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In the good old days,

continuous cold calling = optimum appointment potential = more potential new business = income and profits.

According to a recent article in the September issue of Advantages Magazine, it takes 100 cold calls, either face-to-face or over the phone, to get one new customer.

SEARCHING for SALES LEADS Just A Craps ShootHowever, 87% of newly acquired business is achieved via referrals, with 37% obtained through cold calling, as stated in the 2010 Counselor State of the Industry report. While it appears that having satisfied customers who refer you to others may be the winning formula for today’s sales approach, there is still a lot to be said for a combination of cold calling methods, provided you have the right ingredients and an out-of-the-box selling approach.

Pursue a common interest. For months, one sales professional called his main contact at a music magazine publisher and never received a return call or email. One day, he contacted the receptionist and inquired as to whether the contact was still there and that he had not heard back from her. When he asked about her interests, the receptionist gave him some valuable insight – she was a huge Elvis fan - and it was the “ice breaker” that paved the way to an opening order for polo shirts. His winning approach: He left a voice mail message on the anniversary of Elvis’s death – August 16th – saying in an Elvis-like voice: “Hey Mama. This is Dave. I too am an Elvis fan and you not returning my calls has me ‘All Shook Up.’ In fact, I’m staying at the ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ until I hear back from you.” Within five minutes, he had a return call, and after a few laughs, an appointment was scheduled and the order was placed.

KISS wins the day. Another sales person had been calling on a lead from a trade show for over two years. Determined to just get her foot in the door, she sent a giant fortune cookie to her contact. The message inside the fortune cookie displayed “lucky numbers” that were actually her phone number. She followed up with a phone call and, as luck would have it, got the chance to meet for just a few minutes to simply show her products, with no strings attached. She was actually piggy-backing onto the tail end of the prospect’s meeting with their preferred vendor. Keeping it short and sweet (the well known KISS principal), she dazzled them with an array of only her key products and attached a brief outline on how her clients used her products. The prospect was so impressed with her time management and condensed offering, they placed an order on the spot and since that brief, initial meeting, she has become the client’s only source for premiums and gifts.

It’s all about the lists and having something compelling to say. Networking, social media, traditional trade show lists, and referrals are golden sources for sales leads. Cold calling adds incremental leads to your “golden” prospect lists and should focus on audiences that have a need to for what you are offering. It isn’t just a means of mass communication. It’s a highly targeted process that is original vs. generic in nature and conveys a compelling reason to spark each contact’s interest to find out more. Preparing for each call makes a huge difference vs. saying the same thing or leaving the same message to everyone you contact. Think strategically. target each message. Focus on the introduction. Introduce yourself - don’t focus on the sale. Give them a reason to call you back. And as Ogilvy always said, tell them, then tell them, then tell them again…leave your name, phone number and email address three times.

La “Push” For another sales exec, getting a return call required the creative “push.” The sales scenario went like this: The prospect liked the company; they were serious about doing business together; the problem was they couldn’t move the ball over the goal line and repeated phone calls produced voice mail messages that were never returned. So the sales exec got creative. He created a “While You Were Out” memo, blew it up to an 8.5 x 11 inch format, wrote the following and faxed it to the prospect: Please call John Doe. He’s having a hard time reaching you. You’ve been chasing each other. The prospect applauded the sales exec’s creativity and within an hour called to set up a meeting. The “push” strategy got the wheels back in motion and orders having been flowing ever since the sales exec took the risk. A craps shoot? Yes. Worth taking the risk? Better than giving up or letting the competition come around to capitalize on the ground work that had already been established.

Leverage Referrals Less than 30% of sales professionals ask for referrals. According to Joanne S. Black, an expert on referral selling, “with a referral you’re presold and have some trust and credibility.” She goes on to say that approximately 70% of prospects are converted to clients. Establish metrics for referrals. Be clear about what type of business you are looking for. Give your client a brief outline that can be forwarded on telling why they should do business with you and some the result companies have experienced since utilizing your products/services.

So the next time you think the cold calling process is nothing more than a craps shoot, with a little creativity, an inordinate amount of patience, and unwavering persistence, the craps shoots might just pay big dividends when you least expect it.


September 2010 Advantages Magazine