Get the most from your calls using the least amount of time and energy…
Being able to do primary research is a fantastic skill. Primary research is done in many companies, including survey firms, consulting firms, and start-ups. The following post describes techniques that will increase your chances of extracting the information you want from the people you will be cold calling.
Almost always, the first person you will speak to is the receptionist. Make the interaction with the receptionist as short as possible. She is the gatekeeper, the more you say to her, the more red flags you are going to raise, and the less likely she is going to patch you through. Start with your name and your company. Saying your name conveys trust, saying your company conveys gravitas. By calling “on behalf of” your company, you are a much bigger force to be turned down. A single salesman is easy to reject, not so much for a company.
Be as specific as possible with who you want to speak to. The more specific you are, the less it appears as a solicitation. The categories from most specific to broadest are: a person (Joe Smith), a title of authority (Medical Director), a general position (manager), or just asking for anyone available. Always concede information you are allowed to disclose if they ask for it, but make sure you immediately bring the tone of the conversation back to the task at hand. If the secretary says the person you are calling to speak to is not in, ask them to speak to “someone else who may be knowledgeable”. Be persistent and exhaust all ways of being patched through to speak to someone of authority. The worse the receptionist can do is say no, the best is she can give you someone to speak to.
There are three rules to keep in mind when speaking to that person of authority in the company: 1) give them a time constraint, 2) make them come to you: act like you are the prize and that they want your business, and 3) make it as conversational as possible. Start the conversation with your name and the company you are calling on behalf of. Then give a time constraint to your conversation. They will be more receptive to your pitch if they know it will be taking very little of their time. When you speak, act like they should impress you with their services. Act the part of a prospective customer, but never say an outright lie.
Be aware that stubborn people will remain stubborn: better to spend your precious time making new phone calls. If you are doing surveys, save the most sensitive questions for last. You want the other person on the line to feel comfortable with you for as long as you can maintain. Also, try to make the survey questions sound like they are part of your conversation instead of something you are reading of a sheet of paper.
Primary researchers are successful at what they do because of practice. Learn from your mistakes and never take the responses you receive personally. The great thing about this sort of research is that even if you mess up with 1 call, you will have 100 more calls to make.