Cold Calling 101

Let’s go ahead and get the basics out of the way. “Cold calling” is a crucial sales activity where you or someone from your staff calls on people they don’t know to try and find or develop interested prospects. This is probably the most dreaded aspect of sales for most people. That in and of itself is a problem, you have to approach cold calling with the right attitude in order to be successful at it. I’ve compiled the following tips to help you improve your cold calling results.

Preparation is the key to success in most areas of life and cold calling is no different. You don’t want to just pick up the phone and start dialling away without a plan. To lead off, one thing that can be very helpful and take a little bit of the cold out of cold calling is to send some type of advertising campaign through email, snail mail or some other means to try and pique the interest of your prospects ahead of time. Then you call them to follow up on what was sent out. This gives a context to the call since you can reference the email or mailer and if the prospect saw it and it registered, it can also help you set the appointment or at the very least it will give you a hint of recognition. Make sure to include a compelling offer in the mailer to generate interest. This is something we do at NCI quite often as many of you are probably aware at this point.

You’ll also need to develop a detailed script for you or your appointment setters to follow, both on the phone and for leaving voicemails and messages. Roughly 80% of your calls will have the end result of a message being left. Don’t let this discourage you, some of those people will call back, more so if you leave a compelling message to entice them. If you want your presentation to sound professional and generate maximum interest in a new prospect you need to put a lot of thought into it before you dial the first digit.

You want your script to convey a lot with a little. In other words, you have to keep it short and to the point while maintaining professional wording and tone. NCI has developed several variations of an appointment setting script to utilize for this purpose. Once you have your script in hand, make sure to familiarize yourself with it by reading it out loud until you can get through it without a hitch. The more you practice, the more natural your presentation will sound and the more it will improve. Having a script is important but you also have to be prepared to have a conversation with a prospect. To prepare for this you need to develop responses to certain questions and objections you will hear over and over again. The most important question to know how to answer in specific terms, is, “why should I do business with your firm?” You have to be able to provide a good answer to this question to get results. With the NCI marketing approach we focus on the comprehensive suite of services offered under the monthly accounting package we recommend our clients provide along with the tremendous overall value a good accountant has to a small business owner who does not currently use one.

As a cold caller you also need to be prepared to handle objections. Objections are statements from a prospect as to why they don’t think they need or want your service. During cold calling you will hear the same objections over and over. The solution to this is to come up with responses to the most common objections that your prospects use on the phone in an effort to try and overcome them. For example, the most common objection you are likely to hear is, “I already work with an accountant.” A lot of appointment setters I have worked with will make the mistake of ending the call when they hear this. What they should do is use the proper response to that objection in their NCI script book. That response is, “I’m not surprised to hear that, most good business people do have accountants. However, don’t you think it makes good business sense to compare services and fees to make sure you’re getting all the help you need at a reasonable rate?” First, you compliment the prospect’s business savvy. Then you parlay that into suggesting a comparison of fees and services, which from a business standpoint does make sense to do from time to time. That is just one example of the 12 most common objections identified by NCI and how to handle them included in a handy flip chart within the NCI script book.

It is also important to have some promotional material to send out to interested prospects that are not ready to commit to an appointment just yet. You should have material that can be emailed or sent by regular mail. Another good habit to get into with every prospect is to direct them to the company website for additional information. A good website will provide an overview of the company and the services it provides along with ways of creating additional business opportunities, such as providing a helpful e-newsletter in exchange for some basic contact information to build your firm’s database.

After you finish up the initial call with an interested prospect make sure you follow up. First you should send them a quick note thanking them for their time and interest. Include with this note some additional information about your company and a link to the company website. After that, continue to call the prospect at regular intervals to check in and see if they are ready to commit or if anything has changed on their end that would facilitate a meeting. You will be shocked at how many people who weren’t interested six to eight months ago have changed their tune because something changed on their end.

You have no control of what happens on their end, except to follow up consistently so that you can strike when the iron heats up. One final tip is to track your cold calling efforts. One of the keys to improvement is monitoring results. You and your appointment setters should keep track of every dial, every message left, every callback etc. so that you can track exactly what is working and what isn’t and make adjustments accordingly. This will help you to identify when the best times to call are, which appointment setters are having the most success (and why) and a whole host of other useful information that will only serve to improve your marketing efforts and in doing so, your bottom line.

You probably noticed that I made mention of NCI’s script book several times during this article. The reason for that is simple; there is no reason for you to have to re-invent the wheel. NCI has taken the time to delve into each one of the items listed above (among many others) and develop an incredibly effective, systematic approach to marketing accounting services through the use of the internet and the telephone. If you don’t want to come up with all of this on your own, contact NCI to see how we can help. We can provide you with all the tools necessary to begin a successful marketing campaign on a reasonable budget that will generate proven results. Call 1-800- 338-0778 to learn more and have your questions answered.