“Cold calling” – soliciting potential customers who were not expecting to speak with you – can be effective when done properly. Conversely, it may be a waste of time and money when it isn’t well planned.  Here are some tips to improve the conversion ratio of your cold calling program.

1. Investigate the company before you call. Most businesses have websites with contact information, company mission, corporate values, and the names and titles of chief managers.  Take the time to do the research. Identify opportunities to deliver benefits to the cold call recipient. Do an online search for the company name, then check its Facebook® and LinkedIn® pages to help you understand the business, what your company can offer, and who would be the best contact person

2. Develop a strategy. Technically, successful cold calls aren’t really cold. They’re successful because research and planning have created a helpful strategy that’s quick to explain and easy to understand. Determine how you can help the prospect, write up a series of bullet points, and customize each list of benefits to meet the needs of each cold call. It’s not how many cold calls the team makes, it’s the quality of each call that can convert prospects into clients.

3. Always call a person. Once again, the information is available on most business websites. You want the CEO, the CFO, CIO, buying agent, HR – you have a focused message targeted at a specific individual within the company. The message changes as cold calls are made to different individuals within different companies. Avoid calling “the office” and working your way through a phone tree. Go straight to the source.

4. Ask questions. Don’t start a cold call with a sales pitch. Ask questions based on your pre-call research and strategy. Ask questions that demonstrate you know the company’s business and challenges, and offer solutions quickly and clearly. Listen to each recipient’s response and address the needs described during this phase of engagement.

5. Be honest, open, straightforward, interesting and helpful. Talking about how great your company is may not be as successful as a frank, straightforward discussion of the benefits your company delivers, and how the prospective business will enjoy improvement in a specific area.  Skip the hype and provide consultation, advice and suggestions that can be used by the decision maker.

6. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.  Practice your presentation in front of a mirror to see yourself, your facial gestures and hand gestures – to see yourself as a prospect might see you. Also, rehearsal increases confidence.

7. Encourage the sales team to go off-script. If the team is tied to a one-size-fits-all script, they can’t follow the lead of interested prospects. Develop FAQ sheets to address common questions, but encourage sales personnel to adapt answers to the specific needs of each customer. Avoid the cookie-cutter approach to cold calls to enjoy improved conversion.

8. Track cold calls. Use client relationship management (CRM) software to track each cold call and its results. Set reminders to re-call interested prospects. Identify which prospects requested additional printed information, and get that information out quickly. Over time, you’ll have an invaluable database of prospects worth calling again, and this time, you may get that critical business meeting.

9. Track success. Use a variety of cold calling techniques and track which techniques deliver the highest rates of conversion. Refine your approach based on the successes of the past.

10. Respect the call recipient’s wishes. Ask call recipients how they’d like to move forward. Some may want a meeting. Some may want to talk to another associate in your firm. Some may want to place an order. Don’t lead the individuals you call, let them lead you to improved success with company cold calls.

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.