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Sales Prospecting 101 with Aalok Bhan: Cold Calling is a Good Teacher

While I mentioned previously that cold calling is only a part of prospecting and not an equal, I thought it may be relevant to delve into how cold calling will help you become a better sales professional and how you can gain from it.

Yes, I also never liked the idea of cold calling, but I was told every day to learn the art and practice of cold calling if you have to be a successful Sales Leader. So, while I despised even the idea of cold calling, I decided to get over the apathy towards it and give it a shot.

Here are some hacks and facts about what cold calling taught me, hence the title of this blog- Cold calling is a good teacher.

  1. Communication Skills: May seem obvious, but if you have to master it, you need to understand the actual meaning of communication and not just the colloquial meaning. True communication includes the inter-connected skills of Speaking, Listening and Thinking. Good communication entails questioning and communicating, both clearly and precisely.

  2. Building Rapport: especially with complete strangers. Rehearsing the right words and tone leaves the conversation with open-ended statements that make the prospect want more from you. This will build your confidence to approach anyone.

  3. Choosing Words Appropriately: While cold calling, we need to choose our words more carefully and speak with clarity and confidence. Stay humble, even soft, without the need to be aggressive and "drive" the words right at the person we speak with.

  4. Identifying and Qualifying Decision Makers: We learn to identify the real decision-makers early in the sales process and may also identify people who are the road blockers.

  5. Developing Openings that Command Attention: One of the most difficult tasks in any sales situation is moving the conversation to a "sales conversation", with an appropriate opening, but without alienating the person we are speaking with. Segueing naturally, in a gentle and commanding way, is a very important skill. Moving the conversation in a specific direction while continuing to command respect and attention of the prospect.

  6. Gaining the Prospect's Interest: you can have the best product or service in any category or industry, but if your presentation is weak, your sale will not go far. So your presentation will need to command the prospect's interest. And through continuous cold calling, you will build a pattern that succeeds more than it fails. So that when you get to the other engagements in your sales process, you will keep the prospect interested.

  7. Learning the Art of Effective Questioning: Asking the right question and asking them at the right time is a great skill that cold calling can teach you. The absence of that skill can not only alienate the person you are speaking to but also result in a loss of goodwill and most certainly kill the possible sale.

  8. Learning the Art of Effective Listening: This, in my view, is the most critical skill a seller has to learn. Listening is also a key element in learning and continuing to enjoy the prospect's respect and regard. Not listening is a good path to closing all doors.

  9. Try and Build a "Structured Prospecting Process": Ask the right questions such that you can understand the client's situation accurately and completely. The right questions and listening effectively goes a long way in building trust with the prospect, which is key to the entire sales process. In addition, a structured approach will help you early in the prospecting and qualifying the prospect.

  10. A key gem of cold calling is even if you have a large customer base, you should never stop cold calling. Simply because the unexplored market is always much larger than the market known to you. The experience we gain from talking with people we do not know – gives us better and honest insights as to why our prospects are saying no to our products.

Thus to conclude, keep working on your cold calling skills, meeting new people and expanding your network, your knowledge of your customers and the many professions and industries they work in.

"Be so good they can't ignore you", Steve Martin.

Aalok Bhan is a seasoned business professional with three decades of experience across the BFSI and education sectors. In his career, he has worked in full capacity with Standard Chartered, ABN AMRO, Max Life, and as a consultant with the Rain Group. An SRCC and IIM-C graduate, Aalok now runs his Thought Leadership and Consultancy, Scaling Up.

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