Sales are made or lost based on initial presentation when you are cold calling. Admit it. If you ever tried to sell a prospect telephonically, especially on an introductory phone call, you know it's tough. However, some professional sales people have turned cold calling into an art form. You can make the difference between a mediocre year and an outstanding year for your sales efforts by paying attention to some key factors in phone sales.

According to Selling Power Magazine, if you get knots in your stomach just thinking about your next cold call, relax. A few simple adjustments can improve your cold-calling game immediately, and technology can increase your effectiveness by leaps and bounds. Here are ten basic tips to help you make better cold calls.

  1. Speak clearly. If you can't make your phone call from a landline and a mobile phone is your only option, do your best to make sure you're in an area where the call won't be dropped or garbled by static. "I think I'm losing you" is not a phrase you want to hear or say – on a business call.
  2. Don't try to say too much at once. Get the prospect involved instead of talking at him or her. Ideally, you'll do 25 percent of the talking, and the prospect will do the rest.
  3. Anticipate what the prospect will say. You should know the answers to basic questions about the prospect's business challenges before you call. How? Your best bet is to use a Sales 2.0 solution to uncover relevant information about the prospect and his or her company, but even a quick search on Google or LinkedIn is better than nothing. (Even if you're away from your computer, you can easily use your Smart Phone or tablet device to tap relevant information before meetings and calls).
  4. Be polite and courteous. Saying "thank you" and "I appreciate your time" never hurt anybody.
  5. Stick to the point. It's fine if the prospect wants to shoot the breeze about the big game or remark on the sunny weather, but be prepared to bring the focus back to how you can help this person succeed in business. It's okay to be conversational and follow verbal cues, but be mindful of the clock.
  6. Relax. Take some deep breaths. Put a smile in your voice.
  7. Don't act too familiar. Calling a prospect by his or her first name can be a simple way to establish quick rapport. Just don't overdo it. If you use the name in every third sentence, your attempts to connect can sound forced and insincere.
  8. Know the best times to call. The best time to cold call is when the prospect has a need or is overwhelmed by a challenge that fits with your value proposition. Tracking trigger events can help you make sure you're reaching out at an ideal time.
  9. Succinctly explain who you are. If you've met the person before or have had contact on social media (technically this would be more of a "warm call"), be prepared to briefly summarize the history of your interaction.
  10. Don't be a nuisance. Know the history of your company's attempts to reach a prospect before you ask for his or her time. It doesn't make sense to contact prospects with the same scripted message if others from your company have already tried (and failed) to make a connection. Figure out a new approach, or move on to the next call.

Let's face it: Nobody really enjoys making cold calls. But the fact is that cold calling remains a part of life whether you are a business owner, a job seeker, or even a volunteer looking to raise money for your local non-profit group, says Eliot Burdett, co-founder of Peak Sales Recruiting in Ottawa, Canada.

"Even with the rise of the Internet, which has changed the way people buy, having the ability to connect with someone cold on the phone remains a valuable skill for anyone to have," he says.

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