Here is another post from 2009 that I thought worthy enough to port over to my new blog:
In this day with sales and business development folks working sites like LinkedIn, Facebook & personal email to break business, picking up the phone is still a great way to make deals happen. Cold calling still works, now more than ever. Here are some tips and observations on how to cold call and make big things happen from scratch.
Tip #1 - 9AM - 5PM:
Your future clients are most likely at their desks and able to take a call from 8:30AM to 6:30PM. This means that any task you are doing outside of trying to get in touch with your prospects can be classified as a distraction during these valuable hours. So this means planning tasks like reporting, administration, and research outside of this valuable time period. If you are not trying to get in touch with a valuable prospect, then you can be sure someone else is. If it’s one of your competitors, you could be out. Since we are all buried in email most of the day, our phone rings less, much less in fact. I would bet the frequency of phone calls has dropped several factors over the last 5 years. So for some this is an opportunity to catch someone by voice.
Tip #2 - Pre-Call Preparation:
Before you call here are a few simple steps to prepare for when a warm body (prospect or gatekeeper) answers your call. The ultimate goal on a cold call is to establish a positive rapport with whoever answers and in most cases you have ~6 seconds to succeed or fail. Therefore before you call visit the prospect’s web site. Make sure you have an idea of what they do, their structure, their needs etc. Also look at the “News” section on the site to see any recent breaking news or announcements. Often you will discover possible synergies here that can add to your pitch. Know where you are calling. Look at the “Contact” page or the area code of the number you are calling. Once you have the location check the weather report and the local news site. These can be great little weapons in establishing a quick rapport with whoever picks up the phone. Example – I was looking to get a meeting with a large media organization in California. Before I called I checked the local news sites and saw that some fires had been burning near the client. So when I called, I mentioned this and in an instant had a robust conversation going. Rapport established.
Step #3 - Love thy Gatekeeper:
Most high-level executives still have someone answering their phone, even in the interactive space. However executive assistants now handle multiple executives so overall they are busier then they used to be. However, since most BD/Sales folks use email as their primary method for prospecting, the number of incoming phone calls that gatekeepers answer on aggregate has dropped. This is an opportunity. These gatekeepers want to talk with someone and often times welcome a nice voice. The trick here is to not treat them like a gatekeeper but like the prospect you are trying to reach. If you ask for “Mr. Smith” and the gatekeeper has you on hold ask the gatekeeper how their day is going, or about the weather that you know is happening. 9 out of 10 times they are happy to respond and you can start building a rapport with the gatekeeper. Many times after you establish a positive rapport with a gatekeeper they will say something like; “Hold on, let me grab Mr. Smith for you….”
Step #4 - Thanking the Gatekeeper:
Most sales people drop the gatekeeper like a rock when finally getting to the prospect. This is a huge mistake. The best thing you can do is send a thank you email or voice mail to the gatekeeper for helping you. This small amount of outward appreciation will set you apart from the many others who call and never circle back. In general gatekeepers don’t get that much praise, so a little love from you is most welcome. So next time, when the prospect you worked hard to contact and meet goes cold, and you need to get re-connected, you call on the gatekeeper for help. If you said “thank you” the gatekeeper has the power to get you back on the calendar and on track to closing the deal.
Step #5 - Getting On The Calendar:
The Gatekeeper often runs the calendar. So for all the reasons just explained, if you have a good rapport with the gatekeeper you can use this to schedule a call or meeting on a calendar. This is especially effective when your deal might stall or get sidelined and the prospect has gone cold. Instead of becoming a pest with a steady stream of emails pick up the phone, talk to the gatekeeper and ask for help getting on the calendar.
Step #6 - Prospects Who Answer:
If you are lucky and get the prospect to answer their phone or get connected by the gatekeeper, you have ~4 seconds to start down a positive path. For me, what works best is to introduce myself and ask if the prospect has a minute to chat with me. This immediately gets the prospect into answering your question and if yes, into a loose agreement that you have a few seconds to speak. The next few words should be your best elevator pitch custom fit for the prospect’s company. In this short sentence you need to give the prospect one good reason why you deserve another minute on the phone or better yet a meeting. Then *stop*. Listen and hear the reaction. A cold caller that does not know when to stop talking is in the wrong business. If you cross that imaginary line of rambling, you are immediately thrown into the “used car salesman” bin and you are done. Should this happen you have 2 seconds to dig yourself out. The best solution is to say “I’m sorry, I just rambled, essentially I can deliver you “x,y and z” and would like the chance to explain in more detail how I can help.” Then see what happens. Often times the apology will get you back on track.
Step #7 - Time Zones:
If you have prospects in different time zones, plan your calls accordingly. If you are based in New York, cold calling Eastern Standard Time prospects from 8:30AM to 11:30AM is best. Then move to your Pacific Standard Time prospects who are just getting in or your Central/Mountain Time zones. Stay away from 12Noon to 2PM. This will give your prospects time to eat, digest a bit and have a coffee. The worst time to try and break in on the phone is when someone is hungry or tired. Lunch takes the hunger away, and if you call after 2PM your prospect will likely have just had a coffee and is ready for the afternoon – which includes a call from you! Good luck, deals are out there for those who call and ask.