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25 Tips to Improve Your Telephone Cold Calls

Author: Rebecca Morgan

Do you hate to make calls on the phone? Would you rather do anything, anything, than dial that stranger? Do you find yourself reading the newspaper, taking an early lunch, cleaning your desk, even filling out paperwork, rather than making those calls? Do you tell yourself you'd make those calls more easily if you only had some guidelines to help you know what to say?


OK, then here are 25 things you can do to improve your comfort level with telephone cold calls...and perhaps improve the results.

1. Have a clear objective before calling. Know specifically what you want from this call-an order, an appointment, whatever. The more specific you are before you call, the more successful you will be.

2. Strategize before calling. Determine what you know about this prospect and his company or family. What hot buttons might they have, and have you helped people in similar situations or lines of work? Make brief notes to yourself about these things so if they or you get off track, you know where to refocus the conversation.

3. Call the president's secretary if you don't know who is in charge of the area you're trying to reach. The secretary will often know who makes the decisions on insurance or other financial services.

4. Start with "Good morning/afternoon." It gives the person answering time to get situated and listen to you. It is also more upbeat than just "hello".

5. Give your full name and the full name of the person you're calling to the receptionist. Do not ask, "Is Pam Prospect in?" or "May I please speak to Mr. Prospect?" The receptionist will screen you out. And don't ask for the prospect by first name only unless you're personal friends. Simply say: "Good morning/afternoon. (Your full name) calling for (prospect's full name) please."

6. Only give your firm's name to the receptionist if it's well known. Receptionists will weed you out or ask screening questions if they've never heard of your company.

7. Tell her something nebulous if she asks what it's regarding, but don't be too evasive. Just say you'd like to discuss doing business together, or you'd like to discuss financial planning services. The receptionist needs to tell the prospect something, and as long as you're pleasant, she'll often put you through. Avoid "It's personal" if you don't know the prospect.

8. Eliminate "How are you today?" It sounds phony and too salesy. You are a professional, not just another sales person. Project class from your opening to your close.

9. Avoid "You don't know me." When you begin your conversation with the prospect, say "We haven't met yet," instead. It's more upbeat and positive.

10. Use "Are you in the middle of something urgent or pressing?" Avoid asking if the prospect is "in the middle of something," is "in the middle of something important," has "a few minutes," or is "busy." Everyone is always in the middle of something and is always busy, although it might not be urgent or pressing.

11. Start with either a reference name or, "The reason for my call is..."

12. Offer to share an idea with the prospect if you want to set an appointment. "I'd like to meet with you to share an idea that has helped other people or companies in your situation." If the prospect wants the idea over the phone, explain you have some visuals that explain it better than you can over the phone.

13. Get the prospect's permission before asking questions while fact finding and qualifying. Don't jump right into a needs assessment. Ask, instead, "In order to see if my services may be useful to you, may I ask a few questions?" This is so rare you will stand out as an exceptional salesperson.

14. Ask questions. Don't talk at the prospect. Get him involved. Ideally, you will do 25 percent of the talking and the prospect will do the rest. "Could you tell me who makes the decisions about purchasing insurance coverage?" Don't ask obvious, sales-oriented questions. They're more likely to irritate than stimulate.

15. Be very polite and courteous. Again, it's rare. Use, "With your permission..." and ''Thank you for your time," or "I appreciate your time." "If it's alright with you, may I ask a few questions?"

16. Deepen your voice. Deeper voices are perceived as more powerful. But don't lower your voice volume. If you're too breathy, people will wonder exactly what you're selling.

17. Sound businesslike, but not stiff. Don't waste the prospects time by joking around, but be flexible and laugh if it's appropriate. Take your cue from the other person's tone and match it.

18. Be friendly and enthusiastic. Let your natural excitement for your product come across, without sounding like a cheerleader. Put a smile in your voice.

19. Use the prospect's name occasionally. Calling a person by his name is a compliment, unless it's overdone. If you use it every other sentence, it will sound insincere.

20. Show you're listening. Paraphrase what the prospect tells you and ask clarification if something is unclear. While the prospect is speaking, use "I see," "Right," and other vocal clues to demonstrate that you're following along.

21. Avoid saying, "I'd like to drop by." It doesn't say that this appointment is important to you. Make the prospect feel important by showing you are setting aside a specific time to devote to him.

22. Plan the timing of your calls. Executives are often approachable on Mondays and Fridays, during lunch, and at the very beginning of the day. Often you can get through to the top person because the secretaries are out.

23. Always return phone calls. If you can't personally return the call, ask someone else to contact the person for you. You never know who will be calling with a lead or for an appointment.

24. Always leave your name. Even though you don't expect the prospect to return your call, leave a message so that your name is familiar the next time you call.

25. Make it a game. For instance, some life insurance agents celebrate no's because statistics show that for every 24 no's there will be one yes. Remember that each no brings you closer to a sale. Just dial the next number and say to yourself, "Next!"

Telephone cold calling is never easy, and don't believe anyone who tells you it is. But by following these guidelines it can at least be bearable. Try some of them and you may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Copyright 1988 by Morgan Seminar Group, Inc. Used with permission.

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Alexandria VA 22314
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fax: 703.683.7556

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