The thought of doing cold calls can turn otherwise solid professionals and sales people into quivering wallflowers, too shy to talk to anyone.
Let’s face it; even the term ‘cold calling’ sounds harsh and unfriendly. (In fact I prefer to call it ‘making initial contact’ as this is a better reflection of what is actually being done.)
For many sellers the idea of making initial contact with a potential client is just plain scary.
In some cases this fear can be paralysing, preventing any action being taken.
The fear of making initial contact may be based on a number of factors, such as:
- The expectation of feeling awkward
- Fear of being rejected
- Concern about being too pushy
- Not wanting to interrupt the prospect
- Being unprepared by not having the information needed
- Not feeling ‘worthy’ of talking to the prospect
- Not knowing what to do during the first few minutes
- Not knowing how to strike up a sales conversation
However, all these factors are under the control of the seller.
Addressing feelings and skill development
Feelings of being unworthy, being unprofessional, getting flustered, being rejected, or being seen to be pushy are all in the mind of the seller. They are perceptions held by the seller – they do not necessarily exist in reality. It’s important to recognise that you own your feelings and can therefore control them (even though it may take a great deal of practice to do this).
When it comes to factors such as not being prepared, not knowing what to say, and being unsure of how to handle the first few moments of contact, that is a matter of skill development. You can readily take steps to improve your skills, from training courses to reading to trying new techniques in live sales situations.
What successful initiators do
For the minority of sellers who are entirely comfortable with making initial contact with potential clients, the key difference is their expectation.
Successful initiators have moved past the feelings of fear.
They have removed the emotion from the initial contact. They focus on the outcome, which is to get a better understanding of the mutual opportunity of dealing with this prospect.
Successful initiators know they will experience some uncertainty, but they stay focused on moving through that to reach a point of understanding with the prospect. Even if the understanding is that the prospect is not in a position to buy from you – that is a valid outcome.
Think of it like being on a roller coaster for the first time. You know there will be a few heart-pounding moments. But you do it anyway. Once the ride starts you go with it until you reach the end.
In some ways being on a roller coaster is easier. You don’t have any choice about stopping. And you have to go through with it!
Masking the fear
Do you know sellers who say they know what to do to make initial contact – but they never actually do it? Ask yourself why. Does that sound like you? Are you masking your fears? Are you hiding the fact that you are scared?
It’s easy to hide behind reasons for not making initial contact. In many cases these reasons really do exist, but are you using them to cover up for your fears?
These are some of the common reasons sellers use to avoid stepping out of their comfort zone to make initial contact:
- Being ‘busy’
- Responding to interruptions and demands from others
- Focusing on serving existing clients
- Attending to paperwork
- Handling details that could be delegated to others
- Claiming they don’t need new clients
- Asserting that others do it better, so leave it to them
- Not having time to do the research needed prior to making contact
What’s the solution?
As with other important aspects of selling there is no instant easy fix. It requires personal discipline and development over time.
To become comfortable with making initial contact you need to:
- Change your perceptions about what will happen. Stop imagining the worst!
- Identify your goal for each initial contact – have a clear purpose
- Develop practical strategies for what to say and do to reach that goal
- Create a snappy value proposition (one sentence) that can spark interest from the clients perspective to continue talking – if only for a few minutes to get through the initial moments
- Become more confident by practising in a safe environment, as well as getting real-life experience
It is important to note that the process of making initial contact (cold calling) is still an important tactic for many companies selling in the business-to-business market place – whether that be done over the phone or by face to face visits.
And it is true that making initial contact these days is harder than it was some years ago.
Thanks to the internet prospects can easily get information. Research has shown prospects can be 60% or more of the way through their buying process before they even talk with a supplier. So as the seller you have to demonstrate how you may be able to add value right from the start.
The old sales methods of chit-chatting and trying to create rapport are out the window. Prospects are too busy to have idle conversations with sellers they don’t know.
You will find success by being polite, sincere, confident, persistent, and having a laser-like focus on identifying how you can help your prospect achieve their goals.
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