When a Cold Call Isn't a Cold Call


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Just the term “Cold Call” has threatening, wasteful connotations in my mind. Yet, every sales person has to make this kind of call sooner or later. Most sales people would rather have bamboo shoots stuck under their finger nails than make cold calls. The reason is simple, “Cold Calling” carries with it an extremely high rejection rate. And, even though as professional sales people we realize that rejection is part of building our sales success, that doesn’t mean we like it.

Let’s start with the basics, cold-calling success is dependent on attitude. The first thing we need to do is realize that a “Cold Call” is really nothing more than a “Qualification Call”. This relates to attitude. Our goal (attitude about the call) should be only to gather information and not make a sale.

1. Determine the customers specific needs, the current distributors that fulfill those needs and how they match up with your company’s core competencies
2. Provide initial information on your company such that the buyer becomes aware of your stature and capabilities.
3. If the match is adequate, develop interest in the buyer for further sales contact. Conversational Tips:
Start your initial request or conversation by addressing the customer’s pain. This means you have to do some research on the customer and his industry.

"All I'm asking for is 10 minutes of your time, I honestly would not be wasting your time or mine if I didn't think our company could help you address some of your critical issues, improve profitability etc etc. Of course, you need to do your homework in order to make a statement that can be beneficial to the customer. Once you have determined that potential exists and you set an appointment for a face to face meeting, the following questioning strategies may be helpful during that follow-up qualification call. Questioning Strategy:

1. Introduce a direction statement to set the tone, for example:

“Mr. Buyer, today’s purchasing agent has to deal with inventory levels, inventory turns, delivery and price problems, cost of money and so forth. We have developed specific solutions for these problems and more. ”

Of course, your questioning strategy in person is determined by how much information was gained during the initial phone call that set up your appointment. Often times that information is very general and superficial to the extent that the total or real potential isn’t fully understood.

2. Introduce the purpose of the call as an exchange of information, for example:

“Mr. Buyer, I think we may have a good match-up of resources. To be sure, I would like to ask you some questions about your operation and tell you a little about our company. ”

3. Use some open questions to develop background information about the customer for example:

  • “Mr. Customer, how do you market your product?”
  • “Mr. Customer, can you tell me about your internal operation and how your paperwork flows?”
  • “Mr. Customer, how would you rank delivery, inventory levels, price and service in terms of your specific priorities?”

    Remember, research is important. The more you know about the customer going in the more powerful and directional your questions can become. The power is in the questions more so than the answers.

    4. Every favorable response should be reinforced. On the not pad jot down a list of responses that you were able to support.

    A follow-up note outlining your discussion with the customer and the required next steps will make you look like the professional you are. It will also differentiate you from the competition because most sales people just don’t follow-up their qualification calls with a written summary and call to action.

    5. Use closed questions to complete your customer profile, acquiring as much of the following as possible. What/Who are ….

  • Total annual purchases of products
  • Major vendor preferences
  • Purchases through distribution - direct from manufacturers
  • The customer’s current vendors
  • Who is involved in purchase/vendor selection decisions
  • Required lead times versus desired lead times
  • Current inventory levels - desired inventory levels
  • Potential future markets for the customer’s product
  • Current cash flow situation, desired credit line

    6. Continue to reinforce every favorable response, logging them on your note pad. Reinforcing done at this stage becomes the outline for a capabilities presentation later.

    Next Steps

    Remember, your objective going in was to gather information and determine whether this prospect is a match and worth investing additional time and effort. Of course, if the opportunity to get an order presents itself you would be foolish not to pursue it.

    Closing Commitments to Request:

    1. A facility tour of yours or his.

    2. A follow up appointment to make a capabilities presentation.

    3. Opportunity to quote.

    4. Buyer commitment to check your references.

    5. An order, perhaps cleaning up some of the customer’s current backorders.

    Cold calling may be the sales tactic that gets no respect. But it really can work - if you do it right. Stop thinking of such calls as “cold" in the first place. “Qualification" is a more accurate description. Don’t forget, plenty of research is necessary before reaching for the phone to set up that in-person qualification call.

    Fear of rejection is the main reason so many of these calls fail. A “Qualification Call” whether it is in person or by phone is nothing more than a way to introduce yourself and your business to a prospect. Yet even seasoned salespeople are intimidated by the tactic. Keep in mind, the last thing you want is to have a field sales person running around chasing smoke stacks without a prior phone call to, at the very least, determine if there is potential for the prospect to buy your products. This means that the qualification call should start on the phone. A personal qualification call should only be made if the information gained by the phone call determines that potential does exist. Inside sales can often be the driving force behind initial phone qualification. However, this does require training and support. It can also often evolve into a very proactive outcall program that supports new account development and market share growth.

    http://www.ceostrategist.com – Sign up to receive “The Howl” a free monthly newsletter that addresses real world industry issues. – Straight talk about today’s issues. Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution’s “Leadership Strategist”, founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com . Don’t forget to check out the Lead Wolf Series that can help you put more profit into your business. E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com for your special Howl discount order form.

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