By Wendy Weiss
Who doesn't need a little encouragement once in a while when they pick up the phone to call new sales prospects? The fear of talking with strangers -- didn't mother say not to? -- can turn cold calls quickly into cold leads. Cold Calling for Women, by Wendy Weiss, moves beyond being an inspirational cheerleader. The book is packed with practical tips on rehearse what you want to say, getting a prospect on the phone, and keeping his attention once you're talking. Although Weiss has aimed her thoughts at women, her suggestions are pretty gender-neutral.
The following excerpt is from chapter 15.
Tip No. 1
The first and most important tip is: BE YOURSELF. No one wants to deal with a phony. It is okay to simply be yourself. Be genuine. Now perhaps at this point you will be confused, wanting to know how you can be yourself when you have a prepared script, prepared answers and have been rehearsing. The first part of the answer is that you are selling a product or service in which you believe. That is genuine! The second part of the answer is that the rehearsal process is simply a part of being prepared. In this process you will become comfortable with your presentation and never at a loss for what you are going to say. You will be so well prepared that nothing will phase you.
And again, within any good script there needs to be maneuvering room. Just because you have a script doesn't mean that you stop being a thinking human being. The unexpected can happen. For the most part prospects do respond in a fairly predictable manner -- but sometimes they don't. So in addition to knowing your script you must also be ready to respond to the unexpected. This is where active listening comes in. You must focus on the conversation you're having with your prospect and only on that conversation. This, too, is genuine.
Tip No. 2
REMEMBER TO BREATHE! Sometimes when people get nervous, they forget to breathe. Breathing relaxes and grounds you. Take deep breaths; fill your lungs with air. If you find you have this problem, do some breathing exercises before you pick up the telephone. These exercises can be as simple as closing your eyes and taking deep breaths in and out. Try breathing in for four counts and out for four counts. And focus on your breath. You can also sit in a chair and breathe into each vertebra of your spine. Also try moving around. Move your shoulders, head and arms; shake out your legs. Sometimes you can breathe better if you are standing. Try that. Sometimes pacing while you are talking helps to get energy going and let out the nervous tension -- one good reason to have a long cord on your telephone or better yet, a cordless telephone.
While you are calling, try and stay conscious of your breathing. If you find you are feeling stressed and holding your breath, take a moment, do your breathing exercises again and then go on.
Tip No. 3
Your voice is your instrument on an introductory call. All that you have is your voice, your words and your attitude. To maximize your vocal effect it is often a good idea TO PITCH YOUR VOICE TO A LOWER LEVEL THAN YOUR USUAL SPEAKING VOICE. This is especially important for women. In our society a lower-pitched voice is perceived as more authoritative. It also helps if the inflection at the end of every sentence goes down. When nervous, everyone tends to make even statements into questions with an upward end inflection. This will make you sound nervous and unsure.
Be careful as you are doing this, however, not to drop off or throw the last words of your sentence away. This will sound as if you are giving up. If speaking in this manner is difficult, again practice with a tape recorder until the lower pitch of your voice and the downward inflection at ends of sentences is comfortable. (There are occasional exceptions to this rule of the downward inflection, for example when a prospect makes a "never" statement as in "I never make appointments." Your response "Never?" should have an upward inflection. But these cases really are the exceptions.)
Tip No. 4
THE EMPHASIS ON A PARTICULAR WORD CAN TOTALLY CHANGE THE MEANING OF A SENTENCE. For example, let's take the phrase "She is not a thief." If you emphasize the "She" -- "She is not a thief" -- the sentence means that she is not a thief, but someone else is. If you emphasize "not" -- "She is not a thief" -- the sentence is a defense. If you emphasize "thief" -- "She is not a thief" the sentence implies that she is something else that you have just not named. Think about the emphasis that you wish to make.
Tip No. 5
As a dancer, I believe strongly in the power of rhythm. Everyone has his or her own personal rhythm, the tempo at which he or she thinks and functions and is most comfortable. People generally have a difficult time with people whose rhythms are different from their own. Think about it -- if you speak quickly -- do you find yourself getting impatient with someone who speaks at a much slower pace? Do you perceive them as dull, perhaps not too bright? On the other hand, if you have a more laid-back rhythm to your speech, do you find people who speak quickly annoying and difficult to deal with? This is very common.
People can grasp your message much more effectively if it is delivered in a rhythm that matches their own. Remember, your goal is communication. Therefore try to FOLLOW YOUR PROSPECT'S RHYTHM. Match your timing and tempo to theirs. You can even try and match their volume. This will aid in their ability to hear and understand you. If you find this to be difficult, again try practicing with a colleague or friend.
Tip No. 6
If you are having difficulty getting into a "conversational rhythm" with your script try DELIBERATELY SPEEDING UP AT THE BEGINNING AND END OF SENTENCES AND SLOWING DOWN IN THE MIDDLE. This will give your delivery a more conversational feel along with the added benefit of making it more difficult for your prospect to interrupt you. People will generally interrupt at the end of a sentence. By speeding up at that time your prospect will not hear a place to jump in.
Tip No. 7
WHEN YOU GET TO THE REALLY IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR SCRIPT TRY WHISPERING. This focuses your prospect's attention because they will be concentrating on listening and this also helps to draw them into your performance. It's enticing. Make sure, however, that you do not whisper so much that they cannot hear you but just enough to draw your prospect in. Repetition of words can have the same effect. Example: "This is a very, very exciting new product." The word "very" repeated twice, spoken slowly and with emphasis can have an almost hypnotic effect. Tip No. 8 WHEN A PROSPECT PUTS YOU ON A SPEAKERPHONE, AGAIN TRY WHISPERING. They'll more than likely pick up the receiver so that they can hear you. Watch for the next installment in two weeks
Excerpted from Cold Calling for Women: Opening Doors & Closing Sales, by Wendy Weiss. ©Copyright 2000 Wendy Weiss. Reprinted with permission of the publisher D.F.D. Publications Inc.