Tag Archives: pre-call planning

The Brutal Truth About Pre-Call Research and Planning

The following post is from my January 2013 newsletter  (Tele-Sales Vitamins).  It got a good deal of response from readers.  See what you think? Am I spot on or am I off the mark?  You tell me.

Pre-call research and planning prior to picking up the phone and calling the prospect or customer is a good thing, right?

Trainers, consultants and bosses laud the effort. They encourage it. Push it. We’re repeatedly told that taking the time to gather information about the client is a smart thing. We’re told we should carefully plan the call to ensure it’s success.  All in all, this pre-work  helps us position ourselves as ‘consultative.’ It helps give us a competitive edge.  Makes us more money. So it’s a slam dunk activity, right?

Or is it?

While it may seem counter-intuitive, less research and planning may actually be more effective than more and may actually lead to more sales and revenues!

The 2 Perils of Pre-Call Research and Planning

There are a couple of perils that can be associated with too much research and planning.  The first is that it gets awfully easy to go overboard with these tasks. What can happen is that more time is spent on pre-call activities than on picking up the phone and making the call. This impacts productivity, not to mention the opportunity cost. When you spend too much time in researching and planning, what are you giving up? Ultimately you may be sacrificing more opportunities to sell or generate leads because you’re dialing less.

Pre-call research and planning can be (and often is) a form a procrastination. Think about it: it’s much easier and far less risky to browse the internet or leaf through newspapers, or review old files or study past notes or analyze company reports than it is to telephone the client.  Calling clients can lead to rejection and discouragement so we convince ourselves that if we research longer and harder we’ll minimize the chance of the customer or prospect terminating  the call. What makes it even worse is that all this pre-work can give you a false sense of ‘doing.’ It becomes seductively easy to persuade yourself that you’re achieving things.

The other peril is that developing a detailed plan for your call (including composing an e-mail, editing it , changing it,  developing your telephone opener, your questioning sequence, etc. etc. etc.) can not only waste time it can sometimes make you too rigid and structured in your approach. It can impact your ability to be flexible and respond to the curve balls a client might throw at you.

The Case For Pre- Call Research and Planning 

On the other hand, blindly picking up the phone and winging it is a clear recipe for disaster too.

A certain degree of research can be extremely effective in getting your foot in the door and giving you a competitive edge. It can’t and shouldn’t be ignored. Similarly, planning the overall strategy and structure of your call gives you clear direction and greater focus. Jotting down your objectives, laying out your opening statement, making a list of key questions and having a list of key selling points is a wise course of action… provided you don’t go overboard.  (Go here for more information on how Mr. Spock would plan his call)

5  Tips to Balancing Pre Call Research and Planning with Productivity

So what’s the answer? Of course, it’s all a matter of degree. Here’s a checklist for you (AND your manager) to use to determine the level and extent of your pre-call work. All of the items should be taken into account and evaluated collectively. No single item stands on it’s own.

1. The Value of the Sale

What’s the possible payoff? If the value of the potential sale is relatively high, take the time and conduct the necessary research and plan accordingly.

2. The Nature of the Sale

Is your sale simple or complex? If the sale is simple (i.e., one decision maker, low price, many competitive products in the marketplace, short sales cycle) not a lot of research and planning  is necessary. This is not say you should ignore doing some homework but at the end of the day, a minute or two is probably all that’s necessary.

If your sale is complex (i.e., multiple decision makers, higher price, longer sales cycle) more time should be devoted to the effort (with due consideration to the other points listed here).

3. The Prospect

Who are you calling? Are you calling a buyer in a large firm? If so, there’s not a lot you can do before picking up the phone. Buyers are usually paid to source the best value which usually means price.

Are you calling a top executive at a Fortune 500 company? If so, spend the time to scan a few sites and look for something on the individual and/or the company. But here too, it’s a matter of degree. Sometimes you can be searching for something that doesn’t exist. Consequently you search and search, and all the while, rationalize the waste time and effort.  Do this instead: check out Google Alerts and learn how the internet can work for you. Browse newspapers or journals or newsletters. But here’s the IMPORTANT thing: do that in evenings or early morning or over lunch so that it doesn’t interfere with your dialing effort. .

