Maximise your chance of landing a sale or new customer with our guide to mastering telemarketing techniques.
Calling potential customers in a bid to win new business is something that many start ups need to do to build a customer base. Known as cold calling or telemarketing, this practice has gained a bad reputation as an unsavoury marketing technique. But, used carefully and within legal requirements, cold calling is an effective technique that many respectable companies use. It lets you speak directly to customers so you can build a relationship and allows you to set up further contact with a view to securing a sale.
Cold calling and telemarketing law
Cold calling isn’t illegal – any company can make a live call to a customer to see if they would be interested in their products as a type of marketing. The emphasis is on ‘live’ – the call must be made by a person in real time, rather than using automated dialers that call lots of numbers and hang up when someone answers.
The 2003 Cold Calling Regulations restricts you from making telemarketing calls when:
- A person has expressed a preference and made it clear that they do not want to receive cold calls; and
- The person or company you’re calling has been listed in the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) register or the Corporate Telephone Preference RegisterThe legal requirements for cold calling are complex, but TPS has hopefully made it simpler for customers – and businesses – to prevent cold calls to customers who don’t want them, as this video explains.Once compliant with the law, the real challenge is experience. Many small business owners struggle with telemarketing when first starting up, lacking the skills and experience to successfully make the most of a cold call. Here are our cold calling tips to make the experience positive for you and the person you’re calling.
1. Research your market
Reduce the misery of telemarketing and dramatically increase your response rate by calling only your target audience. Use market research techniques to identify your audience and research customers before picking up the phone – particularly important if calling another business.
Being able to talk about their business challenges and needs when you call, for example, will quickly build rapport and shows you’ve done your homework. There’s nothing worse than getting a cold call from a business that appears clueless about what you do or where they can help with your needs.
2. Focus on your telemarketing goals
Decide what you want to achieve with your call, and set out a clear list of objectives. Many people mistakenly think telemarketing is all about making a quick sale – however, the reality is most successful cold calls are used to arrange sales meetings or appointments to make a pitch or for gathering information that allows you to establish a relationship with potential customers. Know exactly what you want to achieve before you pick up the phone, and don’t go for the immediate sale.
3. Know the best time to make a cold call
Plan your calls in advance – identifying the day and time that works best for your target audience. With businesses, aim to call early in the morning or late afternoon. For home consumers, mid-morning may be best and avoid evenings where possible.
Telemarketing research shows that Wednesday and Thursday are the best days for business-to-business cold calls. It’s best to avoid Monday morning as staff are usually in meetings or planning their week, while Friday afternoons see staff gearing up for the weekend and less interested in your call. And avoid stressful, busy times for companies, such as the end of the financial year or just before major holidays such as Christmas.
4. Prepare to make a cold call
Preparation is everything when it comes to cold calling. It’s best to put as much effort into preparing to make a call as you would for a face-to-face meeting or a presentation. Know what you want to say and how you want to represent yourself and your business. Follow these tips so you’re as prepared as possible:
- Practice the cold call before you make it – you can try it on friends or staff and ask for honest feedback. How do you sound? Confident? Too confident? Ideally, record your practice cold calls and play back the recording to hear how you sound. Be critical and actively adjust how you sound and what you say. Having a dry run also allows you to concentrate on the person you’re calling, rather than worry about what to say and how to say it.
- Adopt a positive attitude – it makes a real difference to how you sound. Keep your voice friendly and inquisitive, and you’re more likely to get people’s interest.
- Speak clearly and slowly – this allows people time to process what you’re saying. It can be tempting to rush through a sales spiel you know off by heart, but remember your customer is hearing it for the first time.
- Stand when making a call – rather than slumping in an office chair, standing can help make you more alert and energised, which will resonate with person on the other end of the line.
Watch this: Preparing for a successful telemarketing call takes effort, and Zone Marketing is a UK company that has a useful video about how to best prepare for making cold calls.
5. Know your opening cold call statement
A cold call is an unscheduled interruption for the person on the other end of the line, so you need to quickly establish a reason for them to continue talking with you. It’s best to create and practice a strong opening statement for your phone call. Identify yourself, your company, the reason for the call and the benefits of your products or service offer – then ask the call recipient a question. This immediately engages them and creates a dialogue, which allows you to move the conversation along.
Opening statement example: You can open a call with a very straightforward introduction, such as ‘Hi, my name is (your name) from (company name). We help (target market) with (the problem your product or service solves) and I’m calling you today to see how I can help you?’.
It’s best to avoid trite and insincere questions such as “How are you today?”, and likewise don’t ask if “this a good time to talk?” as you’ll most likely get a negative response. No one wants to listen to a one-way sales pitch, so keep the part about you and your company brief, and focus on getting them talking about how you can help them.
6. Ditch the telemarketing script
Working from a script can be useful if you’re new to cold calling, but it’s immensely off-putting to the person on the other end of the line. Reading lines from a sales script can sound robotic, insincere and uninspiring – you’re not actually having a conversation. Anticipating the next thing to say in a script often means you don’t truly listen to what the other person is saying.
Rather than using a script, write a list of the points you need to make but be open to where the conversation goes. Be flexible and listen to the needs of the person you’re calling rather than steering it back to your script. Aim for a natural, engaging two-way conversation with your prospect.
7. Ask great questions
The harsh reality of cold calling is that the people you call aren’t interested in you or your business. They don’t want to listen to how great your products or services are, or how your business trumps the competition. They want solutions to their problems.
Overcome this by asking lots of questions during the call rather than launching into a sales pitch. Learning about the problems your prospect faces means you can tailor your pitch.
Asking open questions, such as What?, Why?, When? and How?, will encourage your prospect to provide relevant details that lets you identify how your business can help them. Close your call by asking clearly for what you want – be it a follow-up sales meeting, appointment to pitch or a finished sale.
8. Be an expert
Be prepared to answer detailed questions about your products and services – sound knowledgeable and convincing, reassuring the prospect that your business is the right one to help them. Being knowledgeable about the industry, the target business or the problem can help foster more belief in you and your own business.
9. How to handle objections
Once you’ve made a few cold calls, you’ll become familiar with the ways prospects try to get you off the phone. You’ll hear objections ranging from “I’m not interested” and “I’m too busy” through to “put it in writing” or “send me some information”.
Don’t be discouraged or aggressive. Remember that your call is interrupting their day and most likely they’re busy or are unable to make a decision.
In response, simply acknowledge and ask follow up questions such as “when is the best time to call again”, “who is the best person to speak to” and “to make sure I send the right information, can you tell me about your needs…”
Often you can keep the prospect on the phone and engage in a useful discussion that will help you pitch your business there and then or later. Remember to follow up with a later call if agreed.
10. Dealing with gatekeepers
If you’re calling a business, identify who you’re speaking to and what their role is. Typically, you’ll speak first to a receptionist rather than a decision maker. Getting past these gatekeepers can be tricky – it’s their job is to stop irrelevant calls wasting their bosses’ time. The best tactic is to get them on your side. Take time to find out their name, and get chatting to them. If they won’t put calls through, see if they’ll allow you to send an email or letter to the person you need to speak to.