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Business Development Tips: Opening Calls with Prospective Clients

You can’t beat a good old inbound lead, can you? Because what it usually means is that the person has already been doing their own research about your company and the products or services you offer. When I worked in business development roles, picking up the phone to call someone who had already enquired or shown some interest online was a breeze compared to cold calling. Quite often the person would respond enthusiastically when they realised where I was calling from. Like I was doing them a favour by calling to see if I could help. It was a win-win situation. Some of the time, anyway.

However, the truth of the matter is that most business development calls aren’t quite as rewarding as those warm lead follow-ups. They can be pretty soul destroying actually. The rejection. The coldness. The hostility. You become pretty thick skinned when you do that job for a living. You have to. But when you’re a freelancer or small company and business development is just one of the many responsibilities that sits within your remit, how can you best prepare for – and improve at – proactively calling prospective customers?

Old fashioned phone

It’s good to talk

Whether it’s a warm lead enquiry, a follow up to an email conversation or a completely cold call, over the next couple of posts I would like to share some key tips that will help you generate some additional new business pipeline for 2020 by refining your calling techniques. Let’s start off with how to open up the conversation and how to get the prospect talking.

Get their attention

First things first, don’t open the call with a pitch. Let them speak early in the conversation. Ask how they are and maybe talk about the weather. You could even make a joke about yourself to lighten the mood, just make sure you are clear about the reason you are contacting them. There won’t be much in the way of a friendly atmosphere until they realise that what you’re calling about is in some way relevant to them.

Tell them the topic of conversation you are hoping to have and ask them a question about it. For example: ‘We’re working with a lot of organisations in the [insert sector name], and what we’re hearing a lot is [insert challenge within sector]. What kind of experience have you had when it comes to [insert related topic]?

Man making phone call

Ask open questions

People really struggle to give one word answers to open questions, which means using them will give you a far greater chance of actually gathering some good information from them. You’ll then be able to work out if there is an opportunity for your company or not.

For example, rather than, ‘Are you free to talk now?‘, or, ‘Have you heard of my company?‘, think more along the lines of, ‘How’s it going?‘, ‘What are you currently doing to solve [insert common problem]?’, and, ‘What’s the main thing you’re trying to achieve when it comes to [insert relevant subject]?’.

Occasionally there will be people who aren’t willing to speak. But if you approach it in the right way and aren’t too pushy, most people will engage in some form of conversation, which is exactly what you want. Ideally you want them to be talking more than you, not the other way around. Therefore, as long as you’re asking good, open questions, you’ll keep them talking and will put yourself in a strong position to unearth some potential new opportunities.

More on this in our post tomorrow, ‘Discover New Business Opportunities with Informative Questions’, where we will look at some more questioning techniques to help you on your way to a great year of prospect engagement and new business lead-generation in 2020.


Picture of author - Joe OgdenThe article was written by Joe Ogden.
Joe is a copywriter and sales professional with a background in business development and technology sales. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs, freelancers and small companies reach a wider audience and grow their business. Read more at Joe’s website.


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