4. The Objective of the Call

What is the objective of the particular call you are making? If it’s to sell directly, then perhaps more time is necessary bearing in mind your prospect or customer, the nature of the sale and the value potential. On the other hand, if the call is to generate a lead or invite the client to a webinar or seminar, your research and planning might be toned down a bit.

5. Your Objectives and Results

Maybe this is the most important consideration. How well are you doing relative to your sales objectives? If you have high objectives and you’re not hitting them, maybe you need to spend more time in doing (making the calls) and less time in ‘doing other things.’ Sometimes you need to dive in and just make things happen. Sometimes – often- it is  a simple matter of elbow grease. Try discussing your situation with your manager (because, in all honesty, sometimes the problem is that reps flail about making calls without the least bit of thought, research and planning).


Look, I am all for preparation. It generates ‘smart’ selling. The amount of time YOU spend on pre-call activities is often a matter of common sense and utter honesty. Some calls require a good deal of research. Most don’t. So be brutally honest with yourself. Are you doing all this pre-work in the legitimate quest to find something or simply because you’re procrastinating? Then act accordingly

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This is Why Calls Wander Aimlessly

by Art Sobcak (www.businesbyphone.com)


On a commercial for an online brokerage, one guy asked another,

“Does your brokerage house give you objective advice?”

“Yeah, their objective always is to sell me something.”

Of course that was meant to be a humorous slam on full-service brokers whose intent is to sell stocks instead of give objective advice.

A  Clear Objective

However, it got me thinking about how lots of sales reps do NOT have a clear objective when they pick up the phone.

For example, when I ask reps for objectives before calls I hear such things as,

“I want to see who they’re buying from now.”

“I’d like to qualify and send out some info.”

“Want to see if they have any needs.”

Granted, all of those should be accomplished, but none are the end RESULT you’re ideally looking for on a call.

You wouldn’t you get in your car and say, “I’m going to start my car, and then just go out on the road somewhere.”

No, you get in your car because you have a very specific destination in mind. And when you have a destination, then you figure out what route you need to take in order to get there. Then you follow that route. And usually you arrive.

Yet, many sales reps get on the phone with no clear, specific destination in mind. Then they end up cruising aimlessly, and not surprisingly, ending their wayward journey without a pleasing

Maybe you’ve had that feeling after a call. Where you sit there shaking your head, thinking, “What just happened on that call? I was all over the place.”

This week’s Tip is boring, simple, but yet required for success:

Have a Primary Objective before each call.

I define your Primary Objective as what you want them to DO as a result of the call.

Again, emphasis on the DO. It must be action-oriented.

The ultimate Primary Objective is to get them to buy on this call.

Perhaps your objective is to “Get agreement that the customer will take your proposal to the board meeting and recommend its approval.”

Maybe you want to qualify, generate interest, and get the prospect to agree to do a side-by-side comparison between his existing product and yours.

Look at these again. They all involve your prospect/customer DOING something.

And think big. One thing’s for sure: if you aim low, you’ll rarely hit above your target. When you aim high, you’ll sometimes reach it, and on average, will achieve greater results than if you start low.
Action Item
So here’s your homework: For every call you place from here on out, simply ask, “What do I want this person to DO as a result of this call?” That’s your Primary Objective.

And when you have your end target in mind, it’s much easier to plot your map, and ultimately arrive at the target.

As Dr. Steven Covey says in his “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” begin with the END in mind.

Art Sobczak is president of Business by Phone and is North America’s premiere B2B telephone selling trainer. Author of several books on tele-sales, Art’s practical, no-holds-barred approach to sales is refreshing AND effective.  Visit his website at www.businessbyphone.com or call him directly at 1 800 326 7721. Be sure to sign up for his newsletter!
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12 Tips For Handling “Runaway” Talkers (Part I)

Runaway talkers are customers  who will talk your ear off.  I don’t mean those who chat two or three minutes but those that go on and on and on.

The Cost of a Runaway Talker

Of course, the real dilemma is that runaway talkers ARE customers – sometimes VERY good customers- and we don’t want to terminate the call and risk their discontent and possibly lose their business.  Consequently most telephone based sales reps ‘suffer’ through it and accept it as a necessary part of business.

