It doesn’t matter if you are a veteran sales person; a business owner; or a rookie in the sales profession, almost everyone dreads the “Cold Call”.  Your boss tells you that you need to call at least 50 new clients a week or you’re fired.  You get a list of phone numbers and don’t know what to say when the receptionist answers the phone.  You get nervous every time you are in a group of people and have to sell your product or service.  You can’t figure out what to say when a friend asks you what you do; or what to say to convince them to buy whatever product you are selling.

What is a Cold-Call?

A Cold-Call is defined as making an unsolicited call on (someone), by telephone or in person, in an attempt to sell goods or services.

The Source of Nerves in Cold-Calling

Why is it that you feel okay making small talk or casual conversations, but when you start trying to sell something, the words don’t come out? or if they do, it sounds like you are a 15-year old asking a girl out on a date?  Here’s a list of reasons why you will be nervous in to do a cold-call:

Personal Insecurity

The number one reason people will buy something from you, is because they trust you.  They think that you would not convince them to buy a product that is bad for them.  The problem in a cold-call is that most people don’t know you, and therefore, inherently don’t trust you.  The second problem may be that you don’t represent your product well; and you are self-conscious about this problem.  Let’s say that you are selling an acne cream that is guaranteed to eliminate acne; and you have an acne problem?  No sale. You will feel dishonest trying to sell this product…. and thus nervous.

Bad Product

You may think that good sales people can sell anything.  Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you are selling an inferior product, because, if you were a good salesman or saleswoman, you should be able to convince anyone to buy your product.  It is so sad that we actually think this about the sales profession.  But this isn’t true for 99% of sales people.  If you don’t believe that your product is the BEST, you won’t be able to sell it.  And you will certainly not be able to convince a complete stranger that your product is good.  Once again, you will feel nervous on a cold call… or even a warm call.  You will especially feel nervous trying to convince your friends to buy your product… unless you’re a psychopath.  When you attempt to sell something, make sure you understand why you would buy it; or don’t represent the product in the first place.

Bad Company

If you have a conflict with your employer or feel like your company is not providing great customer service to those who buy from you, you will once again feel like you are lying to prospective customers who want to buy your product.  If you are aware of past problems with customers who purchased your companies products in the area of service, quality or anything, just like the product problem, you will feel nervous trying to convince someone to buy your product.  Let me be clear, ALL companies have faults.  However, the way a company tries to rectify these faults is a sign of character and can help you talk to people about your product and be proud of the company who stands behind you and the products you are selling.

Poor Value

Few sales people take the time to genuinely understand the value of the product they are representing.  And companies are very bad at establishing reasonable price points for their products.  This combination makes it difficult to understand if you are offering a great value to your clients on the products that you sell.  Almost never do prospective customers care about price… but they care a great deal about ‘value’.  If a competitor is offering the same product as you for half the price, you will feel very nervous about even starting a conversation with a stranger.  You will always be nervous that this customer will ask you about your high price.  Because, if they know you are asking more than what your product is worth, you will have lost all trust; and you will not get a sale… and you know it.


I have covered four real reasons, in priority order, that you will be nervous about cold-calling; and why people should not buy your product… and you should not sell your product.  If you fail at any one of these areas, and you happen to be successful in sales, you are a professional liar… and most people are not comfortable with a job that requires such dishonesty.

Introvert vs Extrovert

An Introvert draws their energy in solitude, contemplating ideas and then coming up with solutions.  An Extrovert draws their energy in the company of others, and processes ideas with other people.  A common notion in the field of sales, is that Extroverts make better sales people because they are not afraid to talk to people.  This notion is simply false.  If you are an Introvert, you are most likely a better listener; and prospective customers like listeners.  The key is to be aware of the customer’s personality and try to accommodate their style of communication.  In a cold-call, this is almost impossible, so it is wise to default to Introvert mode at first.

How Do You Make a Cold-Call?

Now that you hopefully have all four items in place about the product or service you are representing, “How do you make a cold-call?”

Telephone

There is really a very simple process for making a successful cold-call via phone:

First, tell the person on the other end of the phone your name and the name of your company.

Second, tell them why you are calling them. If you are calling them to schedule an appointment to explore working together, say so.

Third, tell them what value you are prepared to create for them in exchange for their time and attention.

This information was take directly from a  blog post from Anthony Iannarino.  I could not have said it better.

