With every new social media platform comes another messaging system — another way to connect all of us online, whether it’s through 140 characters or the next picture-perfect selfie. Despite the relevance of our media world, “old” methods of communication can’t be counted out. We might not phone a friend anymore just to catch up, but we might use the same device to develop our business network — and even sell products.
In its most basic terms, cold calling is calling a prospect you don’t know. This means you’re reaching out to someone you’ve never met with or had contact with before. They don’t know you and have no idea you’re about to call them.
Cold calls do vary from warm or social calls. “Warm” calls are to people who have demonstrated some sort of interest in your product or service before; for example, they might have signed up for your product before or filled out a form about your company. Social calls can maintain the lack of previous contact or communication cold calls have, but they use social media channels to contact the person rather than the phone.
A successful cold call must be done with preparation and respect. Start by thinking about the person you’re calling rather than the product. How will you address their specific needs? How can you be of service to them, and how can your product provide some sort of benefit? Getting specific about what your client needs will be the first step of your call.
Next, start to think about the benefits of your product, company or service. What are general positives of what you’re trying to sell or share? How are these applicable to numerous types of customers? How might someone feel averse to buying? Is there something you offer that outstands their objections? Think about how you would try to sell or share to the people you value most. What would you say to your sibling? Your parents? Your friends?
Asking yourself these questions can help begin an outline for how your cold call should proceed. Yet don’t stop at the basic outline — know that every cold call will be different depending on who you’re speaking to, and you might need to try different tactics and tweak how you’ll be sharing your service. If you continue to research and outline — and call respectfully and carefully — your cold call can be incredibly successful in attracting a client or selling a product.
Cold calls are a legitimate and legal way to sell products and offer services, but they can’t be done without respect and care. Cold callers can only call at home between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., and call at work any time. When calling, they must say who’s calling and why. Information about their name, their firm, company, or business’ name, addresses and telephone number must be readily available. Cold callers must be honest and direct about the purpose of their call.
Anyone who receives a cold call has the right to end communication. If they ask, anyone can be put on a “Do Not Call” list for a specific firm or company; there is also a National “Do Not Call” Registry managed by the Federal Trade Commission. If you sign up for this list, cold callers cannot call you unless you are a custom, gave written permission or related or acquainted with the cold caller.
Because cold callers are often looking to sell a product, they must get written approval before taking money directly from someone’s bank account. Brokers must get written permission before they can take money from a checking or savings account.
Cold calling is therefore legal in the United States — but not without specific and serious rules about when you can call and what you’re allowed to say.
The most important part of cold calling is preparation. In order to have a successful cold call, one needs to know not just one — but numerous ways — to talk about their product and business. Be prepared for excuses, for confusion and for rejection.
If you’re focused on a certain sale or particular outcome, you’re likely to be thrown off if something doesn’t go exactly your way. Not every cold call will be successful, just as everyone you speak to might not be the right investor for your business.
Cold calling someone is like meeting a stranger for the first time. Although you might see your end goal as a necessary end to your interaction, having no expectations means you can’t rush a sale, either. Instead of starting with a sale, begin with understanding how they might benefit from your offer. Getting them engaged with your work is the first step, not making the final sale.
The best way to have a successful cold call interaction is to focus on who you’re speaking with. Although you might not know the person, you’re still calling a person — someone who has feelings, interests and needs. Even if you’re trying to sell the same product, you’re speaking to someone different each time. Keep your client in mind and focus on what you can offer them specifically.
This speaks to the preparation component of cold calling. Although you don’t need to have a plan for every outcome of the phone call, make sure you’re well-research and confident about what your speaking about. Your knowledge will come through, even in a phone conversation.
If you’re trying to reach numerous people every day, it’s hard not to fall into the same spoken lines and a routine conversation. Yet everyone you’re speaking to will react differently and has individual needs. It’s OK to have an outline of what you want to say, but make sure to listen to the person you’re speaking with and adjust accordingly.
Because you don’t want a strict script, it’s important to practice conversing without one. Call someone you know and try to have a similar conversation with them. Practice in front of a mirror or mimic calling someone on your phone. Any type of practice will help you become more confident when the time comes.
It’s scary to talk to someone you don’t know, but it’s not a walk in the park for whoever you’re calling, either. If you’re relaxed, whoever you’re speaking with will feel more at ease. Stay calm and know that you’re prepared and ready for any outcome. If you create a relaxed environment, the person you’re cold calling is more likely to open up and speak with you further.
Having a genuine interaction is always important. While business is business, the industry is created by and for people. Staying truthful ensures transparency and a more truthful, respectful conversation anyone you’re calling will value.
It’s OK to be personable when cold calling someone — you should be genuine — but it’s not OK to waste time on irrelevant topics that veer too far from the call’s purpose. Make sure you’re clear about the purpose of the call and don’t waste any time on things that could be done with technology.
One of the biggest fears most cold callers have is that they’ll be rejected. Unfortunately, rejection happens all the time, but that also means there’s more opportunity to learn from failures. View rejection as a chance to grow and learn rather than a block or total disappointment.
Figuring out when to call someone is almost as important as figuring out who you’re calling. Don’t just block out a large chunk of time to call someone and pick randomly; be organized and think carefully about the optimal time to call. Think about where the person you’re calling might be and how they might be feeling because of it. Did they just get to work? Are they leaving for the day? Or are they on their lunch break?
The words “talking with” are a more inclusive way to engage the person you’re calling in conversation. Instead of emphasizing the power dynamic, this strategy prevents the call from being one-sided. The sooner you use the term in conversation, the better. Start by asking who you’re “talking with” at the beginning of the call. This allows you to not only check and make sure you’ve got the right person, but also brings them into the conversation.
Sometimes you’ll schedule a perfect call time and you’ll get an answering machine. Not everyone will pick up random phone numbers or just might be too busy to answer. Don’t panic, and don’t waste your opportunity. Like you practice and prepare for a conversation, practice and prepare for leaving a voicemail. Make sure you get your point across and leave relevant contact information.
You’ve done almost everything to have a great call — the person you’re talking with is engaged, they’ve demonstrated interest and you’ve made it through your outline. But before you hang up, make sure you’ve ended with the right next steps. Make sure the person you’re calling knows how to reach you easily and effectively, and ensure you both know what you’re doing on each end before they purchase the product, receive it or follow up about the process.
Zoë Kaplan is an English major at Wesleyan University in the class of 2020. She writes about women, theater, sports, and everything in between. Read more of Zoë’s work at www.zoëkaplan.com.