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A stranger calls: an introvert’s guide to cold calling

  1. Cold calling
    Kat Haylock

    Kat Haylock Community Editor Staff Member

    Posts: 301 Likes: 130
    4 |

    Despite its extensive history in small business circles, cold calling remains a perennial source of anxiety for many of our users. How do I ensure I’m talking to the right person? Will I come across as desperate if I cold call?

    Over the last year, we’ve been lucky enough to have some of our most experienced salespeople offer up their advice and strategies on the subject. I’ve rounded up their best cold calling tips on how to beat your nerves and pick up the phone.

    How can I prepare for a cold call?

    As Ashley_Price writes in this thread, it can be hard to overcome the dread of a cold call. He starts by researching the companies he’s planning to call. If you want to be on the phone for as little time as possible, avoid being bounced between departments and find out in advance who’s responsible for purchasing the product you’re selling.

    Consider sending a brief email beforehand. As suitontherun says, you’re unlikely to get a response to your email, but sixty percent of the time it helps him to break to the ice. Webgeek suggests including a link to a useful PDF in the email, which you can then use to track interest via open rates, click through and downloads.  

    Ashley’s next step is to plan what he’s going to say. He writes several ‘scripts’ – pages of pointers targeted at different industries, rather than large chunks of text – to ensure his products are as relevant as possible to the call recipient. “If I’m speaking to a solicitors or accountants,” he says, “I make sure to mention filing and storage, as they use a lot of this for their old papers”.

    While writing down pointers is certainly advisable, it’s best to keep your script as brief as possible. When Gecko001 was on the receiving end a recent cold call, he engaged in conversation rather than hanging up because it was apparent right from the start that the caller was not reading from a script. Though he didn’t need what the caller was selling, he came away from the call with a good impression of the company.

    It’s also important to find a source of motivation for your cold call.  For Ashley, his initial motivation came from the fact he felt he was letting his friend and manager down. He started by making five calls; the next day fifteen, and the following day, eighteen. Each day, Ashley says, he told himself that if he didn’t make the calls he would feel like a failure.

    His last step is to pick up the phone and start dialling: after all, as he puts it, the only way you’re going to make the call is if you make the call. Does he still feel fear at this point? “Of course I do, and it doesn't go away completely. But it does feel easier.”

    What should go into a cold call?

    Most cold call conversation starters – in particular, the cordial “How are you today?” – have been met with horror on the forums. So what should go into the brief amount of time you have your target on the phone? Several members use cold calls just to set up an appointment with the recipient at a later date. Others prefer using the call to introduce themselves and their company.

    Nick Grogan, who’s spent most of his adult life selling on the phone, suggests that – regardless of your approach - you get to the point quickly. “The buyer doesn't care who you are, where you're from or the name of your company, unless you're well known,” he says. “They do care about why you're interrupting their day.”And, if someone is being interrupted, it had better be to give them something of value.

    Webgeek uses cold calls solely to verify contact details, so he can email or post the recipient a useful insight. He follows this insight up with something of similar value, until a level of trust is reached to explore his value proposition. By taking the time to find out whether you have a solution to a problem of theirs, you’ll avoid wasting time trying to sell, say, carpet cleaner to someone with hardwood floors.

    “A cold call shouldn’t be to try and convince the recipient to buy something from you, given you know virtually nothing about them. You haven't built any trust and haven't brought anything to the table other than a desire to fill your pocket with their hard earned cash.”

    For Webgeek, selling isn’t getting someone to do something in your best interest. Rather, it’s about only selling to people who have developed some brand affinity and are at the stage of readiness in the buyer journey that would welcome a sales call. That, he says, is the modern approach to cold calling.

    How should I follow up a call?

    While the internet is bursting with follow up email templates, UKBF members have a lighter approach: don’t be too rigid in your follow up request. If suitontherun senses the prospect isn't keen for a formal meeting, he’ll suggest meeting for a coffee or a beer.

    Sitting down in neutral territory like Starbucks has also proved successful for Webgeek, who advocates simply discussing how their business works and what the prospect needs to make it a bigger success. By leaving out props, slide decks and brochures, you’re able to focus on the prospect and their pain points. “Naked selling really does work”, he says. “Providing you’re clothed.”

