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How to make cold calling less irritating

Cold calling is visiting a prospective client
Cold calling is visiting a prospective client with no appointment. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Contrary to popular belief, the cold call is still alive and well. When you have a new product or service, you will have to sell it through cold calling — the more if it’s a business-to-business sale and the product calls for a big expenditure by the buyer, like installing a new system.

Cold calling is making an unsolicited visit or telephone call to (someone), in an attempt to sell goods or services. Unfortunately, it has tended to be vilified by customers and therefore some sellers. To be fair, buyers vilify it because of the irritating method with which it has been executed.

“He lied his way through to my office and instantly unloaded his product on me.” Or, “I felt like he was stalking me. Once I met him as I was walking out of my bedroom.” (Ok, I stretched that, but you catch my drift).

Customers do not like salespeople and so this unsolicited badgering only makes a bad situation worse. Alas! Selling doesn’t manifest miraculously; it is a cause and effect activity.

And so, even with existing customers, you will find that to sell the new system, you can either wait for the opportunity to do so or you can cold call responsibly. How?

First, though, two things. Customers won’t take it kindly if they discover that you had the lozenge for their sore throat but never let them know.

And two, perhaps inundated by their day-to-day challenges, many times buyers don’t know what they need and it is your responsibility to guide them to seeing it.

So, navigating the cold call calls for creativity, patience and trust. Creativity like my client, who schemed to sit next to the prospective buyer in the plane, and convert a cold call into a discussion with a travel mate.

It may help when seeking the appointment, (or when showing up at his ‘bedroom’ because all other formal avenues have failed), to open with the buyer’s pain point, and, being honest — something buyers don’t associate with sellers.

So, “Mr. Kageche, I think we can help you cut your losses by 65 per cent but I’ll need your help in establishing this. Is tomorrow 8am a good time to meet or is 9am Monday better?”

At the meeting, admitting from the outset that, “I’m not here to sell you anything” defuses the inherent tension in most sales. Being honest about how you have arrived at this point creates further trust.

“The extended downturn in business environment from last year’s political turbulence forced us to re-look how we do business. We are now changing to actively seeking a longer term relationship with our clients...” And from that point, exploring through insightful questions and genuinely listening, further increases your chances of success.

“What do you wish to achieve?”; “What challenges are you having with this system?”; “What would you like to do better?” And so on.

As you can see (feel?), the cold call need not be, well, cold.

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