To Cold Call or Not to Cold Call

Published on April 22, 2013 by Eric Weld

First in a Two-Part Series

For many small business owners, it’s one of the scariest, most objectionable prospects in business: cold calling.

It literally turns some stomachs—the thought of picking up the phone and calling an executive or another business owner and making a pitch. The fear of rejection overwhelms, and telephoneconvulsions of hesitation and trepidation can paralyze the cold caller before he even dials.

So you’ve got to ask: Is cold calling really a necessary aspect of business prospecting?

Not necessarily. It depends on a few factors, such as:

  • What kind of product or service you offer
  • Who and where your target market is
  • Where your strengths lie as a salesperson
  • How much and how fast you want to grow

If you run a side business planning weddings on the weekends and you’re getting all the business you can handle through word-of-mouth and a few well-placed ads, no need to reach out via cold calling. If you have a neighborhood shop for lawnmower repairs and garner more business than you can keep up with by advertising in the local newspaper and via a web site, certainly skip the step of cold calling.

And if your business is selling software, eBooks, seminar or Webinar tickets or any other type of information products, email prospecting might match your outreach needs better than spoken-word conversations.

However, if you are starting a business providing a service, such as cleaning, for homes and businesses in your area, and you want to let people know you’re now available for service, cold calling can be an effective arrow in your marketing quill. Likewise if you’re trying to grow your clientele beyond local geography.

Whether this age-old method is right for you and your business, here is what a lot of people never find out about cold calling: it can be a fun, enjoyable activity, believe it or not, and is certainly educational and instructional.

I, like so many, dreaded launching into my first cold-calling campaign. For days I put off making my first phone call, forestalling visions I had of nasty, abusive business executives castigating me for wasting two minutes of their valuable time, ending with a loud click when they hang up (knowing full well, of course, that phone hang-ups don’t make a clicking sound anymore!).

Finally, I mustered the nerve, gave myself a number of rallying messages: You have nothing to lose; Think of this as practice; Just have a nice conversation.

Here’s what I found out: every one of those messages was true.

On my very first cold call—which was a follow-up to a small direct mailing a week earlier—I reached the owner of a fast-growing business in my area, and had a very pleasant, unhurried conversation about what strategies they’ve employed and ways I think I could help. We set up a time for me to drop by, meet and discuss possible next steps.

Let Off the Pressure

One thing new business owners get caught up in is putting too much pressure on the outcome of cold calling, or any other type of outreach for that matter.

If you boil down the goal to be nothing more than practicing your sales pitch, then you’ve already succeeded within the first 30 seconds of the call. Another goal is to set a time to meet.

In other words, as most seasoned sales professionals will tell you: a cold call is not a sales call. It is a component in the sales chain, yes, but its point is not to close. Rather, the point of a cold call is simply to facilitate the next step—a meeting in which a sales close might take place; a request for more information about your product or service; permission to send detailed information and/or follow up with another phone call.

Above all, and ideally, a cold call is nothing more than a pleasant conversation in which information is exchanged. The cold caller states his business and the callee responds with his or her needs.

Cold calling is one of the oldest sales techniques there is. It’s been around a long time because it works when done well.

Next post, I’ll continue the cold call discussion, focusing on scripted calls: good or bad.

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