    Do you get nervous before cold calling? How do you make the most of your cold calls? Sign in and let us know in the comments below!

  2. Ashley_Price

    Ashley_Price UKBF Legend Full Member - Verified Business

    Posts: 6,582 Likes: 1,180
    Since this article has come out, I've learnt a lot about myself and my fear of cold calling. It's probably the same as most people - it's the fear of rejection. Rejection is horrible, you know you're not supposed to take it personally when you cold call, but you do.

    Then I got chatting with a couple of sales professionals in another forum and one of them said to me I should be making 100 calls a day! A hundred calls? Some days I barely have the courage to do 10, how will I ever do 100?

    Then the other one said I needed to work out my target - how many sales I want to make per week - then work it backwards. He said to me it's not an exact science but on average 100 calls a day will lead to five quotes a day, which will lead to five sales per week.

    This was like an epiphany. Okay, of course I knew I wasn't going to be able to do a quote for everyone I phoned up, but what I hadn't appreciated was how few times I would get the chance to do a quote. In fact, 95% of the calls I will make will be negative responses ("not interested", voicemail, no answer, not available...).

    Realising that 95 out of 100 calls were going to be negative was actually like a huge release of pressure. I had been so desperate to try and sell to every firm I called up, that it became extremely stressful, leading me to making fewer and fewer calls (with 20 in one day being my highest) and getting no quotes to do.

    It was such a revelation that it changed my mindset. Yes, I was still nervous doing the calls, but the very next morning I did 31 calls in two hours (and would have done more if I hadn't had quote requests from current customers).

    Another thing I learnt was that if 100 calls leads to five quotes, that averages out at one quote every 20 calls. No wonder I rarely had any success from cold calling. If I was stopping at 10, 15 or even 20, then I was rarely going to get a quote. The morning I did the 31 calls in two hours, the first person to say "yes" to a quote came on call 27!

    So, if you're about to start doing cold calls, but find something is holding you back, remember you are likely to get 95 negative calls for every 100 you make. It will help you get past the fear of rejection, etc., and understand it is all part of the process. Plus, you need to do enough calls to get the sale or a chance to quote.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2017
    Posted: Feb 27, 2017 By: Ashley_Price Member since: Feb 9, 2008
    Kat Haylock likes this.
  3. Kat Haylock

    Kat Haylock Community Editor Staff Member

    Posts: 301 Likes: 130
    "Realising that 95 out of 100 calls were going to be negative was actually like a huge release of pressure" Brilliantly put Ashley - please keep sharing your experiences on this.
    Posted: Mar 22, 2017 By: Kat Haylock Member since: Jul 11, 2016
    Ashley_Price likes this.
  4. Ashley_Price

    Ashley_Price UKBF Legend Full Member - Verified Business

    Posts: 6,582 Likes: 1,180
    No problem, @Kat Haylock.

    I think that is the problem, so many people (including me) first go into cold calling with the wrong mindset. Yes, we should be positive, but we should also be realistic. If you're expecting to cold call 100 people and sell to every one then you're going to fail. That's going to make you feel bad each time, and that soon mounts up to a lot of negativity. But if you know you're probably only going to get 5 sales (or quotes requests in my case) out of 100 calls, you start to understand that while you do have a mammoth task, you know to expect a lot of failures.

    After all, if selling by cold calling was easy, every one would do it.

    But even the negative "not interested"/"go away" calls can be useful in the long run. Yes, they might not be interested in you today, but what happens if their supplier lets them down tomorrow?
    Posted: Mar 24, 2017 By: Ashley_Price Member since: Feb 9, 2008
  5. ISL Recruitment

    ISL Recruitment UKBF Contributor Free Member

    Posts: 40 Likes: 5
    Excellent advice Ashley. I actually have a friend who's in the timeshare business (well in the 'speaking with timeshare owners' business to be precise). It's their dream to have a 5% acceptance rate ;)
    Posted: Mar 27, 2017 By: ISL Recruitment Member since: Jan 10, 2017