Cold Calling

Universally understood products can be sold by cold telephone calls, but getting hold of customers is hard. Typically two in five will be busy, in meetings, anything other than able to take your call. Once you have the person on the line, providing you come across as smart, useful, and seem genuinely concerned about finding out about their business so that you can offer them something of genuine usefulness, they are often prepared to listen. Surprisingly, big-ticket items can be sold this way.

Good telephone mannerisms often come down to nothing more than treating others on the phone the way you'd like to be treated yourself: polite, informative, and not wasting other people's time. Introduce yourself quickly and cleanly and try to throw in a point of contact even at the start. "Good morning, I'm Harold Doorknob, vice president of sales at XYZ. I was speaking to your CEO last week and he suggested I have a word with you. Can you talk now?"

Put this way, your respondent will often say, "Now is as good a time as any."

If you have something interesting to say people will listen. So start off with an intriguing statement that prompts further discussion, such as "We've developed a new piece of software that may save you at least an hour a week. Knowing your workload, Charlie Topdog was wondering if you'd like to evaluate it for the company."

Don't sound too urgent. If you are really confident about the benefits, you are the one who is doing the customer a favor. The main benefit of course is the one for which your product has been specifically developed to deliver, the one succinctly described in your development plan.

It's useful at this point to have a list in front of you of the key product points so you can introduce them as the conversation develops. Different points will carry more weight with different customers so use it flexibly.

When you have achieved your target, which isn't always a one-call sale (it may be the transmission of a trial copy or an appointment to discuss the possibilities), wind the call down politely. Remember to leave a tag in the adieus so you have a valid reason for calling back. For example, you might say, "That's great. I'll make sure your software is dispatched this afternoon and I'll give you a call in about a week to make sure its working well."

If you don't overstay your time, the recipient will be more prepared to speak again. However, unless your product is a simple one, don't expect people to buy it sight unseen on the strength of a single, unsolicited phone call.

Note It is counter-productive to call business people at home unless specifically invited.

In the United States, households are beginning to employ firms to screen out unwanted calls, and the federal and some state governments are instituting no-call lists.

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