No-one likes cold calling. Indeed, quite a few sales commentators believe that cold calling should never happen. I subscribe to the theory that once your business is established, if your marketing plan is well coordinated and consistent, then indeed you shouldn’t have to rely on cold calling.
However, there are some circumstances where “cold calling” can yield be beneficial if its handled correctly. The trick is to maximise your chances by “warming-up” your prospective clients before you even touch the telephone.
Telephone Last. At the very least send your prospective clients something in the mail – a letter or postcard would be most likely, but it could be a thank-you card or an article you have written. This would ideally be something personalised – “Dear Stan” rather than “Dear Business Owner”.
The purpose of this mail-out is to differentiate you from a telemarketer, “break the ice” with the client and, possibly, give them a chance to prepare for your call.
Be Memorable. You are not trying to sell your firm in this mail-out. You are just breaking the ice with the client. You will reference the mail-out when you call so you don’t want it going straight in the bin. Keep your mail-out brief, personal and memorable. Branding, colours and layout can certainly help.
However, the best two tactics are (a) a brief, handwritten personal message (or at the very least a personal signature) and (b) a fact that leaves the prospective client wondering more about your services. Think performance statistics, awards, volumes of sales, number of clients, topical items in the news. Something that makes the client think that they might just be missing out on something…
Be Valuable. You will have a significantly better hit-rate if you offer the client something of value.
Remember – value means getting something for “less than its worth”. You aren’t offering value if you are just selling a service and charging a fair price. That isn’t value – its just a fair price.
Everyone likes a bargain or, even better, something free. So in your initial mail-out offer your client something extra BEFORE you even start your sales process. This doesn’t have to cost you a fortune and ideally it should be something that links back to your business. Maybe it’s “free” access to research, maybe it’s a “free” copy of a presentation, maybe it’s a “free” invite to a seminar, maybe it’s a “free” copy of an article of relevance to their industry.
You reap what you sow. Most prospective clients will highly value anything you give them for free. Those that don’t – well, you don’t want them as clients anyway. Remember, brochures and advertisements are not value – they are advertising. You have to give the client something they can utilise themselves.
Be Specific. In your mail-out, don’t say “I will call you in the next week”.
Instead, say “I will call you at 10:00 am, Monday 21st July. If this time is not suitable, please contact me on 555-1234 to reschedule”. Again, this makes you sound less like an anonymous telemarketer and creates an impression that your time is also valuable.
Then call at that time. If the client is not there, leave a message stating you will re-call them at another specific time and date. If you are still not getting through on that second call, only then would you leave a message saying that you will call back “in the next week”.
I would then send a second mail-out to the client, noting that you have not had luck contact them, and including a second piece of “value” – another article, a copy of an interview, a presentation. Then, after you know they will have received that second mail-out, call a third time.
If you still aren’t getting a response, it might be time to move on for a while. But don’t write them off entirely. Give them a few months, then start the process again with another “value” mail-out. This process isn’t costing you much and no-one said this would be easy – persistence pays off.
Be Topical. If you can, time your mail-out carefully.
Think about the time of year for your prospective client – December is generally bad for everyone, June can be bad for accountants, January can be bad for executives, school holidays can be bad for families. Pick your moment, prepare your materials and book time in your schedule well in advance.
As the time gets closer, do a last minute search of topical items or news events in your prospective client’s industry and latch onto that in your mail-out. Even if the link is tenuous, remember that all you want to do is get your client remembering your mail out, your company and have the ice slightly broken when you call.
Conclusion. No-one enjoys cold calling and, hopefully, once you are established, your marketing plans will not require its use. But, with a little extra effort you can “defrost” your cold prospects and enjoy a much warmer reception.