If you've been known to put off making cold calls, you're not alone. It's always easier to do the following activities to build your business before you actually make a brand-new, totally cold call.
- Call on existing accounts to upgrade or add on to their current product line.
- Get referrals by calling satisfied customers and asking, "If you were in my shoes, which three people would you call who could benefit from our product the way you did?"
- Have relationships with noncompetitive companies that call on the same industry and business. This can be a great way to access new accounts for you and for them.
There are plenty of other ways to avoid cold calling. They're effective, but eventually you're going to have to break into a new account, and you might not know someone who can make the introduction. Here are some strategies I've used over the years to take the fear out of cold calling.
1. Have a plan. It's so much easier to get started when you have a detailed list of accounts to call on. When I'm trying to enter a new industry, I reach out to someone who works in that industry with noncompetitive products and ask for a list of companies or accounts, or a recommendation for where I can get them. Then I gather background information on the companies.
2. Call with confidence. When you're not in the mood to cold-call, call one or two of your best customers and ask how they're doing. Sometimes hearing good things about your product or service lifts you up and reminds you why you're doing what you're doing in the first place.
3. Don't give up. Don't forget that nothing teaches you how to cold-call like making cold calls! Just when it seems as though everyone is giving you the cold shoulder, someone takes your call and you have a qualified appointment. That little triumph enhances your enthusiasm for the next call. Don't stop after a successful call, because it breeds success for the next call.
4. Learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. It's never easy when you first start making cold calls. But I have a theory that the fear is diminished by action. What we fear most is the unknown. When you start learning by doing and see that success comes from not giving up, it gives you the energy and confidence to keep going. I don't know many people who love cold calling. But there is a way to feel comfortable doing it, and that is by doing it every day, even when you don't want to. As I often say, "Successful people do the things unsuccessful people don't like to do."
5. Get to know your target. Find out something about the person you're calling before or even during the call--what are his or her challenges, goals or hobbies? Later, follow up with relevant information, such as an article from a magazine that addresses those issues. Include a note that says, "Thought you'd enjoy the enclosed"--it will help to open the door a little wider for the next call.
6. Be polite. Common courtesy goes a long way with everyone you speak with to get to the decision-maker. For instance, if I hear the phone ringing in the background, I'll say, "Do you need to get that? I can hold."
7. Push face-to-face meetings. When people ask me to send them something in the mail, I say, "I'd prefer to get together instead. How's this Thursday morning, or would the afternoon work better for you?"
8. Follow up. Sending handwritten thank-you notes right after the call to the receptionist, secretary, CEO or whoever helped you on the phone makes a lasting impression.