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Learn from three businesses that have found creative ways to use cold calls in their business.

Cold calling may leave you with sweaty palms and a lump in your throat, but it is also a time-tested, proven method for adding more prospects to your sales funnel. And it’s working for businesses that you’d never guess were employing the old-school marketing technique.

Here are three examples of businesses that use cold calling to increase their log of potential customers. 

1. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Jim Schneider, co-founder and president of Eyes of Faith, a designer and distributor of niche eyewear that sends a pair of glasses to a person in need for every pair purchased, uses cold calling as a strategy to introduce his products in optical retail shops.

To get customers talking, Schneider says he usually starts with a series of open-ended questions to give customers a chance to express their interest in the product. It’s a skill he learned in the insurance business, where he worked before starting the company in 2008.

And it works: Since starting the company two years ago, 500 locations now carry the product.

RELATED: 8 Etiquette Tips for Small Business Sales Calls

2. Keep Your Pitch Short

Bill Hobbs, an author and speaker in Arlington, Va., uses cold calling to market his latest book and speaking services. Lately, he’s been trying to get his book, The Work Book: How to Build Your Personal Brand and Get Hired, in local bookstores and in the national chains. His strategy?  When Hobbs reaches his prospect, he follows a script that goes something like this: “I'm an author. I've written a book that is for a very large market of people, estimated at over 10 million. If I have books on the shelf, we'll be able to move books.”

Hobbs says new vendor relationships only happen if he can capture their attention in the first minute. “With any cold calling it's important to understand what you goal is, what your value is, and you want to understand how to position that value as quickly as possible,” Hobbs says.

3. Ask Permission to Pitch—and Know When to Stop

Colleen Lloyd-Roberts, owner and founder of the Charlotte-based Top Notch Crystal Nail Files, relies on cold calling to generate about 40 percent of their revenues. She calls on salons, retail stores and boutiques in hopes they’ll care her product.

When she calls, Lloyd-Roberts asks permission for 30 seconds of their time. If they’re not interested after 30 seconds, she gives them permission to hang up.

And she doesn’t rely exclusively on the technique. “I mix it up and also use social media, postcards, trade shows, networking and e-mail blasts,” she says. “But cold calling puts you on the other end of the line with a live voice,” giving you a better chance of making the case for your business.

RELATED: How to Build a Strong Inside Sales Team

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