30 Days to Start a Business: Test Sales Calls (Day 14)

by Caleb Page on October 1, 2012

This is the fourteenth post of a 30-day series on how to start a business. Yesterday I reviewed prospecting. Today I’ll take you through how I tested my prospect list.

There are two main challenges when starting to sell a new product or service. The first is that you’re unsure of your target market. The other is that you haven’t sold this product or service before. Both parts of the sales process need refining. The only way I know to test the process is to make some sales calls

Start a Business: The Phone Script

I’ve made thousands of sales over my career. From Cutco knives in college to my small businesses to the larger corporate sales when I was in that world. I had not done any telemarketing since college – over 20 years ago. The principles are the same now as then although the technology and access to information is completely different.

I wrote a phone script. It wasn’t my best piece of work, but it was enough to get started. The elements were a section to get to the gatekeeper, a few “hook” questions for the economic decision maker and then a next step. The goal of this phone script was to get agreement to talk again in detail about my service. Phone scripts are very similar to sales copy but shorter. In this case, my target is business owners. I can only expect to have their attention for 2-3 minutes. During that time I need to respectfully show the compelling potential for my service to help their business.

I tested the script a few times, reading through it and then practicing it standing up. Your off-the-phone posture can significantly affect your over-the-phone delivery.

Start a Business: Make Cold Calls

Then I started calling my prospect list. It wasn’t pretty. For all of my confidence, experience, and belief in the value of the service, I made awful calls the first few times. I didn’t get the name right in some cases, I made the ask too soon, or I didn’t get the message across. After each call, I looked at the script to see where I went wrong. I made the corrections/edits, and started again. Some of the errors were funny – I made great progress and got to the point I wanted but couldn’t make the ask.

To be clear, I hate cold calling. I’m writing this blog about what happened at least a month ago. I’ve since found that I’ll do nearly anything to procrastinate making these calls. It’s something I have to force myself to do. To prep myself, I remind myself of the emotional connection I have to building a successful business. I look at what I’ve done so far and treat the calls as today’s game to continue progress. If you don’t think you can make sales calls (either outbound or inbound), you’ll have to either get over it, find someone else to do it, or close up shop. There are very few people who will call you to ask where they can send their money. I’ve yet to meet one.

What can you do now if you’re just starting out? Try something that makes you stretch a little. It might be picking up the phone and asking someone for something. Maybe develop a sales skill. It could be writing a sales script for your business. Tomorrow I share my thoughts on hiring/contracting, including involving a family member, as we continue the series about starting a small business.

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