Yes, I know most of us hate cold calling. But for many B2B businesses it can be a cost-effective way to generate quality leads. I'm not necessarily an advocate for cold calling but I am an advocate for doing what works and doing it well so you get best return possible.
If cold calling is accepted in your industry then you should consider making it a prospecting tool. A benefit is that you connect directly with people who are likely to need or want what you offer. And, because cold calling is an active form of prospecting you can use it to fill holes in your pipeline when other lead generating methods are falling short.
So, if you decide to make cold calling part of your lead generating system, here are some ideas to do it as productively as possible.
1. Have a Lot of Leads
First, have a lot of leads. Jeff Mayer (SucceedingInBusiness.com) mentions this in his book, “Overcoming Fear of Cold Calling” and I think he's right. The more people you have to talk with, less important any one of them will be to you. It may sound cold and crass but any one individual lead is not important to you at his stage. What's important is finding those people who want to do business with you. The disappointment of hearing a “no” from someone is a lot easier to take when you know you have a long list of other people to talk with.
2. Qualify (or Pre-Qualify) Your Leads
Before you start calling people, make sure they meet your criteria for a qualified lead. Or at least make sure they meet as many criteria as possible. Focus your calls on people who appear to have a need for what you do. Forget rest. Your time is valuable so don't waste it on people who don't fit your profile.
3. Persistence is Painful, Not Profitable
Speaking about not wasting time, don't waste too much time pursuing any one lead. This is another good point Jeff Mayer makes. We were talking recently about this very topic. His advice is to make no more than 2-3 calls to a cold lead and if you do not connect with them, forget them. Or, put them back at bottom of list so you don't spend your precious time on people who simply are not 'reachable'. They might become reachable in future. Or they might not. Either way, understand and accept they are not reachable right not so don't spend your precious time on them.
4. Have a Goal for Your Cold Calling Program
Maybe I should have started with this one. Before you even start your calling, know what your goal is. Are you calling to obtain or confirm information? To further qualify them? To schedule a meeting? To close a sale? Whatever your specific goals are they should be about moving your leads through your sales cycle.
5. Get Them Talking with Good Questions
We all know cold calls tend to be world's shortest phone calls. It seems people we call all know how to stop a salesperson dead in their tracks. (I think they take classes to learn these sales-defense techniques.)
So, key in making cold calling productive is to get past initial defenses raised by prospect and get them talking. Before you start calling, have a list of questions in front of you. Make sure these questions are relevant to situation and help move you toward your goal.
6. Yes, Your Call is an Interruption. Get Over It.
Don't apologize for calling someone. Sure you're interrupting them. So what. Every thing's an interruption these days. We're all busy.
But we all have problems and issues that need solutions. Successful business people know their businesses need input, ideas, products and services from others to thrive. No person or business is an island. So if you have pre-qualified your leads and you're calling them with a legitimate product or solution they could use then don't apologize. You're presenting something of value. You're doing them a favor by calling.
7. Don't Waste Time
If person you're calling says they're not interested right now, don't waste your time or theirs trying to “overcome their objection.” I know we are taught to push through first couple of objections to get a close but that tactic is best left for a face to face meeting. On a cold phone call it's okay for them to say “no” because they probably do not have a need or interest right now. Or timing is not right. Or they simply do not know you well enough to say “yes”. And that's okay.
However if you can get a person talking about their business as it relates to your product or service, you stand a better chance of breaking through their defenses and getting them to commit to a meeting or whatever next step is in your sales cycle. (See “Get Them Talking with Good Questions” above.)