How to Cold Call. Cold calling, the process of contacting a prospective customer without prior warning or permission, is often an important step in the sales cycle. It's also one of the last things many salespeople want to do. Prospects often don't answer their phones or return voicemail messages, and many organizations and homes post "No Soliciting" signs on their property. Thus, cold calling is a difficult task that fortunately can be made easier by following a consistent process.
Cold Call by Phone
Develop a script. Identify the value that your product or service offers, and write a script that allows you to communicate this value quickly and conversationally. Be prepared to deviate from this script during calls.
Procure a list of phone numbers. If you own your own business, research and locate a reputable list vendor for your industry. If you work for a company, your marketing department may have such a list available. Make sure that the list includes the right contacts within your target market of companies, and is up-to-date.
Research your prospects. Take a few minutes before each call to do some research on each prospect. Go to the company's website, read local trade journals, or look for the company in a business index. Spending a few minutes prior to calling can significantly improve your ability to tailor each call to a prospect's specific needs.
Establish targets. From your list and your script, determine how many calls you can reasonably expect to complete in a day. Also, determine your purpose for each call. This can be to close a sale, setup an appointment, or merely make an initial contact, depending on the complexity of your market and overall sales cycle. Make sure you leave enough time for other aspects of your sales process, such as appointments and paperwork.
Make the calls. Try to keep each call warm and friendly, and don't push a prospect to talk if she's not ready. Give every prospect the option of talking at another time, or in another venue, such as a personal appointment or via email. If you get voicemail, don't leave a message on the first try. When you do leave a message, make it short and don't give out too much information. Leave just enough that the prospect will be tempted to return the call. Finally, when making repeat calls, vary the time of day to increase your chances of catching a prospect when he's available.
Record the results. Evaluate how your script is performing and whether your target number of calls is reasonable. Make adjustments as necessary.
Cold Call in Person
Identify your target geography. If you have an assigned geographic territory, use that as a starting point. If not, then use a map to draw concentric circles around your office. Start with the locations closest to you and work out from there. In particular, identify business complexes and industrial parks to increase the number of prospects within easy walking distance.
Prepare for the visits. Make sure you can discuss the value that your product or services offers cogently and conversationally. Put together a packet of brochures and other sales materials to hand out.
Establish targets. Determine how many visits you can reasonably expect to complete in a day. Also, determine your purpose for each visit, which can be to close a sale on the spot or to setup an appointment with a key decision-maker. Make sure you leave enough time for other aspects of your sales process, such as appointments and paperwork.
Make the visits. Be respectful of any signage prohibiting solicitations, and always be courteous and friendly. Hand out the brochures and other material that you've brought with you whenever possible. If your target contact isn't available when you visit, get a business card and call back later.
Record the results. Evaluate how your visits are going and whether your target number of visits is reasonable. Make adjustments as necessary.