- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2003

For company owners, cold calling is one of the most dreaded aspects of doing business. Having to make phone call after phone call with few, if any, results, can feel like an exercise in futility.

It gets easier, though, the more you do it, say owners who have used cold calling as a way to bring in business.

“A chill went down my back,” was Marcia Morante’s reaction when she realized she needed to start cold calling to get customers for her New York-based consulting firm, KCurve Inc. “It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do.”

But, she said, “with each one you do, you get a little more confident and become more convinced that nothing horrible is going to happen.”

Cold calling is what telemarketers do, placing telephone calls to complete strangers in an effort to sell a product or service. The public is enraged by the process, but for company owners, cold calling is accepted as a necessary evil.

Ilise Benun, who makes cold calls as part of her Hoboken, N.J.-based business, teaches other company owners how to do it. She has several suggestions for business owners to make the process more bearable.

First, Miss Benun said, break down what seems like an overwhelming task into parts that are more manageable. For example, think about who you’re going to call. Too many prospects to choose from? Select one market at a time and focus on that.

Don’t know what to say? Miss Benun, author of “Sales Promotion Online,” says you don’t have to deliver your whole spiel from the get-go. “A cold call is a research call — do they have any openness to talking to you in the first place?” she said.

Her suggestion is to write a short, 15-word blurb to describe your business.

And, Miss Benun said, think about the worst possible outcome of your call: “They hang up on you, but so what?”

The idea of a hang-up — or the more likely string of “no,” “not interested” and similar negative reactions — is indeed disheartening. It feels like rejection. So Miss Benun suggests a change in attitude: “I wouldn’t define the word as rejection. Most of what you’ll get is no response.”

One way to make cold calling easier is to start with sales prospects whom you know something about, have something in common with or who were referred by a mutual acquaintance. If you belong to a trade organization, start by calling some of the members.

Similarly, saying that so-and-so suggested you call can help you seem like less of a total stranger.

Dan Richmond, owner of Bar Beverage Control Systems of Florida, has been cold calling for about 13 years. He says his success rate — 10 percent of his calls result in sales — comes because he really knows his products and his potential customers’ needs, and knows what he has to say when he makes his calls.

When you make the call, first be sure you’re speaking to the right person, the one who’s in a position to buy what you’re selling, Miss Benun said. Find out if this is a good time to be calling.

Read that blurb you’ve already written, and ask if the person you’re speaking with is open to doing business with a company like yours. If the answer is yes, ask where you can send information about your product or service — and whether they would like it by e-mail, fax or regular mail.

Afterward, Miss Benun said, “send a quick e-mail follow-up to solidify the conversation in their mind.”

That also will help whatever sales material you send to be recognized more quickly.

Expect to make several more calls to follow up on the initial contact. Miss Benun said she often makes two calls and sends an e-mail.

Continually making cold calls will help lessen your dread. Mr. Richmond, who sells alcohol dispensing and control systems to bars, hotels and casinos in southern Florida, the Caribbean and South America, says he spends part of each morning making cold calls.

“I have a requirement that I make five cold calls a day, minimum,” he said. “It’s a very familiar part of my daily routine.”


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