The secret to successful cold-calling

Phill White talks candidly about overcoming his early fears of cold-calling for sales meetings

A stream of face-to-face appointments with potential customers are the want of most start-up businesses – and the fact is one of the best, and most cost-effective, ways to get them is to pick up the phone. Thing is, nobody likes cold calling.

Certainly, in the early days I found it about as comfortable as lion-taming!

I knew it had to be done but would busy myself doing anything other than picking up the phone and it’s certainly easy to convince yourself you’re just ‘too busy’.

I spoke to business associates who told me tales of their business start up and their failed attempts at making appointments with prospective new customers. Then a friend who runs a very successful marketing company told me how he does it.

“There aren’t really any secrets,” he said. “You need to dedicate time to cold calling, stop making excuses and get on the phone. You’ll be amazed how much you can achieve.”.

The first day I set about calling, I had a list of people I needed to speak to. I made 50 calls that day and most of the time I could not get past the receptionist. When I did, I couldn’t think of what to say because I was so surprised to be put through! This was going to take a re-think.

I went through all the sales calls I had received myself and realised the effective ones asked me questions about my business and what I wanted to achieve. The salesperson gathered information that enabled them to recommend one of their products and in many cases they were correct.

So I wrote down some of the key questions I would need to ask to find out if they needed my services. I planned a few opening questions so I didn’t dry up once I got through. Off I went again and this time when I did get through I could actually have a conversation with the decision maker and make some progress, but I still couldn’t make any appointments.

I needed to find a way of getting past the receptionist so I could speak to more decision makers. I have since found out they are called the Gatekeeper – that figures.

My marketing friend gave me some invaluable advice: “Make the gatekeeper your ally, they can actually help you to get through”. Respect them, he said, they have a job to do and that’s to stop irrelevant calls so find out their name, get chatting to them, find out if the boss take sales calls, if not can they help you to get an e-mail, letter, fax in front of them.

So I did and what a difference. I no longer saw them as the enemy and I spoke to more people who wanted to speak to me. I learned asking open questions (What, Why, When, Who, How) really opened the conversation up. I could find out how their business worked, what they needed to move forward and was able to close on more appointments because what I was suggesting was relevant.

It’s still not the easiest thing to do. However it’s now more enjoyable and successful. I no longer make excuses not to get on the phone and can make enough appointments to grow my business. Try it for yourself.

Phil White is the founder and operations director of call centre outsourcing provider PPT Solutions.

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