With business being so stinky, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone and go look for some new leads — and the earlier you start, the better. One of the best approaches for this is to simply cold call, which literally means to go out and call on people you don’t know. All you need is a phone listing and some thick skin. While cold calling can be grueling and disheartening sometimes, it also is the most time-efficient way to reach new people. And you don't even have to have the "gift of gab!"
My friends used to tell me how they got this new great job and they were going to make millions. They told me they had great products that would sell themselves and all they needed were customers. Of course, I was intrigued. What a great job! Making millions appeals to me quite a bit. But as I watched them, I saw that most of them never made it past week three. Why? Well, no customers and no pay checks.
When I was about 14 years old I got my first sales lesson. Our neighbor, whose name was Bela, was a salesman for Nat Pack selling freezers and frozen food. His job was to get an appointment in the "right" customer’s house; the right customer being the "woman of the house." His theory was if he could get into the house and talk to her about cooking, recipes, budgets and food, he could get her. You see, the freezer was free if she bought enough food. Bela used to affectionately call his approach “win-win.” The women got the food and the freezer and he got a sale. The problem, however, was getting a customer—this required a lot of cold calling.
Bela taught me his approach one summer. He'd pick a city block in a medium size town and I would knock on the doors and tell women about my friend in the food business. I would give them a gift, a set of knives, and ask if it was okay if Bela came back later. If she was married he preferred to come back when her husband was home. Sometimes I would bring flowers as a gift, which, I’m ashamed to say, I'd sometimes pick from a neighbor’s yard. But I was friendly, sincere and was able to make plenty of appointments. Oh did I mention I got 5% of the first month’s order! These days, a lot of people think it's impossible to get anyone to open their door to a stranger, and most people would blanche at the thought of sending their 14 year old out selling door-to-door.
Here are some other tips to consider to help make cold calling easier:
- Find someone to introduce you to the person who is the decision maker for your target company. This could be someone who knows the person in your industry or who's within the company. It could even be a friend. Start asking around!
- Put on a seminar and invite people you want to meet. A color and design seminar for designers, a marketing seminar or advertising seminar. How about a “meet and greet” for people who could benefit meeting others in their field?
- Read the newspaper for articles about companies that might be prospects for you. Drop a note complimenting them on the article or the award they received. Tell them you will follow up with a phone call on such-and-such a date. When you call tell the gate keeper you promised this person a call and he/she expects to hear from you. This will get you past the gate keeper.
- Know what you have to say but don’t memorize a script. Just call to set up an appointment–not to sell anything.
- Go online and find out as much about the company as possible. Find out about their community connections, what boards they sit on and where they send donations. Cold calls are never cold if you know who you’re calling on.
For more on cold calling:
- Effective cold calling techniques, tips and methods for selling and sales training
- Cold-calling tips from the blogs