Cold start: the art of cold calling 

Sources: www.entrepreneur.com;  www.yesware.com  

Cold start 

Cold calling has long been reviled as an annoying sales practice which leaves sales people feeling intimated and customers feeling annoyed. When used properly, cold calling can be a great lead generation tool. Many sales people are nervous when conducting cold calls, which can lead to stereotypical behaviour that consumers dislike, such as rambling. 
Use the following tips and tricks to ensure cold calling is a success. 

Schedule your calls
It is a good idea to decide who you will be calling and when you will be calling consumers the day before you start. According to Stephan Schiffman, a New York-based corporate sales trainer and author of Cold Calling Techniques (That Really Work!), you should select an hour every day to place cold calls and stick to a regular routine. This helps you to mentally prepare for the job at hand. 

Do your research
It may seem tedious, but doing homework on the person you’re calling will make a huge difference. Sam Richter, author of Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling, suggests doing a simple search on Google or looking up the prospect on LinkedIn or Facebook. “Even if you’re not going to use the information, you will come across more confident and more powerful when you have information on the other person and their company,” Richter says. 

Keep records
Make sure that you keep detailed records of who you called, when you called them and how many of those calls resulted in appointments. This will serve to keep you organised as well as give you a send of accomplishment. While a call might not result in an immediate sale, you can always get something positive out of it, such as more information about the company or person. Write everything down – it might prove useful if there’s an opportunity for a follow-up call. 

Look for a personal connection
Whether through online research or during the phone call itself, you should try to find a personal connection with your prospects. Your research may reveal a common connection or a shared educational background. You might discover a common interest during a call. Finding common ground immediately changes the dynamic of the conversation.  

Ask questions 
You should ask lots of questions during the call rather than immediately try to sell your product or service, says Art Sobczak, author of Smart Calling: Eliminate the Fear, Failure and Rejection From Cold Calling. Your pitch can be effectively tailored if you learn more about your prospect’s business needs first. In general, people care less about you than about what you can do for them.

Speak slowly
Studies show that the brain can only hang onto about 20 to 30 seconds of information at any given time. By that measure, your prospect will likely only retain 30 seconds of a 15 minute conversation. 
The person you’re speaking to has never heard of your company, and is unfamiliar with the product or service you are offering. Rather than overwhelm them with information or industry-specific terminology, rather speak clearly and stick to high-level explanations. If your prospect starts asking for specific information, you’ll know they’re interested in learning more. Take this opportunity to set up a meeting, where you can discuss any questions in more depth. 

Mention referrals when leaving a voice mail
More often than not, you’ll be reaching voice mail rather than speaking with the prospect directly. To increase the chances of getting a call back, try to find a common connection you can mention in the message you leave. Social media sites such as LinkedIn show you common connections. This can be a useful resource when looking for referrals. If you know someone connected to the person you’re calling, ask if you can use his or her name. “You’re almost always going to get a call back when you have a referral that you mention by name,” Richter says. 

Practice
Make use of tools such as a mirror or a tape recorder to discover how you act and sound when conducting a cold call. It might seem silly to watch yourself in the mirror as you talk, but a mirror will make you smile and smiling will make you more confident. A tape recorder will help you gauge how you come across on the phone. Another good idea is to record all your calls and listen to them repeatedly, so you can spot problems and correct them. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become and the more natural you will sound. 

Smile
Keep a mirror next to the phone or use your Web cam to see your face while you work. Take a moment to check your smile before you dial, recommends Yesware sales consultant Timothy Song. 
While it may seem silly at first, recent research suggests that wearing a smile – genuine or not – brings certain benefits that can help reluctant cold callers:
It reduces stress – research shows that smiling during a stressful situation can lower your heart rate and your reduce stress response. 
It helps to build rapport – because smiling affects how we speak, the listener on the other end of the phone can pick up on your facial expressions and even identify the type of smile based on sound alone. When they hear you smile, it’s only a matter of time before their brain’s mirror neurons fire up, creating the “feel good” sensation in their own mind that’s associated with smiling. 
It makes you feel happy – allowing your internal emotions to reflect on your face intensifies them. Punctuating your cold calling pitch with smiles can make you feel happier throughout the day. 

Stand tall
Research by social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows that body language matters, even if the person on the other line can’t see you. 
Standing in a “power position” (with your feet apart and your hands on your hips) for two minutes is proven to increase testosterone levels (which increases confidence) and decrease cortisol levels (which is the hormone released during a stress reaction). 
This also holds true when you’re seated at a desk. Sitting up straight, rather than slouching, helps you to feel in control and can decrease anxiety and nervousness. 

Phone a friend
Matthew Bellows, CEO at Yesware, recommends bringing a snapshot of the person you love most in the world to work, and taping it to your computer monitor. The next time you’re waiting for your prospect to pick up, pretend you’re calling the person in the photo instead. 
This tricks your brain into feeling happier, which then causes it to release hormones which relieve pain, put you at ease, and make you less susceptible to anxiety. 
Thinking of your loved one while you speak can also remind you to be more patient and attentive to the person on the other end of the phone. Sounding friendlier and more approachable will endear you to your sales prospect. 

Embrace rejection
Are you comfortable with rejection? Few people outside of sales would answer yes to that question, yet rejection is a normal part of a salesperson’s day-to-day life – especially when making cold calls. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The key is learning to see rejection as a form of motivation, rather than letting the no’s get you down. 
For example, instead of trying to get “yes” a certain number of times per day, management consultant Robert D. Smith decided to chase down negative responses. 
Most days, Smith wasn’t able to meet his desired number of negatives, because he kept getting too many yeses. 

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