Turning Cold Calls into Hot Leads

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Cold calling is very hard to do. Simply picking up the phone takes courage. But turning cold calls into actual sales calls — that takes confidence and thick skin as well as skill. Here are some tips to help your cold calls yield some hot results:

Aggressively target your buyers.

Entrepreneurs often skip the upfront work of narrowly identifying markets appropriate for their services. As a result, sales efforts are scattered, which is a waste of time and money.

Every owner should have a plan. Until you know the companies or consumer markets that are ripe to buy your wares, don't pick up the phone.

The more you can define your markets, the greater your chances of differentiating your business and gaining access to decision makers.

Invest in research.

You should research a company you are going to 'cold call,' so you know something about the company's business and needs.

Craft a good script — and use it.

You can't wing it. Despite the fact that you're passionate about your business, communicating the benefits of your product takes distinct skills. With limited time on the phone, a written script lets you focus on points you want to make.

In a few short sentences, you must provide both a description of your services and compelling reasons why the prospect should buy your product. You can then move on to secondary benefits or news.

"The script shouldn't be word for word," says sales trainer Wendy Weiss. "It's a way to prepare yourself for the conversation. You decide ahead of time how you want to present yourself, what reaction you want to get and how to ask for what you want. Be ready to counter possible objections with specific explanations, statistics or case studies. If an objection arises that you hadn't anticipated, react as best you can. Then write it down and prepare a detailed response before the next call.

Warm up every cold call.

It helps if you don't start on thin ice. Before calling, send the prospect a smart, useful introductory letter. Wait two days after they have received the letter, then call. There are many introductory options, depending on your targets and products, including mail, email, white papers, special reports or introductory discounts.

Be nice to the gatekeepers.

An executive screener's job is to guard the inner sanctum. Becoming irritated, frustrated or rude with such assistants will only hurt your business. Think through strategies to get gatekeepers to open doors. Create a friendly mood. Learn screeners' names and preferences. By making the gatekeeper an ally, you'll win access more easily.

Practice, practice, practice.

Like most skills, the more cold calling you do, the better you'll get. Rehearse your pitch out loud with friends or associates. Some experts suggest standing during calls in order to give your voice authority and energy. Everyone always says smile while you talk, because that will be also conveyed in your voice. Whatever helps you infuse warmth and confidence in the calls, try it. Try dividing all your leads into A, B and C lists: Practice on the Cs before calling the As.

Customize your delivery.

But don't become too attached to any particular script or language. Once you have a framework, you must be able to fine-tune it to fit individual prospects. Every customer has specialized needs and preferences. Make sure you're up to speed about your community and industry or market news. You want to sound plugged-in and connected whenever you call prospects.

No question, cold calling is difficult and daunting work. But it does pay off. Remember, you need to be targeted and focused and to call only on those people who are ready to buy.

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