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Cold calling is an essential tool for sales professionals in search of potential customers. Many businesses employ sales reps to make cold calls with the purpose of informing customers about a product and—with proper sales training—prospecting new loyal clients.

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What Is Cold Calling?

Cold calling is a telemarketing strategy where sales reps make unsolicited phone calls to potential customers. If you’re making a cold call, the goal is to engage with the person you’ve called, tell them about the product, service, or campaign you are promoting, and get them to commit to a sale.

Most cold callers are given a sales script (sometimes called a cold call script or a cold calling script) that is crafted by their employer to optimize the sales process. They are also aided by automated dialing programs that eliminate the need to track down phone numbers for a call list. In fact, today’s typical cold calling sales team won't have a physical call list at all; a computer program will make all dialing decisions for them.

6 Cold Calling Tips

The first time you try cold calling for a job or for your own small business, you may have no sense of how to proceed. Here are some useful cold calling techniques you can use to optimize your efforts and see results:

  1. Do your research. It's possible that your company will provide you with information about the person you're calling. Perhaps they've had prior contact with your organization. This is particularly true for volunteers on a political campaign, who may be furnished with call sheets that describe a subject's past voting behavior and engagement with similar causes. If you know a bit about someone going into the call, you're more likely to make a connection on the call.
  2. Prepare for rejection. Cold calling is a numbers game. Most of the time you will be told no. Many other times you'll reach someone's voicemail and not even have a chance to make your pitch. If you make a sale on your first call, consider it a minor miracle. If you don't, take comfort that you're just like nearly every other telemarketer who’s tried their hand at cold calling. Keep dialing, and the law of averages will play out.
  3. Know exactly what you want. While we'd all like to emerge from a cold call with our feelings intact, we're ultimately calling to make a sale, whether that's money exchanged for a good or service or a commitment to support a particular cause or candidate. If your conversation begins straying from your main objective, steer it back toward a sale. If that tactic doesn't work, find a way to politely end the call.
  4. Think about the kind of call you'd want to receive. If you want to make an effective cold call, think about how you'd respond if you were receiving one. What tone of voice would you best respond to? Would you want to be called by your first name or your last name? How quickly would you want the person making the inbound call to get to the point? It's safe to assume that what would make you feel respected is probably the same thing that would make your caller feel respected. Although scripts and computer technology have helped streamline cold calling, it is still fundamentally a form of social selling. The most effective sales call will be focused but also polite and empathetic. You're more likely to win a customer's trust if you engage with them on a human level.
  5. Leave voicemails strategically. You are likely to reach a voicemail when you cold call. It's fine to leave a message, but keep it simple and to the point. The maximum length message should be about 20 seconds long. It should be energetic, polite, and direct. You can leave callback information, but accept the fact that you'll probably have to make multiple follow-up calls to close the sale.
  6. Follow up. Cold calling success may require multiple interactions with a consumer. While a first call could help you establish a relationship and present information about your product, the person hearing your sales pitch may not be ready to make a purchase right away. Or, perhaps you'll reach someone who isn't the primary decision-maker in their household, in which case you'll need a follow-up call to connect with someone else.
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