But long winded talkers come with a cost.  They cost you time, money and opportunity.  Every moment you spend in idle chatter is moment you could have spent on new business development,  other customer calls, projects, paperwork, the whole gamut.  Runaway talkers can cause frustration and anxiety when you get behind on tasks and activities.  They can cause resentment if you have to work overtime or you miss a deadline or fall short on your objectives.

So it is important that you know how to diplomatically manage a runaway talker and get back to work.  Here are six tips to get you started.

Tip #1: Plan Your Call Before You Call

All calls should be planned but with runaway talkers you need to take a few extra moments to plot the approach to your call.  Determine the objectives of the calls. Prepare questions to keep the call on track. Expect their conversational segues and review the tactics below so that you can turn to them if and when needed.

Tip #2:  Use an Opening Statement that Conveys Time Sensitivity

Use your opening statement to establish a focus and a time limit up front before the talker begins to ramble. He or she will still talk but at least you’ve created a pre-text for concluding the call when the time comes. Here some good opening templates:

                “Gina, it’s _________ from __________. Gina, just a very, very quick call to check on ________.

This opening uses ‘very’ twice and is delivered with a faster than normal pace.  The idea is to create a sense of urgency; like you’re juggling a half dozen tasks, and that THIS call is going to be very quick.  Your words and tone reveal that to your client. Here’ another:

“Hey Mark, _______ it’s _________ calling from  ________. Mark, I have 3 quick reasons for my call today before I have to rush off.”

This opener alerts the listener to your agenda (3 reasons).  Again, the word ‘quick’ is tossed in for good measure.  The idea is that you have some specific things to accomplish and you’ve laid out the plan.  Speed up the pace of your voice. Here’s one more:

“Ron,  it’s ________ calling from ________ I wanted to touch bases before I leave for my 9:30 meeting in about 7-8 minutes.”

In this case, your caller knows your precise availability. The meeting is your excuse to terminate the call if necessary and since they were warned about it, it is easier to interrupt without feeling rude.

Tip #3: Do NOT Volunteer any Extraneous Information

Be careful to avoid the rapport building questions that will take you down endless verbal trails.  The  trouble with most runaway talkers is that they are generally very nice people.  When you say, “How was your weekend?” they dive right in, open up and tell you EVERYTHING about their weekend from Friday at 5:00 till Sunday at 10:00.

Similarly, when you say, “Hey, how ‘bout those Flyers over the Penguins?” you’re asking for long winded trouble.  If you have time, go ahead and ask but if it’s a busy day, avoid mundane questions.

Tip #4:  Limit YOUR Responses

If you’re asked about ‘those Flyers’ give a one line reply to acknowledge the remark and then move to a question to refocus the call.  “Yes, it was quite a game.  By the way Ron, did you get that proposal I sent you about the next implementation phase?”   Don’t make a remark about Sydney Crosby’s on ice behavior unless you want to chat about hockey for the next 18 minutes.

Tips #5:  Minimize Your Use of Open Ended Questions

Open ended questions are generally very good for selling situations.  With runaway talkers it can be their ticket to chatsville.  This is not to say you should not use open ended questions but rather minimize their use.

Tip #6:  Maximize Your Use of Close Ended Questions

In Tip #4, the rep asked a runaway talker a close ended question: did you get the proposal? It narrows the focus and reduces the client’s chance to open up.  Very quickly, follow up with another close ended question such as, “Were the quantities correct?”  “Was the price in range?”, “Would you like to proceed?”  Questions like these may seem a  bit abrupt but that’s what is often necessary.

NOTE: Runaway talkers can still open up and ramble on even if you ask a close ended question but using close ended questions helps reduce the tendency and helps channel the direction of the call.

In the next article you’ll find six more tactics to politely ‘manage and direct’ talkative clients and get you back to work.

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How to Deliver “Bad” News to Customers

Delivering bad news (e.g., delayed shipment, software virus, no warranty coverage etc.)  to customers is not usually pleasant.

