Cold calling is probably the most hated and most abused lead-generation tool in use today. It’s a hot topic that deserves discussion because, when used properly, it can be a valuable marketing tool.
But many people say cold calling is no longer a useful marketing tool. They say we should never use it because its costs far outweigh its benefits.
Cold calling (whether in person, by phone, or e-mail) can be an effective and legitimate way to develop new leads. I know because I’ve done it. As a tool, cold calling can work very well. But you have to be smart about how you do it. Too many people are dumb about cold calling. They don’t stop to think about what their potential customer wants. They focus entirely on what they are trying to accomplish.
How do you make cold calling work? It’s not hard. But it does take planning and discipline.
First, don’t expect to sell anything with a cold call. I know this sounds basic and it is. But many people still think they can land a new customer the first time they talk to them. Don’t do it. Never close cold.
A cold call is just one of many ways to generate new leads. Generating a new lead means finding someone who might be interested in what your product or service can do for them. It does not mean finding a new customer. So make sure your cold calling goal is appropriate.
Second, your call will be an interruption. Get over it. It’s the 21st century. Everything is an interruption. None of us likes to be interrupted. But successful people are always open to new ideas, new opportunities, and new relationships. If you are bringing them the potential to solve a problem or create an opportunity, they might be happy you interrupted them. However, if your interruption wastes their time because they have no need for your product or service then they’ll show you the door quicker than you can say “no soliciting.” Or if you waste their time talking about you and your company, product, or service, you’ll also get a cold response to your cold call. Never waste their time. Make sure you’re calling on someone who is likely to want or need what you offer.
Third, be honest, be quick, and be gone. Be honest about why you’ve called them. Talk in terms of how you might help them. Make it fast and show them you’re not there to take time now. Ask their permission to follow up at a later date and then get the information you need to do so.
An effective cold call goes like this:
- Pick someone who you have a reason to believe will want what you offer.
- Make contact.
- Introduce yourself.
- State why you’re calling.
- Ask questions to determine interest.
- Request permission to follow up.
- Get follow-up information (if they give you permission).
- Leave them your card or other material.
- Schedule follow up and do it.
Fourth, only call on people if it’s appropriate in their industry. Many industries have built elaborate defenses to prevent people from cold calling the decision makers. This is their not-so-subtle way of saying “don’t cold call us.” In these businesses I suggest finding other ways to generate leads.
But other industries are open to it. Not that people are sitting around waiting for salespeople to call, but they are receptive or at least accessible. You’ll know before long if your target market is open to cold calls or not. They’ll tell you. When they do, ask them how they’d prefer to be contacted. Then listen and respect what they tell you.
As with all marketing, you need to focus on what your customers and prospects are trying to accomplish. Forget what you want. Forget that you have quotas and goals. Your prospects do not care. They care about what they want to accomplish. Help them do that and your quotas will become irrelevant.
If you plan your cold calling and do it in a way that respects people’s time, it can be an effective lead-generation tool. Remember, we are social animals. Most people enjoy meeting new people if they are friendly and professional, if they don’t waste their time, and if they can help them solve a problem or create an opportunity.
Follow these rules and you can be a breath of fresh air for the people you call on. You can develop new relationships that become valuable business partnerships. And it doesn’t cost a penny.
Kevin Stirtz is the “Smart Marketing Guy.” Get a free copy of his book Marketing for Smart People at http://StirtzGroup.com.