Cold calling is a labor-intensive way to get sales leads into your pipeline. In addition, people don't like to be cold called, so you're at a disadvantage from square one. If you can, build your business with referrals. Even sales emails are preferable.

However, if you're determined to "dial for dollars," here are the secrets from two true gurus of the art: Andrea Sitting-Rolf and Wendy Weiss.

1. Understand your goal.

If selling your product requires a face-to-face meeting, the goal of the cold call will be to set up that meeting. Similarly, if your company's sales process launches with a trial usage of a product, then your goal is to get the prospect to accept the free trial.

2. Research, research, research.

Your cold call is more likely to be successful if you know something about the prospect, your prospect's company and industry, and the "hot buttons" that will cause that prospect to consider taking the action.

3. Write a solid cold call script.

As I explained in a previous post about cold calling, plan out ahead of time what you're going to say if you get through or get into voice mail. If the former, ask permission before you speak. If the latter, simply say "I'll be brief." Then be brief.

4. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

Rehearsal transforms the scripted conversation into a more natural dialog. Work with a colleague until you internalize the rhythm of the call. Then your statements and questions flow more naturally.

5. Assume the prospect needs you.

Approach the call as if you have information and perspective that the prospect truly needs. Emphasize in your own mind that you can contribute to both the success of the prospect and the success of the prospect's business.

6. Get and stay confident.

If your offering truly has value, you're doing the prospect a favor by giving him or her the opportunity to talk with you. Be so confident in your ability to provide value that the people you call respond with confidence that you're right.

7. Differentiate yourself within 10 seconds.

You have ten seconds (more or less) to communicate to the prospect that you're worth talking to. The best way to do this is to hit one of the "hot buttons" that that you discovered during your research.

8. Mirror the prospect's tonality.

To create instant rapport, mirror (but don't mimic) the tempo and rhythm of the prospect's voice. If the prospect talks quickly, talk quickly back. If the prospect has a long drawl, slow your talking speed down to match.

9. Stick to your goal.

If the prospect is chatty, you may find yourself in a conversation that's irrelevant to what you're trying to accomplish. Without being pushy or abrupt, move the conversation toward that goal.

10. Anticipate objections.

Part of cold calling is to anticipate the objections so that each time one of them materializes, you can handle it and move the conversation forward.

Let's assume your goal is to set up a face-to-face meeting. Here's you'd handle the four most common objections:

  1. "I'm not interested."
    Your response: "You know, that's exactly what [current customer] said too when I first called them. They've since become a customer and as a result have [result statement.] Why don't we just get together so I can learn more about you company and what results we might create for you? How does [day] at [time] work for you?"
  2. "Send me some literature."
    Your response: "I'd be happy to, but until I learn more about your company and its needs, I won't know what to send. Why don't I come by [day] at [time] and I'll bring an assortment of literature with me?"
  3. "I'm too busy."
    Your response: "Okay, I won't keep you. What I'd like to do is come by when you have more time to talk. How does [day] at [time] work for you?"
  4. "It's not in our budget right now."
    Your response: "In that case, now is the perfect time to meet! We've found it very beneficial to discuss future needs and our solution early so that we can be of help during your decision making process. Why don't we just get together [day] at [time]?"

11. Celebrate every call.

If the call went well (and you achieved your goal), take a few moments to congratulate yourself. If not, you've just gotten that much closer to a call that will go well. So celebrate anyway. You deserve it. It's a tough job.