I have a feeling you aren’t going to like what I’m about to say, especially if you are in sales. But this is a basic sales and marketing column and at least once a year I am obligated (by law, I think) to do a column on the most hated, dreaded, and feared duty of all sales tactics, the mark of a good salesperson: the cold call.
Just like death and taxes, the cold call is one of the most basic, unavoidable facts of life. If you are a salesperson, you must call someone you don’t know, someone who doesn't want to hear from you, and especially doesn’t want to be talked into doing something they don’t want to do.
Sorry, but the time to talk about cold calling is today. I declare this to be the April 15th of the sales profession. Stop with the tearing of clothes and the gnashing of teeth and read on.
By the way I have come across at least two people in the past month who love cold calling. They just thrive on it. Okay, stop it. I can hear you all the way up here in Maine, grumbling, “What’s wrong with those weirdos?”
Nope, they are not weirdos. What they are is brave, courageous, and fearless. They know that in the end, sales is all about contacting someone you don’t know and convincing them that they need what you are selling.
It doesn’t have to be that bad. In fact, it can be rather painless, if you think about it. If you do five calls a day, it will take you less than an hour, and at the end of the year you will have made 1,300 calls.
I know customers who are not working in their offices because of COVID. When it comes to cold calls, that actually works to your benefit because it means they are available to answer your call. They might even be lonely enough to take that call. I believe it is more productive to be calling customers now during the pandemic than it was before.
The chances of getting voicemail are great, so be prepared to leave great, interesting, and provocative information in your message.
A List of Excuses
No, your typical excuses are not going to work here; I’ve heard all the reasons why cold calling doesn’t work. I have been in this business a long time and helping salespeople grow their sales for decades.
I have known salespeople who have literally gone online to find articles that defend the position that cold calls don’t work. But you’re wrong. Sales calls do work. What’s not working is the people who don’t want to do them.
So, to help you out, here are some of the best reasons why cold calling does not work:
- I don’t want to bother the person I am calling
- They won’t answer the phone anyway
- If they want something, they’ll call me
- I don’t want to waste their time
- I don’t want them to get mad at me
- If they get upset, they will never do business with me
I think these are pretty much the most popular excuses. If you have said any of these things, then shame on you—you’re getting kicked out of the “salesperson club.” Let’s get over the argument of “to call or not to call.” You just have to call.
How to Make It Work
In the spirit of the list, here are five things to you can do to make sure you succeed in your cold calling:
- Set a goal of the number of calls you are going to make. I’d say five a day is acceptable. If you are really scared (wimp!), then start with three a day.
- Call in the morning. That is the best time to call and the best time for you to get it done. We are all braver in the mornings. Often the people you are calling have not really jumped into the busyness of their day.
- Leave a message. I met a guy once who bragged that one of his cold calling tactics was to not leave a message. That guy was an idiot. Leave a message. You know the message will be listened to. Actually, the odds of someone listening to a voicemail are far greater than of them opening and reading an email. You have their attention, which is the goal in sales, isn’t it? Now leave a good and provocative message. Have a great voicemail script that says who you are and why you are calling. Make it personal.
- Follow up with a text message. You already have their phone number, and chances are that because of COVID they are at home and using their smartphone. It has been proven that people look at their text messages almost all the time, so you have a practically captive audience. Be sure to let them know when you will be calling back.
- Then send a text message a half hour before your follow-up call. They will either say okay or give you a better time to call.
Of course, there is much more than this to successful cold calling, but these five guidelines are enough to get you started. I always under promise and over deliver, so here’s one more tip: Get started. Take my first step and all the other steps get easier.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.