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5 strategies to successfully open a cold call

April 1, 2010 by Ken Dooley
Posted in: closing, communication, In this week's e-newsletter - Sales & Marketing, Latest News & Views - Sales & Marketing, training, Value

The opening minutes of a cold call are the most critical. The challenge is to get the prospect past the all-too-familiar “I’m not interested” response.

The best way to do that is to get prospects interested enough in your opening statement to give you time to make a presentation.

Characteristics of successful openings

A successful opening has four characteristics:

  1. It’s provocative and opens a dialogue instead of delivering a simple selling message
  2. It’s short and able to be understood in a matter of seconds
  3. It’s credible because the salesperson believes in the message being delivered, and
  4. It creates value by uncovering an unrecognized problem or revealing an unanticipated solution.

Tips that may help

Here are five tips that’ll help you open a cold call successfully:

  1. Establish rapport immediately. Studies show that getting an appointment via a cold call depends 65% on the rapport the salesperson establishes with the prospect and only 35% on the product or service being sold. Unless you get the prospect’s attention quickly, having the best product or service won’t result in a sale.
  2. Identify key problems. Prospects become customers when salespeople solve problems. The difficultly with problems is not in finding them but in getting prospects to admit to them. To overcome the initial barrier of resistance, try to find out exactly what’s important to the prospect and why.
  3. Distinguish the prospect’s goals. A salesperson becomes invaluable to the prospect when the salesperson shows that he or she understands the prospect’s goals and has the ability to help the prospect reach them.
  4. Develop the ability to persevere. Once problems are identified, back up your solutions with persistence and determination. Don’t consider the possibility of failure. The ability to persist is what it takes to overcome the most difficult obstacles in opening new accounts.
  5. Understand the objectives and strategy of the prospect’s current supplier. It’s not enough to think about how to convert a prospect to a customer. You also have to think about winning the battle with the present supplier, your competitor. Evaluate the present supplier’s strengths, weaknesses, strategy and resources. Then figure out what your company can offer that the present supplier can’t.

Demonstrating credibility

It’s not enough to tell prospects you offer better service or quality than your competitors during a cold call. Prospects want to hear specifics about why you’re better.

Here’s a formula that helps show that difference more effectively:

  • Show what makes you unique. What can you offer that nobody else can? Try to convert the value of your products or services into financial returns the prospect can expect get out of what you’re selling.
  • Tout your competitive advantages. What do you do better than your competition? Help prospects understand the unique qualities of your product or service.
  • Create parity. If there’s little major difference between you and a competitor, look for minor differences that can add up to a big competitive advantage for you.
  • Speak frankly about disadvantages. Are there areas in which competitors have a definite edge? If so, make sure prospects know what they are, and explain what you offer that offsets these disadvantages.

Adapted from “Lessons from 100,000 Cold Calls” by Stewart Rogers

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