Looking to drum up new business fast? Cold calling — the act of making sales calls to total strangers — may seem like a frightening prospect, but when done properly, it can be remarkably effective: Todd Eberhardt, CEO of Minneapolis communications firm Comm-works, added 52 new customers to his roster in the space of a year through cold calling. Try these tips to make cold calling pay off for your business.
1) Know who you’re calling. Even though the person on the other end of the line doesn’t know you, it can’t hurt to find out as much as possible about your prospect in advance. Check out your prospective client’s website, and track down the person in charge of making vendor decisions: If it’s a small company, you’ll want to go straight to the top; otherwise, try to find a purchasing or marketing director. Learn about what the company does, and determine what you can do to help them do it better.
2) Consider sending promotional materials in advance of your cold call. Unsolicited mail is far less intrusive than an unsolicited phone call, so sending a brochure or small promotional item with a brief note, discount offer, and business card can be a good way to warm up a prospect before you get him on the phone. He may be so interested in your company that he’ll call you, but if you still have to make the next move, at least he’ll probably know who you are. (Though don’t count on it — often these materials don’t make it past the administrative staff.)
3) Create a script. It helps to personalize your approach with information directly related to your prospect, but you’ll also want to come up with a basic “script” that can be easily customized. Essentially, you’ll want to briefly define what your company does, and offer to either send more information or schedule a meeting to discuss how you can help. Check out BNET’s cold calling script for a template example that you can customize as necessary. As in the example, be sure that you’re ready with a response no matter how the prospect answers your questions.
4) Don’t be afraid of rejection. Yes, it can be annoying to receive phone calls out of the blue, but if you have a valuable service to provide, most business owners will be happy to talk with you. Be sure to first ask if you’ve caught your prospect at a bad time — if he says yes, you can offer to call back at a more convenient time or follow up by email. Getting your name on his radar is the most important part, and you’ve accomplished that simply by making the call.
5) Don’t forget to follow up. You’ve made the call, and a prospect seems interested in your services. But the next move is still up to you: Make sure to end the phone call with a commitment to take action, such as sending literature about your company, offering a free product or demonstration, or visiting your prospect’s office for an in-person sales pitch. If you agree to send literature, give the prospect a couple of days to check it out and then call back to follow up and find out if he has any questions about your materials.