Bad news is bad news but how you deliver it can have an impact on future customer relations. There are five steps to delivering bad news in a more effective, customer concentric manner:

Step #1: Prepare and Plan Your Call

Before you make you call, gather all the facts surrounding the situation.  Try to anticipate your client’s reaction by asking, ‘what would I ask, want or demand if it were me?’  Think of what you want to say and HOW you want to say it.   Use a sheet of paper to jot down key points you want to make or important questions you might want to ask.   Determine action plans, alternative recommendations or other solutions to help mitigate the issue.  Finally, minimize external distractions.  If necessary, find a private office to avoid interruptions so you can give 100% of your attention to the issue at hand.

Step #2: Don’t Delay

There’s an old adage, “If you have to eat crow, it is best to eat it while it’s young and tender.  Crow does not get better with age. “  Good advice.

Deliver your ‘dreaded news’ as soon as possible especially if you’re at fault or if there are significant implications.  Bad news is bad enough but delays suggest indifference which can exacerbate the situation.  Gather your information and then pick up the phone.

Step #3: Don’t Beat Around the Bush

When you get your customer on the phone do NOT try to build rapport or make small talk.  It will ultimately ring as false.  This is probably the most awkward part of any call. Here is a nifty technique you can use to break the news.  After you’ve introduced yourself and your company follow this template:

 “Aaron, I have heard back from shipping regarding your last order < slight pause>

(In effect, this preps your client about the topic or issue)

I’m afraid I have some bad news <slight pause>

(This is an extremely important line because it ‘warns’ the client that bad news is forthcoming.  The bad news isn’t quite so shocking when they are anticipating ‘something.’)

The shipment is delayed for two weeks.  It will arrive on the 18th of May <slight pause>

(Okay, so this is where you lay it on the line.  No frills. No obfuscation.  Black and white.  Facts. The dreaded news)

I am sorry about this news.  I know you have due dates and this must be distressing. <slight pause>

(Finally, you conclude your message delivery with an apology and acknowledge the implications.)

Of course your tone of delivery is ABSOLUTELY critical.  The pace should be somewhat slower than you normally talk.  This allows the customer to absorb and comprehend the message.  It also helps make you sound more sincere.  Your tone must resonate with concern and regret.  Use the pauses after each sentence.  Most of the time, the client will allow you to continue as they adjust to your message.

Step #4: Let Them Respond

Pause a bit longer after your last line.  One of two things will happen at this stage. One, they  interject with a question, a comment, a lament, maybe even a curse or two.  It will vary with the individual and the situation but it is important that you let them vent or comment.  It is an emotional moment so bare that it mind if it gets a little heated.

Or two, they will say nothing.  This is kind of a kin to being in shock.  Use it to your advantage.  If they don’t reply right away, move to the final step below.

Step #5: Offer a Plan of Action or Alternatives

Here’s where your pre-call planning can help you out.  If you have an alternative or a plan of action, say so. Tell the client what you CAN do.

“Aaron, here’s what I have done…” or,

“Aaron, here’s what I recommend we do…” or,

“Aaron, I haven’t given up on this. As I see it we have three options…”

Of course, this assumes there is a Plan B.  If not, summarize the action items you took:  who you spoke with, the various avenues you searched, etc.   It won’t always appease the upset client but it will convey that you attempted to DO something.


Hopefully you won’t have too many dreaded calls to make but when you do, remember these steps.  How you respond with tough news will often dictate the future of that particular customer. This approach is a responsible approach.  Many of your clients will sense that and work with you to achieve a satisfactory solution.  Give it a shot.

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8 Things You Have in Common with Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady

by Mark Hunter, www.thesaleshunter.com

If you’re in sales, what do you have in common with Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady?

Don’t laugh, because you have more in common than you think. Let me give you 8 things:

1. You spend far more time preparing than you actually do selling or playing a game.

2. You can’t do your job without a sales plan or a playbook.

3. You can’t do your job without knowing something about your prospect or a scouting report.

4. You can’t do your job without feedback from your customers or your coaches.

5. You always face obstacles with the little things that get in the way or the fans who can annoy you.

6. You face objections each day just like they face tough defenses in every game.

7. You have bad sales calls you have to bounce back from quickly, just as they have bad games from which they have to bounce back.

