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Warming Up to Cold Calls

There are no two ways about it – almost no one likes to make cold calls. But calling someone out of the blue can be an amazingly productive way to generate business. It has always worked wonders for me and I dislike the concept as much as the next person. So how do I do it? By reframing what it means to me.

Many people refrain from picking up the phone to make cold calls for a very simple (and non-threatening) reason – they don’t know whom to call! So the first thing to do is get a list. One list at everyone’s fingertips is the phone book. The yellow pages may have just the group of businesses you are looking to contact. I remember when I was looking to do business with lawyers, the Yellow Pages was a great place to start. All lawyers were listed there (and in New York, that’s a lot of lawyers). So whether it’s lawyers or plumbers or restaurants, the phone book can be a great resource. Try the Business-to-Business Yellow Pages, a better source than the consumer listings.

Of course, if you want to speak to the senior vice presidents in charge of human resources at Fortune 500 corporations, then you need to find a more targeted list. These lists are plentiful and much cheaper than you might think. The Internet is replete with great websites of companies that market lists. You can get lists that are very specific, including number of employees, revenue, in certain geographical areas and that are up to date, i.e., the contact still works there. List companies stake their reputations on how current their data are, so do your homework and ask around. These days, of course, lists are available on line, on disk and in formats you can immediately use for merging with documents or transferring to tables. I have found that a good list can keep me very busy for a long time.

Another simple (and, this time perhaps, threatening) reason people don’t make cold calls is the very understandable fear they have of being rejected and rejected a cold caller will be, more often than not. But what if you knew that every time you picked up the phone to call a complete stranger, you would be paid for it and paid well? Would you start calling? Of course you would. So here’s how I think about it and how you may want to think about it from now on. I have learned that for every 12-13 calls I make, I book between one and two jobs for an 8%-10% return. So, If the average job I book is worth $5,000, then each call I made to get to that client paid me $384. And I can make between 15 and 20 calls per hour. Thinking about it this way has helped me tremendously in overcoming the distaste I have for rejection. By transforming the rejection into a payday I have made a once unpleasant task into a moneymaker. One thing though is for sure, you can’t get to that paying client unless you prospect and make those preceding calls.

Okay, let’s say you’ve got yourself a good, current list and you’re ready to start making money. The third stumbling block is often not knowing what to say or how to say it. It is now time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and hammer out a script you can use. Begin with an introduction including your name and a very brief description of your product or service. If possible, mention a couple of clients that are similar to the client you’re speaking to. Ask the listener if it is a product or service they use or would be interested in using. If they say yes, probe a bit by asking about the work they’ve had done and whether they’ve been satisfied. Ask whom they’re working with. Finally ask if they’d be open to an introductory meeting. Most clients will say no to this, citing time constraints or contentment with current services. If they say no, ask why and listen carefully to the response. Often clients raise objections that can be overcome. If there is still no movement ask if you can send written materials for the client to keep for future reference. If the client resists receiving information, which is very unusual, respect the client’s wishes, politely say thank you and move onto the next person on the list.

Oh, and don’t forget to mentally add that $384 to your plus column.

Cold calling is one of those things we don’t get much training in – another communication skill. But with practice, it becomes easier, part of your routine and once you book those jobs, you’ll begin wondering why you didn’t start sooner.

Copyright 2001 Ruth Sherman. All Rights Reserved.

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