Cold Call Dos and Don'ts

Phone in a FrogDog conference room. September 2012.

As a CEO, I've been on the receiving end of many cold calls. As an entrepreneur, I've made many cold calls. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're a fact of life in either role.

There are plenty of articles about how to do cold calls and few articles about the perspective of the person who receives them. So let me tell you what works for me when I'm getting a cold call--and what definitely does not.

Think Again

  • The gatekeeper hoodwink. Don't lie to the receptionist or the assistant about who you are or why you're calling. When I ask why he let you through, he'll tell me how you tricked him. This makes you seem slimy and it makes him look bad. I don't want to work with someone who makes my team look bad, and I certainly don't want to work with someone who tricks people.
  • The voice mail hoodwink. Many sales programs suggest you call and leave your name and number and no reason for the call--or pretend we're friends and leave your first name and number and a vague comment. Some suggest you pretend the line disconnected in the middle of your message, so all I get is your name, number, and a few words. These ploys don't work. I give the information to my assistant and ask him to find out what up.
  • May I speak to Leslie Farnsworth? I answer my phone, "Leslie Farnsworth." If my assistant put you through, you know you’re not talking to another assistant. If you call my direct line, even if you don’t know it's a direct line, and someone answers the phone "Leslie Farnsworth," it's probably Leslie Farnsworth. Would my assistant answer the phone with just my name? No. So don't ask me to speak to me after I've announced myself.
  • "How are you today?" When I answer a cold call, the person on the other end often asks this question. Huh? You're a disembodied, unknown voice. I don't have any interest in telling strangers how I'm doing. And no one I know starts a conversation this way. I figure the question is a choke--you got me on the phone, you didn’t expect to, you're panicked, and you’re buying time to get your bearings.
  • Ramble. Don't launch into a breathless sales pitch the moment you get me on the phone for fear that if I'm able to say anything, I'll shut you down. Typically you're speaking so quickly and in such a panicked tone that I can't even focus on what you’re saying. And so I do shut you down. Your anxiety gives me anxiety.

Try This

  • Introduce yourself. If you get someone on the phone, introduce yourself and give the name of your company. Nicely tell the person that you have a couple questions. They'll likely ask what the questions are, and you're in.
  • Be honest. It's relaxing and refreshing for someone to confess that they're making a cold call. I've said, "I'll be honest: This is a cold call. I'm sure you hate getting them as much as I hate making them. Could I tell you why I'm calling in just thirty seconds?" A friend of mine says, "You just made my day by answering your phone. Could I take thirty seconds of your time?" Rarely have people hung up. Nine out of ten people listen to my spiel. They know I'm doing an honest day's work and that I'm not trying to take advantage.
  • Ask questions. Ask about areas of your prospect's business that will help you know whether she's a good candidate for your company's products or services. This will give you more information to make your pitch, and it also makes the call about her--not about you. Sales should be about the prospect--not about your product or your company.
  • Make it brief. If it seems like there's a possible fit between what you offer and what the person might need, suggest a time for a meeting or a longer phone call. Do not assume the person has an hour to talk to you. And talking further later will give you time to better prepare your pitch using the information you gathered on the initial call.

What are your cold call dos and don'ts?

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (5)

I prefer when the person sends an email to my assistant to advise as to what they are calling about (not a dissertation of marketing shit. A real, honest, direct email you type yourself). I can then decide if it's worth our time. If youre calling for me to sell medical supplies, you called too far up the ladder and I can redirect you and you get to go straight to the decision maker. If you want me to outsource IT or billing, or whatever, you're wasting both our time- but if you have something interesting - I will make time for you. I'm surprised that less than 10% of cold callers will take the time to send the email once my assistant requests it.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTJ

I'm with you: I don't want to miss a pitch for something worthwhile--something that could truly help me. But I typically don't even answer my phone anymore because of all the time-wasters out there. E-mail is the best way to reach me; if it's compellingly written and seems appropriately targeted (not just marketing shit, like you said, but something that takes my company and situation into consideration), I'll set up a time for a call or direct them to the person who oversees that area.

July 10, 2012 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

As much as I hate doing cold calls, I hate receiving cold calls even more.

The one's that I get are the random extension dialers. They call up the main line and go down the company list of extensions trying to find anyone to talk to. Since my extension is 202 I am usually the one that gets hit over and over again.

As soon as I get one I try to rope them in to make me their point of contact. It's best if I am the one handling these things rather than having our tech staff being bothered. They are the one's creating the product and since I am in sales my time is more flexible than theirs.

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Pora

Those are some good tips. I did calling in college, so I'd add also I appreciate instead of asking how I'm doing or if I'll answer a few questions, ask "have I caught you at an ok time for a quick call?" It allows me right away to set boundaries around the conversation.

The other thing is, if I ask you to send me an overview, send me a darn overview. If you don't have one, take the time I might have given you and write one. If ask for pricing, give me at least a range. It doesn't matter how cool your product or service is if it's larger than any single item in my budget. And, my real email address is pretty valuable, so recognize.

And finally, try, just a little bit, to like your job and believe in your company. And once you do, tell your voice and personality so they can tell me.

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRaissa

William, you may be the first person I've ever heard say that he tries to make himself the point of contact for cold calls. You're truly taking one for the team there!

Raissa, you and TJ are on the same wavelength there with the overviews. I'll confess that when I get asked that, I often take it as a brush-off. (I think most callers do, too--hence the lack of follow through.) However, I do still e-mail him a link to our Web site and to any pertinent pages that further elucidate my points.

September 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
« What Quiet Teaches | Main | Looking Forward to Something »