Cold-Calling Basics

Take the "cold" out of "cold-calling," and you'll win prospects over.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the July 2001 issue of Subscribe »

Too often, cold-calling is just what it sounds like: icy and intimidating-not only for you, but for the potential client. That's why Ken Stark, owner of Stark & Associates, a St. Louis-based and management and development firm, suggests warming up your cold-calls with a more personable approach. "You don't want to sound like a salesperson making a sales call," says Stark. "You want to sound like somebody who wants to engage in conversation. Don't sound too prepared or polished."

Of course, just because you don't want to sound prepared doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared with knowledge about the company you're calling. "You need the research information to use, but not to show," says Stark. "There's a big difference." Knowing the difference means delivering a conversational opening line, not a sales pitch. According to Stark, good cold-calls start something like this:

You: Hi, this is (Your Name) from (Your Company). I'm guessing you haven't even heard of my company.

Prospect: No, I haven't.

You: I'm not sure whether there's a really good reason for us to spend too much time on this call, but if it's OK, I'll take a minute or two to tell you how we fit with your company. We don't fit with everybody. Are you comfortable with that?

The sample script ends there, says Stark, because the whole idea is not to sound canned, but genuine. When prospects are hesitant, be prepared to address their concerns without flipping through your Cold-Calling 101 manual, even when your prospect is prepared with an "I'm not interested." "We like a technique called 'pattern interrupt,' " Stark says. "When people pick up the phone and their head says, 'Sales call,' they go on autopilot. We try to interrupt that pattern early in the call."

Don't take no for an answer. "Objection!" will help you handle customers' concerns wisely.

This type of honest, no-pressure approach is more likely to get prospects' attention. "Give them the option to take it further," explains Stark. "We find that this works better than trying to persuade, convince and dump features [on them]. You don't make a pretense that it's not a sales call, but you don't want to sound like the other 99 people who just called."

Don't forget about e-mail in your quest for prospects. Refer to "Reach Out and E-Mail Someone" on July 16 for tips on setting up an e-mail marketing campaign.

10 Commandments of Cold-Calling

1. Do your homework about your prospect.
2. Identify yourself clearly.
3. Be enthusiastic.
4. Ask questions.
5. Develop rapport.
6. Promise something in return for prospects' time.
7. Personalize the call.
8. Guarantee no obligation.
9. Never ask for more than 15 minutes of their time.
10. Make an appointment.

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