However, it is often the hard work spent cold calling that determines the success of a new business campaign. A good analogy for the importance of cold calling can be found on the football field. In football, the offensive and defensive lines never receive the glory and accolades of the skill-positioned members of the team. However, without their hard work in the trenches, the team wouldn’t be able to score touch-downs, prevent the other team from scoring or, more importantly, win any football games.
Much like offensive and defensive linemen, cold calling will never be awarded any game balls following a successful new business campaign. When you think about the new clients you recently added, you’ll never reminisce about how well your initial contact phone call went.
However, without that successful first contact you never would’ve scheduled that first appointment or been given the opportunity to make a pitch for their business.
In this article, I will teach you how to prepare for your cold calling. I will provide tips on how to go about making your calls, as well as how to handle the inevitable rejection that you’ll encounter. And, hopefully, I’ll help you become a little more comfortable and successful in a key task of growing any business.
Cold Call Warm-Up: Advance Preparation
Before beginning any cold calling, I highly recommend that you do some upfront preparation. This preparation will help make your cold calls a little warmer – lukewarm calls, if you will.
We all know that a lukewarm reception from a current client is the kiss of death. However, having lukewarm initial prospect phone calls is the best you can hope for.
The first step of preparation is to determine who the decision maker is at each of your targeted companies. You’ll need to do this over the phone, contacting each company and asking who makes the decision regarding hiring outside creative services (or whatever you’re calling for).
Make it clear that you don’t wish to speak to this person right now, but that you just want to know who to contact when sending information. Most administrative personnel are discouraged from connecting you to your targeted party, but they’ll gladly give you a name and title to get you off the phone.
Next you’ll need to send the decision maker a mailing. At the minimum this should include a professional business letter. This letter should be very direct, telling the person what you can do for him or her and finishing by saying that you’ll be calling next week to discuss matters further and/or schedule an appointment.
In addition to this business letter you could also include a company brochure (if you have one), a partial client list, some testimonial letters or anything else to help make your case. (I don’t recommend sending samples at this stage, as it is more likely to end up in the trash, if the person didn’t request them.)
The more memorable this package is, the more chance you’ll have of the person taking your call. Some creative firms send elaborate dimensional items to catch their prospects’ attention. These can be effective but also add to the cost of the campaign.
Finally, you’ll need to prepare a script of what you’ll be saying on the call. It should detail how you’ll be introducing yourself and where you’re hoping to take the conversation.
The script is only to be used as a quick guide and should not be followed verbatim. The last thing you want to sound like on your phone calls is robotic or unfriendly. However, you also never want to run out of something to say.
Making The Calls: Helpful Hints
Now that you’re ready to begin your cold calling you might be wondering when would be the best time to make these calls. I believe the best times are early in the morning and late afternoon. Early morning is when I’ve had the most success – and the earlier the better.
Many top executives arrive at work at 8 a.m. or earlier to catch up on paperwork, answer emails, etc. The executive’s assistant probably won’t be in yet, so he or she will be more likely to answer the phone. Plus, frequently that person will be impressed that someone else has a similar work ethic.
An important guideline for these calls is to be positive but not pushy. Very rarely in the first conversation with a prospect will he or she be willing to meet with you or even give you much time. However, you at least want to make a positive impression and schedule a follow-up phone call at a time amenable to them.
If they sound too busy or in a bad mood, ask if this is a bad time. If they respond yes, ask when would be a better time to reach them. They’ll normally appreciate that you respect their time and will be more willing to speak with you when you call back.
During these phone calls you want to probe for as much information as possible. Take detailed notes on everything they say. This information could be about the work you’re trying to acquire from them or it could be about completely unrelated issues.
The next time you speak to that prospect, refer to your notes. If for some reason, the person forgot your earlier conversation (it happens all the time), you’ll have some ammunition for credibility.
“How did that big tradeshow go?”
“Are you still busy putting out fires?”
“How was that vacation in Tahiti?”
Conversations about unrelated issues help break down a person’s natural barriers and start the all-important rapport-building process.
No doubt, while making these calls, you’ll deal with a lot of rejection.
“Sorry, we’re not interested.”
Some people can even get downright nasty.
“Stop bothering me!”
The best advice I can give regarding this type of rejection is don’t take it personally. There are a lot of very unhappy people out there. People have bad days (or even bad years); just know that you didn’t do anything wrong and that you were just trying to help them.
And if this is any solace, you really don’t want a miserable new client anyway. Imagine the headaches you’d have to deal with working with somebody like that on a regular basis. Just shrug your shoulders, don’t dwell on it and make your next call.
Tracking Your Progress
Another way to handle rejection better is to maintain statistics of your calls. When cold calling, keep a chart in front of you on which you record:
• Each time you dial
• Each time you speak to the decision maker
• Each time you schedule an appointment
Eventually, you’ll have statistics that represent your cold calling efforts. For example, I know that on average every two times I dial I get someone on the phone, every three times I get someone on the phone it’s the decision maker and for every five decision makers I speak to, I make an appointment.
Therefore, for every thirty phone calls I make I have a new appointment. If I know that one out of every three appointments yields a new client, then for every ninety phone calls I make, I have a new client. Schedule one hundred phone calls a month and you’ll have thirteen new clients this year. This actually makes rejection more tolerable, since each rejection is one step closer to a new client.
Additionally, you can set goals for yourself, watching your own improvement. Also, you can measure which mailings have more success than others. Like anything else in life, the more calls you make the better your statistics will get.
One last point I want to make is how important consistency is in successful cold calling. I recommend you schedule a set time every day to make your calls. No matter what comes up, hold to that time. (Trust me, there’s always something you’d rather be doing.)
Also, if a prospect tells you to call them tomorrow afternoon, three weeks from Monday or the third Wednesday after the next leap year, make sure you do just that. Schedule the time and make the call. You’ll impress the prospect by being punctual and improve your chances for success.
Well, I hope you’ve found these tips to be educational and useful. It’s doubtful you’ll ever learn to truly enjoy cold calling, but hopefully you’ll understand its importance as part of a new business campaign and learn to enjoy the new business it helps you land.