Cold-calling business to business

11th July 2012 | Posted in Marketing communications

I’ve just walked in the door from by Women in Business Network meeting. The phone rang so I answered and gave my name. After a pause, a hard-to-distinguish voice asked if I was Mrs Lawrence.

Sigh.

Yes, I said. “And how are you today?” asked the voice.

Sigh.

It just so happens I’d just been taking part in a discussion on cold calling, and I’d mentioned that at that question, I usually say “Busy” and get off the phone fast.

Poor, failing cold caller.

The problem – or one of the problems – is that he was talking from a script almost certainly written by someone else, and following a well-worn standard format.

That’s not how it should be, says my networking colleague Maud Hadden of Follow That Lead. Maud is a specialist in getting and following up leads for business, and she’s very successful.  Just take a look at her LinkedIn profile for proof.

Maud says the critical part of a cold call is the first 15-20 seconds. “Get that right and you’re in with a chance of your sales proposition being heard. Get it wrong and the call is finished with no chance of a call back,” she explains.

How do you get the attention of someone who’s never spoken to you before and doesn’t know that they want to now?

It’s vital to be prepared, says Maud. Plan what you’re going to say, and make sure you have all the reference materials you need, such as prices and web site details, in front of you. Keep it natural, and practise.

When Maud calls a potential customer, she starts by checking she’s speaking to the right person, just like my cold caller did. But she listens. If they’ve already answered with their name, she won’t ask again.

Next up, she points out immediately that they haven’t spoken before. Now the customer doesn’t have to spend any time wondering if they’re supposed to recognise this person.

She then tells them who she is, and asks if this is a good time to talk.

If the customer says no, Maud still has the opportunity to suggest she calls back later, and makes a date for a convenient time.

This is a fabulous way to approach the terrifying process of cold calling. It’s honest, it’s calm, it raises expectations. The customer gets the opportunity to control when and how the conversation takes place, and will be far more willing to actually have that discussion.

And all this happens in the first few seconds.

What do I take away from this? As a copywriter, I get asked to write scripts for telemarketing.

I don’t believe that I can write word-for-word what someone else I’ve never met should say.

I aim to provide the bones of the conversation – the flow, the facts, the benefits, the calls to action. I can do this because quite often I’ll have worked on the campaign as a whole: the web site, the direct mail, the landing pages, the brochures, the sales guides and the data sheets.

But a good telemarketing company, like Follow That Lead, will take that knowledge, make it their own, and create some truly high-quality leads.

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