4 Elements of Cold-Calling to Consider if You’re Starting a Business

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.

3 Elements of Social Selling to Consider if You’re Just Starting Out

The two most common sales misconceptions I hear from fellow entrepreneurs are:

  1. The phone is dead; and
  2. Social selling isn’t worth it.

While these channels may not be the best fit for your primary sales strategy, they’re far from useless —especially social selling, which is roughly the use of social activity in your sales behaviors. Today this might take place on social media, via networks such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter, but it can actually occur either online or offline. It’s a “softer” way to interact directly with your prospects by offering relevant content and answering questions until the prospect is ready to commit to a purchase. Here are three recommendations to keep in mind when considering using social selling.

1. Focus on true social selling

“Social Selling” should not be confused with “Social Marketing,” in which marketing is used to effect social change, or “Social Media Marketing,” by which websites and social media networks are used to promote a service or product to large segments or groups. Rather, the goal of social selling is to nurture one-on-one relationships with individual prospects (instead of transmitting the same message to many prospects at the same time), supporting the prospect through the sales phases of Awareness, Consideration and Decision. Having said that, you should definitely make sure you are doing both social selling and social media marketing really well by providing timely, appropriate marketing content, then following those who read and/or comment on the content in order to cultivate relationships.

2. Pay attention to the health of your sales pipeline

The sales pipeline begins with a lead and ends with a paying customer by following a specific sequence of actions, beginning with Prospecting. This all-important first stage of the pipeline entails finding potential clients to move through the sales funnel in order to convert them into a customer who generates revenue for your business. When social prospecting, you search or monitor social networks to find customers who have expressed interest in your product or service, seem ready to buy, or appear to be qualified leads based on a pre-determined set of target buyer profiles. With practice, social media can really shine in the prospecting phase, especially since the alternatives — such as private databases — can be quite expensive.

3. Use at least two social networks

Social media platforms constantly tweak their rules, so it’s important to not depend entirely on just one. I witnessed many social sellers panic when Facebook changed their engagement rules and LinkedIn changed their group rules, so hedging your bets and focusing on multiple social networks is a good idea.

Ultimately, social selling should at least be evaluated for your new bootstrapped venture. The data from that evaluation may allow you to either double-down on that avenue or switch to a more old-fashioned approach. Regardless of your path, definitely conduct ample research to ensure you’re doing the right thing for your business, and reach out if you have any questions. We can help fill out the roles you’d like to delegate.