8. You have amazing sales calls with amazing results, just as they can complete the pass no one expected.

Yes! You as a salesperson have far more in common with the great NFL quarterbacks than you maybe had first thought.  As much as we all have in common with them, there are a lot of differences.

The biggest difference between Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and a salesperson is probably the salary.  Sadly, another difference  worth looking closely at is commitment.

Aaron and Tom are committed to doing their job at a level that goes far beyond the level of commitment 99% of all salespeople have toward their job.

Let me leave you with one question.

How much more successful would you be if you were to increase your commitment level?  I’m not asking for it to go to the same level as Aaron and Tom give — I’m just asking, “What would happen if you stepped up your game?”

Only you know the answer.   It’s worth exploring.

Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunt” is a consultative selling expert committed to helping individuals and companies identify better prospects, close more sales and profitably build more long term customer relationships. To learn more visit his web site at www.thesaleshunter.com

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6 Ways to Impress a Prospect

By Kelley Robertson, www.fearless-selling.ca

In today’s ultra-competitive business world it is becoming more difficult to stand out from the crowd and impress new prospects. However, there are a few things you can do to achieve this and start increasing your sales.

1 – Do your homework

Before you pick up the telephone and dial for dollars invest a few minutes to research the company or person you are calling. You don’t need to spend hours on this, simply do enough homework that you can speak intelligently about their potential issues.

A friend of mine was cold calling a company and he read through their recent annual report—which was available on their website. During his conversation he referenced a point from the report and his prospect said, “You know more than I do!”

2 – Be punctual

I have heard sales people proclaim, “Why can’t my prospect see me; I’m only 10 minutes late?”

Late is late! You are either on time or you aren’t.

If you say you will call someone at 2:30 make sure you follow through. Allow plenty of time for travel when meeting face-to-face with prospects. Road construction, an accident or other unexpected delays shouldn’t cause you to be late.

Key decision makers are too busy to wait for you so be punctual and on time. It’s a little thing but it makes a big difference.

3 – Get to the point

Don’t waste a lot of time on small talk or social chit-chat—unless your prospect initiates this type of conversation. Instead, get to the reason for the meeting. Your prospect will respect you and you will stand out from your competition.

An effective to open is to verify the time available, “Mrs. Prospect, when we spoke last we allotted 60 minutes for today’s meeting; is that still good?” This ensures that you and your contact are both on the same page with respect to scheduling.

4 – Recap

Just before you launch into your sales presentation, recap your understanding of your prospect’s situation, problems or concerns. This bullet-point summary demonstrates to your prospect that you have a handle on their issues and captures their attention immediately. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to modify the presentation of your offering if your prospect’s situation has changed since your last conversation.

5 – Focus on them

Instead of talking about your company, your client list, your products and services, how long you have been in business or anything else that focuses the attention on you and your company, concentrate on showing your prospect how your offering will help them and/or their organization.

Prospects are not interested in hearing the self-puffery details that your marketing department so desperately wants you to share. They want to know how you can help them solve a potential problem. The more your presentation focuses on this, the longer you will your prospect’s attention and the greater the likelihood you will move the sales process forward.

6 – Don’t overstay your welcome

Unfortunately, many sales calls and meetings go into overtime which disrupts the decision makers’ already jam-packed schedule. I have personally been on the receiving end of sales call that was supposed to take 30 minutes but quickly stretched to 40 and would have gone on longer had I not cut it short.

Just because you have 60 minutes allotted for your meeting does not mean you have to use it all. You can impress a prospect by wrapping up early and giving them a few minutes of “free” time. You will never hear a prospect say, “Wait…we had 60 minutes scheduled for this meeting and we’re only at fifty. Keep talking for another ten minutes.”

These six steps will help you impress your prospects and stand out from the competition.

What others can you think of?

Kelley Robertson is president of the Robertson Training Group. Kelley is the author of two sales books, Stop, Ask & Listen-Proven Sales Techniques to Turn Browsers into Buyers and The Secrets of Power Selling. Both sales training books provide practical insights to improving your sales results. Visit his website at www.fearless-selling.ca or call him 905 633 7750.

