Positive:Growing Your Business Through Cold Calls

By Alyssa Penman

High Desert Daily

(Victor Valley)–There is plenty of gloomy updates from traditional media on the state of our economy, but we, as a community, can choose to look for the great things we CAN do, right now, to improve our economic outlook. In a new weekly column, the High Desert Daily is bringing positive news and ideas that may be useful for your High Desert business. We welcome your comments, ideas and questions in the comments and for future columns.

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Few people, even professional salespeople, like making cold calls. The potential for brutal rejection is just too daunting. Besides, we have so much “real” work to do! That makes it easy to put it off and hope that the clients simply come to us. In today’s economy, though, sitting around waiting for new customers is a risky move.

I have never liked calling people on the phone. Even my friends. Text me, email me, send me a homing pigeon, but please don’t make me call you! Unfortunately, I do not have that luxury. If I want my business to grow, I have to reach out to my potential clients. This is a skill that I am still learning, but here are some ideas that have helped me develop my own approach:

1. Mental preparation. One of the easiest ways to take the terror out of cold calling is to start preparing yourself mentally, detaching your worth or success from the outcome. Yes, you want to sell your product or service to the person you are calling. But the goal of this particular call is to begin a conversation and identify if they believe they have a need for your product. I think all locally-owned businesses should join RelyLocal. What really counts is whether or not the business owners feel that major chains are big competition for them. I can’t determine that before I call them, let alone determine whether I can make a sale. So placing an unrealistic expectation on that simple phone call sets me up for failure. If I go into the call mentally prepared to learn about my client and what problems they are willing to spend money on, then it is less scary and will be more successful. I’ve learned more about this idea in the excellent book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cold Calling.”

2. Trust. What is the first thing you think about when you receive a phone call from an outside person? “What do they want from me?” We have a fear of being manipulated or pressured into buying something we don’t really need. (Timeshares anyone?) Now ask yourself, is your goal as a business owner or salesperson to trick your prospects into buying? Then don’t push or manipulate! Asking questions and taking the sale off the table in that first call can relieve the pressure felt by your prospect. Reframe your goals to focus on getting to know their needs and where those needs fall on the priority list. Start the conversation by asking questions not pitching your solutions. This will help demonstrate that you are a trustworthy person who is not simply looking to push a sale on any breathing prospect. You actually want to connect with the people who need your product and move on from those who do not. I’ve learned some of these ideas from Ari Galper and Unlock The Game. I recommend checking him out.

3. Just do it. This can be the hard part: actually picking up the phone! A good tip that I have used in the past is to make an appointment with yourself and keep it. Start with only 10 minutes, or 3 phone calls, if that is all you can handle. Set a timer and when you’re done, move on to activities you like better and make another appointment for the next day. I have made mistakes while cold calling. I have had amazing conversations too. Through trial-and-error I’ve learned what it feels like when a conversation is going well. The only way to get that experience is experience, though. So once you are mentally prepared and ready to be trustworthy, pick up the phone! This idea is summed up nicely in a podcast from cold-calling queen Wendy Weiss. I recommend her blog too.

There are hundreds of ways to go about cold-calling. Some will work for your business and personality. Some won’t. But don’t let fear stop you from finding the way that works for you! If it was not a successful sales tool, we wouldn’t still be doing it. We’d love to hear from you too – what are tips or tricks that have helped you be a successful cold-caller?

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Alyssa Penman is the owner of a local small business, RelyLocal.com – Victorville, CA. RelyLocal hosts a free monthly networking event for High Desert businesses called First Mondays.

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