In this economy with people buying less than they did in the good times more people are on the phone making cold calls. Though cold calling is important if you don’t have a lead generation system, it’s not nearly as effective as asking customers who have bought your product or service in the past for referrals.
Larger companies have a marketing program for generating leads such as adverts in newspapers and consumer and trade magazines, on radio and the Internet. These leads still have to be qualified but at least the person who has called, filled in an online form or emailed the company has an interest in the product or service on offer.
The smaller business, startup or independent consultant just starting out that doesn’t have a lead generation system or repeat business from existing customers, the process of acquiring customers has to start with cold calling. The problem with cold calling is that it is a hit-and-miss game that can yield marginal results if you don’t know what you are doing.
Yet if you are faced with no other choice, you’ve got to make cold calling work for you. The key to cold calling is to narrow your focus and think where your potential customers hang out. Where can you find them? Think about where they live, the media they use and where you can get list of names with phone or cell numbers. I’ve even got leads from local community newspapers. When I was selling security products I would read all the local robbery stories, find the victims’ names, call them up and make appointments to see them. For business-to-business selling you can scan trade magazines and even visit trade shows and exhibitions.
Whatever product or service you may have you can ask for referrals from people you know and customers who have previously bought from you or your company. Even ask for referrals from people who don’t do business with you but know you from business associations or social gatherings. Ask everyone you can but make sure you do it the right way.
Don’t simply ask “Who will want to buy?” but get previous customers to picture people they know in circumstances similar to themselves. For example if you are selling training courses, asked them who they know who may run similar businesses who could have similar training needs. Then just politely ask if you could say that the existing customer has suggested you call them. Satisfied customers will be happy to let you do this.
You’ve got to make time for referral prospecting. Set aside a regular time slot in the week to research prospects and make calls for appointments. Start work off an hour earlier and stay half an hour later if you have to. Politely end conversations with customers who really don’t want what you are offering. Why waste time? Your job is to find prospects, find out what they want and help them get it.