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Hidden Telephone Selling Gems – The 10 Best TelesalesMaster Articles of 2011

There’s over a hundred articles on this site. Pretty daunting, isn’t it? To make it easier for you, here are the 10 most popular articles on this site (and other sites!)

#1:  The ABCs of Tele-Sales – 26 Powerful Tips for Tele-Sales Success – In this article you’ll get even more links on variety of tele-sales skills and techniques.

#2:  7 Cold Call Opening Statements From Hell – If you don’t nail the cold call opener, you don’t have to worry about the rest of the call.  Here are 7 openers you want to avoid.

#3:  How to Leave a Killer Voice Mail Message (And Get Your Calls Returned) – Tired of a lack of response from your voice mail messages?  Try this one on for size.

#4:  How to Slay a Sales Slump in 15 Minutes or Less – We’ve all experienced a slump. This award winning article tells you how to manage it.

#5:  The 5 Voice Mail Messages From Hell -Are Your Guilty of One of These? – The reason why your voice mail messages aren’t being returned is probably because the messages are weak. Do you leave one of these messages?

#6:  8 Sales Questions You Can’t Live (and Sell) Without –  The key to telephone sales success is in the questions you ask.  Good questions mean good answers. Here are 8 good questions!

#7:  How Mr. Spock  Would Plan and Prepare for a Follow Up Call – This article not only provides you with practical tips but also a job aid that you can download and use to plan your next follow up call.

#8:  “I am not interested!”  Dealing with the Ultimate Brush Off Objection – We’ve all heard it and it’s a tough nut to crack.  This article provides a rather provocative strategy to dealing with it.

#9:  8 Tips on How to Make a Perfect Follow Up Call – By far and away, this has been the most read article I have ever written.  Thousands and thousands of hits around the world. Find out why.

#10: 5 Ways to Overcome the Dreaded “Let Me Think About It” Objection – Don’t be caught off guard when a prospect tosses out this objection.  Here are 5 ways to deal with it.

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How to Find Your Competitor’s Achilles Heel and Exploit Competitve Weaknesses

Do you have competitors who seem totally invincible?

You know what I mean: you call a prospect and you find that your competitor is solidly entrenched.  You know you have a better product and you know the prospect could truly benefit from your services but the competitor’s ‘armor’ is too thick.

What do you do?

The trick is to look for your client’s Achilles Heel; finding a chink in the armor. It is about a professional and value added means of dealing with competitive situations.

The Achilles Heel

For those of you who haven’t recently picked up Homer’s The Iliad, Achilles was the Greek hero who fought against the Trojan Army several centuries ago. You remember? Helen of Troy; the Trojan Horse; Paris, Hector and a cast of thousands.

Achilles was one heck of hero too! He’d sweep in and out of battles knocking aside the enemy right, left and center. Achilles beat the Trojan best. Arrows seemed to brush off his armor like rain. Spears were deflected by his shield. Swords? Forget about it! He brushed them aside like flies.

Achilles is the perfect metaphor for those competitors who are solidly entrenched with prospects. They seem invincible. They seem to brush aside your attempts to get in with the account. Your head on efforts are defeated.

But Achilles was finally defeated; not by a deep sword thrust or a jab of a spear. No. Achilles was felled by arrow to his heel. Not his head or chest or stomach. Not to the usual parts that get injured in battle. His heel.  Achilles heel was the one single area of weakness in the great hero and it brought him down. (Gee, he must of embarrassed … I mean, his heel!)

From that point forward through history, the expression “look for the Achilles Heel” has been used to describe the process of finding a single, often small, point of weakness and exploiting it.

In competitive selling you need to look for the Achilles Heel and exploit it.

How to Find the Heel

The trick to finding the Achilles Heel is twofold.

The first trick is to know your product inside and out. Find out what distinguishes your product. It is sometimes known as your USP or “unique selling proposition.” It is what sets you apart; your products particular claim to fame.  But there is a little more to it than just the USP. You must know all the little things that differentiate your product from others. Little things can be a USP and they can very well be the Achilles Heel for which you are looking. This is especially true in commodity products and services. Often clients see one product as the same as another and are not aware of the subtleties that give your product additional value. In short, do your homework.

