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Business to business cold calling techniques
Take the cold out of calling. The nightmare of telephone marketing can become a pleasant dream of increased sales if you adopt the right approach.
Don't you hate to make cold calls? Have you shied away from using the phone to market your work because you're afraid of sounding like one of those irritating telemarketers? Or maybe you don't particularly enjoy the rejection, and you find it pointless to get through to someone who's never heard of you before.
The phone is just one of many marketing tools, but it's a tool that can either be very effective or a complete waste of time. The success of your telephone campaign depends on many different factors, including how you feel about being on the phone in the first place. There are ways to use the phone that are both easy and comfortable, allowing you to increase your business and, at the same time, keep in touch with your existing customers.
Instead of cold calling strangers and trying to sell them your wares, develop a calling program that includes these three types of calls. Research calls gather information about your prospects and are sometimes known as "prospecting." Maintenance calls touch base with current or past customers and update information for your files. Follow-up calls give you the opportunity to answer questions about your services. At the same time, they remind the prospects of your interest in their business.
Research: Smoothing The Sales Pitch
Use the phone to gather information and to begin a relationship with your prospect or his screener (receptionist, secretary or assistant). You don't have to speak to the actual person on the first call. In fact, it often helps to make contact with the screener first, because he's the one who is likely to determine your fate. He can be your advocate, your "in" with the company, so get him on your side. Furthermore, give him power by asking for his help.
First of all, make it clear you're not calling to sell him anything. You're calling because you need his help and want to make sure your work is appropriate for his company. Create a list of three or four basic, concise questions, such as:
- Does your company have a need for what you’re selling?
- Who is the buyer?
- Are you open to new vendors?
- If not now, when do you think will be?
People are usually willing to help you when they can, and if the timing is right, a call in search of information can turn into a sales call.
Maintenance: Keeping In Touch
It's good to stay in contact with customers. My business is long term, and because I can’t make personal visits to every customer, it's good to service them on the phone to make sure they're happy. If I’m not maintaining contact with my customers, someone else can come along and take them away.
For my priority customers, it is good to call regularly to check in. To make it easy, I call at the change of seasons. Customers are almost always happy to hear from me because it doesn’t seem as if I am trying to sell them anything. The truth is, you am, but that's not the approach. The number one thing is asking questions.
There is another maintenance strategy that I use to gauge when future business may come in. I routinely check in with customers to ask questions about their recent orders; if the goods were bought for resale, for example, I ask how they're selling. If sales are going well, I will know to call back in a couple of weeks when the customer will be ready to reorder.
If you hate to call someone without a reason, try information update calls. For example, call each person on your mailing list to get their email address. In addition to providing you with a complete email directory, these calls can also be opportunities to give them more information about your work. If you sense that your prospect is willing to chat, get him talking by asking how his business is. You may have an appointment before you hang up.
There's no schedule to maintenance calls; rather, you should work a routine that's comfortable for you. You may also get a feel from customers about how often is too often; if you find that your competitors are "beating you to the punch" with some clients, then you're probably not checking in often enough. Conversely, if you discover that the business climate hasn't changed much between calls, perhaps you should spread them out a little more.
Follow-Up Calls: Moving Forward
One of the most common marketing mistakes people make is to assume a prospect isn't interested if he doesn't respond. Don't forget that people are increasingly bombarded with messages in all forms and from all sides. Often, the best a person can do is give attention to what's right in front of him. He's probably got piles of paperwork on his desk, and your letter is likely buried in one of those piles. Or maybe he has seen your website. He might even want to contact you to find out more about your business, but other things have taken priority while your materials ferment on the desk.
The purpose of a follow-up call is to motivate a prospect to look at your website or brochure and to make a decision about your services. Whether that decision is yes or no, either answer is valuable. If it's yes, you are one step closer to a new customer. If it's no, you learn you can spend your time, energy and postage costs elsewhere. The idea is to move the relationship forward; your call is designed to do that. So be persistent, and get in front of the customer in whatever way feels comfortable to you.
Although you are not obligated to follow up a meeting or a mailing with a phone call, doing so is the single easiest way to generate more business. I personally make a follow-up call to every new prospect who receives my flyer.
I don’t the success of my marketing efforts on my ability to reach prospects by phone. Sometimes I can't get through to the contact, so I leave a message, knowing that at least my name will cross his desk one more time. But despite this personal attention, many prospects simply hang onto the flyer; when they need her services, they'll call me.
Timing Is Everything
You want your name to be fresh in a prospect's mind when you call. If you follow up too soon after a mailing, for example, the customer may not have received it yet. If you're too late, he may have forgotten all about it.
Following up a week to 10 days after you send information is recommended, though at that point, the information is probably still sitting in a pile of unopened mail. That's all right. Remember, the purpose of a follow-up call is to motivate the prospect to look at it and determine the next step.
If you're planning a big mailing and think follow-up calls to everyone could be overwhelming, try staggering your mailing (10 a week or 50 a week, depending on what's manageable for you and your staff) so that the follow-up calls can fit into your day-to-day routine.
And it's never too late to make follow-up calls. Let's say you did a big mailing with the intention of calling two weeks later. Those two weeks came and went, and now it's three months later. .. you're sure it's too late to follow up. Not so fast. Even if months have passed, you can still make the call. Just say, "It's been a while since I sent you that brochure, so if you don't remember receiving it, I'll be happy to send you another." If the prospect doesn't want to wait to receive a second flyer, you've got the perfect opportunity to launch into your sales pitch. (You probably do a better job of selling than your brochure does, anyway!)
Marketing is a dialogue, and you're only as good as the lines of communication between you and your prospects. Using the telephone is an effective way to engage in this dialogue and canincrease your business if you do it well.