How to Survive in the New Age of Cold Calling
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.