This is Part Two of a two-part post on prospecting for new business by Cold Calling new accounts. I hate to call these types of contacts cold calls because if they are completely cold then you’re handicapping yourself unnecessarily. A better description would be Prospective Account calls but that doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Just so we all understand and are on the same page we’ll use the better known “Cold Call” for now. In this post we will focus on cold calling in person.
I was reading the local newspaper on my iPad the other day and was startled to see a headline exclaiming that a salesperson had been shot dead while prospecting for new business. Apparently he was asking a receptionist if he could speak with the owner of the business and the receptionist pulled out a gun and shot him on the spot.
Now that’s what I call a cold call!
Okay, so I didn’t really see that headline the other day. In fact I’ve never seen a headline like that. I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen a headline about a salesperson being shot by a receptionist while prospecting for business either.
And yet there were undoubtedly salespeople reading that paragraph and saying to themselves, “I knew it.” They knew cold calling could get them killed. At least that’s the way it appears when you watch most, yes most, people who make their living selling. You would think walking into a business that hasn’t done business with them in the past was as dangerous as walking into a war zone.
I guess in the world of sales that’s called “call reluctance.” I think that’s being way too kind. It’s fear, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of looking or sounding stupid.
It is fear of hearing NO from someone who either doesn’t like your product or has never heard of it. But guess what? Selling is not about going around collecting orders from people you know and people who are already sold on whatever it is you’re selling.
Selling is converting someone with a neutral or negative attitude about you, your products or service into a positive one. Selling means interacting with people you might not otherwise go near. Selling means overcoming whatever fears make you insecure when introducing yourself to people you’ve never met before.
Cold calling by definition is reaching out to people you’ve never met before. It’s no mystery why less successful salespeople hate it, they hate it because they fear it. It’s why so many salespeople go to networking events and only talk to people they already know.
In years past cold calls were truly cold. You called people by picking their names out of a phone book or you showed up at a business that “looked” like they might be a prospect. It burned a lot of time but a whole lot of salespeople did it exactly like that.
Today, a cold call is far from cold. Or at least it should be. As I mentioned in my last post if you’re not doing research on prospects before you contact them you’re wasting their time and yours.
You should never walk into a business and ask for the person who buys….whatever you’re selling. You should know their name. You should know it because you found it during your online research or from a referral source.
You should have some idea if they are a likely prospect and more importantly, why they may benefit from your product. If your research or referral indicates they may benefit from your product only then do you make the call.
But…just showing up expecting anyone to drop what they are doing to talk to you is the height of arrogance, at least in my opinion. I used to tell the receptionist in my office that one of her most important jobs was shielding me from drop in salespeople.
So don’t drop in…drop off. I strongly recommend a two-step approach to cold calling in person. The first step is to simply drop off “correspondence” for the person you believe to be a prospect. The word “correspondence” is key. Literature, brochures, information, etc. are all words that mere product peddlers would use.
A day or two after you’ve dropped of your correspondence make a follow up call to your prospect. If the receptionist answers let her know that you were there the other day and you’re following up on some correspondence with (insert name here). When the prospect answers introduce yourself and let them know you are following up on your correspondence. Ask if they have any questions.
At this point a number of things can happen. They may have questions or they may not have even seen it. If they have questions your call is not at all cold anymore. Your only task now is to interest them further. If they haven’t seen the correspondence then give an explanation on what the correspondence was and offer to resend it.
When you follow up a day or two later you can simply tell the receptionist that you’re following up on some correspondence that (insert name here) requested.
The two-step drop off approach requires more effort, it also greatly improves results. This is another example of sales being the lowest paying easiest job or one of the highest paying challenging jobs in the world.
The good news is you get to decide which one it will be for you.