There are many lessons in life as well as business that are learned through personal experience and some that are acquired through the coaching of mentors who have “skin in the game”. I have had the opportunity of both. Fortunately, I was forewarned prior to my own experiences about the effectiveness of cold calling so I knew what to expect. It always helps to undergo certain experiences on your own and makes for good practice. Thus, I utilized the suggestions I attained and tried for myself.
In my experience cold calling leads isn’t very effective. It takes an abundance of no’s to get a few yes’s, and sometimes persistence pays off. Keep in mind most leads must be purchased and certain criteria make them more expensive. Although I still use leads as a sales technique, they’re not at the top of my list and I don’t rely on them much. I exercise other avenues to promote my business and acquire sales; such as personal networks and referrals, which I address in a different article, “Why Cold Calling Doesn’t Work…” If you must employ the use of cold calling sales leads, I’m here to help you tackle this.
Let me address the adage of “old leads”. There are no such things as “old leads”. Usually it is all about timing. I have had prospects tell me that it’s just not the right time and to keep them in mind for later, or perhaps they have submitted an inquiry online and have had an abundance of calls when the lead was fresh. Once the aggravation dies down after a few months, they’ll be more likely to drop their guard and talk to you.
“Warm leads” are those individuals who have submitted inquiries to receive information on a product, company, or a quote of some sort. Although they have requested some information which shows interest, they don’t expect to be flooded with calls. Most leads purchased from a lead generation company are sold to many sales professionals, so don’t think you’re the only one pursuing them. It’s better to generate warm leads from your own company website to ensure you’re the only one getting the inquiry.
Don’t expect to make a sale at the first point of contact with the prospect. The first call is designed to ask questions, listen, and to gain rapport. Do not offer your product during the first conversation. You will come off as a salesman and may be viewed as run-of-the-mill. If the prospect tries to rush you off of the phone or asks what you’re selling, tell them you don’t have anything to sell, and reassure them that you’re calling to find out if you can assist them.
This technique works in most instances, but not all. It depends on your product or service. Either way, you still want to gain rapport with the prospect, even if you are selling vacuums, you must wait until this happens to offer your product. You don’t want to attack them with “I have just the thing you need…”
As I said, the first call is to gain rapport with the prospect no matter what you’re selling. If you simply apply the rule of asking questions and listening, they will talk to you. Let them know you were calling to see if you can help and to find out what they are looking for, especially if the lead is an inquiry submission. At this point, their defense mode lessens. Remember, the longer you keep them on the phone, the better your rapport. Make note of what they’re saying, even personal information like: pets, kids, jobs. You may even establish common ground that will make doing business with you even better. At the end of your call, let them know you’ll be calling them back with your recommendation and give them a date and time to choose from. This way, they agree to expect your return call, but they take ownership by choosing when you will call. The prospect will not realize it, but you are gaining control because they have allowed you to call them back.
Hopefully, by playing your cards right and gaining rapport, the prospect will be available at the agreed upon date and time to be expecting your return call to at least hear what you have to offer. This conversation can be moderately brief with a follow-up of reiterating the previous conversation and your recommendation. That’s why it’s important to listen and write things down. If the prospect wants to talk some more, let them and listen. This means they feel comfortable talking to you and will more than likely trust you recommendation.