One of my first sales jobs was cold calling from lead lists. On the average day, I would dial 200 numbers, have 40 conversations, and send literature to about 10 of the folks I was able to reach. That was my quota. I only met a handful of the more than 200 folks I made into clients during my two-year tenure there. Virtually all of our transactions were done over the phone.
Given that experience, I can share a lot of advice on how to make cold calls work and how to build the right rapport:
- You have to keep your energy level high. It’s best if you’re standing up and pacing, which requires a wireless headset or a 20-foot phone cord (if you insist on having a corded headset, just don’t trip).
- You have to “smile and dial.” People can actually hear your smile while you’re talking. It even helps to have a mirror at your desk with “Smile and Dial” or some other cheeky phrase written on it so you can stay aware of how your facial expressions might be impacting your effectiveness on the phone.
- You need to ask a question as quickly as possible that will get your listeners thinking of the answer, rather than asking themselves, “Who is this caller and why are they calling me?”
- It helps to employ a 3-sentence solicitation approach. “Over the past ______ we have had the pleasure of working with _______companies within _______ miles of your facility. It occurred to me the other day as I was driving by your facility that you have the same ________ that we removed from more than half of those buildings. I’m calling today to see if you’d like to have a conversation about how we might extend that success to your facility.”
- Use a referral if you have one. If you open the call with, “Hi _______, I was referred to you by ________,” you have a more solid reason for calling. Mentioning an article your prospect wrote, a PowerPoint they presented at a recent conference, or other press or events that they would identify with also qualifies as a referral.
Of course, you also need to be prepared. Who are you calling? Where are you getting your leads? Focus on prospects who are similar to clients you have already helped. If you don’t have that luxury, you need to discover why your offering would be in your prospects’ best interest. Do they even care about energy? Do they care about their reputation? Would they benefit from issuing a green press release? Have they had health and safety issues in the past? Or whatever...
Once you have enough information, it’s easy to make a call that's conversational, engages the customer and provides useful information. All of a sudden, you’re less of an interloper stealing this person's time and more like someone offering an unexpected benefit—something that’s going to get them genuinely excited and motivating to hear more of what you have to share.