How To Be a Cold-Calling Superstar

Last Updated Jan 5, 2008 3:09 PM EST

Rather than a chore that's a bore, think of cold calling as a performance. And rather than a drone with a phone, think of yourself as a great musician or athlete, a star performer who must (and can) excel under pressure. Great performers, regardless of their area of expertise, rehearse daily, warm up before a performance, and review each performance to figure out how to improve next time. Here's what you do:

BEFORE THE CALL
Step 1. Remember the goal. What is the purpose of this call, depending upon the your sales process? Take a few seconds to refocus on exactly what you want the customer to do.

Step 2. Consider the prospect. Review what you know about your prospect, your prospect's company and industry. Determine the "hot buttons" that will cause that prospect to consider taking the action that's the goal of the call.

Step 3. Script the intended conversation. On paper, review how you'd like the conversation to go. Map out the basic flow, anticipate objections and imagine how you're going to close.

Step 4. Rehearse the conversation. Go over the script two or three times so that it becomes more natural. If possible practice the conversation with a colleague. This greatly reduces anxiety.

Step 5. Mentally prepare yourself. If you'd done all of the above, you should feel more confident of your ability to make a successful cold call. Observe this, and let that confidence dominate your thoughts.

DURING THE CALL
Step 6. Assume the prospect needs you. Approach the call as if you have information and perspective that the prospect truly needs and can contribute to the success of the prospect's business.

Step 7. Differentiate yourself immediately. On the typical cold call, you have fifteen seconds (more or less) to communicate to the prospect that you're somebody worth talking to. To do this, touch one of the "hot buttons" that you researched in Step 2.

Step 8. Mirror the prospect's speech pattern. Mirror (but don't mimic) the tempo and rhythm of the prospects way of speaking. If the prospect talks fast, talk fast. If the prospect drawls, slow your talking speed to match.

Step 9. Move the call towards the goal. While there will be times when your cold call might engender an in-depth conversation, gradually move the conversation towards your goal.

Step 10. Close on your goal. When the time is right, close on the step that you'd like the customer to take.

AFTER THE CALL
Step 11. Celebrate or contemplate. If the call went well, celebrate, If the call did not have the outcome you would have preferred, spend a few moments figuring out why. Decide what needed to be different in order for the call to be successful.

Step 12. Repeat as necessary. Go back to Step 1 for your next call, incorporating what you learned during the previous cold call.

By the way, the above is adapted from a conversation I had last year with the brilliant Wendy Weiss, author of Cold Calling College and Cold Calling for Women.