by Wendy Weiss
Every relationship begins somewhere. Regardless of how you first meet someone, whether it's through a telephone cold call or an introduction by a mutual friend, the relationship won't grow unless you take steps to build it.
The Salesperson: "I don't cold call—I want to build relationships."
Recently I've had a number of conversations with sales professionals and entrepreneurs who tell me they do not cold call because they want to build relationships with prospects.
Who says the two are mutually exclusive?
Every relationship whether business or personal begins somewhere. Everyone whom you currently know, your significant other, your colleagues at work, your friends, or your neighbors were unknown to you at one time. Then, somehow, you met and over time formed a relationship. It takes time.
In sales there are many ways to contact and reach out to new prospects. There's direct mail, networking, referrals, shows, the internet, public speaking and writing articles. And yes, there is calling prospects on the telephone. These are all ways to introduce yourself, your company and your product or service to potential customers.
The telephone introduction is incredibly direct, easy, efficient and inexpensive. First you target your market and then you introduce yourself to the decision-maker. That's one of the reasons I prefer the term "introductory calling" to "cold calling." The call is an introduction. It is not a sale or a relationship.
However you initially meet a prospect, after that introduction, you still must take all of the necessary steps to build a relationship. With every prospect that you encounter, however you first encounter them, at some point you will have to pick up the telephone and call them. If at that point you do not represent yourself effectively and articulately, you will not move to the next step. This means that even if you are calling a prospect who did not originate with a phone call, you will need to do all of the same preparation that you would do if that prospect were a total stranger and you were calling for the first time! You would still have to determine how you want to represent yourself, what points you want to make and what is the goal of your conversation.
Every sale has a cycle with four steps. The cycle could be longer or shorter depending on the product or service, the market and/or your skill level, but you must go through every step of your sales cycle. Most sales cycles go something like this: The first step is always the introduction. This could be a phone call, it could be a letter or an e-mail, but somehow the prospect must become aware of you. Usually the next step is a meeting (or sometimes a series of meetings) or an extended conversation (or a series of conversations.) You personally introduce yourself and whatever you are selling to your prospect and you learn more about the prospect company. From there, if all goes well, you move to the proposal step. This proposal can be verbal and as simple as explaining your services and fees or it could be a more complex written proposal. The last step of this particular cycle is the close, when your prospect accepts your proposal. This process could happen in a day—or it could take a year, but however long it takes you will never skip any of the steps.
The mistake most people make is in not understanding the steps of the sales cycle and that you must pass through each step to get to the next. The introductory call does not lead directly to the close. What that introductory call does is easily and quickly get you directly in front of your prospect to begin your sales cycle. You will still have to put in all of the work to show your prospect how you can help. And you will still have to put in all of the work to build a relationship with that prospect.
Many people do a lot of time-consuming, expensive things to first meet prospects so that they can later follow up with a phone call. My suggestion: Simply call. It saves time and it saves money.