Even if you run a scalable Internet business, you should still look beyond online channels for product validation and sales strategy support. Cold calling potential customers, which may seem antiquated, is an invaluable way to not only jumpstart your outreach but also grow your name recognition and develop valuable product feedback and validation through conversations that you otherwise would not be able to have.
At my online travel planning startup Travefy, we’ve leveraged cold calling since the very beginning. We’ve reached out to potential users -- like travel agents or sports leagues -- and partners. From those conversations, we’ve gained a clear understanding of product needs, price sensitivities, talking points and more. These discussions have not only propelled our product but also our scalable online distribution strategy.
Based on our experiences, here are several tips for a successful cold calling strategy.
(As a note, these tips work particularly well for B2B companies or B2C companies with institutional or corporate “power users.”)
Related: Perfecting the Art of Cold Calling
1. Set clear goals.
Before you start drafting your talking points or even think about making that first phone call, it is vital that you set clear goals for cold calling. By clearly understanding what outcome is valuable to you, you can set well-defined success metrics and tailor your outreach to reach that goal.
Depending on your company and stage, your desired outcome could vary wildly. For some, the goal might be product validation – to understand if the target customers you’re calling would want a product like yours, what features are important to them, or what they are willing to pay. For others, the goal might literally be to close a sale and further your own understanding of what talking points resonate for online ads and other sales channels.
2. Identify your targets for outreach.
Once you know your goal or desired outcome, it is much easier to identify who you actually want to connect with. Additionally, with clear goals you should not only understand your target market in general, but also who within each organization is the right person to connect with.
As an example, when you’re looking to validate your product, you want to speak to an end-user, someone typically far down the decision-making chain. Conversely, when trying to close a sale, you always want to target someone who can actually say, “yes”.
With that knowledge in hand, you can scour the Internet for the right targets to call.
3. Write a script.
With often under a minute to get someone on the phone, explain who you are, and convince the contact to continue the conversation, planning and practice are essential.
A great way to prepare is to simply write a script and prepare answers for typical questions and paths the conversation may take. Remember, this is not just about you sharing information, but also learning from those you’re calling, so also spend time thinking through and drafting what questions you want to ask.
Lastly, know yourself and avoid sounding like a machine! When writing a script, some people thrive with fully written sentence to read and adapt, while others require only bullet points to adapt for authentic sounding talking points.
4. Listen, be nimble, and take cues.
Now you’re ready to go! Remember that the key to any successful conversation – and especially when cold calling – is to be real. So don’t just read a script.
Truly listen to what the other person is saying and be flexible regarding where they want to take the conversation. You’ll be surprised the amazing things you’ll learn and the questions you would’ve never thought to ask.
5. Put your results to work.
With clear goals identified at the outset, you can now evaluate all of the information garnered from your calls and develop a strategic roadmap. As you evaluate, you should try to identify any trends to develop key takeaways and an actionable plan as they related to your goals (e.g., what customers want or what talking points led to sales, etc.).
Overall, no matter what your business is, cold calling potential customers or partners is an invaluable way to develop insights and knowledge beyond data from online ads and other channels.