Do’s And Don’ts For Prospecting and Cold Calls

by Art Sobczak

Art Sobczak

Art Sobczak

By Art Sobczak

My good friend Jim asked for some sales tips to share here, so I decided to post about a topic that most salespeople would rather avoid: prospecting, also known as cold calling.

If you’re a salesperson, at least part of your income probably relies on talking to new prospects. Yet, many reps would rather have their fingernails removed slowly than make cold calls. And it’s no wonder; with the abundant number of resistance-inducing techniques out there, salespeople set themselves up for failure.

Here are some common sense "do’s and don’ts" to help you set more quality appointments on cold calls:

1. Do get information first.

The more you know about your prospect before placing a cold call and speaking with him, the better your chances of an appointment. It will help you prepare a more customized opening and better questions, plus it impresses the prospect.

Conversely, if you have to ask, "Uh, what do you guys do there?" you’re labeled as a time-wasting, self-interested peddler. Work with the screener or anyone who answers the phone:

"I hope you can help me. First, I’m looking for the name of the person there who handles the exterior maintenance and landscaping for your building. (After getting the name, continue.) Thank you. So I’m better prepared when I speak with him, there’s probably some information you can help me with, first."

You could get almost all of your qualifying questions answered by people other than your decision-maker on your cold calls.

2. Don’t send information before the cold call.

Busy decision-makers toss unsolicited, bulging packages of literature with form letters (regardless of how many times your word processor mail merged their names into the body). Starting out a cold call with, "I sent you a letter, didja get it?" rarely elicits a response like, "Oh, yeah. You’re that guy. I want to meet with you!"

3. Don’t believe cold calling is just a "numbers" game.

The lottery is a numbers game. Cold calling for appointments is a quality game. Approach each with an attitude of accomplishment and desire. Don't burn through the list of prospects as fast as you can with the expectancy that your number will be drawn eventually.

4. Don’t ask for a decision in the opening of a cold call.

Never open the call by including the goofy phrase, ". . . and I would like to drop by Tuesday at 2:00, or would 4:00 be better?" People are resistant when faced with decisions before they see any value. Also avoid the equally inane question, "If I could show you a way to ___ , you would, wouldn’t you?" No one likes to be "techniqued." The only way they’ll consider investing time with you is if they see some value in doing so.

5. Do have an interest-creating opening on your cold call.

Here’s one you might be able to adapt:

"Ms. Bigg, I’m ____ with ____. My company specializes in (fill in with the ultimate result customers want and get from you, i.e., ‘helping garden centers generate more business during the off-season’). Depending on what you’re doing now, and your objectives, this might be something worth taking a look at. I’d like to ask a few questions to see if you’d like more information."

6. Do ask questions on the cold call.

Some pundits suggest going for the appointment on a cold call quickly and never divulging information. Bunk. Those are likely people who are insecure with their (in)abilities to communicate by phone. If someone doesn’t have potential, I want to find that out now from my office rather than schlepping across town (or country) to learn the same thing. And if the prospect is qualified and has interest, I can pique his curiosity a bit by phone and pre-sell him on what we’ll speak about when I arrive. For example:

"Pat, based on what you told me, it looks like you could show quite a significant labor savings with a system like ours. The best thing to do would be for us to get together so I can ask a few more questions about your operation and show you some of our options to see if we have a fit. How about next week?"

Then narrow down a convenient time for both of you.

7. Do make a confirmation call after the cold call.

Some might suggest this gives them a chance to cancel. That’s right. And if they’re of this mindset, they either wouldn’t be there when you did arrive, or they wouldn’t give you the time of day. A phone call gives you a chance to address either situation and save time.

8. Do keep cold calling.

And don’t let a "no" get you down. The last call has nothing to do with the next unless you let negative feelings strangle your attitude. Talking to people generates income, but avoiding the phone, stuffing envelopes and walking around do not. Set a secondary objective, one you can accomplish on every call, such as simply qualifying someone as a prospect or not, so you can have a success of sorts on every call.

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