web.
The CEO’s name may not appear on the contact us page but I’ll bet you that company CEO has a profile on LinkedIn, which is picking up 1,000,000 new sign-ups a month now. Linkage in the digital age.
Review your prospect’s LinkedIn profile. School affiliation, LinkedIn group affiliation. Find something that connects you with that prospect. Going to the same alma mater is a door opener. Belonging to the same service group opens doors. Review the LinkedIn profile, but don’t get creepy about it.
3. Don’t get creepy on cold calls.
Google a company owner and you’ll come up with all sorts of information, both personal and professional. For whatever reason, people put out the names of their kids, their pets, spouses, best friends, hobbies – all kinds of personal information.
So, how would you feel if a total stranger – even from a reputable company – called and asked about “Jen and the kids?” Or, “How’d you do in the triathlon last month?”
It’s actually kind of creepy, and the call recipient is going to start asking how you know so much about him or her. So keep the conversation focused on professional topics and leave “the kids” out of it. (maybe I’ve seen too many scary movies but I don’t want strangers asking about my golf game. Too creepy.)
4. Know the needs of the company. Prepare your list of benefits.
Get down to business fast. No one wants to waste time on cold calls on either end of the line. If you’ve done your research, you can put together a 60-second (that’s right, an elevator pitch) and let the call taker get back to work – or express interest in hearing more.
Focus on the benefits your company delivers, not on features or company or history or how cool the office is. When you cold call, have a customized list of benefits you offer. Go through the list and get off stage. Know when to leave.