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Sales Challenge: Improve Your Cold Calls

Here’s some expert advice to help up your cold-calling game.

Cold-calling can make even the most seasoned salesperson cringe, yet the technique remains among the most effective at generating leads. Here’s some expert advice to help up your cold-calling game.

Do Your Homework: It’s crucial to know something about the company you’re calling, and the Internet makes that easier than it’s ever been. Despite the ease of getting information, not every sales person takes the time to do their research, says Art Sobczak, author of Smart Calling: Eliminate the Fear, Failure, and Rejection from Cold Calling. “There’s no faster way to look like an idiot than to have to ask somebody what their company actually does.” Sobczak recommends searching out a prospective client’s mission statements and social media channels to get a sense of the company’s values and recent activity.

Try Social Engineering: After doing your research, Sobczak recommends calling the company to get some sales intelligence. If, say, your distributorship has carved a niche supplying products for national sales meetings, Sobczak thinks you should call a prospect’s sales department and ask questions about upcoming meetings, what they typically receive at those events, what themes are used and, of course, who’s in charge of planning. After this reconnaissance, your employees can start navigating through the organization. The purpose of this research is simply to prepare a productive opening and create a proposition that will actually get the attention of the person on the other end.

Focus on Opening Statements: Avoid product pitches at all costs at the beginning of a cold call, says Sobczak. “Once you start talking about products, it’s really easy for people to say, ‘We don’t need it’ or ‘We’re already buying our T-shirts from somebody else,’” he says. “You want to talk about the result of what you’re going to hopefully be presenting.”

Strive for Empathy: Many cold-calling experts offer tips for overcoming customer objections, but Sobczak believes that’s ineffective because you’re essentially just telling prospects they are wrong. Instead, ask targeted questions that are designed to be helpful and understanding. For example, a cold-caller might ask prospects what types of ideas they are looking for to boost upcoming marketing campaigns. The key is to act like a person, not a robotic voice on the other end of the phone line.