Making a Sales Cold Call

To any business at any stage, sourcing new sales leads and recruiting new customers is crucial. Cold calling potential customers is one way of generating new business. It’s a direct marketing method that can also be a highly cost-effective sales tool.

Use our checklist before you pick up the phone. You will need:

Things to do

  1. Reserve a room or quiet area.
    You need somewhere to make calls where you can concentrate and where you won’t be interrupted. If you can, use a hands-free set to make taking notes easier and cut down on the risk of neck injury. For information on good phone posture, visit the Health and Safety Executive website.

  2. Make a comprehensive list of prospects.
    Experts say only one in five cold calls is effective, so the longer your prospect list, the more chance of making a sale. Check that names, job titles and contact details are up to date before calling.
  3. Plan your opening line.
    A strong start to your call is essential. Introduce yourself, then quickly establish if there is an interest in your product or service. Notes can provide a useful prompt but beware of developing too rigid a script so that you can deal flexibly with the unexpected.
  4. Keep useful sales information within reach.
    Being on the phone can make your mind go blank, so have all relevant information to hand, such as: how much your goods or services cost; how many have already been sold; why your offering is better than the competition’s; available colours and volumes; delivery timescales; and all the other details customers usually require. Have fax and mobile phone numbers, email addresses and postcodes ready to give out on demand. And have your diary handy or know your availability for meetings.
  5. Get a Call to Action.
    Every call should result in a tangible call to action, such as: getting a meeting in the diary, making a different contact within a company or sending out a brochure. The ‘action’ could even be crossing a prospect off your list, or agreeing to call back in a year’s time.
  6. Keep good records of calls and follow up promptly.
    Always include your contact details with anything you send, especially emails, and always follow up promptly on any promises you make eg sending out sales literature or emailing a prospect with a cost structure. Consider, too, investing in a simple contact management system.

Best practice

To weigh the cold calling odds in your favour, remember the following:

  • An IT industry survey by Mentor found that 85 per cent of new business leads came in some way via a third-party. So start a call with what, or who, you both know. This requires some preparation, so that each prospect is researched and each call bespoke.
  • One classic telesales principle is that good humour can be ‘heard’ down the phone line, so remember to ‘smile before you dial’!
  • Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) is a way of influencing others through your tone of voice, the language you use and the way in which you question and respond to people. For more details, see the ANLP website.
  • Sales guru Richard Arundel says practice makes perfect: ‘Making calls every day means you are familiar with a telephone script and become ruthless with people that won’t make a decision. All I need is a simple “yes” or “no”‘
  • Sales coach Anna Britnor Guest advises: ‘Make sure your sales calls have a point, or they’ll end up being a very friendly chat with no benefit. This may leave a potential customer puzzled. Whether your objective is a meeting, an opportunity to quote or an immediate sale, at some point you need to go back to basics and simply ASK FOR IT!’
  • Marcoms company RdMP surveyed 250 blue chip companies and found that nearly half lost significant sales by simply not following up requests for product information.

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