Cold calling when you’re self-employed

by QuickBooks UK

3 min read

Hands up who enjoys cold calling?

Calling someone you don’t know, to try to sell them a product or service the person may not have heard of or dislike.

It’s no surprise that cold calling has a reputation for being demoralising, as famously depicted in the film Glengarry Glen Ross (“Put. That Coffee. Down! Coffee’s for closers only.”).  And because of email and social media, it can seem old fashioned.

But according to some experts, cold calling is still a useful a sales technique for developing new business. And it needn’t be stressful.

“Social media has enhanced [cold calling]. I believe that anyone who says cold calling is dead is just proving that they don’t understand cold calling,” says Andy Preston, who says he has made about 100,000 cold calls himself and now trains sales staff in 28 countries.

“I believe cold-calling skills are never more needed than in today’s market. I believe that we’ve lost a lot of the good sales ability because people have bought into the [idea] that you just need a web site and do social selling, so you don’t need to do anything more. [Business] will come to you. Which is great if you’re a business that has something everyone desperately needs.”

Relying on email and social media has made many workers afraid of selling on the phone, he adds.

Preston says cold calling requires a different attitude and skills to other types of sales.

His tips for cold calls include:

Get the right attitude

Be positive and confident before making the call. Don’t think ‘It’s 9am, so it’s too early to call this person. They’ll be busy.”

Also, if you genuinely believe that your company’s product/service is great, then your enthusiasm will be infectious. “Read customer testimonials and talk to experienced colleagues,” Preston says. “Be proud of your product.”

Use a short script

List key points to make during the call (e.g. product information, trends in the industry of the person you’re calling), but don’t read it word for word because it’ll sound stilted.

Have a strong opening

The first 20 seconds of your call are vital, Preston says. During this time, you need to grab the person’s attention and show that your product/service can help their business. A “positioning statement” could be how your product/service has helped other companies (e.g. reduced IT or procurement costs by 20%), or that you understand the business had just opened a new office and you may be able to help them with, say, office supplies.

Avoid small talk

Most sales staff doing cold calls, start by saying “How are you today?” Preston says. If you don’t know the person, this can sound false.

Do your research

If you’re a software supplier you could research data-privacy regulations that may create challenges for the business you’re calling. How can your company’s software help them comply with the regulations? “At least look at the [company’s] web site [before calling],” Preston says.

Agree the next steps in the sales process

Assuming the call has gone well and the person may be interested in what you’re selling, it’s important to agree the next steps before ending the call.

Next steps could be agreeing a time for another call, meeting in person, or sending more information about your product/service.

“The sale person should be in control of the sales process,” Preston says. “Ten to fifteen years ago the person cold calling would ask ‘do you want it or not’ [at the end of the call]. Now a cold call starts the sales process. You qualify what the opportunity is. Does the person want a face-to-face meeting, a product demonstration etc.? The next time you ring the person it should not be a cold call.”

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