Effective Cold Calling During a Plague

cold callYou may have heard by now that we’re all dealing with social distancing and travel restrictions as a result of the official response to COVID-19. Some things may start to reopen soon, but I don’t think we can count on anything going back to business as usual for quite awhile. If you’re still working, as I am, that means you’ve had to make a bunch of changes to how you do things.

With my work, things have maybe not improved, but have stabilized, and now that I’m less worried about immediate day-to-day survival (in the business sense), I’m spending more time planning and strategizing for the future.

That includes looking for new business. Like anyone else in sales, I’ve got a list of leads and prospects. And as I check off other items on my to-do list I don’t have any really good reasons to not work on my prospects.

Cold calling isn’t always easy at the best of times — and right now is definitely not the best of times. That’s why I’m approaching things a little differently, with some changes in nuance. If you’re in the same boat, here are some suggestions on how to proceed.

Some things haven’t changed. You still need to create a list of prospects that you intend to reach out to. I create an excel spreadsheet to track this, personally. Thanks to the internet you can find pretty much everything you need to know online: details about the company and contact info for the people you need to reach.

While making this list, you obviously need to identify who you need to contact: the decision-maker. For the record, the person with the clout to approve new vendors isn’t always the person whose job title is “purchasing,” so some digging may be required.

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Before you start making calls, decide on an objective that you’ll achieve by making the call. Know why you’re calling: Is it just an introduction? Asking to set up a more in-depth call/video meeting later? Email them some more information?

Most of the time, what I’m looking for from an initial contact is just that: first contact, and a signal that they’re interested in learning more.

Some people will tell you to write a script. If that works for you, great. For me, I work better with point form notes to keep me on point.

Once you’re all prepared, start making calls. Personally, I don’t bother leaving voicemails. Few people leave voicemails anymore. Even fewer people actually listen to voicemails, and almost nobody calls people who leave voicemails back.

Rather than leave a voicemail, keep calling on a regular basis until you get your prospect on the phone.
When you do get them on the phone, identify yourself, and get right to the point, using the notes or script you’ve prepared. I always keep it brief. I operate on the assumption that everyone is busy and now is not the time for an extended chat.

That assumption helps me keep focused on the point: the objective of the call. And usually, it’s getting an opening for more discussions down the road. As well, these days, I’m looking for a window into how their company is doing, and if they’re still in survival mode and now-really-isn’t-a-good-time what a reasonable timeline to follow up later looks like.