By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
A cold call is calling a stranger and trying to convince them to do business with you.
An introductory call is calling someone you have a connection with and discovering if it's worth exploring more.
Many Independent Professionals don't think there's much difference between the two, but the difference is huge, both in what you say on the call and your mindset about the call.
I've noticed a great many people avoid making introductory calls because they are associated with cold calls – after all, in both scenarios you pick up the phone and talk to someone.
But that's where the similarity ends.
Just the thought of making calls triggers thoughts and feelings of rejection, making a fool of yourself and being thought of as pushy or unprofessional.
No longer! Let me outline the differences.
1. Cold calls are made to strangers. You know absolutely nothing about them other than their name, company and phone number and/or email address.
Introductory calls are made to those you have some connection with. The connection doesn't need to be deep. It could be an associate of an associate or a member of the same business organization. Sometimes you'll make these calls to people who were directly referred to you.
2. Cold calls are made with very little preparation. As they say, it's just "smiling and dialing."
Introductory calls take some preparation. You want to know exactly who you are calling, why you are calling, and the "ultimate outcome" you want to communicate. (An ultimate outcome is the best ultimate result you deliver to your clients.)
3. Cold calls rely on a very tightly scripted pitch. It's written out and followed to the letter. Usually it sounds canned, which is an immediate turnoff.
Introductory calls follow an outline. You have certain things you want to say, but even if you practice those things, it becomes a natural give-and-take conversation.
4. Cold calls get a very high rejection rate. Ever hung up on a cold caller? Dozens of times? Yeah, it's a brutal process.
Introductory calls get a very high engagement rate. You get virtually no hangups, and the conversations are never pushy or forced. People actually thank you for calling.
5. Cold calls are all about getting the sale now. You know you have only one chance to sell that product or service, so the pressure (and obnoxious factor) goes up.
Introductory calls are the beginning of a relationship. They are not about making the sales now, but about providing information and offering a next step.
Obviously, cold calls are not going to work for your business, and perhaps you're starting to see that introductory calls could actually work for you. They do, and once you've developed this skill, making these calls becomes easy and, dare I say, fun!
How to make a good introductory call.
First, locate the best people to call. This is often the hardest step. You should *always* be talking to your contacts and existing clients and asking who they know who needs your ultimate outcome. Remember, people never feel they need your "services" but the "outcomes" your services deliver.
Join professional organizations and other networking-oriented groups and get to know people. Learn how to leverage LinkedIn to get introductions.
Go to Google and enter: "how to make more networking contacts" and you'll find a whole lot of very useful articles about making these contacts.
Next, develop the outline for your calls. Below is a step-by-step guide for what to say and why it's important.
a) Intro – State your name and your connection.
"Hi this is Fred Post, I'm a member of the XYZ association and our mutual associate Sarah Thomas suggested I give you a call. Is this a good time to talk for a few minutes?"
b) Talk about something you know about them.
"Sarah told me a little about you and then I checked out your website. What you do sounds very interesting. How long have you been consulting with telephone manufacturers?"
Continue the conversation for awhile showing genuine interest. Look, people like it when you show interest in them, and this warms up the call.
c) Get to the heart of your call
"The reason I'm calling, Paul, is that I wanted to introduce myself. My business is about helping consultants like you save about two hours a day every day. And I wanted to ask just a couple of questions and then send you some information, if it's appropriate."
Notice the three parts of this: 1. The purpose of the call, 2. Your ultimate outcome, 3. What you will do do.
You need to take some time to carefully think this out and then practice it out loud until it just comes naturally.
d) Ask questions to qualify the prospect
The questions, of course, depend on your business and your offer. I prefer open-ended questions to get the person talking. So in this case I might say: "Can you tell me what you'd do if you had two extra hours every day?"
I'm still focusing on the ultimate outcome. I'm not focusing on my service. I'm not thinking about my service. I'm only focused on them to see if they are a good potential candidate for my services. This conversation might go a few minutes where you'll learn more about their situation and goals. No pressure and no selling.
e) Suggesting a next step
"John, it seems that saving two hours a day would really make a big difference to you. As this point this is what I usually do. I'd like to set up a complimentary Time Saver Session to explore how you could save that time everyday. And of course, I'll explain in depth exactly how my service works to accomplish that. How does that sound?"
You only want to suggest a next step if you feel they are qualified and could get real value from your services. This is all about listening, not pitching. You can tell if someone is interested or not. If they aren't, move on; If they are, suggest the next step.
If you have done a good job with the first part of the conversation and the prospect has said they have a need, they will usually respond positively.
In my blog article from July 19, I talk more about what to offer as the next step and the criteria for designing that next step for best response. I recommend reading that as well.
f) Offer to send some information and a questionnaire.
"OK, great, let's check our calendars for a time we can meet again by phone." And then offer to send them something.
"I'm also going to send you a copy of my Article on the 7 Keys to Saving Two Hours a Day along with a questionnaire to learn more about your situation and goals. By reading the article and sending the questionnaire, we can really zero in quickly and see if I can help you or not. OK?
This is a very important step, in my opinion. The more they know about what you do and the more you know about their situation and goals, the more likely it is that they'll become a client.
So this is how to make introductory calls that actually end up with an appointment with a prospective client.
Yes, every professional service and every prospect is different, but by following these general guidelines and mapping out your calls step-by-step, you'll have a lot more success and won't ever feel like you're making cold calls.
P.S. Do you get stuck even thinking about making introductory calls? Then get my free e-book, The Unstuck Process to help you get unstuck and into action.