You are in sales. Your team’s marketing efforts have resulted in a constant stream of interest from prospective clients and your phone is ringing off the hook with requests for meetings. As great as this may sound, it rarely happens. More likely, you have gotten some new contacts and meetings through email campaigns, networking efforts, and referrals. Still, these efforts alone probably have not filled out your schedule.
The fact is, no matter how successful your marketing and referral efforts are, you still need to occasionally pick up the phone, make the call, and ask for the appointment.
Some people may see this as “cold-calling” and view the practice negatively. True, a call to someone you do not know well can come across as intrusive, and if not handled carefully you can send the wrong signal. There are other challenges as well: navigating gatekeepers, dealing with apathy, creating a sense of urgency, dealing with you own discomfort and fear of rejection… it’s no wonder we make excuses and put it off! If you understand the principles of calling to get an appointment and couple them with planning and practice, most of these problems can be minimised.
Tip 1: Soften the ground.
Making a “cold-call” is never your best option. You should always try to turn a cold contact into a warm contact before you try a phone call. Do you have any mutual contacts? Are you connected on LinkedIn? If so, do you share any groups, interests, education or employment history? Ideally you should get an introduction from someone you both know. If that is not possible, see if you can look for another way in.
Tip 2: Send an email first.
Once you plan to connect, always send an email first. This allows you to remind the person how you know each other and introduce yourself in a safe and professional manner. End the email with an invitation to meet, and suggest that you call in a couple of days as a follow-up. There is always a good chance the contact will respond positively and arrange a time for the call.
Tip 3: Keep it brief.
You have one objective – get a meeting. Keep the call no longer than five minutes.
Tip 4: Be clear.
Speak slowly, minimise the ‘ums’, and most of all, be succinct. Practice what you want to say in advance. The conversation should be somewhere between ‘sounding scripted’ and ‘playing it by ear’.
Tip 5: Project an assertive image.
When speaking with a gatekeeper, simply say, “Victor Lee please, this is Calvin Smith from ABC Corp”. Let your tone imply that you’re expected.
Tip 6: Talk about results.
Show value to get a meeting with someone. Refer to the benefits you’ll create (e.g., cost savings, improved efficiency, reduced risk, etc.)
Tip 7: Don’t procrastinate.
There are always excuses. Make a list of people you’re going to call, then do it. Remember: the hardest call to make is the first one.
Keep in mind that the telephone call is just one step in an on-going marketing process. There are many ways to keep in touch with the person in order to build a trusting relationship over time. Often your best clients will require numerous follow-ups and months (even years) of cultivation before a contract is signed. But in order to do any of that this, you have to pick up the phone and make the first call.