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ARTICLES

WHAT IS COLD CALLING?

If your business sells to other businesses (B2B) or if the products/services you are selling have a high price point, this approach might be for you. Cold calling options exist for companies that have lower prices, but I have no experience with these. My professional experience using this technique consists in the sale of:

  • Corporate training service;
  • Consulting service;
  • 3D plans for builders of new houses;
  • Market development for companies in the medical field;
  • Products to chain retail stores (clothing, renovation products, food).
  • The only experience I have with mass cold calling is as a potential customer and it is usually not a positive one. So, I try to avoid using what I do not like myself.

    What are cold calls? They are unsolicited calls to potential buyers of your products and services. Does this technique work? Absolutely. Is it difficult? Absolutely. But because of its difficulty, few people use it, and its effectiveness is thus increased. Furthermore, I will share some tips to improve your productivity.

    To start, here are a few things that need to be validated for this technique to be effective.

    The first is whether this technique is for your business. If your sales are low priced, this technique may not be for you, at least not as we define it here. Other advertising strategies may be better suited for your products/services. Also, if your field is filled with this sale technic, avoid this approach. I get called 2-4 times a month by financial advisers who offer me a free assessment of my portfolio. Do I need another call? No. This is what has given this approach a bad reputation: doing high volume, impersonalized approach when the technique is used by low-cost products (newspaper subscriptions have been the ones who have used this approach for years), undiversified, (sellers for financial advisers who offer the same sales pitch; a 'free' assessment of my portfolio) or sometimes free (the number of times I get called to give my opinion on a survey).

    The other point is to clearly define who is buying your product or service. If you are selling to businesses, ask yourself;

  • Who makes the purchasing decisions in the company?
  • Who is responsible for what I sell?
  • Who should you contact?
  • Sometimes the decision-maker, the person responsible for what you sell, and the person to contact are different people in a company. If the price of your product or service exceeds the budget of the manager of the department impacted by what you are selling, he/she will not technically make the decision but could be the person who will gather the information to present internally and obtain the necessary budget to complete the purchase. If the company has a procurement center and you sell software, your contact might be the head of IT and the person who ultimately makes the purchase is the buyer. Depending on the organization, sometimes this is just a formality. Sometimes it is more complex like with some large companies. Why not go straight to the top? You need to know the company and the structure well before making this decision. I have had positive and negative results using this strategy. For some companies, receiving a proposal from the boss can be a good way to get things moving. For others, they may feel bypassed. Finding answers to his questions is an important part of your thinking process at this stage.

    And if your clients are professionals, you have to define who they are;

  • What profession;
  • What stage of their activity (recently graduated, experienced, etc.);
  • What geographic region;
  • Where to find them;
  • Are they part of a professional association?
  • Etc.
  • Subsequently, it is necessary to obtain or develop a list. Several companies sell such lists. Do not go for quantity at the expense of quality. A good, up-to-date list with the names of the decision-makers is worth much more than an outdated list with more prospects, where you will spend a lot of your time qualifying the information. You could use social media to build this list. LinkedIn could be a good resource if you have developed a good network on this platform. Because to "see" people, LinkedIn allows you to see the information of your connections and their connections. After that, it gets more difficult. Some contacts will appear, others will not. Use the LinkedIn "search" function. It can help you find business decision-makers or professionals matching your criteria. There are also professional associations that offer directories. This is the case for notaries, lawyers, dentists, psychologists, translators, etc.

    Thereafter, I recommend developing a certain script. I do not think reading a text is the best way to approach a potential client, but having a guideline is a good idea. For my part, I always follow these points:

  • Ask if this is a good time to talk. I usually ask for two minutes. If not, ask when a good time would be and call back then.
  • Ask if they are the decision-maker for what you are offering. If not, ask who you should be talking to.
  • Briefly present your offer. 1min maximum. You are not at the selling stage yet. Here, you are measuring the level of interest. For example, a pitch might be: we are social media marketing firm, is this something you are having trouble with? Depending on the answer, go further.
  • When presenting your solution, remember: you have to solve a problem. Do not say what you do, but rather what you could do for the company.
  • From this moment on, the conversation is more fluid. Ask questions and give answers.
  • If there is a commitment, follow up diligently. For example: if the person asks "send me a proposal" or "send me more information about your business", do so promptly.
  • For the last point, people have different opinions on how to treat this request. For some, this answer is a disguised "no". It is perceived as buying time or saying no politely. But sometimes the needs are not yet identified. Your offer will then help move the project forward within the company. It all depends on what stage of the decision-making you are arriving at. I always fulfill the commitments made during the conversation. I call back at the prescribed time, I follow up by email or mail (less frequent, but there are still companies that operate with paper), etc. Remember: the potential customer does not know you. The non-verbal is thus especially important. If you do what you promise, the buyer will be able to see that you are serious. I once landed a contract of over $ 150,000.00 because the buyer told me I was the only one who had followed up. An interesting fact to know, over 80% of sales are made after the fifth contact.

    Have your communication tools ready BEFORE you start your cold calling. Your corporate presentation is not ready? Do not start making calls. What will happen if there is a request for information? You will have to develop the presentation in a rush while your potential client cools off. Think of:

  • Your website.
  • Your presence on social media. Your potential customers will go and see who you are.
  • The price list or a general proposal depending on how you operate. But a price list is a good idea for many because you will inevitably get to talk about prices. By doing this exercise, you will know what to answer.
  • Having your emails or your letterhead ready.
  • Then you must start calling. There is an important balance between enthusiasm and productivity. If one of the important keys to success is volume, being mechanical without passion is counterproductive. So, if you find yourself repeating the same things without enthusiasm, take a break. As a reference, professional salespeople can make up to a few hundred calls per day. But this is only an indication. Several factors cause this volume to vary. And as an entrepreneur, you have other activities to take care of. But, if you think your day is complete after five calls, you should persist.

    There is also the organization of your week which is important. Cold calls are usually made in the afternoon, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. No calls on Monday. Everyone is coming back from the weekend with emergencies to deal with. On Friday, I had mixed success; for some companies, people have more time and are more receptive to listen to you. For others, such as the construction industry, are busy doing open houses. Fridays are not a good time to talk to them. Others leave early for the weekend. So, Friday is to be determined.

    There is a way to warm up your leads. This involves contacting a prospect after another action was made; sending a letter, an email, filling out an online questionnaire, etc. Here we have a warmer prospect who knows a little about us. This technique is more productive and leads to a better conversion rate than just cold calling. But there are some costs associated with this. If you can afford them, you would increase your productivity. I very much like this technique. It gives you a good start and the person on the other end of the phone has a sense of who you are and what you are selling.

    If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate in contacting me.

     

    Stéphane Elmaleh-Riel, B.Ed., MBA
    Marketing consultant