Cold leads — prospective customers you have not contacted before — are difficult to convert into buyers. Simply by getting in touch with them, you are taking a gamble that they might be interested. So how do you approach a cold lead to give yourself the best chance of making a sale?
- Find good leads. Leads are those details - names, job titles, email addresses and phone numbers - that are vital to any business. There are numerous ways of sourcing them including searching trade directories, attending trade exhibitions or buying lists of 'unqualified' leads from suppliers. The better they fit with your customer profile, the more chance you have of converting them.
- Stay within the law. If you hold any personal information about customers, such as names and addresses, you must comply with the Data Protection Act. You must also ensure you don't make unsolicited calls, or send unsolicited letters, faxes or emails, to people who have opted out of such approaches, such as by registering with the Telephone Preference Service. You must also not contact individuals by email or text message without their prior consent.
- Have a clear aim. Be clear what you want to achieve when you make contact. It might not always be an immediate sale but could just be an opportunity to provide a quote, send out a brochure or give a presentation.
- Know your message. When making cold calls, having a prompt sheet of your key messages can be helpful to avoid sudden 'mind blanks'. A script, too, can be useful but beware of following it too rigidly or you may sound insincere.
- Train staff. Staff making cold calls should be properly trained. Above all, they should be very familiar with the product or service they are selling. They should have at hand the answers to any questions about, for example, your company background, products or delivery times.
- Start off on the right foot. Call from a quiet space. Always introduce yourself, make sure you are talking to the right person and address them using their name. Consider the time you choose to call, too; for example, Monday morning and Friday afternoon calls to businesses may not be well received.
- Concentrate on the customer. Ask about their needs and the issues they face. Listen to their answers carefully and then present your ability to meet their needs. Be confident and smile when you talk (it might sound odd, but it does make a difference).
- Use different sales channels. If cold leads have given their consent, you can also approach them by sending emails, text messages, leaflets and direct mail, as well as using social media. But remember that business is about establishing relationships, usually best done face-to-face and second best over the telephone.
- Follow up. Make sure you do whatever you promised in your initial approach, even if that is only to call back in a year's time.
- Measure your results. Log how many approaches you make and the result of each. Record how many eventually turn into sales, to obtain a conversion rate. Lastly, analyse your different approaches and results to find out which type of approach and which leads are most successful.
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