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When is a Cold Call not a Cold Call?

September 14, 2011
Mary Jane Copps

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My September has begun with several energetic new clients who have the will and desire to increase their revenue. In our one-on-one sessions we are creating achievable plans for approaching potential clients and then developing and practicing (and practicing and practicing) what should be said and how to say it.

In every case, these clients have had an “aha moment”, a clear understanding that they have been approaching this essential part of their business from the wrong perspective. They all thought that “cold calling” was about selling. It isn’t.

It is about introducing yourself to possible clients. It is about completing your research on these possible clients. It is about . . . prospecting.

First of all, I love the word “prospecting”. As a native of Northern Ontario gold mining country, I have a deep affinity for that word. I knew several “old time” prospectors growing up, men that went deep into the bush and panned for gold. And there are a lot of similarities between this activity and how we build our businesses. (I am forever grateful though that I can prospect from my lovely, yellow-painted office overlooking the Halifax harbour rather than dealing with a canvas tent, cold beans and black flies!)

Let’s officially replace the phrase we all dislike – cold calling – with the word prospecting. Prospecting is not about selling; it is about learning more about your prospective customer, digging a little deeper, and verifying that your product or service is of value to them.

Whether you are building your business by contacting people you already know, or dealing strictly with referrals, or reaching out to people based on a job title or industry sector, you must first find out more about them and their needs. If their needs fit with what you are offering, then can you begin selling.

A simple example is the person who calls me to sell photocopier toner. There’s an assumption made that because I’m a business owner I have a photocopier in my office. Well, I don’t. So for me this is a pretty fast call. “Sorry,” I say, “I don’t own a photocopier.” And that’s the end of the call.

Now if that same person called me and actually introduced themselves and their company and moved to asking me a few questions about my business (most people are proud of their businesses and are pleased to answer a question or two by someone who displays a true interest) then they would know pretty quickly that I’m not a candidate for toner. But maybe I’m a potential customer for another product line. Or maybe I’m planning to purchase a photocopier in a year’s time, so they could call back then. Or maybe I can be removed from the potential customer list altogether, freeing up time and energy for other calls.

This activity so many people dread, this thing we refer to as cold calling, is simply the last, and most important, step in your research process. Through your phone call to a prospect you will determine if you can fill a need for them. If the potential is there, then set a meeting or send information for them to review. That’s when the sales process begins.

I’m often asked to meet with sales teams and provide training focused solely on closing the sale. It is a request I have never accepted. Why? Because my ability to close a sale all takes place in my prospecting calls. I don’t have a “closing strategy”, I have a research policy. And I’m dedicated to only selling to individuals or companies that can benefit from what I have to offer.

Not surprisingly given the way my life works, while in the midst of writing this blog I began listening to a new book, 50 Ways to Create Great Relationships by Steven Chandler (I’ve only just started it but am certainly impressed so far). He uses this quote from Aldous Huxley, which I believe is the key to business growth

It is not very difficult to persuade people to do what they are already longing to do.

New customers are the automatic end result of your research, preparation and prospecting process. When this is done well and done consistently, you won’t even notice that you’re selling. In many cases it will seem like people are asking to become your customer!

As always, I’d love to hear from you. What is your reaction to replacing the phrase “cold calling” with the term “prospecting”?

Happy dialing everyone!

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