The second trick is to do the same thing with your competitor’s product. Know precisely what your competitor has to offer; know the ‘ins’ and ‘outs;’ know the strengths and determine their weaknesses. Search for the Achilles Heel!

Getting competitive information can be tough but it is not impossible. Here’s how you can search for the Heel:

  • Start with the obvious: your competitor’s web site. Chances are you won’t get much of an edge here but you never know. I have seen product specs, terms and conditions, white papers, special articles … you name it. Who knows?
  • Here is something a little gutsier. Call your competitor from your cell phone, pay phone, home or wherever and ask for company brochures and other literature.  Sometimes you’ll pick up a delicious morsel or two. At the very least you will be able to contrast and compare.
  • Discuss the competitive products at meetings with your manager, peers, marketers… virtually anyone who might have an insight or two.  I recommend you seek out veteran sales reps that have been with the company for a few years. If anyone has an angle, it would be these savvy vets from the trenches. The point is: ask.  In a recent training for a software reseller, we discovered there where two new sales reps in the group who had worked with two competitive firms. Heck, I’d lock them up in a tiny room and debrief them for days if necessary! What a treasure trove!
  • But ultimately, the single best source of competitive information is from your prospects and/or customers who use or have used the product. Go straight to the source. Ask them. Learn from them. Discover.
How to Ask for Information

Asking for competitive information is highly effective and relatively easy.  There are just two simple things to remember.  First, limit your competitive inquiries to no more than three questions. This is important. Beyond that the quality of information goes down. Most clients and prospects do not have the time or the patience for lengthy market research calls. You want to gather “market intelligence” which is far more informal and brief.

The second thing to remember is to ask questions that relate to your areas of strength to determine if they are areas of weakness with your client. For instance, suppose you sell fax broadcast services. It’s a highly competitive and price sensitive market.  One of your USPs is quality reports. Your reports tell the user that they are reaching disconnected numbers, voice mails or live voice. This is important for many clients who are concerned about the quality of the lists they are using. You want to know if your competitor has the same feature.

Here’s how you would introduce the request for information and pose the first question:

“Jordan, thank you for your time today.  Incidentally, while I have you, I am must gathering some market research and would just like to ask you a couple of questions. You mentioned that you use the Fax Street Boys. Tell me, does their report include details on no answers, disconnected numbers, voices mails and live answers?”

You might ask another question or two that relate to other USPs but no more than that. At this stage, it is vital to remember that you are searching for the Achilles Heel. You are not selling.  You ask and jot down the information. Take whatever they give you and store it.


Now here’s the important part. The NEXT time you run into the same competitive situation, ask this question again. And so on and so on.  The real point is that you are looking for a trend in the answers.

Here’s why. Some of the prospects or clients you speak with will not always give you the most accurate answers. Some don’t even know. Some don’t care.  Some give a lot more than others. Some will give you what they think you want.

You want information you can bank on; information that is accurate and reliable; information that clearly identifies the Achilles Heel. This is why you need to spend the time and the effort to ensure that your data is accurate. It might take you a few days or a few weeks.

(Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying drop everything and stop selling in order to gather your market intelligence. Far from it. I am saying, when the opportunity to gather the information arises, grab it. Typically, this will occur after you have made a prospecting call. At the end of the call, add your question)

At some point, you will have enough information to determine where your competitor is the weakest. You will have identified the Achilles Heel. Victory!

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Is Pre-Call Research a Waste of Time? Tips and Techniques to Improve Productivity and Effectiveness

How much time do you spend on pre-call research?

How much time do you spend gathering data on your prospect and looking for a clever edge before picking up the phone and calling the decision maker? Not a second?  A minute? Three minutes? Five?

When it comes to pre call research there tends to be two types of tele-sales reps: those who spend little or no time, and those who spend too much time… far too much time.  Very few reps spend the ‘right’ amount of time.

So where do you sit?

Too Little Time

The majority of tele-sales reps who make cold calls fall in this category.  And the majority of this majority don’t do any research at all.  They pick up the phone and play it by ear.  Sometimes it works out all right, other times it’s a disaster.

