How to Survive in the New Age of Cold Calling

How to Survive in the New Age of Cold Calling

Issue: 

2014, February

Consider how sales people have to operate their cold calls these days.  Walk into a building and take the elevator to the floor of a prospect?  That ended with 9/11.  Now it’s a picture ID, just to get into the lobby.  If there’s a security desk, you’re going to need a contact name at your target firm—or that’s as far as you’re going to get. 

But there are solutions.  One of the best things about the Internet age:  You can find just about everything you need online.  Before your calls, you can easily find company addresses and phone numbers.  And if you’re really lucky, you may find a list of company personnel, sometimes with their email addresses. 

Armed with a name, I stand a chance.  Here’s how I proceed:  First, I put together a sales kit with product samples and my company information.  In the lobby, I have the guard call up, so I can get upstairs to see my targets. Invariably, the call goes to voice mail.  At that point, the guard may let me up to the company’s reception desk.  There, I can talk to the receptionist and leave behind my materials, to be delivered to the prospect.

On the off chance that the prospect does pick up, I ask for the phone, and get the quizzical “Do we have an appointment?”  I say “No, but if you have 5 minutes I’d like to tell you how I can help you.”  The answer is usually “No,” but now the prospect knows I’m a real person, and I get to leave my information for them.

The next day I make a follow-up call to set up an appointment.  Again, we have the problem of them picking up the phone.  That’s where polite persistence is a must.   Also, I find that calling at odd times can work to get a hold of them. 

If I can’t get upstairs to see them, my next step is the old, reliable, mail system.  I drop the sales kit in the mail, wait 3 or 4 days, and call again for an appointment.  By then, they are likely to know who I am, and maybe they’ll see me. 

If I get the prospect on the phone, often it turns out not to be the right person, and the process starts all over again. 

I have learned that I can’t be too pushy.  That’s a turn-off.  After my first voice mail message, I keep trying to call, to get them live on the phone.  But I won’t leave another message until 2 weeks have gone by.  At the end of my voice mail message, I always say “If you have a problem, I’m here to help you.”  It’s surprising, but when people get desperate they do call me. 

Prospecting, or cold calling, rarely provides instant gratification. It is a long process that requires patience and persistence.  So be prepared.  

 

Author: 

John Swensen
John Swensen's picture

John C. Swensen is president of Tri-State Envelope Corporation, and an 11-year DMCNY member.  Reach him at jswensen@tristate-envelope.com.