To Hell With Cold Calling – 3 Steps to Warming Inactive Accounts

If cold calling is not one of your favorite pastimes try a different tack.

Try making “warmer” calls and watch your sales results improve. You do that by targeting “inactive accounts.” An inactive account is an account that has bought from you in the past but has not make a purchase in the past year or so.

3 Good Reasons

Here are some practical reasons why you should reactivate an inactive account:

  • You have a targeted list. The list is in house, you have ready access to it and it is targeted. This saves you money and time purchasing a list. You can start calling immediately.
  • You know them. Since you have a record of the past purchase(s) you have an idea of where to start when you make the call. You can see the size, quantity and frequency of past sales. This makes your pre call planning much easier.
  • They know you. Obviously, the account knows of you. They have some sort of history with your company even if it was a one time buy. But what this really means is that less time and effort is needed to help educate the client. It can help reduce the sales cycle.

When you put all these points together you have a call that is much easier to make compared to calling a complete stranger off a purchased list.

Why We Resist Inactive Accounts

Despite the benefits, many sales reps avoid calling inactive accounts. Most feel that the client has left for one of two reasons:

– the price was too high or,
–  there was a customer service problem.

The feeling is: “it is better to let a sleeping dog lie.”

Not so!

While price and customer service can be legitimate reasons for customers taking their business elsewhere, the number ONE reason why customers leave is simply due to neglect. A variety of studies reveal that as many as 68% of those customers who leave do so simply because they had no reason to stay.

Sixty eight percent!

Think about it. They have left because no one cultivated the relationship. The order was taken and that was it. The account was ignored. No one paid attention to it. The more positive implication is this: spend a little time and pay a little attention and you can probably reactivate some of these accounts.

The 3 Steps to Reactivating Inactive Accounts

Before the Call

Before picking up the phone take a moment or two to review the customer file. Take a look at the sales record and see what possible opportunities there might be. The file might be slim and meager but it is a start.

The Call – 3 Simple Rules

Here are three simple rules to guide you:

Rule #1:  Do make reference to past relationship.

While not all your accounts will remember the relationship, it is important that you leverage it. This is what helps make the call warmer. The client tends to be somewhat more receptive.

Rule #2:  Do not ask why they stopped buying.

This is a common mistake. By asking why a client has stopped buying one of two things can happen. First, you can unnecessarily open a can of worms. If the account does have a gripe, they will tell you. (More on that in a moment). Second, asking the question will often put your client on the spot. Many will feel defensive; some feel vaguely guilty and even embarrassed. Avoid this.

Rule #3:  Do a complete needs analysis; ask questions

Treat the account as thought it were brand new. Much can change in year or more. Ask the client questions to discover needs and opportunities. This also prevents you from pitching. Create a new beginning with this client  using a consultative sales approach.


Mr./Ms._________ This is ___________ calling from ____________.

Mr./Ms.___________ We have worked with you in the past by providing you with _____. (list the product).  Of course, at this point in time I am not precisely certain of your needs but if I have caught you at a good time, I would like to ask you some questions to determine if we can help you (insert your benefit statement such as ‘cut the cost of delivery,’ ‘lower your prices,’ ‘source hard to find items’).

What types of _______ are you using now?”

What If…

But what if the client does have a problem or an issue from the past?

If the account refers to a problem ask what happened. Get the details. Many times the client simply feels the need to vent. It does not necessarily mean they will not buy more. Hear them out. Acknowledge their concern; express regret. Fix the problem if you can. But go on to say that you would like to start the relationship anew. What is the worst they can say?

What if the client references price issues?

Treat the price objection like you would with any other client. You need to question to determine if the issue is one of pure price or one of value. You need to probe to determine if there are opportunities for quantity discounts. You need to use negotiation skills.

What if they have a current supplier?

Big deal! Everyone has a supplier. You need to earn the business. This means nurturing the relationship.


Inactive accounts are easier to sell than cold prospects. This does not mean selling is a piece of cake. You still have work to do. But it does mean you have a bit of an edge.  Make sure you reactivate your inactive accounts!

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