Many of today's ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) shy away from making in-person cold calls, saying the results simply aren't worth all the effort involved. Indeed, in a 2010 article published by The Augusta Chronicle, Jeffrey Gitomer wrote that "the return on investment on cold calling is under zero."
Paul H. Green, however, believes learning to cold call effectively can complement other sales strategies and strengthen any merchant portfolio. "There are several major advantages to unannounced visits to your prospect's business location," Green wrote in Good Selling!SM: The Basics. "You are able to evaluate the prospect's business first hand, enabling you to tailor the presentation to his or her specific needs. Your best results are often made face-to-face."
Cold calling has suffered from outmoded guidelines. According to Wendy Weiss, author of the Sales Winner's Handbook, some of the erroneous notions previously accepted as sales gospel include:
In addition to faulty assumptions, a questionable tool that should be discarded when cold calling is the canned sales script. "Always remember, that cold calling and sales in general, should be very personal," said Brian Tracy, a sales coach and founder of Brian Tracy International. "You should focus on your customer's needs as an individual on a case by case business. This is how you build relationships with your customers and have long sales relationships to come. Using cold calling scripts can make the call feel less personal and this is something you want to avoid."
There is general agreement that from initial contact through the end of each visit, it's essential to forget about yourself. Focus instead on the merchant, establish rapport, and ask questions to find out what the individual's wants and needs are. In addition, Tracy emphasized that you shouldn't attempt to sell on the first call.
"Focus on information gathering," he wrote. "[Y]ou want to interview the prospect by asking questions. Take notes and tell them you will come back to them. Focus on building the relationship and coming across as friendly, genial and non-threatening."
According to the website Businessballs.com, successful cold calling – including the effectiveness of methods and techniques – comes down to your own attitude toward cold calling. "Viewed negatively or passively, cold calling is merely a numbers game, where the sales person's calling (sometimes called 'canvassing' in this situation) is no different than a junk-mail leaflet," the website advises. "Somebody might respond – maybe one in 20, maybe one in 100.
"This is the way that unsuccessful salespeople see cold calling. No wonder for them that cold calling is a painful grind. Depressing, embarrassing, draining, exhausting, just horrible."
Alternatively, when viewed positively and with creativity, cold-calling is empowering, Businessballs said, adding that cold calling "enables the salesperson to supersede existing suppliers, pre-empt the competition, identify and create huge new business possibilities, become indispensable as someone who can make things happen and create new business, build (your) personal reputation beyond job title and grade, establish relationships and a respect (for you) beyond normal sales responsibilities, and be an entrepreneur."
So spruce yourself up, prepare a few good conversation starters, knock on some doors, and listen. You just might become inspired.
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