Trade Shows

If you set up a booth at a trade show, people will slow down near your booth; and you need to say something, right?  In most trade shows, the sales person behind the booth will ask, “Do you want to sign up to win a new TV?”  This obviously has nothing to do with the product being sold, but it breaks the ice and entices the prospective client to engage in a conversation.  If this prospective client is interested (or feels guilty), they will ask, “What does your company do?”  In response to this, you have 30-seconds to tell them what you do and how it benefits your customers.  You then ask a closing question like, “Is this something you would be interested in?”

Networking Meeting

A networking meeting is not completely a cold-call; but it is an opportunity to tell people what you do and try to convince them your product or service is at least worth referring a friend; or something they may want to buy.  In a networking meeting people expect you to introduce yourself; and your product.  All you want to do is tell them what you do and how what you do benefits your customers.  If the person you are talking to is interested, they will ask you questions about your product or service.

You may be asked to give a 30-second, 1-minute, or 5-minute introduction to yourself, your company, products or services.  If you sell a commodity product/service, it is wise to spend time introducing yourself and why you represent the company you chose to represent among all of the other commodity offers out there.  If you represent a unique and innovative product or service that few offer, it is better to focus on the product/service and how it benefits your clients.  In any case, you should prepare three rehearsed speeches that cover each of these time limits.

Friends & Family

Although, trying to sell something to friends is not a cold-call, it is something many people struggle with.  If you feel nervous selling your product to friends or family, I strongly encourage you to review the four fundamentals of yourself, your product, your company, and your price.  Something in these four categories is preventing you from talking about your product with these people who know and trust you.  If you have a great product, company and price, and your friends are not buying your products or services; they most likely do not need or want your products or services.  If they purchase a competitor’s products/services, I strongly advise that you have an open discussion about your competitor’s products to understand how your product compares with your competition; without being defensive.

Truth About Cold-Calling

How effective is cold-calling?

Some products lend themselves better to cold-calling sales than others.  And most cold-calls will not directly result in a sale at all.  The key thing to remember in a cold-call is that most people will not feel they need or want your product.  This is not a rejection of you; and not even a direct rejection of your product.  A great cold-calling effort will result in a 10% positive reaction.

Education or Solution-Based Services

If your product is a solution-based product, it is important to ask open-ended questions of your prospective client.  These questions cannot be asked in a cold-call; but you can entice a prospective client to engage in a meeting where you can ask these questions in a follow up meeting.

Cold-Calling is Marketing

It is important to understand that Cold-Calling is not Selling, it is Marketing.  Marketing is designed to move a complete stranger into the mode of prospective customer.  Once they are a prospective customer, they enter your sales cycle.  A cold-call is only a mechanism to move your prospective client into the first step of your sales cycle.  This doesn’t mean that you cannot make a sale on a single call.  But the call ceases to be cold, once the person you are talking to agrees to move to the first step of your sales process.

Know Your Sales Cycle

People are used to buying various products and services a certain way.  This way is called a “Sales Cycle”.  If you sell insurance, people are often used to getting quoted a price for insurance and then comparing that price with a price they are paying their current insurance provider.  If your insurance is a higher price than your competition, but you provide better service, then you probably need to be prepared to educate your prospective client about your superior service before you give them a price.  If you sell consulting services, you may want to talk with your client to educate them on how you approach a new client, and educate them on why your approach is better than whatever else is out there.  If your client is required to get two competing proposals before they buy your product or service, you need to be prepared to submit a winning proposal.

Targeting

One way to minimize the chill of cold calling is to target a specific market segment that most likely needs your product.  If you sell steel pipe, you will most likely target municipalities, contractors and engineers who would be interested in buying your product.  It is also likely that you will provide different benefits to each of these prospective buyers; and may have a different sales cycle for each.

Attitude Matters

Many people have a negative impression of sales people and cold calling.  This is probably because there are so many people out there trying to sell stuff you don’t want or need… and you don’t want to be another one of those sales people.  In order to be an effective cold-caller, you have to believe that there are several people out there who desperately need your product or service; and you are simply a messenger of good news.

You have to be very gracious to those who decide they don’t want your product or service.  Let’s face it, if you are truly cold-calling; 9 out of 10 people really don’t want or need your product; and so it is important to be polite to those who say “no thanks”.

If you have a bad attitude about cold-calling, you may be able to be coached to cold-call better; or you may need to find a different line of work.

Note from the Author
My name is Jeff Schuster.  I am a certified Life and Business Coach serving small business owners, corporate executives and others who want to transition from “expert” to “entrepreneur”.  I have been a small business owner for most of my 30-years in the workplace.  I grew an energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering and construction company from nothing to over $10-million/year and sold it in 2013.  I now help other business owners make amazing progress toward their own dreams of business ownership independence and success.

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