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Tips to help you make those cold calls easier

By Elaine Sambugaro |

Selling your product and service is difficult enough when you've already had face-to-face contact with a customer. When you haven't yet made that connection, the level of difficulty increases a couple of notches.

You can do many things to get around the awkward first moment when you have to introduce yourself to the other person on the phone who may not be having a good day and who may not want to listen to your pitch.

The following tips come from my own personal experience, coupled with excellent advice found in Art Sobczak's book, How to Sell More in Less Time with No Rejection – Vol. 2.

#1) Smile while you're on the phone – You might be surprised that careful listeners can sense in a person's voice if the individual is happy and likes what he or she is doing. Most individuals like to talk to positive, upbeat people who will brighten up their day. It gives them an incentive to stay on the phone and to listen to what you offer.

#2) Prepare, prepare, prepare – Think about what you want to ask the individual before you place the call. Sometimes it's helpful to jot down a list of questions you want answers to and research the person's historical background. You might be able to insert something you learned about the person's golf habits or sailing passion into a later stage of your conversation and cultivate a sense of commonality.

#3) Identify yourself, quick – People rarely release personal or company information if they don't know the person they are talking to. Get this over with at the beginning of the conversation. State it clearly and offer contact information up front, such as a telephone number where you can be reached or your company e-mail address. This generates a sense of legitimacy and will encourage people to give you those extra few minutes of their time.

#4) Avoid vulgarities, racist or offensive language – Remember, you don't know who you are talking to, so it is important to be polite at all times, no matter what the other person says. Always exercise caution when you're speaking, even if the other person uses words that are not particularly amusing. Cut the conversation short rather than say something you might regret later.

#5) Bad day? Stop the call – If you sense in a person's voice that he or she is pressed for time or is having a bad day, it is foolish to continue the conversation. This only manages to irritate the person and could jeopardize future conversations. Postpone the discussion to a later date. Ask the person if this is an inopportune time to call and if you may schedule a more convenient time to call again.

#6) Cut down on background clutter – It's not always easy when you're a SOHO, but it's unwise to have children screaming in the background or dogs barking when you're trying to cold call. Often people will question the legitimacy of your business and place you at a disadvantage before you even have an opportunity to pitch your idea to them. If it happens, try to poke fun at yourself and be funny. If this doesn't work, make arrangements to avoid the problem in the future.

#7) Don't read a script – While it's important to prepare for your cold calls, you don't want to sound like you're relying on a script. It sounds unprofessional and naïve. Worse still, if the person decides to ask a question that strays from the prepared script, you may not know how to respond. It is important that you train yourself to know and understand all the ins and outs of the product and service that you are representing and be familiar with ways to skirt around questions that may present them in a negative light.

#8) Speak slowly – But not too slowly. Develop a good conversational pace. If you don't know how to do this, pretend you are cold-calling someone and record the introduction. If it's too fast, slow down. If it's too slow, try injecting a little more speed and urgency in your voice. Practice this until you are comfortable with the sound of your voice and with the delivery.

#9) Silence is good – Don't be too eager to speak all the time. Occasional moments of silence can be good attention grabbers, and they can force the person on the other line to really understand what you are trying to say. Often, the amount of information people receive in a conversation confuses them, and they don't have time to think about the meaning behind statements. The silence gives their mind a chance to catch up and make a decision about whether to listen to more of your project.

#10) When all else fails, have a hook – If the polite introduction doesn't work or if the person you call just won't give you the time of day, then think of something about your product or service that will definitely pique caller interest. In journalism jargon it's known as the hook, a concrete reason that will engage other people and convince them that it's in their best interest to hear you out.

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