Cold calling is the most common method used by a business to acquire new clients or generate leads. It is also one of the most difficult parts of the sales strategy—the salesperson has to intrude and interrupt someone's day and possibly face a firestorm of rejections before getting to enjoy the satisfaction of closing a sale. Nonetheless, if done correctly, cold calling can be productive and encouraging. The right approach, presentation, and delivery make cold calling an effective sales method.
Below are some tips and best practices in cold calling for sales and acquisition. These points would be especially helpful for start-ups and businesses that are expanding.
No matter how tempting it gets to open the directory and start calling, it is wise to narrow down the list and stay as targeted as possible. Creating a specific list of contacts that fit the profile of your offerings will make the job easier, as the conversation will be relevant, to begin with. Once the list has been defined, basic information about the contacts should be gathered. Data such as gender, age, location, and occupation can help in a better understanding of how to approach the prospect. Also, understanding the prospect can help in assessing the chances of cross-selling or up-selling.
It is important to make the right impression from the word go. One of the better ways to achieve this is to let prospects know that there is an offering that can manage (or eliminate) their pain points. Developing a vision about how the prospect's business can be helped—through thorough research on the company's marketing strategies, PR coverage, reputation, competitor's advantages, etc., can be useful—can evoke interest in the prospect. Begin with statements such as, “Good Morning, Mr. XYZ. I am _name__ with _company___. I understand that you are on the lookout for …. (or your company is in the process of … ). We have a product/service exactly for you … .”
The primary purpose of a cold call should always be to get a positive response from the prospect. However, things might not work out this way. In such a scenario, the goal should shift to the next best thing—getting a referral, which will open a window of opportunity that previously did not exist. When you call another prospect on the basis of a referral, it attaches credibility that is not available anywhere else. This reduces the possibility of getting rejected.
Salespersons typically use a pre-defined script to start a conversation. This is a strict no-no if you want the prospect to have confidence and trust in you. Using a script will make agents sound like any other salesperson that the prospect has to listen to almost every other day. Moreover, a script makes the agent sound impersonal, almost like a robot. If the audience is targeted, then be specific in conversation rather than throwing generic sets of questions at them.
Ensure that the tone of the conversation is pleasant. Voice matters because the prospects do not see the agent in person, and cues such as body language and facial expression are not available. Thus, the salesperson should take care to sound sincere and polite. When focusing on your product's USP (unique selling proposition), avoid marketing jargon. In the event of a rejection, agents should keep their calm and end the talk in a graceful manner.
The gift of the gab, though a good trait in a salesperson, can turn off prospective clients if overused. Prospects are sure to decline the product or service, even if it might be useful because they will sense a lack of empathy or honesty in the approach. The 'Please buy' statements are bound to make prospects doubt the product and the brand. Also, prospects resent pestering. This assumes more importance in the context of cold calling because the prospect could already be impatient with the interruption.
Leverage the power of analytics to assess the performance of cold calling in sales. With the right insights, you can identify the bottlenecks and also improvise and innovate. Try to get the numbers for the following.
1. How many calls do you make in a day?
2. What is the ratio of acceptance to rejection?
3. What time of the day is most fruitful?
4. How many referrals do you get?
5. How many meetings are set up?
The art of selling has matured and refined over time. It is no longer about manipulation and charm, but about honesty in understanding the client’s needs and addressing them. In doing so, it is important that cold calling in the sales process is personal, pleasant, and focused. Relationships established in the most natural and simple manner will last longer and stay strong. The bottom line is that selling does not need to be immoral or the human equivalent of junk mails, but empowering and potent. Cold calling is about creating opportunities and networks. It is about how you approach it and what you make of it.