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How to Turn a Cold Lead Into a Buying Customer

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Read Time: 10 min

How many sales jobs have you had where the company owner or sales manager throws a local phone book at you and tells you to get selling? 

Even though a company should invest in its own success by offering warm leads for its sales professionals, you will still be faced with the phonebook scenario at least once in your career.

Sales professionals can pull out leads from almost any source and turn them into buying customers. The biggest weapon any sales professional has is confidence, and your confidence is bolstered when you learn effective ways to turn casual conversations into sources of revenue.

The process of converting cold leads into buying clients does get easier as you get better at it. To develop this skill you need to follow a proven method for turning cold leads into buying customers, which you will learn how to do in this article. 

The sales profession is exciting. Every day is never the same. You can be assured that each undertaking is an opportunity to make you a better sales professional. Open up to the lessons that each cold call is waiting to teach you.

Investing In Resources 

Before we get too deep into this discussion, let's outline the resources you need to create your path to success. 

Your company gives you products and marketing materials to use to sell to clients. You need to use your own creativity to find as much information as you can about the companies you intend to call on.

The Internet is a simple resource to use to find information on each cold call you are planning. The information you need to know is:

  • Annual company revenue.
  • Number of employees.
  • Number of domestic and global locations.
  • Contact information for key people within the company.
  • A summary of the kind of business the company does.
  • The company’s key partners and customers.

If you are serious about your career, then you may want to invest in the Dun and Bradstreet business reporting service, or one like it. You will quickly find all of the information you need to qualify cold calls, including the correct contact information. Alternatively, if you want to invest time instead of money, then leverage search engines to find the information you need for each lead. Either way works, so long as you get the information you need.

Qualifying The Lead

Qualifying a sales lead is the process of determining whether or not the lead is worth your effort. You should develop a criteria for determining what an ideal lead looks like, and then apply those specifications to each cold lead on your list.

If you are able to put your cold leads into a spreadsheet, then you can qualify thousands of leads rapidly. It's worth setting up a sheet in Excel or Google Drive. Consider your standards to qualify these opportunities. Are you only interested in talking to clients that have more than 50 employees? Or are you limiting your leads to companies within a specific geographic area? Set your qualifying criteria and weed out the companies that do not meet that benchmark. 

Your sales manager or marketing department can provide you with the ideal customer profile for you to target. If your company does not have that information readily available, then it's something you need to create on your own. You cannot qualify leads without having an ideal customer profile. These are the customers that would most benefit from your product and be most interested in talking to you about what you have for sale.

Preliminary Research

Your preliminary work is not done after you have qualified your leads. 

Don't immediately pick up the phone and call a lead because it fits your ideal customer profile. You don’t know anything about the company yet. You need more information before making that call.

The best way to do your preliminary research is to answer these five questions:

  • Why would the prospect want to hear about my product?
  • What value does my product bring to the prospect?
  • Which prospect contact do I call on my initial sales call?
  • What problem does my product solve for the client?
  • What short-term and long-term benefits does my product bring to the client?

One of the more important questions in this list is the question dealing with solving the prospect’s problem. When you make your initial sales call, you will have maybe five to eight seconds to ask the prospect a question about a problem he is having that will get his attention. Once you have his attention, you have to immediately offer your product as the solution. 

Send An Introduction Letter

I never made a single cold call in my entire sales career. How is that possible? It is possible because I always took the time to send out customized introduction letters to each qualified lead. Those letters contained just enough information to interest my prospect in my product, but not so much information that I was trying to close a sale in the letter.

Whenever I called leads, I would always mention that I was following up on information that I had sent in the mail. Some read the letter; some did not. But the majority found that statement compelling enough to let me propose my initial pitch.

Whenever I trained sales professionals, I was often discouraged at how many would dismiss the introduction letter as a waste of time. Yet, I'd consistently get letters from those professionals who did use introduction letters and found closing the sale much easier. They found sales letters to be an effective tool.

There were some isolated moments where my introduction letter prompted the prospect to call me. I remember sending out introduction letters to prospects when I was selling advanced computer storage solutions and having one customer call me back within one week of receiving my letter. Three days later, I closed the sale. 

