Let me cut to the chase here: one of the hardest things to do when you sell is to introduce yourself to your prospects and initiate the sales process.
Naturally we would all love to get all of our work from referrals and word of mouth marketing; things would be much easier then. Unfortunately, it takes time and hard work to get to that level.
And, until that happens you will have to look for new clients yourself.
There are many ways to achieve that and in this guide I want to focus on the most popular ones. I should probably state that I am not a fan of all of them, cold calling being a very good example. I will not be hiding the fact that I would like you to stay clear from those, yet since they are quite commonly used, I decided that they deserve a mention.
Cold calling is probably the most commonly known strategy for contacting prospects. As I said above, I personally do not practice it as I know that there are more effective ways to do that. However, I realize that some of you might be interested in giving cold calling a chance.
Cold calling is a process of approaching new prospects, usually by telephone where the prospect has not indicated any desire to be called (hence the term “cold”). In practice that means that you simply ring prospects out of the blue, hoping to initiate a contact that may lead to a sale.
As I have already stated, I do not practice cold calling myself. I have tried it and it never worked well for me. However, it doesn’t mean that cold calling may not work for you. It only means that either:
a. I was never good at it.
b. It is not a good initial contact technique in the industry I was targeting.
However, I have learnt a few things about cold calling while trying it out and here is what I have found quite useful:
1. Know your objective for the call
In most cases it is to set up a meeting and move the prospect up in the sales process. It is also one of the safest and easiest goals to achieve, as unlike with actual purchase, a presentation doesn’t mean that the prospect has to make any decision yet.
2. Always research the person you are calling
If you have qualified them as prospects, you probably did some initial research on them but do not stop there. Try to find out as much as you can about them to be able to quickly build rapport and break the ice.
3. Pick the time for your call wisely
Try not to call close to lunchtime for instance, or just before the business is about to close. A fair chance is that your prospect will be thinking of something else when you call and will want to end the conversation as quickly as possible (which usually means bad news for you).
4. Make sure that you are in the right environment to call
Don’t cold call people from your car when you are stuck in traffic or when your office is mad busy and the noise is just deafening.
5. Have everything you need to successfully conduct the cold call at hand
If you want to set up a meeting, have your calendar open in front of you and a pen at hand.
There are also a few other things you should be aware of when you are cold calling people:
1. State your objective early, otherwise you might not get a chance
2. Open with a smart question
3. Build rapport from the first second of the call
4. Use humor, be positive
5. Be sincere and friendly.
6. No matter what the outcome, try to set up a follow up. If the prospect tells you that they are not interested now, ask if you can call in 2 weeks to check if it will be a better time for a meeting. Or if they would be interested in receiving your email newsletter. Or if you still could send them some of your literature and so on. Make sure that you have a follow up strategy in place.
Email Cold Call
Email cold calling is my preferred method of approaching prospective clients.
It is a variation of a cold call. Due to its less invasive nature, it is now growing in popularity amongst business owners and sales people as it does not demand a personal intrusive contact. Unlike a cold call, where you have to ring a prospect, hoping that you catch them in the right time to present yourself, email cold call uses message sent over the Internet to initiate the contact with a prospect.
In other words, you send your prospect an email, similar to a typical cold call and follow up a few days later if you haven’t got any reply by then.
What are the advantages of this method over a cold call?
1. You have a chance to better craft your message and make it ideal for the intended recipient.
2. You don’t have to worry that you might catch the prospect in the wrong time, or mood.
3. It is a less invasive form of contact and many prospects will not react negatively to it.
4. It’s easier to get past the reception and communicate your message directly to your prospect.
TIP: Remember to give your prospect time to read your email. Not everyone checks their inbox few times a day. I usually follow up by phone two days after sending the message. By then most of the recipients have seen it and those who wanted to reply have already done so.
Over the last few years I created a set of email cold call templates that I use in my sales process. You can download a copy of them in seconds from this page:
Although not considered an initial contact building technique by many, networking is a great way to introduce yourself to your potential clients.
For most people, networking usually equals going to business functions and handing over as many business cards as possible in one night however, nothing is further from the truth.
Corporate events, like your local Chamber of Commerce Summer BBQ nights for instance, are business gatherings attended by business people from your region. They serve as an informal way to get to know each other, chat over a glass of wine and good food and build foundation for future business relationships. The latter is the biggest value they offer, the informal setting in which it is much easier to talk and build rapport.
Go to as many such events as you can but make sure that they are the ones your prospects attend as well. Try to make friends with your prospects; many of those connections will actually result in a business being done.
There is one thing you need to bear in mind about networking, it does not work as “fast” as email cold calling for instance. It takes time to build a relationship to a level where you can simply ask for a meeting. On the other hand, if you build a rapport with your prospects on the networking event, the rest of the sales process will be easier then the one you started with an email.
Getting Prospects to Come to You
Knowing who your prospects are, what they would expect from you and where they are are probably the most crucial things you need to know to successfully move someone from a prospect to a client. In most cases, as you have seen on the previous pages, you use that information to approach your prospects and initiate a sales process. However, there is one other thing you can do with this that can help you grow your business.
You can get your prospects to come to you.
I mentioned before that most business people would probably love to be getting all their new business through referrals and prospects contacting them themselves. It is by far the best business model one could ever wish for. It doesn’t happen too often though. However, you can use a few techniques to try and make that happen. I will leave out referrals here and focus on getting the clients to come to you.
In order for prospects to start coming directly to you, you need to become a resource, someone that is known for one particular thing and in most cases this should be something that is the most closely related to what you do.
Once you establish what that might be, and have an action plan worked out, try one of the following:
- Write a column for your local paper
- Send a free weekly tip via email and ask all your recipients to forward it further
- Start call in sessions during which you will be available to your prospects
- Organize free monthly networking sessions relating to what you do
- Run a blog helping your prospects
- Publish articles on websites your prospects visit
- Become active in your local community organizations, run programs related to what you do
- Organize free workshops
- Write a book
- Start a networking group
- Or do anything else that simply positions you as an authority.
TIP: Prospects come only to those companies that are active in their field, are visible and are considered a valuable resource. Become one of them to have potential clients knocking on your doors.
Ready to Rock?
Did this article answer your questions? Is there anything else you want to know about approaching prospective clients? Ask me in the comments.