Before voicemail and email became part of everyday life, many salespeople preferred to visit prospects in person instead of calling them on the phone. This is known as in-person cold calling or in-person prospecting.
In-person visits aren't as common today, but they can still be a valuable technique in B2B sales. If you're the first salesperson who has stopped by a particular office, the novelty can help you get your foot in the door.
Benefits of In-Person Prospecting
Though individual consumers are more likely to be uncomfortable with a stranger stopping by their home to sell them something, visiting a prospect's office can be a useful tool to make your business stand out or create valuable connections with potential clients.
- Discover context clues. In-person cold calling gives you access to clues that you would never uncover over the phone. Is the office shabby or perfectly maintained? Is the landscaping lush or is it all gravel and concrete? How is it decorated? How do the staff seem to feel? All of these are clues to the prospect's state of mind, which can tell you what approach will work best to secure an appointment or make a sale.
- Gather information. Dropping in on an office allows you to talk to people who might have useful information about the company in general. A few minutes with the receptionist can yield the names of decision-makers, how they feel about the business solutions they currently use, what their schedules are like, and more. Even in buildings where you can't move past the lobby without an appointment, you can still find company names from the building directory so that you can look them up later for a phone call or email.
- Schedule a sales meeting. The person making purchasing decisions may not be able to see you if you drop by unexpectedly. But you can use the time to introduce yourself and schedule a meeting. Most people find it harder to say no in person than over the phone or email. This can work to your advantage, allowing you to get an appointment on the calendar, as well as their contact information.
- Drop off samples or information. Even if you have the opportunity to make a full sales pitch without an appointment, you're unlikely to close a sale during a cold visit. But you can leave behind samples of your products, brochures, or other marketing materials. You can also use the time to get a sense of the business's needs or interests, which can allow you to follow up with more information or suggestions at a later date.
How to Approach In-Person Cold Calling
Many people are uncomfortable when confronted with unexpected social or business interactions. When stopping by for an in-person cold call, it's important to set the prospect at ease immediately to increase your chances of making a sale.
Start by giving a reason for being there, such as:
- A nearby appointment: I was working with your neighbors, and I have a few minutes until my next appointment. I'd be happy to do a 15-minute assessment for you at no charge.
- Being new to the area: This is my first time visiting your building, and I wanted to introduce myself and get to know some of the people here.
- A referral: I was working with the business next door, and the owner suggested I stop by and introduce myself.
This technique works best with a low-pressure sales strategy. Try to get the name and phone number of the decision-maker and ask a few questions to see if this is a qualified prospect for your product.
Like a cold call over the phone, your main goal will be to set a future appointment, rather than trying to close a sale during your first visit. However, if your timing is just right, you may be invited to present your case immediately. If the opportunity does arise, you should always be prepared with whatever marketing materials you will need for a full sales presentation.