Adapted from content excerpted from the American Express® OPEN Small Business Network
Cold calls are phone calls or visits to sale's prospects who don't know you. The objective of a cold call is to gather information about the prospect's potential, educate the prospect on the benefits of your product or service, and in many cases, to get an appointment. There are several challenges to cold calls and they include: fear; getting past assistants, secretaries, and other gate keepers; finding the right contact; and finding a way to make a pitch quickly that will move the sales process forward.
The tips below will help you overcome these challenges:
Avoid Completely "Cold" Cold Calls
Ask your current clients for referrals and then use their names to break the ice during your call. To get referrals, engage your clients and customers in conversations that will unearth the referrals instead of simply asking them for names and numbers. For example, if you ask someone if they know anyone interested in buying insurance, they'll probably say no because they can't think of anyone on the spot. But if you talk to that person about having kids and whether his friends are having kids too, he'll realize he knows a bunch of people concerned about planning for the future...who might want insurance.
Plunge Right In
You're never going to be ready to make sales calls, so don't wait for the perfect moment. Your fear will never dissipate completely because putting yourself on the line and inviting rejection is never going to be appealing. So instead of coming up with reasons to procrastinate, plunge right in.
Whether you encounter a secretary, an assistant, or the prospect on the phone, be upfront about why you are calling. Introduce yourself and state the purpose of your call. Be honest and succinct. People are annoyed and suspicious if you are cagey about why you are calling. Find out if it is a good time to talk - if it is, give more information; if not, ask when it would be convenient for you to call back.
Call Early and Late
If someone is difficult to reach, either because an assistant or secretary answers the phone or voice-mail picks up whenever you call, try calling at unusual times. A prospect is more likely to pick up his or her own phone at 8:00 a.m. or 6:30 p.m. Plus, they are more likely to be relaxed and have time to speak, since they won't be facing the 9-to-5 pressures. If you are making sales calls in person, evening is probably better than morning for making odd-hours calls.
Don't Expect People to Get Back to You
You shouldn't wait for your prospects to get back to you. They may not, even if they are interested. Don't presume that when prospects say they'll call you back they actually will. Put your ego aside and call them. And when you do, be nice, no matter how annoyed you are that they never called you back.
Be a Human Being
We all know sales people who don't stop for a breath while they steamroll us with a pitch. Don't do this. It's unnatural, and it doesn't work. People buy from people they like, who they feel understand them and their business. Engage your prospects by asking a lot of questions and being genuinely interested in them.
Talk a Little, Not Too Much
Use cold calls to gather information about your prospect's needs. You will, of course, need to provide enough information about the benefits of your product or service to make the person want to speak to you. But don't talk too much. If you launch into a long sales pitch without finding out what your prospect is thinking, you will turn them off. Ask a prospect questions about their problems and needs (you can even write down these questions in advance) and listen closely to their answers. Then target your benefit information to solving those problems and meeting those needs. Try to Get a Face-to-Face Meeting
When someone asks you to send literature, ask if you can come in and present to them for 15 minutes. It might actually be more efficient for them to learn about your business this way because you can encapsulate information and answer their questions. In addition, meeting someone face-to-face humanizes the relationship and will make it easier for them to remember who you are and why they may need your products or services
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