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7 Tips for Cold Calling to Generate Sales for Your Small Business
By Jake Thompson
It’s common for salespeople to find themselves cold calling, especially at the beginning of their careers. Many new sales hires expect to be on the phone for the majority of their day. This time-honored technique is a valuable part of a salesperson’s toolkit because it works. Just as other sales techniques have changed with the times, cold calling, too, has improved from the basic exercise it was decades ago to a technology-driven, strategic task it is now.
Cold calling is a major component of sales, especially for small businesses trying to expand their sales territory. Nearly every sales professional has spent valuable time working the phones, which helps them strengthen their pitch and introduce a wider audience to their company.
This article first explains what cold calling is, follows with a section on building your comfort level with this aspect of sales, then offers seven tips for achieving success with cold calling.
What Is Cold Calling?
Cold calling is the sales tactic of phoning (or sometimes dropping in on) a prospect to start a professional relationship and eventually sell them your goods or services. It’s unexpected by the prospect because, as the name implies, the relationship between the prospect and business does not yet exist. Salespeople are armed with prospect lists, databases, and other tools for finding new leads, and they call each potential lead to try to start a relationship.
The three basic tenets of a cold call are that the prospect doesn’t know you, doesn’t expect to hear from you, and may not want or have time to talk to you. Compare cold calling to warm introductions, which is a sales strategy that uses a mutual interest or connection who can introduce you. A step above warm introductions is a hot lead, a customer who has done business with you before. Thanks to referrals and word-of-mouth advertising, many small businesses rely on warm or hot calls. That said, cold calling should still be part of your sales team’s prospecting.
Initial anxiety and hesitation in inexperienced salespeople is understandable and can be allayed with training, practice, and a firm belief in the company and its offerings. Done correctly, cold calling can be a successful process for both salesperson and prospect. The prospect receives an unexpected phone call or visitor, but that conversation may result in a sales pitch that ends up helping both parties.
The process may frustrate some salespeople, of course. They make as many calls as they can, and often deal with rejection and people hanging up on them. It doesn’t have to be frustrating, however, and for small businesses, it shouldn’t be. Business owners believe in the product or service they sell, and their sales team should feel the same way. This belief fuels them to call as many people as they can in order to reach the people who are ready to listen and accept the offer. Cold calling can be a career-building, positive sales tool that initiates relationships and eventually creates sales.
What to Do if You’re Nervous About Picking Up the Phone
Many new salespeople are nervous about cold calling prospects. Their concerns should be managed by their colleagues and mentors. Hearing no is an important part of the sales process, and successful sales professionals understand that each call provides an opportunity to improve their craft. Every call also brings them closer to their next yes.
One way to work past any nerves about making cold calls is to look at each call as an opportunity to improve your sales skills. Every conversation provides a learning opportunity and serves as training to help salespeople work more efficiently. The person on the other end is not rejecting you as a person; they’re turning down the offer you’re presenting. Keep this in mind each time you dial to stay focused on excelling at the task at hand.
7 Tips for Succeeding with Cold Calling for Sales
For small business owners and salespeople alike, practice makes perfect. You’ll grow more confident as you gain experience communicating with potential leads. When you are ready to start cold calling, use the following tips to increase your chances of a successful call.
1. Before you pick up the phone or visit, talk to current customers.
Ask current customers to name specific problems your service has helped solve. Write down and understand the relationships between their problems and your solutions. You should use this information during your initial conversation during a cold call. After all, you know that leads in your target audience will most likely face the same problems your current clients have. This proactive approach helps demonstrate your competency and guide the conversation toward an objective.
2. Prepare as much as you can.
First, determine who your target customers are. Then, do your homework and create an objective for each call. Is the call to set up an appointment, find a specific contact within the organization, or get the prospect into your lead funnel? Knowing the person you should talk to and your objective for the conversation is paramount to succeeding at cold calling.
One helpful strategy prior to making your call is to research the prospect on LinkedIn and social media. Learn about their interests, social activities, and other items of note that you can use in conversation. This can help warm the lead and move you away from being a total stranger.
3. Create a strong opening line that bridges the gap from stranger to connection.
A strong first line helps keep a prospect on the phone and often reduces the chances of the call ending prematurely. Practice variations of an opener that is warm, personal, and shows respect for their time.
4. Remember that your goal is to help the customer.
When you cold call, it’s not about you. It’s about the customer. With that mindset, you set yourself up for success. You have a great solution for their problem or need, but the call should always center around the prospect. Learn about their business and current pain points, and actively listen. Recommend your solution after they know you have a genuine interest in their challenges and know how to help them overcome them.
5. Don’t overwhelm the prospective customer on the first call.
You may have caught the prospect off guard with the call. They could be unprepared for the conversation, so don’t give them too much information right away. Keep your initial call or meeting simple. Focus on gathering insights about your prospect’s challenges and business needs instead of launching into a monologue about your products. By treating your first touchpoint with the lead as a research step, you can be of more value during your subsequent conversations.
6. Get your repetitions in.
Practice makes perfect. Every call you make provides you an opportunity to improve your communication and cold calling skills. The best cold calling salespeople weren’t born with a natural ability to sell any better than others. They simply pick up the phone repeatedly and improve over time with each call.
7. Learn from those who reject the offer.
When you can, learn why you were told no. It may be that the offer isn’t a great fit for them right now. You may also discover insights into your target market or find out where they perceive a lack of value or immediate need for your offering. Use this information to your advantage by addressing it up front on future calls.
As you learn more about each prospect or your audience as a whole, enter the information into your sales software or your customer relationship management (CRM) platform. The more data you have on your audience, the better you know them, and talking to potential customers is an excellent way to conduct research.
Look at every cold call as a chance to learn more about your prospects. Even if they say no, you walk away from the call with more experience cold calling, insight into their business, and information you can use to help a future prospect say yes.
Finally, if a prospect says no now, that doesn’t mean they won’t need you in the future. Lead scoring can help reps understand exactly where a prospect is in the funnel and how previous cold calls and marketing efforts fared. Even if a cold call isn’t immediately successful, that lead now knows about your business, is warmer than before, and may be ready for your pitch at some point in the future.
The Most Important Part of Cold Calling
The most important part of cold calling doesn’t have to do with the phone or the message. When a salesperson makes these calls, they need to believe in the power of this strategy. Experienced sales professionals know cold calling is a valuable sales tool they can use to generate more sales.
Go into every call with a positive outlook. Each cold call is about learning more about your prospects, and you’ll see more success and outpace your quotas and benchmarks in sales.