Cold calling can be a great way to generate quality leads. You get to speak to the gatekeepers and stakeholders, and you get a great insight into their requirements and influences.
But cold calling is an art-form. It can be daunting, it’s always a lot of work, and you always need to make a good impression. So you need to do it right. Following are some tips which will help you do just that.
1) Record everything
Always write down all details of every phone call. Write down any names and titles you learn. Not just the name of the person you’re trying to contact. The receptionist's name can be vital to remember as they're often gatekeepers. Write down when you called, and when you said you'd call back.
2) Use a database or spreadsheet to record everything
You’ll never manage by hand, and Excel spreadsheets aren’t user friendly in the long term. If you’re prepared to invest in a real CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, that’s a great idea. If not, you there is a cheaper alternative. I created my own database using Microsoft Access. Visit http://www.divinewrite.com/downloads/contacts and jobs.mdb to download a 208KB working copy for FREE. You’ll need Microsoft Access 2000 to run it. I’m no database expert, so it’s not a work of art. It’ll certainly get you started though. (TIP: When using the database, press Ctrl + ; to enter today’s date.)
3) Always call back when you said you would
Don’t let them down. They may not even remember that you committed to calling back. But if they do, and you don’t meet your commitment, you’ll lose valuable credibility and respect. And wherever possible, work to their schedule. You're here to help them, not make things harder.
TIP FOR COPYWRITERS: If you’re an advertising copywriter or website copywriter, ask to speak to the Marketing Manager (or if the person who answers the phone says they don't have a marketing manager, ask for "the person who looks after your advertising & website" - all businesses have that person - it's generally one of the owners).
4) Always try to get on with the gatekeepers
Receptionists and personal assistants have great influence, and quite often do more of the real work and decision making than the person you’re trying to contact! Make friends with them and you’ve got a foot in the door. (But don’t waste their time or crawl – they get a lot of that!)
5) Keep it short ‘n sweet
When you do get to speak with someone, keep it short 'n sweet unless they want to talk a lot. The purpose of the phone call is to get their attention, let them know you're there, get their name and contact details, and assess whether they have any requirement for your services. (TIP FOR COPYWRITERS: If you’re an advertising copywriter or website copywriter, you might have called about brochure writing and then find out they need web writing.)
6) DON’T HARD SELL!!!
Don’t pressure people or make it hard for them to get off the phone. Tell them what you do and that you'd like to send them an email with a link to your website with samples and testimonials (or with an attachment containing samples), then leave them to it.
7) Follow up with an email
If you have permission, always send a follow-up email – and do so immediately. Be specific in your subject line. (TIP FOR COPYWRITERS: If you’re an advertising copywriter or website copywriter, use the words "advertising copywriting" or “website copywriting” in the subject. Most people don't get many emails with this in the subject line, so it'll be distinctive and probably won’t be snuffed by their spam filter if they have one.) Address the email to them (e.g. "Hi Joe"), keep the email short 'n sweet. Include only the essential info, make it easy to read and conversational, and bold the important words or phrases as they'll probably only skim it. Include a link to your website, reference the day and date you talked on the phone (and thank them for that time), mention any names you learnt (e.g. receptionist's name, especially if the receptionist gave you an email address but you didn't actually get to speak to the decision maker), tell them that you'd like to follow up in a few weeks (assuming the conversation indicated that this would be a good idea).
8) Follow up with another call
If the lead looks promising, make sure you follow up. And when you do, always mention the day and date of the original call, as well as the fact that you sent an email. Give a quick summary of who you are and what you do, and say that you're just calling to make sure they got the email. Most of the time, you’ll find the lead will talk to you about your services, if only to remind themselves of what you do!
9) Don’t expect to make too many calls
On a really good day, I've made 80 cold calls. Most days, though, you should be very pleased to average around 40. You’ll spend a lot of time playing telephone tag.
10) Don’t leave message
Unless you absolutely have to (or you’ve just about given up on the lead), don’t leave messages. Most people have trouble returning phone calls from people they know and like; returning phone calls from someone who’s trying to sell them something isn’t high on their list of priorities.
11) Don’t expect to qualify too many leads
Depending on your business, if you get one good lead a day, you're probably doing very well.
12) Don’t expect immediate conversion
Unfortunately, most leads take a long time to come to fruition (up to 2 years). So you have to be prepared to be patient.
Good luck and happy calling!