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5 Rules of Successful Cold Calling By John Costigan


Cold calling is, without a doubt, one of the greatest challenges faced by salespeople. In my years as a sales coaching partner to the Fortune 500, I have heard countless tales of otherwise smart executives who had yet to master this technique. They struggled twice as much as their peers just to meet quota and had totally lost passion for the game.

Having spent my share of time in the trenches, I feel their pain. And that’s why I make sure to address cold calling in all my classes, whether they be corporate training engagements or my LIVE seminar series, which are open to the general public.

Now, the important thing to keep in mind about cold calling is it can be fun. As a matter of fact, it SHOULD be fun! All it takes is the right skills. Once you start getting great results you will find yourself be pumped up again. And success breeds success. So keep that in mind as we go over some guidelines that will help get you back on track.

The first rule of successful cold calling is:

Know thy prospect

Before you even reach for the phone you must do your homework. Establish the top five accounts in your territory and learn as much as you can about those companies. Who are their CEOs? What are they currently struggling with and how can your solution help them overcome it?

Never underestimate the power of Google News. Make sure you read everything that’s been recently printed about a company you are looking to prospect. Check out the “investor relations” section of their website. Read their press releases. Look up the management team and make sure you find out as much as possible about the decision makers. Never lose sight of the fact that, in order to move the deal forward, you will need to get to power.

The second rule of successful cold calling is:

Don’t sound like a salesperson

There is nothing that turns off prospects more than a sales pitch. Trust me on this. So instead, try saying you would like to ask them a couple of questions. Explain that if they feel you are a fit, you can move forward and, if not, that they have your permission to say no. That way you won’t waste their time, or yours for that matter.

The third rule of successful cold calling is:

Have a concise message

Do you know exactly what you are going to say if you get the right person on the phone? And by right I mean the decision maker or, at least, someone high up enough on the corporate ladder to refer you down to the appropriate decision maker. Before you dial you must craft a concise message that explains what the call is about. Then follow with a relevant question that can yield a good lead.

Most likely, the person you have reached is having some issues with the current provider of the solution you are selling. Or better yet – for you, that is—they might not even be aware that there is a solution out there to the problem they are facing. Try asking: “On a scale of one to ten, how happy are you with___?”

You may already have some idea of what their pains are but always keep an open mind. Your perceptions may not accurately reflect the customer’s reality.

The fourth rule of successful cold calling is:

Location, location, location

Do not underestimate the importance of your surroundings when you dial for money. Most people are really self-conscious about cold calling in front of other people. There’s a strong peer pressure component to that feeling, along with a very understandable fear of screwing up.

Make sure you make your call from a room private enough so that you can be confident – not arrogant – and so that if you make a mistake, no one will know about it but you. That does not mean you should be sloppy or careless, but that mistakes are a part of the process. And unless you are allowed to make them, you will never learn what behaviors you need to change to become a better salesperson.

The fifth and final rule of successful cold calling is:

Be organized!

I hate to sound like your Mom, but the truth is a cluttered workspace makes for a cluttered mind. When cold calling, you need to be able to think on your feet. You can’t do that when you have a desk full of stuff distracting you from your conversation. All you will need is a piece of paper, a pen and your phone.
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John Costigan is president and founder of John Costigan Companies. John is known for his training technique where he makes live impromptu phone calls to his students’ prospects in front of a live audience. For more information, visit www.JohnCostigan.com

  • Roger Callfree

    A cold caller tells me I have his permission to say no and I’ll slam the phone down, with or without his permission.