Small Business

How to Get Potential Customers to Take Your Sales Calls

Cold calling is a nuisance. Prospective clients will respond better to these alternatives

Written by Advisory Board

Welcome to Advisory Board, a weekly department in which a panel of experts—made up of entrepreneurs and professionals—answer questions you have about how to run your business better.

This week, a reader asks:

“Cold calling doesn’t work any more. Buyers rarely pick up the phone, and respond to voicemails even less often. How can I reach potential clients if cold calling is no longer an option?”

Here’s what the experts have to say.

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“Chris Campbell, our whiz of a Director of Sales, says, €˜A well designed and implemented referral program is an extremely effective way to turn calls from cold to warm. Asking your existing and satisfied customer base to think of people that would benefit from your product or service in the same way they have allows you to break down barriers very quickly. Remember: ask for names and numbers so you still maintain control over the process instead of relying on your customers to pass on your name.'”
—Mandy Farmer, President and CEO, Accent Inns and Hotel Zed, Victoria

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“When looking for and appealing to a client, the key is to be in the space and medium in which they live. Try to engage with them on social media, or write a hand written card—I always respond to a personal note. It’s old-school but classy, and is always appreciated.”
—Christine Faulhaber, President and CEO, Faulhaber Communications, Toronto

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“The approach I use in selling professional services is “warm calling.” I send an introduction letter to a targeted stake holder at the appropriate level. In this letter I outline briefly why I think there might be some mutual benefit in a conversation or a meeting, and I give a date of when I plan to make an attempt to reach the target by phone. I also explicitly indicate that I know that unsolicited calls can sometimes be annoying and I promise not to be a nuisance; I’ll try to reach them two times and after that I will respectfully assume the connection offer is declined.

“Before I call I script the call and practice the script. Quite often I get voice mail. If I do, I read a different script that outlines the fact that I’m calling as promised and what I believe the value of a meeting might be and that I still remember that I promised not to be a nuisance.”

“This approach has served me well and I’ve had great traction and good feedback on the respect I show for the clients time. Scripting is critical and so is practicing it—you need to sound conversational, so it can’t sound like a script.”

“It goes without saying that you need to do your research on your target to ensure your message has at least a chance of resonating.”
Charlie Reid, Charlie Reid & Associates, Kingston, Ont.

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“If the shoe were on the other foot, what would make you talk about a package you got in the mail or a video you got a link to in an invitation? Every transaction is built on trust, so think about how you can fascinate in a way that makes them want to find out more and substantiate the curiosity. Build that first connection on something worth remarking about, from there you’ve got the first brick of trust in that foundation.”
Kelsey Ramsden, business guide and founder, SparkPlay Inc., London, Ont.

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“In my experience, one of the best ways to elicit response and support is by building great networks and having a strong brand reputation. I often hear this is called €˜setting the table’ for sales. At BOWEN, we are very successful in receiving industry awards and top rankings. This has provided BOWEN with an immense amount of media and PR support that has showed the industry we are experts in our field. People want to hear from market leaders, not sales folks. Once you garner that kind of reputation, you will be pleasantly surprised how many companies are at your door.”
Shannon Bowen-Smed, president & CEO, BOWEN, Calgary

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Do you have a question you’d like answered? Email us and we’ll put it to the experts. Have any advice to add to this list? Share your thoughts using the comments section below.

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