Warming Up to Cold Calls

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Cold calling isn't solely the domain of high pressure telesales professionals in boiler rooms such as seen in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. In point of fact, cold calling is an accepted and proven technique, for prospecting and generating sales, interviews and new clients.

I've even used cold calling to attract new members to my Toastmasters club, and to generate support to build new clubs. You can successfully cold call tastefully and judiciously on your way to success. Using skills learned through the Toastmasters program, you take the chill out of cold calls.

COLD CALLS DEFINED

Any time you call someone you don't know, it's considered a cold call. You are calling "cold" without any previous contact. They don't know you and you likely don't know, or know about them. (If instead you were referred to the person you're calling, or they already know of you in some form or fashion, that's considered a warm call.)

DIALING BY NUMBERS

The reality of cold calls is that success is a numbers game. On average one must make many calls for each sale. The key is to keep making the calls and not take rejections personally. In many cases, the person you call will eventually buy from you, though it may take a number of calls or contact over an extended period. This is common. Attitude, then, is one key to cold calling. By staying upbeat and consistently making your calls, you will make appointments, contacts and sales and get better at it over time. A 10 percent success rate in cold calling is considered excellent.

THE TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Successful cold callers create a cold-caller's tool kit to support them. You can too! Create a clean work environment where you can have a notepad, crib sheets, calendar, a lead tracking system, reference materials and even a mirror nearby. The more organized you are the more confident you will feel and sound as you make your calls. You'll also be more efficient with the tools of your trade at your side. Oh yes, don't forget your telephone! I find a headset telephone to be most convenient as it leaves my hands free and my neck unencumbered.

The mirror serves a special function. It's there to remind you to smile as you call. Though they can't see you, listeners need to hear your warmth, confidence and relaxed nature. Periodically look into the mirror to confirm you are smiling as you speak. Smiling relieves tension in your jaw, face and neck, and by relaxing you it helps relax the party on the other end of the line.

BECOME A SCRIPTWRITER

To be most effective, you should sketch out a script of what you intend to say, prior to making any calls. As skilled as you are in Table Topics, write a conversational script that introduces you, your company, and its products or services, and emphasizes the benefits these offer the prospect.

By rehearsing with your script prior to actually calling, you begin to become familiar with your end of the conversation. This helps in several ways. It frees you to ad lib since you are now speaking from experience. It also removes the pressure of what to say next so you can instead concentrate on the receiver's response.

Remember, we deliver the script conversationally. Practice by calling your voice mail and recording yourself. When you play it back, analyze where you sound confident and where you waiver. What words flow from your tongue? Where do the words stick in your throat? Tweak your script accordingly to smooth out your pitch.

ASK QUESTIONS

Cold calls are intended to gather information as much as impart it. By asking questions you can best learn how to serve the prospects' needs. What are their needs? What problems do they have? Where is the gap in their product line? What keeps them up at night? Such open-ended questions will garner valuable information to help you see how you can help them. By listening intently and taking notes, you form a fuller picture of the sales scenario.

SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF BENEFITS

Let customers know more than the features of the products or services you have to offer. Let them know the benefits they provide! What is the result of using your products? What result derives from the services you offer? Simply put, what's in it for them? Say so, in no uncertain terms.

When I call to explore the possibilities of building Toastmasters clubs for local organizations, I stress more than club features, such as weekly meetings, a learning lab for speech making and the logistics of each meeting. I emphasize the benefits and end-results of the Toastmasters experience. We build confident communicators and leaders! That's the takeaway people respond to!

OBJECTIONS ARE YOUR FRIEND

Objections are not to be feared, but valued. They give valuable insight into your prospective customers' concerns, fears and thought processes. Take note. Knowing objections allows you to quell them, soothing the prospects and clearing the way to the sale. Don't argue or dispute their assertions. Instead make sure you understand, then work to address those concerns. Doing so can net you the sale and become the beginning of a new business relationship.

THE TOASTMASTER'S EDGE

As a Toastmaster, you are well-equipped to cold call successfully. You already possess the ability to speak concisely from your felicity with Table Topics. You are able to infuse your words with vocal variety to convey confidence and authority. Often cold calls are a combination of the advanced Communication and Leadership manuals Speaking to Inform and Persuasive Speaking. And you've become a skilled listener from having been an audience member for others. Advantage Toastmaster!

IT'S CLOSING TIME

Sales may come on the first call, the fourth or the fourteenth. Never assume the sale is not forthcoming, but don't apply pressure or rush your prospect. Build trust, rapport and a fuller understanding of the prospect's world and the sale will help make itself. Your biggest concern should be to make sure you are addressing the decision-maker. Assuming you are, remain upbeat, use a combination of logic and emotion, and speak to the prospect's needs. Viola! The sale will be yours. it's your call!

Craig Herrison is a Toastmaster in California.

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