Cold calling tips and techniques for startups

Reaching out with cold calls is often the best way to spread the news about your company

WeWork 330 North Wabash in Chicago. Photograph by WeWork

Cold calling is a challenging practice, one that well-established companies sometimes abandon. If you’re a small business or startup, however, reaching out with cold calls is often the best way to spread the news about your company. Make sure your sales team is performing this outreach correctly with the following cold-calling tips.

If you’re new to the cold call, or you’re not getting the success rates that you want with your efforts, revisit your cold-calling techniques. Use the cold-calling tips below to improve your approach and get results with new clients. Although cold calling presents a challenge for novices, you can possibly make some of your best sales with clients whom you contacted this way. Know which tactics are unsuccessful and which are cold-calling techniques that really work.

1. Forget the script

Much debate exists over whether you should have a cold-calling sales script or not. If you’re not a professional, keeping a word-for-word script will leave you sounding stilted and stiff. You can easily sound more natural without a script than when you’re reading preprinted words on a page. Cold calling is difficult enough without sounding like a robot.

Instead of a script, consider using a loose outline to guide your sales calls. This outline may include bulleted lists of important points that you should touch on at various times in the conversation or critical statistics and details about your products and services that are difficult to memorize. You’ll appreciate having well-organized reference tools on hand. However, make sure you don’t get so deep into the words on the page that you leave your personable tone and flexible attitude at the door.

2. Don’t push the sale in your first call

When you’re placing a cold call, your primary goal is to create contact with prospective clients, learn about their needs, and get your name in front of them. You’re not looking for a sale with your first cold call. This first call is an information-gathering expedition. You want to learn all that you can to prepare yourself for a better reception during your future calls.

Remember that successful sales relationships involve several points of contact. You shouldn’t expect to close a sale with one conversation, place the client on the back burner, and move on to the next lead. Turning a cold call into a lucrative client relationship takes time and nurturing. The best cold-calling techniques involve a slow and steady approach.

3. Understand the customer’s needs

Before you can close the sale, you need to understand why the customer needs your product or service. Don’t phrase this need in terms of your product’s perks or your service’s value. You need to answer this question from the customer’s point of view, not your own. No one-size-fits-all answer exists, and you have no way to know what the answer will be before that first call. Once you understand why your prospective client needs you, you’ll be able to tailor your offers and pitches in future calls.

4. Know how to overcome the top objections

Every salesperson should know the top objections to cold callers, from “I don’t have the time now,” to “We don’t need those services.” Understand all the top barriers to a sale as they apply to your industry — and more specifically, to your product. Have a valuable answer ready for any objection so that you’re not left stuttering, apologizing, and hanging up the phone. Knowing how to handle rejection is one of the most important aspects of placing a cold call.

5. Maintain your focus

Avoid the urge to multitask when you have cold calls scheduled for the day. Set up a dedicated work area that’s well-suited to the task. In a WeWork office, you may want to book a private office for your calls so that you’re not left in an open, public space where other conversations might steal your focus.

Keep your desk neat and clutter-free. Never have another project or report out while you’re making cold calls, as you may find your eyes wandering inadvertently. You need to make sure all of your focus is on the current client. Take fresh notes for each call. Keep the name of the company as well as the individual whom you’re talking to written on a piece of paper before you. This reminder will save you many embarrassing encounters where you might confuse your last call with the one you’ve initiated. Staying focused will give a more personalized feel to each interaction.

6. Track your efforts and analyze the results

Keep a spreadsheet with detailed information about each call that you make, including the date, time, name of the person you spoke with, topics you discussed, and place in the purchasing cycle at the end of the call. Detail any barriers you faced to landing the client, and leave notes about any future communications that you’ve planned, from sending more information by email to scheduling a live demonstration.

Review and analyze this database on a regular basis so that you can tweak your strategies appropriately to promise greater success in the future. You may notice that you have better interactions when you call during a certain time of the day or day of the week. Perhaps you’ll see a trend in the barriers that stop your sales flow. Examining this information will help you discover your personal strengths and weaknesses so that you can find the best opportunities for improvement.

7. Have a well-written voicemail at the ready

An inevitable part of cold calling is leaving many voicemail messages. You don’t want to pass up on the opportunity to leave a message and make contact with a new client. However, you also want to make sure this contact is smooth, informative, and engaging. Consider scripting a detailed voicemail that includes your name, contact information, and a concise pitch detailing what you can offer.

You can pre-record a single voicemail to cue up for any client who doesn’t answer to save time and increase your daily calls. If you’re not using a pre-recorded message, make sure your script includes a few blanks for personalization. Insert the name of the company that you’re calling. If possible, include some details about how your company can help that client in particular to make your message more appealing.

8. Time your calls right

Finding the sweet spot in many industries can increase your chances of success simply by timing your calls correctly. If you’re selling financial products or services, know when your prospective client’s fiscal year ends. Call a few weeks ahead of this crucial time and offer your services when the company is most focused on improving its financial situation. If you sell attendance-tracking tools to schools, you want to reach staff at the end of the previous school year, when they’re thinking ahead to fresh ways they can improve in a new school year.

Understand when your customers need your products or services most, and pay close attention to any individualized situations with your prospective clients. A trend doesn’t have to be an industry-wide one to be relevant. If you’re aware of signs of trouble with top companies in your industry, you’ll know when to offer your help for the best chance of success.

9. Be mindful of your tone

Telephone calls are more challenging than face-to-face interactions because your customers are left using their imagination about your demeanor and facial expressions. Many people can read a person’s tone accurately, so be careful about the message you’re sending. If you’re frowning at the phone and slumping in your seat, your prospect can probably hear your positioning in your voice. Sit straight in your chair and smile, even though no one can see you. These details will carry through the phone call and help you make a friendly and professional impression.

With the right cold-calling tips in your professional sales toolbox, you can boost your sales and grow your company without a list of top leads to rely upon. Research your prospective clients thoroughly to make sure your cold calls are as relevant as possible. When you’re reaching out to the right people, you may be surprised at how you can easily explain the need for your products and services during a cold call. Keep track of your efforts and continually hone your cold-calling techniques so that you can get the best results from your efforts.

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