Warm Up to Cold Calls

Everyone hates making cold calls---until they learn how to do it properly. Follow these 7 steps to overcome your fear, and start dialing for dollars.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the March 2006 issue of Entrepreneurs StartUps Magazine. Subscribe »

Can you name one of the most prevalent fears among new entrepreneurs? If you guessed "cold calling," you're right. Some entrepreneurs feel shy about initiating contacts. For others, the possibility of coming across as a salesperson makes them uncomfortable. Yet making telephone contact with prospects is essential, whether it's to form relationships or follow up on leads. If you can't ask for the business you need, you might as well step aside and watch your competitors steal the show.

The truth is, cold calling is easy to learn and a whole lot of fun once you master it. Just follow these seven important steps.

1. Practice consultative selling. There's nothing adversarial or pushy about an effective cold call. Simply uncover and fill needs in a friendly, noncombative way by imagining that your prospects are neighbors coming to you for advice. Use the same relaxed tone and easygoing manner.

2. Know your purpose. What do your prospects need most, and how can you help them get it? One of the best ways to overcome a fear of cold calling is to let your passion for what you do shine through. Begin by writing down a statement of purpose that specifies what you will help your prospects achieve. Once you understand how using your products or services will benefit your prospects, you'll be excited to tell them about it.

3. Set a goal. Before you pick up the telephone to call a prospect, set a concrete goal for the outcome. Are you hoping for an appointment, the opportunity to provide a price quote or perhaps a chance to close a sale? Decide what you want to make happen, and structure your call accordingly.

4. Create a three-part opener. A cold call is an unscheduled interruption. Within the first few seconds, you must establish a reason for your prospect to speak with you. For best results, create a three-part opener that includes your name, company name and an opening benefit. For example, a special-events contractor contacting a local retailer might say, "This is Jane Doe, president of Doe Special Events. My reason for calling today is to tell you about traffic-building events we've developed for stores like yours that draw qualified new customers."

5. Ask great questions. There are two types of questions. Start your conversation with a close-ended question, which reveals a fact or can be answered with yes or no. Then use open-ended questions to draw your prospect out. "Who is your current supplier?" is a close-ended question. "What do you like best about your present supplier?" is open-ended. Get the idea?

6. Position against competitors. Finding out that your prospect is using a competitor is great news because it means he or she needs what you sell. Never directly criticize a competitor. Instead, discuss case histories that demonstrate how customers or clients have realized benefits that only your company can provide.

7. Ask for the business. Once you've initiated a cold call and learned about your prospect, close by asking for what you want. If you can't achieve your primary goal, promise some form of action, and be sure to follow through. It takes multiple contacts with prospects before most sales are closed, so the positive impression you've created in your initial contact will be reinforced as you successfully move your prospect through the sales cycle.

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