At a high school in Knox City, Texas, a robot roams the halls. And it’s there because a sales representative made a cold call to a school official.
Lyndon Baty is a high school freshman who thought he couldn’t go to school because of his severely compromised immune system. But Lyndon is now able to attend classes — through a robot surrogate.
The robot is little more than a camera and flat-screen display mounted on a remote-controlled mobile base. It’s about three feet tall, and with it, Lyndon can see and hear his teachers and interact with his classmates. The machine is made by a company called VGO, which designs applications for remote business management.
And it got into the school’s hands because someone at VGO cold-called the principal.
Selling to schools is tough. You might think that because of the dismal state of the economy, cold calling is a dying art. The only clients who continue to provide dollars are repeat clients with whom you or your company have created long-standing relationships. But cold-calling is an integral part of selling to schools.
Think of it: New teachers, administrators and department chairs are always being hired. Each of these professionals represents a new set of ideas for education management — but more importantly, each of them represents a new set of ears.
But if you haven’t done it in a while, cold calling is a challenge. Here’s a quick refresher, so you can get back to selling to the schools that need what you’re pitching.
Calling someone you’ve never met on the phone, in order to sell them something they may not be sure they need, is incredibly daunting. So don’t beat yourself up over being apprehensive. But it’s also important to maintain a sense of perspective: A cold call is just one phone call. It might work, it might not. And every call you complete makes the next one easier.
Of course you should know everything there is to know about the product or service you’re selling. But it’s also important to know as much as you can about who you’re calling. Selling to schools means knowing who you’re selling to. Schools are easier than ever to learn about; a quick tumble through the internet should give you a good briefing on the school you’re calling. And if you can find out something about the teacher you’ll be talking to, so much the better. Learn which classes they teach, where they got their degrees, and anything else you can. Anything you know will put you that much closer to your goal.
The sale isn’t always the immediate goal. Don’t think to yourself: “If I don’t make a sale on this call, then I’ve failed.” Remember that, when you’re selling to schools, a cold call is the first step in a blossoming relationship. In fact, don’t even try to sell anything on your first cold call. Simply introduce yourself, point to your company’s website, provide your contact information and say you’d be happy to answer any questions. The sale will come after you’ve developed a relationship.
But unless you have an Academy Award or a degree from Julliard, remember that the script is just a guideline. Don’t follow it too closely, or your sales target will think they’re listening to a recording. But keep it in mind when your sales targets are asking questions. In fact, you might even want to consider keeping a list of answers frequently asked questions handy whenever you make a cold call.
Don’t think of that administrative assistant as your enemy; think of him or her as someone who has the ear of the department chair or the principal. Be nice. Be genuine. Your kindness may pay off in the end.
Like the rest of us, teachers, administrators and professors tend to be more charged-up in the morning and better able to make decisions. Get them when they’ve just had their morning coffee and haven’t had time to start having a bad day, and you’ll be more likely to see fruitful results.
Unless someone tells you to stop calling and hangs up the phone, there’s no reason to think you’re pursuing a pointless lead. If someone isn’t returning your calls, or hasn’t bought anything yet, or takes a long time to make decisions, that’s just a reason to find a new way of pitching your products and services. Be polite, but be persistent.