We used to make cold calls because we had to. Back in the day, it was the only way (besides referrals and leads from advertisements) to find new business. Of course, there was also something called the phone book and, when somebody called in, it paid to count the number of alphabetical listings before yours in order to determine your minimum number of competitors.
Sure, you could do some research before you made that call, or you could call on vertical markets where you had a good idea of their needs and how you might help them but, a lot of these calls were flat cold. I was expected to pick a street in my territory and knock on the door of every company on that street to the tune of 30 calls per day.
Even then, through the years, my cold calling was gradually replaced by networking and referrals. My last five years in direct selling, and this was before the advent of social media let alone social selling, I never made a single cold call, and business was awesome. Does this mean that I didn’t prospect? Hell no! I prospected like a madman! The difference was, I turned cold calls into warm calls.
Today, there’s really no excuse, let alone the necessity, to make a true cold call. A warm call, where you have verified information to proceed with, is quite a different story. It might still be a little frigid out there but, at least, you’re wearing a scarf and mittens. Are there reasons to continue to make cold calls as we have in the past? Perhaps but, given their low rate of effectiveness, why would you invest that time doing something that provides an acknowledged diminished return? Still, some may disagree.
It’s there but, will you use it?
The information you need in order to warm this call up is often readily available. Whether or not you choose to use it … that may be a different story. For example, last month I received an email from a well-recognized company. They spoke of the virtues of their services and how I might benefit from their usage. The problem is, and despite the fact that they referenced my website, there is absolutely nothing about me that would provide even the slightest indication that their services would hold any value for me.
They grabbed my name and email address (more than most do and both prominently displayed on the homepage) and then they never researched my site to even begin to qualify me for potential need. Incredible but, this happens all the time, and I mean that at least 90% of the time. Of course, that’s for me but, being a betting man, my money says that the same holds true for you.
How do you make it happen?
The simple answer is that we do what we have always done. We keep our eyes and our ears open, and we network like crazy! The good news is that, in addition to real life, we can now expand our reach geometrically by also performing these activities electronically.
Search for commonalities – One of the key elements of successful selling is establishing rapport. This is often accomplished by identifying and leveraging commonalities. In the old days, walking into a prospect’s office and finding sports trophies, diplomas, and photographs on the wall would often be the genesis of this process. Today, your customers social profiles serve the exact same purpose if … you take the time to read them.
Engage progressively – And do so by personalizing each engagement. Calling them on the phone, or sending them emails, on a recurring schedule that repeatedly ask “Are you ready to buy yet?”, do not qualify. You start slowly with baby steps such as retweets and comments and then move your engagements forward, and more personal and direct, from there. Think Dating 101 rather than the one-night hookup.
Build the relationships – Can a single deal be completed without a relationship being in place? Sure but, you want every customer to bring you multiple orders, and referrals and I have never seen this happen without a solid business relationship having been established.
Create social debt – I’m not sure where I first heard this term. It is probably politically incorrect which is my I am magnetically drawn to it. P.C. or not, it is no different than what “Go-Givers Sell More” preaches that givers get. Bringing them new business opportunities and introductions are excellent examples of actions that will move you to the position of relationship banker. Not the title. The lien holder.
Make yourself memorable and unique – Salespeople who rise to this status do so by doing those things that allow them to stand out from within a field of hungry competitors. This is what also keeps them in the company fold when it comes to writing new business.
Leverage your existing connections for introductions – If you love doing business with customer x, guess what? He or she probably associates with people who are very similar to themselves. This is a basic law of human preferences. Therefore, if you wish to expand your reach, I would suggest that you start here, review their friends, followers, and connections, and request quality introductions. Assuming that you have created and built the relationship, and perhaps a little social debt, your customer should be more than happy to share the good news, you, with others.
Watch for triggers – By monitoring updates and conducting applicable searches on the social networks, you are receiving real-time alerts of changing customer, and potential customer, business statuses that identify potential new opportunities for your product or service. Just a few examples of free tools to assist you in this process include Google Alerts, Owler, Newsle, and Mention. Of course, there are also a ton of premium applications that have been specifically designed for this purpose.
Attract buyers – While the topic of this article is centered around prospecting, attracting buyers is an important element that can best be accomplished in a social sales environment. Your company likely has a website and has built their brand in a variety of ways. Today, you have this same capability via your social profiles, social activities, and even writing on platforms like LinkedIn. Create videos on YouTube, slideshows on SlideShare, and podcasts on SoundCloud, to name a few.
How about you? Is cold calling dead and buried? If no, please share with us why. If yes, what are you doing to replace this activity?