Like most millennials, I am always wary of picking up calls from numbers I don’t recognize in fear of being severely interrupted. Over the years, I had to learn how to break out of this cautionary habit as I advance as a young professional and now as an entrepreneur. As a result, I find myself in a lot of unsolicited calls, often from people who find me on LinkedIn or random business directories and want to sell me their latest, “marketing solution.”
During my time as the Associate Director of Marketing at a non-profit, I encountered the most peculiar call with a woman, who for the sake of this post I’ll call Kim (it makes it more personal). In the midst of working to complete a time-sensitive deadline, I braced myself to pick up my office phone. The number was local, so it had to make it safe right? Wrong. Dead wrong. The call was so terrible and memorable that I wanted to share the things you should avoid if you ever plan to cold-call a prospective client:
You Know Absolutely Nothing About the Company
“You guys are medical company right?” I cringed. Kim’s innocent, yet silly question was far from the truth. “Why doesn’t this woman know what we do?” I thought in my head. If she was going to call and talk business, shouldn’t she at least know who she’s talking to? After politely correcting Kim and telling her our company’s industry, I gave her a brief overview of our business, which could have easily been found by visiting our company website. Kim sounded genuinely excited to learn more, considering I saved her the legwork of doing additional research.
BOTTOM LINE: Never, ever cold call a prospect without doing your research. Although you may not immediately know the company’s pain points, it’s a good idea to have an overview of the company’s mission, products, and or services. It’s a little…well, VERY rude to call a company and not know anything about them. Quite frankly, it’s disrespectful. We’re not worth a Google search? A lack of information may rub your prospect the wrong way and quickly diminish the chance of you developing a relationship that leads to a sale.
You interrupt. Between. Every. Other. Word.
No more than 120 seconds after saying “hello” I could barely get in a word. Kim seemed to be in a rush, as if my picking up the phone inconvenienced her in some freakish, reverse way. Kim spoke at such a rapid speed and when I was able to get in a word, she would immediately begin to continue where she left off. After three attempts to ask questions to gain clarity around her product, I gave up. Become uninterested. Twiddled my fingers. Fantasized about the what I wanted for lunch. I think I had a mom and pop style burger that day.
BOTTOM LINE: Shut up. Zip your lips. Spend more time listening. Give your prospect time to process your offer. When you do speak, it should be to ask questions to qualify the need of the product or service. Don’t assume the prospect will need what you have to offer. Don’t assume someone wants to hear the elongated version of what you have to say. You have a very short window to capture your prospects attention and the best way is to make the conversation more about them and their pain points and less about you…that will come in later.
Your Marketing Materials Are Not Up-To-Date
Intrigued by the lack of knowledge Kim a.k.a the “sales predator” had about my company, I decided to do an investigation between “uh-huhs” and “that sounds interesting.” I snuck in a quick Google search and pulled up the company website. Hot mess. The homepage contained a slider with a generic cell-phone as the first image.
Not just any phone. THIS phone:
Not one of these, which represents the most common devices of the current decade.
But, THIS phone:
Talk about first impression. I still have nightmares about this homepage. As I continued to browse, I observed that the copy was outdated and contradictory to the sales predator, who was talking my ear off at this point. I stopped looking after I saw the portfolio page. This “premiere” marketing company had distorted graphics that appeared to be created in a 1998 version of Microsoft Paint. Conversation over.
BOTTOM LINE: Before you go full-speed ahead with a sale campaign, evaluate the presentation and effectiveness of your marketing materials. The saleswoman described in this story represented a visual marketing firm. Kim desperately attempted to sell me on marketing services that her company apparently needed…from a better firm. Ensure your marketing materials (website, business cards, e-books, etc.) is the best representation of your company. If prospects are looking to invest in your services, they will find your website and they will potentially judge you based off of what is available. Make your marketing materials count by offering crisp, high-resolution images and graphics and information that will not leave a prospect guessing or questioning your credibility.
Needless to say, the call did not go well, but as I look back, I use the call as a reference point for my journey as a full-time entrepreneur. As I build my online company, I know that relationship-building with future clients and partners are critical to my success. Honestly, Kim was probably a great person, but she desperately needed help with her sales skills. No one want to be merely sold too – people buy from people and brands they can trust. Maybe one day Kim will learn, but until then, I have the memory of her call to keep me on my A game so I can continue to evaluate my cold-calling skills.
What’s your biggest pet peeve about cold callers? How do you master cold calling for your business? Tweet me at @TheWriteGirl_ so we can swap stories.
Whitney L. Barkley is the founder of Barter Babes, LLC. She has previously worked closely with sales and business development folks and have picked up a thing or two about cold calling. She is a fanatic of using hip-hop lyrics in her blog titles to represent her love for the culture, and most importantly, T.I.