Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cold Calling Doesn't Have To Be Scary

I abhor being sold to. What's more, I don't like it when people cold call me. Surprised? "But John, you're a professional salesperson. How can you say that and still make cold calls?" you may ask.

The fact is that I didn't give complete statements above. "I don't like it when people cold call me," is true... when it's about something that's totally irrelevant to me. "I abhor being sold to," is also true... when someone is attempting to convince me I need their product without knowing the first thing about my goals and wants. To be honest, I don't mind a cold call when someone has a legitimate reason to think that their offering may be of value to me. Similarly, I don't mind being sold to if the seller understands my needs and then has to push to help me understand why their solution meets them. The differentiator in both cases is that they're thinking about my needs, not theirs.


With this philosphy in mind, here's an effective and guilt-free 4-step process to approach cold calling:
  1. Determine who your target clients are.
  2. Determine what these clients will need that makes them a fit for you.
  3. Have something that may meet the needs of these specific individuals.
  4. Call to offer that something.


This approach can be implemented to "offer" just about any product or service. In my commercial real estate practice, I implement this approach by looking at both the supply and demand side of the equation:
  • As a tenant representative, I need to find tenants who want to move. The key to finding these tenants is to recognize that what they want is a great space at a fair price. Two of the many ways I can have a great space to offer are to (1) find another agent's attractive listing and promote it or (2) list a few spaces myself and promote them. Once I have such a space, I call tenants currently using similar space and offer something relevant... information about a space that would likely be a good fit for them. If they're who I'm looking for, they'll want to hear about it. If not, we're done. If they ask for info and we determine that my space isn't a fit, I find out what they're looking for and I offer to help them find it. I'll leave it to you to adapt this approach to your target clientele. Figure out what they need and then offer it.
  • Interestingly enough, I find some of my listings through a similar process. If I find a space that might be a fit for someone and it's not currently listed or its listing is out of date, I call the owner to ask if it's available. If it is, I learn more about it so I can present it to my tenant or buyer client. If the property is a fit for my client, I proceed as a tenant/buyer rep. If my client elects not to pursue the space, I'll circle back with the owner and offer to help them to find a tenant or buyer. This method is effective because it offers owners a better shot at whoat they most want, which is tenants and/or buyers. The fact that I'm actively reaching out to these parties every day is makes me more appealing than a listing-only agent who might simply place a sign in front of a building and promote the property on a few web sites. It's a "win" for both sides.
Since you're most likely not in real estate sales, the trick is adapting this approach to fit your product or service. Here are some examples:
  • If you provide computer services, figure out who is likely to be in a situation where they would realize the need for your services. If you can save them money, call those who most care about saving money. If you can protect their data, call those whose heads would roll if data were lost.
  • If you are in construction, figure out who can predict the need for your services, stay close to them, and call the companies that they tell you to call. I call that following your "upstream" neighbors. When I sold technology installations, for example, I recognized that companies who were relocating would need their equipment to be reinstalled somewhere. So I became friends with a commercial real estate agent, with a few general contractors, with some move consultants, and some architects and engineers.
I'll close with the best word picture I've ever heard on this point. When you go to a restaurant and your meal includes french fries, you don't get offended when your waitperson offers you ketchup... you think they're polite to have considered what's on your plate and anticipated a possible need. It's the same with cold calls... if you can adapt your calls to be relevant offers, you'll find them to be much less intimidating to you and much less bothersome to the recipients.

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