Friday, January 8, 2010

Frigid Cold Calling

We can’t but admire Mother Nature and this Great Canadian Weather. As the weather turns cold – many of us are stopped in our tracks. The same” stopped cold” phenomena exists for early stage companies who are faced with making those dreaded first time calls to prospects and potential partners.
The Frigid Cold Call is the most dreaded part of any sales or business development process. Understanding the dynamics and tuning your approach can be one of the more satisfying experiences for a Senior Executive. With a number of start-up and turn-around companies to my credit, I thought it was timely to provide some “snowshoe tracks” to guide you through the snow this winter. I break the process down into three Blocks of Ice.

“It’s Cold Outside”
In this block, you know that making these calls will be paramount to the long term success of your company. You have been sitting on the sofa by the warmth of the fire thinking about going outside and physically exerting yourself on the trail. Like many examples in life you know it will feel good after you have completed the task. Overcome the resistance and get on with it! Your first steps include:
Build your Lists – Whether you are at the Prospect or Suspect stage you will want to create a list for you potential clients and one for your strategic partners.
Research your Targets – It’s a good idea to know as much as you can about your Prospects. Warm introductions, web research and industry publications can contribute key content.
Set your Call Objective – It will not be feasible to close a sale or partnership on the first call. There is some industry data that suggests that it takes up to 5 calls / visits to actually close a new sale. Think about your situation and set your objective bar at a high and realistic level ("The objective of this call will be to fully qualify a Suspect into a Prospect and / or obtain a Face to Face meeting.")
Story Board your Pitch – Prepare a crisp 30 second story that describes who you are, what you have and why you would be compelling to meet with. The Pitch should not be completely scripted or read verbatim on the call. I suggest having a block diagram with a couple bullet phrases in each block. Anticipate some key questions about your company and what makes you different. Think about some open ended questions that you would like to deliver to enable an ongoing engagement throughout the call.

"It's Snowing Really Hard"
In this block you have completed all the necessary preparation and you are ready to start making the calls. You have moved off the sofa and have your hat, scarf and mitts adjusted appropriately. With snowshoes in hand you venture into the cold crisp air. Tips to avoid "frostbite" include:
Block your Calendar – Think about the time of day to make your calls. I am a morning person and I like to do them when I am fresh. Many executives arrive early to get some work done before the staff arrives. Your hit ratio may be enhanced at this time.
Polish your Manners / Adjust your Attitude– Dave Kurlan -author of Baseline Selling suggests that the formula for a successful call is 50% phone manner (Warmth, Sincerity, Pitch, Speed, Pace and Volume), 32% Attitude (I know I can do this) and 16% Script (Message content and call to action). Remember that many executive assistants are there to manage the executive’s time – ensure that you are treating all live interactions with the highest level of respect if your call is intercepted. One UK based blog suggests that if you "smile while you dial" you reduce the tension in your voice. Try it for yourself - it really works.
Check Your GPS Positioning – In real time, assess where you are in the process of achieving your end objective. Make necessary course corrections and utilize your know how about your prospect and your value proposition to converge on the close. "If not you, can you suggestion a more appropriate contact? Can I use your name in my next conversation?"

“Pushing Through the Snow Drifts”
The hard work doesn’t stop after you have completed the call. You need to clean off the ice from your snowshoes and place you mitts in a place where they can dry out.
Follow Through / Follow Through – As the conversation unfolds, highlight the appropriate next steps. Be sure to summarize the actions before you hang up. If you make commitments to deliver something by a certain time frame – ensure you do.
You Can’t Remember It All – Invest in some tracking software that helps you remember the call, its associated action items and any other relevant facts about the Prospect that may be relevant down the road (plays golf, has 2 kids, hates pushy sales executives etc.) Many companies start with Excel and graduate to Salesforce, Microsoft CRM, Goldmine and ACT! to name a few of the available options.
Bounce Back Quickly – All of your calls will not go as planned. The key will be to recognize that it is not personal and that you need to move on. When pushed into a pile of deep stuff, you need pop out quickly or suffer the cold wet consequences.

It's Time to take that Breath of Brisk Air and get into a serious Canadian Snowfall. See you in the lodge.

1 comment:

  1. Great use of the Canadian weather and a winter weather expedition as a metaphor to motivate entrepreneurs to make the dreaded cold call.
    Another simple way to think about cold calls that I constantly remind myself is that cold calls will result in cold cash. Chilly, but true.