7 steps to a perfect cold call

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A telephone booth is seen on Feb. 8, 2007, in Cambridge, England.
Flickr user Myrmi

(MoneyWatch) A reader writes:

Will you share strategies that work best when breaking the ice with new prospects over the phone? I have to make some 20-30 calls within a 2 hour period and most clients are rushed and hurried and I find myself racing to get to the point, leaving very little time to build rapport. How do I build rapport immediately in these circumstances? I am genuinely interested in building a relationship to learn as much as I can about their core issues so I can build proposals that directly address their objectives and needs. What's the best way to engage them (in 30 seconds or less I imagine), which would cause them relax somewhat so they want to share information with you. If you would be willing to share this, I would appreciate it very much.

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Absolutely.

Before we get started, though, you need to be aware that there's a vast difference of opinion, among experts and sales pros alike, about the effectiveness of cold-calling.

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Many sales experts think cold-calling is a waste of time and prefer other forms of generating leads. Others see cold-calling as a last resort, while still others see it as a mainspring of any effective sales process.

Later, I'll discuss some of those other viewpoints. For now, let's just get the basics down. Andrea Sittig-Rolf, author of "The Seven Keys to Effective Business-to-Business Appointment Setting" is an extremely well-known proponent of cold-calling as a lead-generation technique.

When I spoke with Andrea a couple of years ago, she observed that cold-calling is all about getting the appointment. She therefore gears the entire cold-calling process toward achieving that end. Here's a summary of her approach:

Research a list of prospects. Before making your calls, research your prospects. Look for prospects who have a similar profile to those who have bought from the past. They'll be easier to sell. Next to each prospect, note any of your current customers in the prospect's industry, region, job classification, or anything else that might help you to position your offering. Don't spend a lot of time on this, just find out enough so that you can pitch using terms that the prospect can understand.

Build your script. Once you know whom you're going to call, focus on what you're going to say. Write a brief script (no more than three or four sentences) that introduces who you are, what you do, and what you provide. An effective script asks for the appointment early. Please note that the purpose of the script is NOT to communicate substantive information about your offering. Instead, the purpose of the phone call is to win the right to actually sell to the prospect.

Anticipate objections. Each time one of them materializes, you'll need to handle them appropriately... and then ask for the appointment. Most objections are common to all sales situations, so you should have little or no trouble listing them out. The trick here is to practice handling objections until the response is automatic. Note: the most important part of handling the objection is asking for the appointment.

Get positive and get calling. Attitude is everything. If your offering has value to the customer, you're doing the prospect a favor by giving him or her the opportunity to meet with you. Therefore, have confidence in your ability to provide value. That confidence not only helps you communicate more effectively, it provides the motivation that will drive you to actually sit down and start making the cold calls.

Leave a message (if necessary). If you end up in the contact's voice-mail system, don't despair. Leave a very brief message based upon your calling script. However, rather than setting a time for an appointment, say that you'll be calling back on a certain date and time, but would appreciate a callback. The next time you call, ask the admin if the contact is in. If not, tell the admin that you've been trying to connect with the contact and would like to know when would be a good time to call.

Handle the objections. Once you've got the contact on the line, execute the script. Don't read it! Put it into your own words, with enthusiasm. In almost every case, you will get at least one, and probably more, objections. Since you've anticipated these objections, you should respond to them as necessary and then ask for the appointment again. If you receive more than 3 objections, it's fair to assume that the prospect is not going to meet with you, so thank the prospect and politely end the call.

Repeat the process on a daily basis. if you're determined to excel, commit to an hour a day attempting to achieve two appointments. If it takes fifteen minutes to get the two appointments, then you can quit early. Practice this regularly and, according to Andrea, you'll very quickly have a calendar full of qualified prospects.

This post originally appeared on BNET.com

  • Geoffrey James

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