Startups: Are you Cold Calling?
Cold Calling can honestly give even the most seasoned sales professional a bit of a cold. Especially in our country, where we are used to getting calls for every thing imaginable. As a startup, more often than not, we have to rely on cold calling to get the deal/assignment or that cherished meeting. How can we excel in this art? I call it an art because it rightfully is and deserves to be given the coveted status... be honest to yourself and you will realise that it's not everyone’s cup of tea.
Here are some of my learnings on how to crack the cold calls. Please remember, most of the relations that I have built over the years somewhere began with that first "Cold Call"-
Confidence Sells. If you are confident about yourself, your voice will reflect it. Any signs of being hesitant are bound to get the receiver on the other side skeptical and is surely going to result in a ‘No.’ The tone of voice also plays a key role in forming impressions. You cannot afford to be too soft or too loud; while the former can indicate you are uncertain, the latter will come across as being intrusive. A right modulation comes with practice and a lot of talking, just strive to get that balance.
Be Direct. 140 characters are not just for Twitter. Brevity is the essence of a cold call, the more precise your objective the better calls you will be able to make. Just to give you an example, if I call you and say, Hi I am xyz from abc, how are you doing today, wanted to talk to you about my product.” If you are one of the patient sorts you might just get the call going but if you are not (which most of the prospects are) then you might like to hear this: "Hi I am xxx, just read about your product and offerings, I have a compelling proposition for you" -- you will have more propensity to continue with this call. Why? because in very little time I have caught your attention thanks to my homework on you and it’s not a hard sell. Also, a point to remember here is that these lines need to be put forth in a crisp and fast manner, it’s not the heart of your conversation but the start, so make it fast.
Homework. Taking from above, it’s important to do your homework well, don't be clueless about the person you are going to call, courtesy Google, LinkedIn, and so on, you can dig out a lot of information about the person you are going to call, so guesstimate what will interest the person. All of us have the propensity to like an informed person. The same holds true with a call. The more informed you are about the person you are calling, the more are your chances of having a good conversation. As Mukund Mohan says, "You have to hit their pain point in the first 15 seconds. Or name drop their friend who is your customer in the first 15 seconds."
Your Outcome. I was once very keen to reach out to a very senior individual, as luck would have it, immediately after my mail to him, he asked me to call him in the next 5 minutes, which I did. Unfortunately, I was very keen to talk to him without clearly knowing what I wanted from the call: was it sales, some kind of support or just a connect, and I got a bit intimidated when I heard from the other side: "Tell me what can I do for you." I dearly wished I had a clear answer for that because after a slightly embarrassing call I realised I just wanted to be connected to him and maybe at some point have him as an advisor. So, don't waste your precious call, have a very defined objective and internalise the outcome you are expecting: it will help you maneuver these unexpected calls.
Practice. Even the best among us will do well by practicing before making a call. Unlike a presentation or meeting, cold calls give you the shortest possible time to make an impression, practice what you are going to say, the typical tendency among us entrepreneurs is, "We know our business the best and can pitch about our business at least better than the rest.” Who am I to dispute this claim, but let’s just practice and practice hard before making those cold calls. You don't know how handy the practice will come in when you have your biggest business deal to be cracked in your very first cold call.
Ending with these two suggestions (one from VC and mentor Sanjay Anandaram), which many of us forget while doing the cold call, “Address the person by name.” Gone are the days of Sirs and Madams, let’s get the name right. Simple point, but it really matters!
The other from the ever candid entrepreneur Alok Kejriwal: "I would say - employ a foreigner (or train in a call center to speak like one), Indians fall for anything that looks or even 'sounds' like white skin :-),works on me too!"
What are some of the things that are working for you during your cold calls? Do share your secrets and winning formula!