From the December 2007 issue of Entrepreneur

It's very rare that you find someone who loves cold calling--someone who just can't wait to get up in the morning, pick up the phone and knock on doors. So for those of you who would like some alternatives, here are a few ideas.

1. Show up. Business opportunities can pop up anywhere. At trade shows, for instance, you not only have hundreds of companies attending, but their name tags and titles are right in your face. Whatever industry you're in and whatever industry you're going after will have a trade show or association. Show up and ask questions. Listen to what the companies and vendors are doing to build their businesses. Take copious notes at every qualified encounter so that when you follow up, you can reiterate the prospect's key points.

2. Shut up. Sometimes, we're so busy blabbing about what we do that the other person has shut us out two minutes into the conversation. When selling by telling, we often turn a warm call into a cold call. When you're at networking events, dinners, golf outings and the like, stop pitching and start listening to the people around you and what they do. It's so much easier to present your pitch after they see the interest you take in them. You've warmed them up.

3. Build from your base. Great salespeople follow up and follow through. They take the time after their products have been shipped or their service has been rendered to make sure there's open communication. This ensures that cold calls become warm calls--and that new business will often end up coming from your customers themselves.

Once you've delivered your product or service to your customer, do the following:

  • Ask when are the best times to stay in touch, and follow up on how you're doing.
  • Make sure that what you promised was delivered.
  • Try to find ways to help build your customer's business that they didn't know they needed help with.
  • Send them articles they will find useful.

These activities will help you build on the relationship so that when it comes time to recommend new products or ask for a referral, the customer is enthusiastic.

4. Do your homework. Do you really research people before you contact them? Do you read industry magazines or business magazines and cut out promotions or new business announcements for companies that could be qualified prospects? A little homework goes a long way. It's not a guarantee, but when you do your homework, the prospect is more likely to listen to your ideas. You make people feel important when you come to them with knowledge about who they are and what they've done.

5. Ask around. When was the last time you asked the people around you--business associates, vendors, customers or colleagues--for leads? This works best when you have a good relationship with your customers and vendors; they are usually happy to help out. Perhaps it's a customer you've delighted by overdelivering on your commitments, or maybe it's a longtime vendor you've given business to over the years. Also ask for referrals from business associates you gave contacts and leads to in the past. Ask yourself: What incentives are you giving them to give back to you? We get what we give, and the people we serve well will return the favor.