Cold calling can take many forms, from sitting at a phone in a call center, to canvassing the small business neighborhood, to setting appointments with the assumptive call letter. It can involve seeding the prospect, invitations to evevts, or anything other than an invitation. Cold calling is an unannounce and unsolicited sales contact. Plain and simple.
Sole practitioners disdain cold calling. It’s probably a by-product of why they became sole practitioners in the first place, so they could have some place to hide and fool themselves into thinking they were actually running a business. You know the line, ‘I get all my clients from referrals. All six of them.’
It’s always strange to me that someone who is either unwilling, or afraid, to actively market their services can present themselves as an advisor to businesses.
As management guru Peter Drucker said, ‘The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.’ How can any business exist without a customer, and how can you create and keep a customer without marketing?
Oh sure, we can attempt to avoid calling them customers by making up terms that avoid the word ‘customer.’ We can use words like ‘client,’ and try to pretend that we are not running a business, and they are not merely buying our services, but then what in the Sam Hill are they giving you money to do?
Anyhoo, I digress.
Going back to cold calling, it is interesting to discover that the top rainmakers at the top firms all got there by cold calling. All of them.
And, I’m sure that all of these top professionals know deep down that cold calling is what put them ahead of their peers. And, because it is a competitive advantage for them, why they promote the ‘professionalism’ that eschews aggressive, or what I like to think of as assertive, marketing. Suggesting that it is more professional to rely upon networks of peers sending referrrals to you because of your ‘reputation.’
Reputations may close the deal, but it is the contact that starts the conversation, and that is where the ‘young turks’ of today have the advantage. They are delving into social media and technology to build their reputation, while at the same time, breaking down barriers and starting conversations with prospects they have identified through these channels.
Now I know I’m past my prime, and you probably get sick and tired of worn out old gits preaching ‘war stories’ to you, but . . . back in the day, when I started and built my four small practices, I started each one the same way, cold calling. And, each time, after I hit my stride, I was able to add five to seven new clients each and every month to my base.
I wasn’t a genius, I did it the old fashioned door-to-door salesman way, walking down the street, entering a business, and asking the first person I could identify as an employee, the same question, ‘Hi, are you the owner?’ After a few laughs, I would invariably be pointed in the right direction, and was able to start a conversation. Not to make a final sale, but simply to get an appointment where I could give my presentation.
Cold calling was not on my mind.
Getting customers was.
I started my accounting businesses because I was in a position where I needed the income, and accounting was something that because I had a college degree that said I was an accountant, caused me to think I could do the work. And, since I needed to start fast, I decided to just go out and start asking for the business.
Over time I picked up a sort of system that seemed to work, and that still works. But, it involves work. It involves setting up a process, following it, and refining it as you go along.
Which points us to caveat number one.
Identify a target market.
Selecting a target market will help you decide on the method you will be using for your cold calling, and the techniques you will be using to ‘soften up’ the target.
If you are working as a generalist, then my old method of canvassing the neighborhood might work. If you are targeting an industry, or a niche, then you may need to research the target and send promotional materials in advance of your cold call.
If you are offering a practice specialization, the same softening techniques can be expanded to include a technique that allows you to identify prospects. Something such as a seminar or webinar, where you can collect names and contact information.
No matter which type of market you target, you’ll also need to crreate a script, which can not only help you personalize your conversation, it can help keep the discussion on track and moving ahead.
One of the most important parts is to develop an acceptance of the idea that folks who say no are not giving you a rejection, they are helping you move along more quickly to the one in seven who will say yes to an appointment, ;and the one in two who accept and appointment and become customers.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget to follow up.
Once you have made the initial cold call, you then have the opportunity to follow yo with more seeding materials, promotional discussions such as webinars and seminars, or even sample products and sample surveys.
After you get your idea of cold calling figured out, start doing it.
In the morning.
Most business owners are in their businesses during the morning hours, to get started on the day, and to get things straightened out that were messed up late in the day the day before.
And never, I mean never, sound like you’re trying to make a sale.
Of course you are, and the prospect knows it. But, the prospect doesn’t want you to go through the Zig Ziglar hard sale method. They want someone they can communicate with, someone they can talk to, and the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed they are. So, when you are making your cold calls, hold a conversation, and relax, but always keep the objective in mind.
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