In sales skills terminology, "prospecting" often means looking for industrial parks and the like, then doing a quick sweep in order to rapidly scan and flush out potential prospects.
In those sweeps, you speak briefly with the receptionist or secretary to make a quick determination of whether it is worth calling back to see the Decision Maker.
Just what information you are looking for at this early stage of your search for viable leads will vary with your product and the market. The checklist below is a starting point; adapt it to your own uses.
Checklist: The Kinds of Information to be Looking for When Cold Calling
1. What the organization does. Not every company or agency name is clear. "Automatex" may not give a clue to whether or not the firm can use your product. Governmental agencies can be even more obscure. Whenever I pass the local "Human Services Center", the image comes to me of humans up on racks getting their air filters changed.
2. How large the organization is may be relevant in some situations.
3. Whether this is the headquarters or a branch operation of another organization. Depending on your product and its cost, buying decisions might only be made at the headquarters office.
4. If possible, the name of the key Decision Maker within this prospect firm. The guard or receptionist may or may not know.
5. The exact address and phone number of this office, so you can easily check back later.
Cold-calls: Tips and Techniques
Note: As you meet with people during these initial prospecting sweeps for leads and information, the tone should be that of a conversation, not an interrogation. Be friendly. Don't put them on the spot with a barrage of questions.
If someone you meet during these calls is reluctant to talk, it could be that they are only a temporary employee and doesn't want to admit it. Or it may be that they don't want to give away too much information without knowing why you're there, and what you're going to do with this information
To overcome this, put yourself clearly in context without getting into much detail. After all, you don't want to be drawn into making your sales call to this person who can only say No, but not Yes. Here are some ways of setting context:
■ You could say that you have an innovative product that you think may be able to help this firm, but need to get some preliminary information to determine whether to ask the Decision Maker for some time.
■ Or, you could mention that you are planning a "VIP Seminar" or exhibition. You want to send an invitation to the DM in this organization, but need to make sure that their attendance would be appropriate.
Content adapted from How to Sell Face-to-Face: Survival Guide
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