One mistaken idea that’s floating around in entrepreneurial circles, and one that I believed for a while, is that cold-calling is dead. In fact, far from it — cold-calling represents an entrepreneur’s most successful sales technique. It also represents the scariest form of engagement known to man — or at least that’s what it feels like when you’re picking up the phone for the first time. If you’re just starting out, or even if you are experienced but thinking about this technique, here are a few points to consider.
1. Cold-calling is NOT telemarketing
The primary difference between the two is whether the person you’re calling (the lead) is qualified or not. With cold-calling, we’re trying to win over someone we believe is in our market because they’ve already been qualified by market research — they’re a marketing qualified lead, or MQL. As a beginner, rather than try a “hard sell,” concentrate on connecting to prospects that may actually be interested in what you are selling, instead of overcoming a long list of objections (a key element of telemarketing).
2. Your list quality is paramount
Given the technology and resources of the 21st century, you can compile or buy a quality targeted list of MQLs for your cold calls. If you’re bootstrapping and funds are tight, you can’t afford to hire a stable of great salespersons or buy extensive amounts of data, so you want to execute this well and use empirical evidence to make decisions. You also don’t want to burn yourself or your early team with calls that are never going to convert.
3. To script or not to script?
That is the question. Some say you must script your early calls, while other sage advisors recommend not doing so. My take is to start with the scripted approach for a given period of time, then try it on your own when you feel you’re ready. You can always write a new script when you have scaled your calling operation to include additional staff. Personally, I much prefer connecting and chatting with a prospect off the cuff, but without a script I might miss my cues or talk too much. If you lack this conversational discipline, use a script and then make cold-calling part of your regular routine.
4. Remember your follow-ups
Don’t just show up with a phone and a list. Have a strategy to work a lead until you get to the next phase, even if that’s just setting an appointment. That strategy is not just about calling — it’s about returning calls, repeat calls, sending supporting sales material, etc. For this reason, schedule less calls than you think you can initially complete, because you may underestimate the physical and mental drain this process can cause.
Having trouble getting started? Find a sales accountability group that can help keep you on schedule. Remember, as a solopreneur you don’t have to go it alone. Visit our community initiative at https://startupmeet.com for our NYC meetup groups on the topic.