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Martin Wales

Customer Catcherâ„¢

BY MARTIN WALES


[April 2, 2001]

Telephony Experts Fear The Phone?

Are the words "cold calling" as scary as the ILOVEYOU virus for you or those in your company? Do you still hesitate to pick up the phone before calling someone you don't know? It's a shame that the technology we sell in the computer telephony world is still feared and underutilized.

Turn the concept of cold calling around and think about it from a customer's perspective. You probably don't appreciate being the recipient of uninvited, telemarketing calls from complete strangers. They generally know nothing about you and interrupt your day. So why would you make such a call to your customer?

Outside of some specific industries, cold calling remains inefficient and, very frequently, ineffective. People don't like getting calls and you don't like making them. It reminds me of the joke where a patient tells his doctor, "It hurts when I do this." Her simple reply is, "Well then, stop doing that." How happy would you and your staff be if you decided to eliminate cold calling right now?

There are several ways you can eliminate the "cold" part of cold calling from your sales and marketing processes today. Most are common sense suggestions, but it never hurts to remember, review, and recommit to efficient telemarketing techniques.

These methods don't end your use of telemarketing, but they will help you address the stress surrounding the issue. You can actually create a respectful and useful marketing process utilizing the telephone. You, your employees, and the people you call can all benefit. If you use the right combination of strategy and technology, your sales revenues will increase along with your customer acquisition and retention rates.

The telephone remains the most powerful business tool for marketing to win and keep customers. It is the fastest way to qualify prospects and decide whether you should invest any more effort or money to turn them into customers. It is also the best way to connect with a potential customer while simultaneously viewing your Web site.

Having said that, how can you say goodbye to cold calling? Try the following ten tips:

  1. Change your vocabulary. Eliminate the words "cold calling" from your language. You can alter your perspective on phoning people for the first time with this one change, which does affect your mentality. Call it "telemarketing," "connecting," "introducing yourself," or just "making contact." This suggestion may sound cute and superficial, but it can positively impact your attitude.

  2. Only call people with whom you can connect. They may have heard of your company before your telephone contact, such as through a direct mail piece. You might have some information about them that you received from an associate of theirs. Even the slightest bit of data or the slimmest of commonality eliminates a "cold" start. For established, successful businesses, there truly are no cold calls. I am not being off-handed here. It's as simple as following up with people you meet at networking events that said they would be willing to talk further. Simple in concept...but few do it.

  3. Plan your approach. If you're buying a list, its quality directly affects your success rate. A quality list starts with some preliminary information, like number of employees or membership in an industry association. You want qualified leads. Use a promotion, or interesting facts, to get their immediate attention. This induces curiosity to hear your entire pitch. For example, "As a member of the Northeast Telco Alliance, I didn't want you to miss out on an opportunity to take advantage of..."

  4. Use intent. Decide what you intend to achieve from your telemarketing session, e.g. produce three leads in the next two hours. If you do this once or twice a week for a year, you'll experience significant growth. This makes you focus on a goal instead of the rejection you may face. The bottom line is most of us fear the actual moment of rejection, rather than talking with a stranger.

  5. Further warm up a call by being a warm person. Always connect with a sincere manner. Listen closely to pauses between others' words. You "tune in" to the person and become alert and focused. Your tone is more important than what you say. Master connecting with new prospects in the first five seconds. This multiplies your results.

  6. "Credentialize" yourself quickly. "Hello, Mr. Johnson? This is Susan from Call Centers R Us. Hope I've caught you at a good time? For years, we've had success increasing technology companies' customer bases by up to 30 percent a year. If you're interested, I can tell you more." This tells the prospect that you respect their time, while informing them that you specialize in their industry. It also makes a big fat claim that can lead to further discussion -- even if it's a debate.

  7. Stop taking every call so personally. It's business, and only becomes personal when a person on the other end of the line becomes your friend, as a satisfied customer. If a person says no, there's little point in feeling upset. Simply say courteously, "Thank you" and move on. Think: you are qualifying people to do business with you that recognize the value you offer.

  8. Do not pause between calls. Take notes on the fly. You'll get into a flow state. Time will pass quickly. You'll attain intense concentration that pulls prospects' interest. You'll get more results than you expected. Haven't you noticed that you tend to get better reception after great success on a prior call? You transfer the positive energy to your next prospect, and enthusiasm sells. It is refreshing to get an energetic and happy telemarketer in contrast to a boiler room slave.

  9. Have a system in place to capture information as the prospect speaks. Use customer relationship management (CRM) software to record demographics and capture data as you hear it. Personally, I use GoldMine from FrontRange Solutions Inc.

  10. If you have contact data or other facts about the prospect before the call, type them into your computer ahead of time. This increases the quality of your CRM. You can enter in your next action item at the same time. If you offer to send some supporting marketing documents after your prospecting call, this is a great way to make sure you keep all your promises. A contact management system is a necessity to start building trust and credibility, while creating a great first impression with your prospective customers.

Finally, let me say this once more: don't "cold" call. Only follow up on direct mail, "warm" referrals, or some other piece of information. Have a qualified list gathered from networking with current customers, trade shows, complementary businesses, colleagues, family, or friends.

Concentrate on all the great things a telephone does -- it saves you traveling, time, and money. It reduces energy that would otherwise be wasted by visiting and presenting to unqualified prospects. The telephone is your direct line to profits, when you treat it as your most valuable tool and friend. You sell in telecommunications everyday -- now sell through it and be your own best case study.

Martin Wales, The Customer Catcher, is a business development specialist helping companies win and keep more business with a focus on CRM. He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker, and facilitator focused on maximum results with minimum risk using a company's existing resources. Contact him at martin@customercatcher.com.


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