I recently answered a cold call from a gentleman pitching me on advertising at a Hollywood golf club. When he completed his spiel, I told him that my boutique business-to-business consultancy doesn’t advertise at all because it focuses exclusively on a small, concentrated industry. In other words, the cold caller didn’t qualify his lead.
After asking him why he was calling from a 503 area code, he admitted that he actually worked for Bench Craft, an outside sales representative based in Oregon.
From backrooms out of town, teams of Bench Craft sellers cold call local advertising prospects across the country.
In South Florida and elsewhere, whether by phone, email or text, cold calling is ubiquitous. Even staid accounting firms are on the prowl, pitching CFO services to low-budgeted businesses that are required to comply with today’s stricter financial regulations.
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Ads on golf scorecards might benefit plastic surgeons or upscale restaurants. So might accounting firms want to reach smaller businesses tagged with complicated compliance requirements.
But is cold calling the best way to reach them? Probably not. An IBM performance study showed that only 3 percent of traditional cold calls are effective. One of the chief reasons revealed by the study is that the sellers often don’t understand their prospects’ needs.
Whether they’re financial advisers, real-estate brokers, sponsorship sellers or corporate hospitality representatives, soliciting is not for the faint of heart. Cold callers are given blank canvases every day and asked to turn them into hard cash. It’s daunting, yet the good sellers make big money.
The feeling is magical when salespeople close business that is absolutely new, initiated from scratch and shepherded all the way to the finish line. Given no warm leads, cold callers aren’t born on third base. Their hits are legitimate home runs!
What characteristics are required to excel?
▪ A hungry stomach is imperative and innate. It can’t be taught. You have it or you don’t.
▪ Organization is critical, but it can be learned and perfected by discipline.
▪ Intuition to find leads is somewhat of a natural gift that’s sharpened by the vapor of experience.
Herewith, 10 pieces of basic advice for cold callers:
▪ Never read scripts. Adlib. Practice on recorders and perfect your presentation skills by talking into a mirror.
▪ Listen. In the words of former Secretary of State Dean Rusk, America’s top diplomat at the height of the Cold War, “The best way to persuade others is with your ears.”
▪ Keep pen and paper or your smart phone handy at all times. You never know when leads hit you.
▪ Be active on social media. Prospects today want to buy from “experts.”
▪ Knowledge is power! Devour everything you can anywhere, from the business pages of the local newspapers to trade publications and websites.
▪ Understand prospects’ goals. Research the companies on social media for consumer reviews.
▪ Ask yourself how the product you sell helps your prospect. When you present, talk about the prospect’s product as much as you do yours.
▪ Don’t be intimidated by silence. When prospects are terse, don’t talk for the sake of talking — you’ll put your foot in your mouth.
▪ Be pleasantly persistent, not overbearing.
▪ There are many prospects. Be impervious to setbacks. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first television job. She didn’t give up.
David J. Halberstam is a former radio voice of the Miami Heat and the author of “The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.”