Cold calling gets a bad rap. Sales reps dread it, due to the anxiety and rejection that too often accompany it. In reality, the make or break moment in most cold calls is just the initial conversation starter -- that first 10-20 seconds from your first word to the point at which the prospect gives you permission to continue talking. If you can make it past that all-important hurdle, it's all down hill from there.
Break down the conversation starter into these three simple pieces.
1) The Greeting: First impressions -- formed within the initial eight seconds of engagement -- are difficult to change. That's why the first few words out of your mouth matter immensely. Make that opening strong, especially when calling high-level decision makers. Here's the typical approach: "Hello Mr. Dawson. How are you today? I'm Susan with Designer Pools." Instead, try this variation: "Ted, this is Susan with Designer Pools." Notice the subtle difference in confidence between the two resulting from the use of first name and no-nonsense approach in the latter alternative. When delivering these first few crucial words, be sure not to rush, or it can come across as nervous energy, which can diminish your credibility.
2) The Compelling Reason: Now that you've identified yourself with enough confidence to capture your prospect's attention, offer a compelling reason for continuing to talk with you. This will require you to do your homework. You might offer some new information particularly relevant to your prospect or recount a success you've had with another similar company. The trick is in succinctly delivering the reason in three sentences max.
Continuing with the preceding analogy, try something like this: "I read about the new apartment development you're breaking ground on next year. Interestingly, we just completed a pool project for a competitor of yours -- using an innovative new design technique that cut his installation costs by 20 percent and allowed him to increase rental rates by 10%."
3) The Request to Continue: Once you've piqued your prospect's interest, ask for permission to continue the conversation in an assumptive way: "I'd love to share more about it if you have a couple of minutes."
Putting it all together, your conversational starter might sound something like this: "Ted, this is Susan with Designer Pools. (Pause for reaction.) I read about the new apartment development you're breaking ground on next year. Interestingly, we just completed a pool project for a competitor of yours -- using an innovative new design technique that cut his installation costs by 20 percent and allowed him to increase rental rates by 10%. (Pause for reaction.) I'd love to share more about it if you have a couple minutes."
Mastering the art of the cold call is as simple as 1, 2, 3.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, Tennessee -- www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovecompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).