Four Tips for Better Cold Calls

Joe Weinlick
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The idea of cold calling a complete stranger to pitch a sales idea is enough to terrify most people. For the modern salesperson, it's all in a day's work. It takes bravery and a healthy dose of confidence to constantly face possible rejection, but cold calling is an important part of the overall sales strategy; it introduces new contacts and opportunities. With the right techniques, you can turn your cold calls into hot business.

One effective way to increase your cold calling success is to thoroughly research the prospective company before you pick up the phone. Studying a company's history, executive team and mission gets you closer to understanding the way it conducts business. A sales call should not be seen as a one-size-fits-all approach. By getting to know your prospect first, you give yourself a competitive advantage; for instance, you can identify ways in which your product or service can benefit the company and work that information into your introductory call to spark the company's interest and increase the likelihood of developing a relationship.

Another way to heat up your cold calls is to create a script to follow. This is not another cookie-cutter spiel. "The script shouldn't be word for word," says Wendy Weiss, New York sales trainer and author of "Cold Calling for Women." "It's a way to prepare yourself for the conversation." Your script basically outlines the important points you want to make during the sales call so that you remain focused and don't leave out important information. Take it one step further by preparing effective, fact-based answers to possible objections or concerns. You'll appear cool, competent and well-prepared.

The importance of practicing your sales pitch cannot be overstated. The more you rehearse what you're going to say, the more comfortable and natural it will feel when it comes time to actually say it. Try having a friend, family member or coworker stand in as the prospect, and call that person as if you were calling the prospect. Some experts recommend standing, facing a mirror or smiling while talking on the phone to make your voice sound warmer and friendlier. Another good idea is to rank your prospects according to importance. Practice on the less important prospects first; by the time you make it to the hottest prospect, you'll be a lot more confident.

Finally, don't take rejection personally. You have no way of knowing what is really happening on the other end of the line. You may have called during a bad time or simply caught someone off-guard. Even with an abrupt rejection, remain gracious and thank the person for his time. Consider possible reasons the company may not be interested, and use those insights to improve your pitch for the next company.

For most people, cold calling is a skill that doesn't come naturally, which is why it is so important to use techniques to make the whole process more comfortable. By researching prospects before cold calling, creating a script, practicing your pitch and letting rejections roll off your shoulder, you increase the chances of landing a meeting or sale.

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