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Financial Services Sales
Boosting the Effectiveness of Cold Calling

As a sales technique, cold calling can be a pretty hit and miss affair. When not performed properly, calling a list of numbers, even if they are established leads, can be a scattergun approach that can be both unpopular and ineffective. However, quite often, salespeople and sales managers are not helping themselves by taking the wrong approach and making what can already be a difficult method of selling even harder. Correctly done, cold calling can be an effective sales technique, but just like any form of selling it requires skill, techniques and the right approach. Done incorrectly, and cold calling can be perceived as rude, intrusive and too impersonal.

Calculating the cost
Cold calling can be expensive, especially for businesses that have large call centres where dozens of people are going through the phone book and calling thousands of numbers a day. According to the Direct Marketing Association, even those companies that are good at it rarely have success rates higher than 5 percent. However, for those less proficient, the cost of phone calls alone could be astronomical and make cold calling as a sale endeavour pointless. Of course, cheap landline deals and lower tariffs during the evening can help save money, but even then, with only a couple out of 100 calls turning into a potential sale, this could still mean a company could be spending more on phone calls, paying staff and keeping the lights on than they are making in sales. This is one of the reasons that many businesses that rely solely on cold calling for their income, such as double glazing companies, have a reputation for being risky enterprises. However, by taking a more planned approach, you can maximise the potential success rate, and make the cold calling far more cost effective.

The thing about cold calling, particularly on the telephone as opposed to personal face-to-face canvassing, is that you never know if it is a potentially a good time to be approaching your intended customer. Somebody could be in the bath or otherwise preoccupied when you call. With cold calling, timing can be everything. When calling a business, making contact at lunchtime when somebody might be eating their sandwiches or calling late in the day, when people are getting ready to go home, is going to reduce the chance of making a sale. The same is true of domestic cold calling. Many cold callers prefer the evening when people are more likely to be home from work. However, this can often be a time when people are busy, preparing dinner or putting children to bed,

If it does turn out to be a bad time, simply trying to batter your way through with your sales pitch will get you nowhere. A good salesperson can learn to identify that it is an inopportune moment and switch the purpose of the original call from attempting to sell, to arranging an appointment to phone back at more suitable time.

The opening
The opening is by far the most important aspect of a cold call. It is within the first few seconds that you can either intrigue potential customers or completely alienate them, and if it is the latter, there is nothing you can subsequently do to change the situation. Many cold calling companies use scripts for their salespeople, and while these have their advantages, not all salespeople are great actors and so can’t be expected to sound natural or even human when reading a script or repeating well-rehearsed words. Either they sound as if they are reading, or they speak so fast it can be both difficult to comprehend or make them sound like a robot.

Sounding human, professional and warm, as if you are calling a colleague for chat rather than bombarding somebody with your sale’s pitch is by far a better approach. However, some cold callers go too far the other way and start trying to be too personal, such as asking how somebody is that day or evening. People see right through this. Nobody believes somebody on the end of the phone that they have never met is going to have any real interest in their health or wellbeing, so keeping it professional, saying good morning/afternoon/evening and introducing yourself is by far a better approach than trying to soft soap somebody.

The pitch
Once you have introduced yourself, you can start your pitch. While everybody has their own techniques and methods of explaining what they are selling or calling about one key ingredient is always essential: to the point quickly and succinctly. It may well be that the person on the other end of the phone will be interested in what you are selling, but by taking to long to get to the point, you risk frustrating them, especially if they are busy.

Another aspect of cold calling to understand is identifying when it is time to quit. While tenacity and perseverance can pay off, identifying a lost cause will save you from wasting your time. For instance, if you are selling double glazing and the person on the other end of the phone tells you they have had their windows done only six months earlier, there is nothing you can say, and no discount you can offer them that will entice them to buy.

As with all aspects of sales, cold calling is a skill that has to be learned and practiced. Perhaps the most important method of increasing the chance of success is to try new pitches and openings, and seeing what works and what doesn’t work for you. You have more chance at success by developing techniques based on your own personal experience rather than on some handed-down dogma that may be effective for one salesperson but not for another.



Dressing for Success
Its now time for your first appointment; you've got your prospects, you've made the appointment on the phone and you're going out to see your clients. Now one of the things you've got to think about before you even go out there is how important dressing for success is. Remember you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. You're out in the expat market, which a lot of the times is an executive market. You're going in there and they're buying trust, they're buying honesty; you must look like a bank manager, you must look conservative and I learnt a lesson many, many years ago.
The Professional Introduction
Let me tell you a story. Many years ago in America, a large tobacco company's account was up for grabs and every big advertising company was after this account. There was a small advertising company owned by a fellow called Ben Duffy and he was also trying to secure this account. He was up against big competition; some of the largest companies in the Industry and it would be a coup to land such a large client. Ben Duffy thought to himself 'how am I going to get this account, I'm just a small unknown player with a small company, there's no chance.' He thought, 'let me put myself in the position of this chap that I am going to see.
Presenting Solutions
It's time for your second interview. You've conducted an excellent first interview, gone back to the office, found the right product, matched the risk profile and you?re going to see your client for the second interview.
I've been out on a lot of joint calls with people in the offshore market. Some of them are extremely professional but others just take the application form and the illustration. Remember, you're dealing in the expatriate market and most times these are very professional people.

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CEO level delegates attending the inaugural Abacus International Online Travel Leaders Retreat rated Frank Furness as one of the most appreciated contributors at the event held in Macau on 4-6 July 2008. His presentation not only provided thought provoking new perspectives for online Travel Agencies, the delegates attending felt that many of the tactics and techniques for online marketing could be implemented almost immediately. We greatly appreciated Frank's contribution to the Retreat and with its sound mix of robust thinking and practical advice and would welcome him as a presenter at our events in the future.

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Last week I attended the presentation of Frank Furness and I just want to let you know that it turned out to be a super treat! This man was inspiring, fascinating, well informed and sharp. In addition to this he combined (in a very attractive & visual way!) all actual aspects regarding Sales followed by Marketing.

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Harold J. Kluit, Director of Revenue & Marketing, Swissôtel Amsterdam

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