For the purpose of this article, when I say “cold call” or “cold calling” I don’t mean introductions via phone calls, I mean in-person and face-to-face interaction.
Cold calling is nothing more than approaching a prospective client with the intention of soliciting your businesses’ services and/or products. Each of these strategies build-on and/or rely on each other so it’s important to keep that mind.
Identify and research markets.
The needs of markets differ greatly. Yes, all have needs for locks and doors and door hardware but sometimes those needs go well beyond that. It is therefore advantageous to do research prior to cold calling. If, for example, you wanted to target retirement communities, it’s a good idea to learn the common needs of retirement communities as it pertains to physical security. A common need for retirement communities is elopement protection. Proper research would include products available, such as elopement detection systems or delayed egress products, life safety codes related to the aforementioned products, a manufacturer’s dealer requirements, etc. All of this information is pertinent because it’s going to influence and mold the questions you ask the prospective client during your initial contact.
Find the key players.
This isn’t necessary on small businesses, it won’t be hard to find the person in charge of “purchasing decisions”, but when you start approaching the larger entities? That’s when it’s time to find out who’s who. You don’t want to waste their time or yours by talking to the wrong person. There’s no sense in cold-calling a receptionist or maintenance/engineering if they’re not the ones that make those decisions.
There are two ways to do this, I’ve found. First, you can simply approach prospective client, introduce yourself, and ask who you need to talk to. Hopefully this will result in a name, a phone number, and/or a business card(s). Second, you can search out these individuals online via LinkedIn. You’re looking for job titles like “property manager”, “building manager”, “chief engineer”, “director of loss prevention”, etc. These are the people that do business with contractors on behalf of a building and/or business.
Keep your side simple.
Once you’ve identified your contact and researched their market’s needs, it’s important that you introduce yourself and your company but that should be about the extent of it. Answer questions, yes, but keep the volunteering of information to a minimum. No one likes an over-bearing salesman so don’t be that type. Don’t immediately walk in and start handing out brochures/catalogs and start listing off benefits of X or Y product. That will overwhelm the customer and more than likely torpedo the chance of a sell. Their time is limited and you want to make the most of it. You’ll have the opportunity to demonstrate your companies value and worth, along with your products, when it comes time to make the actual sale. Until that time, save it!
Engage and listen.
After introductions, your best strategy is to engage the client by asking the right questions (and this is why prior research is key!) and listening to their needs. Do they have security goals or pending items that they wish to fulfill? What is their budget? What is their timeline? These questions, and more, can help you craft the best solution(s) possible for the client. In other words, don’t go into the conversation trying to sell a product, let the client spell out what they’re looking for, what they want. It’s not hard to sell something to someone that already wants to buy it. Remove any of the guess work by simply engaging and listening.
Create the opportunity to make the sale.
The initial meeting doesn’t always have result in a sale; in fact, it shouldn’t be your goal. Yes, it does sometimes happen if you’re cold-calling in your service vehicle, specifically for smaller tasks such as a simple rekey or a duplicate key, but the initial meeting should create the opportunity to make the sale. Once needs are identified, schedule a time with the prospective client where both parties can discuss solutions without distraction. That is the meeting where you make your sales-pitch and where you get a chance to make the sale. The number one goal of any cold-call should be to get to that meeting.
Conclusion and Aftermath
If done right, hopefully you should have the follow-up meeting scheduled. And hopefully it is at a date that gives you time to fully prepare a presentation of solutions for areas in which they have identified a need. As I said, that will be your chance to make that sale. One day in the future we’ll touch on effective sales techniques and tactics but it’s not exactly rocket science. Chances are you’re already good at sales. We are all consumers, after all, so we have a good idea of how to “do business” with others.
If the prospective client doesn’t have any immediate needs or they blow you off or you get no where, don’t be discouraged. Take notes of who you spoke with, when, and what about. Make a return visit a month or two down the road. You want to stay relevant in their mind without being overbearing. They may not have the time or interest in your services at the time but what happens when something breaks or an item becomes a necessity? They’ll be looking for someone to get the job done right. That’s you. That necessity might not be present on the first visit, or even second, but the “law of eventuality” states that it has to happen. Be polite, be respectful, but definitely follow up to pounce on that opportunity when it presents itself.