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How to Make Cold Call Sales with Less Anxiety and More Success

Updated on March 10, 2015
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In my small business I've often had to cold call potential customers, hoping to win a chance at their future business. I think back to my first few calls, and I cringe. Yet, somehow, a few of those clumsy calls worked, and even generated new business.

I'm not going to say that I have perfected cold calling, but I have developed some techniques that not only take most of the stress and anxiety out of the process, but also have good results.

Idea #1 - Warm Those Calls Up

The unknowns are what makes cold calling scary. The best solution is to get as much information as possible. My method is to keep a notebook with a page for each potential customer I'm planning on calling. I write down the names of some specific people who I may be able to talk to. I can usually find them from the company's web page or other marketing materials. I also write down some info about why I want to call them. This doesn't have to be too specific. It could be something as simple as, "You are in our area, and we haven't been able to do business with you yet."

The more that we can have a specific reason to call and idea of who we want to talk to right in front of us, the less the call is like a cold call, and the more it is a standard business call. Knowing who and why we are calling are also the main questions asked by receptionists. Speaking of receptionists, let's talk about...

Idea #2 - The Receptionist is Your Friend

The number one mistake cold callers make is mistreating the receptionist. I have my own receptionist. One of her jobs is to hanging up on jerks. And she's great at it. On the other hand it's also her job to connect me with helpful people who might have something good to offer. So which type of person do you want to be?

I don't think this should need explaining, but I'm going to anyway. This is what it means to be a jerk:

  • Arrogance or bragging
  • Bullying or harassment (this includes unwanted call backs. If you get hung up on, take the hint.)
  • Being deceptive about the reason for the call

If you use any of these practices in your sales calls, I wish you failure in your future!

On the other hand, here is what it means to be helpful.

  • Speaking with manners and a kind tone of voice
  • Respecting their time by being straightforward and to the point
  • Honestly telling who you are and why you are calling

I've found that receptionists are usually extremely helpful when you speak to them with friendship and respect. This shouldn't be surprising since it's also the right thing to do.

Idea #3 - Get Started with a Short Script - Then Throw it Away

I believe it is best to have a short script to follow. This is particularly important for the first part of the call. That way I know what to say when I get a receptionist or what I want to do if I get voice-mail. When I first started making cold calls, I would always get flustered by voice-mail and end up leaving long, terrible messages. I recommend that, if you get a receptionist, you explain exactly who you are, why you are calling, mention the name of who you think you want to talk to, and ask if that is the correct person. Asking questions is an excellent thing to have in your script as long as you have the self discipline to keep your mouth shut and listen to the answer. You should have written down what you will do if the person is in a meeting or not available. I recommend asking for help on when would be a good time to call back. Try to avoid having to leave voice-mails. If you have done a VERY good job with being nice to the receptionist you can even be daring enough to ask him or her to call you when the person you need to reach becomes available.

Once you are talking to a decision maker, again, stick to a script. Give a short version of who you are and why you are calling, then ask them a question so that you have the opportunity to listen to their answer. My favorite line is, "would you consider doing business with us in the future?" You would be surprised how often people answer that question with a yes!

The reason for having a script is so that you know what to say until you are able to make a personal connection. Once you are able to make a personal connection it is essential to abandon the script. If someone is being friendly, don't respond with your script. That would be rude.

You may be wondering if following a script will make you sound robotic and unfriendly. Impossible! If you sound robotic and unfriendly it is because you ARE robotic and unfriendly not because you're following a script. Before you pick up the phone, smile, sit back in your chair and make some friendly body language. While you're on the phone, talk with your hands and keep smiling. Put on the qualities and attitude of a friendly person, and somehow it makes it through the phone. I don't know how, but it does.

Idea #4 - Don't Hard Sell, but Ask for What You Want

Final thought. Know why you are calling and politely ask for it. In my business, I'm usually asking for an in-person meeting. If I were to call someone and not try to set up a meeting, I would be wasting my time and theirs.

The respectful closing to a good sales call is to concisely get to the point, and ask for what you want. Wait for a response and accept it gracefully whether it be positive or negative. You have just been given a gift of someone's time so it is appropriate to end with a thank you.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully these tips will be able to help remove some anxiety and add success to your cold calls. Below are some helpful links for more information.

Seth Godin on having the respect to do the research before calling

A good method from Inc Magazine for defeating self-sabotage

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