How to Make Cold Calls with Less Pain

Selling is a numbers game in many ways. The more people that you contact, the more likely you are to make appointments, give presentations, and actually close a sale and make a buck or three. When I worked in sales, people frequently asked me how I could stand hearing “no!” all of the time. While cold calling was not necessarily my favorite part of selling, it certainly was as not horrible as many people, some sales reps included, thought. I knew that I had to cold call to bring in new business to make more money. Since cold calling was part of the game of sales, I turned cold calling into a game for myself.

Sales reps can be so focused that they sometimes forget that the people they are calling on have jobs, too. Unfortunately, sometimes those people’s jobs are to say “no” to poor, suffering sales reps. I decided that if the people who I was calling on really knew ME, not as person on the phone or as person standing at the receptionist desk, but as the REAL ME, they would LOVE me. They would be singing “hosannas” and throwing rose petals at my feet as I walked through the door. And, since they really did not know ME and it was part of their jobs to say “no,” I could not take the “no’s” to heart.

Just because I heard “no” one day did not mean that it would be “no” the next day. You never know when something might change. Your competitor might drop the ball, a new project may be coming up, there might have been a change in personnel since the last time that you called, the person on whom you are calling might be bored and want a change of pace for a few minutes, or you just might have worn the poor soul down through your persistence. “No” is just for that one single time, not forever.

I have called on businesses and seen a sales rep or two be rude to the receptionist. This is truly a big mistake. The receptionist can be your first gatekeeper to pass, particularly in companies that are stingy with information. Chat with the receptionist, get some personal information, and note the information after you leave so that you can talk about “how the vacation was” the next time that you call in person or on the phone. You are much more likely to get some help, as in when the best time to get your target on the phone for instance, if you treat the receptionist as a colleague and potential ally. Besides, you do not know who the person at the front desk is. He or she could be the purchasing manager’s niece or nephew in his or her first “real” job.

If you are calling on the phone and not getting through to your target or your target is not returning your calls, visit the company in person the next time that you are in the area. You might just catch him or her at a weak moment or when he or she is entering the building after lunch. If the person with whom you want to speak will not see you, leave your card. Some companies that I worked for suggested leaving company brochures at this point, but I think that those brochures are more likely to end up in the round file on the floor than any place else

Signs do not apply to you. If the front door has a sign saying “No Solicitors,” assume that the sign is referring to those people who walk in trying to sell magazine subscriptions to the receptionist. If there is a sign that says, “Vendors Seen by Appointment Only,” assume that the sign is referring to those bad guys, your competitors, not you. This is where having a receptionist as a buddy can be really helpful. I have had receptionists call purchasing agents for me despite whatever signs are sitting around to see if the agents had a minute or two. The types of companies that I hated cold calling the most in person were those that would not give any information about titles, names, and times to call. However, I found that ninety per cent of these companies would give me the information I needed if I called them later on the phone. Go figure!

It is much easier to ignore an email than a voice or a body. Emails, in and of themselves, have no personality. I would save emails for sending and receiving information after you have actually seen your target and started building a relationship.

Stay positive and keep your sense of humor. While it can sometimes take years to crack a large account, the gods of sales may smile on you and cut the lead time down to six months or even less. You just never know.

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