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A beginners guide to cold calling a prospect

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Cold calling a prospect

No one really likes getting cold calls but neither do most people enjoy making cold calls. It’s nerve wracking and awkward but it’s still one of the best and quickest ways of getting a qualified lead.

Nothing beats speaking to someone to get the sale. Even if it goes south you can at least write it off quickly in a phone call that lasts a few minutes rather than waiting around and wondering if an email worked or not.

Research your prospect and dealing with gatekeepers

One of my biggest gripes is getting a cold call and getting the question, can I speak to someone in marketing or sales - it automatically triggers spam in my head.

When the cold caller asks for a person I don’t automatically disregard them, this is hugely important and you’d be surprised what percentage of cold calls don’t even bother to do this. There are a ton of databases out there like Linkedin where you can look up a person, see their role in the company you’re calling and find out a little about them and importantly any issues they’re facing that you can help with.

In addition, there are better times to call in, and those are early mornings or near the end of the day because if you call in the middle of the work day they’ve probably already begun a piece of work and will have little to no time for you.

When you call in you’re probably not going to get through to the person you want but the gatekeeper, it could be a secretary or receptionist. You’ve got to get through them, and they will want to stop you because they don’t want to bother their boss.

That’s why you’ve got to be friendly with them so as to not seem like spam and make it so that their boss should want to hear from you. One of the best ways is in addition to naming the person you want, to also then be specific and honest about what you’re calling about, something as simple as “Hi, it’s Mike from Company X could you please put me through to Steve to discuss the company’s voip system”.

The great thing about this is you’ve been specific but you haven’t given it away by giving a long exposition that it’s a cold call, a lot of times the gatekeeper will likely check in with the person you want after that without investigating too much further whether this was an arranged call or not.

On the other hand, if you get straight through to your prospect once again be honest as to the purpose of your call but ask permission to speak with them. Something as simple as “Hi Steve, it’s Mike from Company X, thanks for taking my call are you free to speak?”.

The great thing about this is that its a simple question that elicits an immediate response, it doesn’t really allow time to think up an excuse so you’re usually likely to get an honest answer. If you do get a no, then get permission to call them back with a date and time when they’ll be at their desk. That becomes your primary objective of the call.

Don’t wing it

You got through the gatekeeper and you’ve got your prospect on the phone and they can talk to you. Congratulations, now the game really begins.

Firstly, if its a sales call then be honest about it. You’re less likely to annoy the prospect and it’s better to cut duds as quickly as possible. Sometimes people are having a bad day or they’re just not interested and nothing you do will change that, the best you can do is save your time and move onto richer pastures. Since you did your research the person you’re speaking to should at least have some interest in what you’re selling, you’re not trying to persuade the marketing guy to buy your VoIP services.

Now that is out the way, do not wing this. You’ll be found out real fast. You need a flow of steps you want the call to go in to lead towards an appointment and hopefully closing the deal.

The most obvious thing to do would be to wax lyrical about the benefits of whatever it is you’re selling, don’t do that. It’s generic and uninteresting.

What you need to do is after your intro find the utility for the prospect that means asking the right questions to find the problems they have that your product or service can solve. This creates in their mind a utility for your product in their heads, you have to tie your product to their problem because they might not do it themselves. In sales there’s a lot of hand holding the prospect through each stage.

Unfortunately, life would be awesome if everyone would follow your script but that’s not the case, and it never will be. The prospect will throw curveballs at you. You want to listen to them and don’t try to fit a canned answer into a context it doesn’t fit into. Doing that will turn the prospect off and make them feel like you’re not listening to them.

The best way to deal with curveballs is to have a wealth of knowledge about your product and your industry and examples of real world use cases that you can bring up of your product. If you have a superficial understanding of what you’re selling even the most moderate of inspections by the prospect will reveal that and you’ll be left tongue tied and red faced. Your job is to understand as many of these objections as possible and have reasons to bat them away, you won’t come up with all of them but the exercise will prove invaluable in understanding the value you’re offering to prospects which is your tool in the call to get another appointment and close the deal.

Don’t beat yourself up

No one started deadlifting 500lbs+ on the first attempt, you’re going to mess up and there’ll be a steep learning curve. But that’s the point don’t be discouraged and learn from each call.

“Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other”.

-Benjamin Franklin-

At the end of the day you want to come across as friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. In order to make that impression on the prospect you have to put in the work ahead of time. The better prepared you are the less awkward pauses and the more confident you will sound on the phone which will increase your chances.

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