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Surviving sales prospection: Cold calls

Nothing scares a salesperson more than the thought of prospecting. Start from scratch, find potential customers and figure out how to convince them to listen to you. Be aware I am not referring to Bibles selling in which you go from door to door or salespeople who wait for the client to come and explain what their product is about (cars, artefacts, etc.). I mean executive sales or B2B.

What is it about?

In this type of sales, prospecting begins by developing a list of potential customers interested in your product. In this step, the seller already has to use his creativity because there will not always be a list waiting for you, so you usually have to think about how to gather the information you need. Who currently buys the same product? Who else is in the same business (competition), and who do they sell to? What channels do customers use to communicate? Where can I get information about what my customers buy? Is there any market research available? The list of questions can be endless, and the answers vary.

You will get ideas (hopefully creative) from potential buyers of the product from the answers. You have to think outside the box. Use social media, client websites, associations, free market research, articles, papers, news, or even yellow pages (if they still exist when you read this article) to answer your questions.

Initially, you can spend a lot of time developing a list of potential customers, but it may be challenging. There will undoubtedly be names of buyers who are not interested and ended up on your list for some reason. Therefore, the next step is to polish the list of prospects.

To determine who is a genuine prospect, you must start writing and calling (you could visit, but usually, you start less aggressively). If you don’t have a known point of contact (a reference), searching the web for an email and sending information is usually the first step. It is also the least risky. But in truth, the probability of someone responding to an email sent to an info@… is very low. They usually end up in the spam or be ignored in some inbox. However, I can’t deny that sometimes this has worked for me. In fact, I got many clients through a generic email, but it is a very low probability of success.

Making cold calls is the next step in polishing your prospect list. These are unannounced phone calls to potential buyers (or perhaps to a call center hoping they will direct you to the correct area). In itself, you have to be lucky so that the phone you have is correct and someone answers, then you will have to see if you can find the person you are looking for (or if they want to talk to you). Many buyers play hard to find as they are overwhelmed by sellers. Generally, they will only be available if they have a greater need for a product.

You have to think about what to say beforehand. If, by luck, we manage to start a conversation with an interested person, you must take advantage of the opportunity. Everyone has their style when preparing an “elevator pitch” (I will write about this in another article). The important thing is that concise information is delivered in the little time they give you, and you manage to capture the buyer’s attention.

Why are these types of calls (cold calls) so scary?

Well, because human beings don’t like rejection, this type of invasive approach often ends in an “I’m not interested” or a phone hangup. The perceived energy is not pleasant, and spending all day making these types of calls can be exhausting and demotivating. Just think of the times you hung up on the phone when someone from the bank called you to offer you something that did not interest you.

But unless you’re lucky enough to have referrals that connect you directly with the right people at the right time (turning cold calls into warm calls), this is still the best method of getting new clients. No matter how technology evolves, we are still very dependent on calls.

Strategies to success

A few things can be done to increase the chance of success. The most important thing will always be ensuring you have the correct name. You must invest the necessary time in finding the name and position of the person you want to call; otherwise, you will most likely be rejected. You also have to know how the competition is doing. You will undoubtedly receive more rejections if there are a lot of offers. If, on the contrary, there is more demand than supply, you can be sure that buyers will be interested in listening to proposals.

Your offer must be solid and attractive. The message must be delivered safely and confidently; you must know how to communicate this over the phone. At this point, you should focus on your strengths and how these will be transformed into benefits for the client. Then you can meet the buyer and see what he or she needs.

When I was younger and starting my career as an international seller, I got a new job, and the first thing they did when I walked in the door was take me to my desk and introduce me to the phone (cell phones weren’t used for everything back then). I remember being told: there’s the phone, good luck. And sure enough, I spent the next three months calling every client I found or heard about, looking for the right person or waiting for the right moment to make an offer. Eventually, and after much persistence, I built a client base. It takes time and a lot of effort. It helps a lot to have a stable client list to manage in parallel while prospecting.

As I said at the beginning, this job is something not all sellers can or like to do. These profiles are known as hunters, and a set of unique qualities is required to be one, such as creativity, influence and resilience. Other vendors focus on serving and growing stable customers (gatherers). The risk of not prospecting and always selling to the same ones is that if your regular customers decide not to buy, you will have no options to continue selling, and your sales will drop.

Everyone who starts their own business will have to, in one way or another, do prospecting at some point. You must know that it is not impossible and you can become very good at it.

Indeed, a little sales and strategy coaching could help you improve at prospecting or get you through the rougher paths of prospecting. If you want to discuss the subject, please write to me via the web or schedule a call.

Alexander Martinez

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