It's not common to have customers calling you based on your introduction letter, but a well-crafted introduction letter can help put your foot in the door, opening up the opportunity for you to make your initial pitch.

When you put together your introduction letter, you only need to include:

  • All of your contact information, including your company name.
  • A generic overview of what your product does and what problem it solves.
  • A promise to follow up on the letter via a phone call within two weeks’ time.

That’s it. When you make your call, you can reference the introduction letter and you will be shocked at how many people read your letter and are willing to give you the 10 seconds you need to make your pitch.

Your Cold Call Script

The world of a sales professional is filled with a set of dynamic scripts. There is the elevator speech, the closing pitch, and the cold call script. These scripts are internalized by sales professionals. They need to be memorized, practiced, and tested out on real customers.

Your cold call script and your elevator speech script are very similar, but with one glaring difference. Your cold call script has to include a passage for getting past the gatekeeper. The gatekeeper is the administrative assistant who takes their job seriously and only allows pertinent calls to get through to decision makers.

The use of an introduction letter is an effective way of getting past gatekeepers. I put it to use in my cold calling process. I would tell gatekeepers that I am making a follow-up call to information that was sent to the decision maker a week ago. If I was asked if the decision maker requested the information, I would honestly say no. More often than not, I was allowed through and able to make my pitch.

You need to constantly work on your script and make sure that it covers all of your important points as quickly as possible. Your script needs to sound natural when you deliver it. Part of the art of cold calling is the performance, and nothing is more important to a good performance than a good script.

Your 10 Seconds Start Now

Allow me to offer a quick note about cold calling scripts and their content. You honestly do only have five to eight seconds to get a decision maker’s attention once you get past the gatekeeper. Your script needs to point out the problem the prospect is having and show how your product offers a solution. But that is only part of the process:

  • What do you do if you get voicemail? Do you leave a message? I always left a message the first time I got a prospect’s voicemail and let the prospect know that I would be trying back again next week. I never called a cold call prospect more than once a week and I never left more than one voicemail message. 
  • What happens if you give your initial pitch and there is silence on the other end? Silence is a prospect’s way of saying “so what?” without saying a thing. Silence is good because it means that the prospect is still listening and waiting to hear a reason to hang up on you. 
  • What do you do? That is where your script needs to be solid and give you options. The best approach is to ask a question that will get the prospect to respond, but make it a direct question so that it does not feel like you are wasting the prospect’s time.

Your prospects are busy people who do not have time to talk in depth about your solution on the first call. If your company does not use personal meetings to interact with clients, then you have to close over the phone. One-call closes are rare and hard to do. Customers feel rushed in one-call closes. But it is how you handle the end of the call that determines whether you turn this prospect into a buying customer.

Closing The Sale

If your job is to close a prospect in one call, then you have done all of the preliminary work you need to do to accomplish that goal. When that silence happens on the other end of the line after your initial pitch, then go for the close. Use your script, but adjust it as needed to get that sale.

If you are an inside sales professional who is trying to establish a long-term relationship with your prospect, then you have laid the foundation for creating interest with the client. Your company offers a variety of solutions, but your initial pitch focused on only one product. You can choose to close the sale with the client at this point, or you can offer to send out comprehensive information that gives the client more of an idea as to how your company can become a partner with his company. 

Do not let the customer off the hook if he is giving you buying signals. By all means, close the sale if the customer sounds ready to buy. If the customer indicates he is interested but does not have the time to finalize anything right now, then set up a time to call back and send out that information. You have now established a direct channel to a decision maker that will yield revenue.

If you are an outside sales professional, then your goal is to become a part of your customer’s business. The work you have done to this point has shown the prospect the value that you offer. Now it is time to set up the sales meeting where you will close the sale.

Never Fear Cold Calling

The reason that some sales professionals dislike cold calling is because they don’t know how to do it. Now that you have an understanding of how to turn a cold call into a buying customer, you can go out and increase your sales, and meet all of your professional goals.


Payment designed by Ivan Colic from the Noun Project.

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