Of course, the trouble with too little research is that the unprepared rep wastes time and effort. He wastes his time and he wastes the prospect’s time.  Wasting time means poor or mediocre sales results, discouragement, frustration, tense bosses, lower commission cheques, job security … the whole nine yards.

Why do reps spend so little time on research?  Some don’t know how or what to research (and we’ll fix that today!)Others don’t understand the value.  Some have bosses who ‘won’t let them.’  And finally, there are those who are just complacent and lazy.

Too Much Time

I may offend some trainers and managers here but spending too much time methodically researching web sites, checking Linked In profiles, and running Google searches  can be just as bad (and maybe even worse) than spending too little time.

The trouble with too much research is that it can be a tremendous waste of time as well.  It takes time and effort to search, scan, read and analyze the data that you discover.  But the real problem is that the ROT (return on time) is rarely, if ever, there.

Don’t believe me?

Pick any five or ten websites and visit them.  You will NOT see a tab that says “Our Problems” or “Our Opportunities.”  You will never find a line that says, “click here if you are a sales rep looking to sell to our company.”  Glancing at a Linked In Profile can give you some insights on the decision maker provided they use Linked in.  But web sites and social media sites provide sanitized data. It is information that has been careful prepared and delivered and rarely is it of value.

In truth, the majority of reps who do loads of research are probably doing so not because they get valuable information but because it is an excuse not to pick up the telephone and dial as often as they should or could.  It is a way of procrastinating and avoiding rejection.

The Single Best Source of Information

Ultimately, the information or data you need lies in the hearts and minds of your prospects and nowhere else.  It is only by reaching them and dialoguing with them will you learn what makes them tick.  Period. End of sentence.

The sooner you reach a decision maker, the sooner you can zero in on an opportunity .. . if one even exists!

The Familiarization Process

So does this mean you shouldn’t do ANY research?

No.  Of course not. It is the degree of research that’s the issue.

Enter the Familiarization Process.

The Familiarization Process is a quick method of doing research on a prospect.  For those who do too little research it provides a means of gathering better data.  For those who do too much research it provides a means of trimming the effort. It provides a laser like focus to your pre call efforts.  Here’s how to do it.

Web Research

Go to your prospects web site and do this:

  • Check out the “About Us” or “Home” page.  In a few seconds you’ll have a quick feel for the prospect. You’ll know what they do.  Ask yourself: have you done business with a similar business? If yes, what were their issues, concerns, hopes, opportunities, challenges, interests or desires?  Leverage that experience. If not, speculate on how your offer might be of benefit to that company.
  • Sometimes there’s a ‘history’ tab.  Most of what you read is propaganda and/or vanity.   Don’t waste a lot time here. Honestly, your prospect won’t be impressed if you say, “I see that your firm started up in 1933 in the midst of the Depression.”
  • Click on  “Products” or “Services” page if they are listed and provided that your company’s solution has some sort of impact on the prospect’s products or services. If not, don’t waste your time surfing through the data no matter how interesting you find it.
  • Look for a “PR” (public relations) or “What’s New”  page.  These pages often hold little gems that you might use as a pre-text for calling.  It should take you no more than 8.75 seconds to check it out.  BTW, if they don’t have a PR page, chances are they are not sending out PR releases so you don’t have to worry about Googling them.
  • If you’re calling executives, quickly see if they have a page of biographies.  Some actually do.  This page can have potential if… IF… you are calling one of the individuals listed.  If not, skip it.

If you do all that, you’ve devoted less that 2 minutes to the process which is pretty good.

Telephone Research-

But look … if you want a fast, reliable way to get research information try doing this: pick up the phone and call your prospect’s sales and/or customer service department. These people typically have a wealth of information and most of them give it up freely.

Speak to a rep. Explain who you are and what you are trying to accomplish. Ask them if they could help you out.  Most will.  In particular, sales reps tend to open up because they are in the same boat as you.  They empathize.  Ask them questions about the following:

  • their company, their products and services (if applicable), their competition
  • the decision makers (who they are)
  • See if you can get direct phone numbers … better yet, e-mail addresses
  • Find out when they get in
How Much Time Should You Spend on Research

As a rule of thumb, for most products and services, spend no more than a couple of minutes researching your prospects.  By following the tips above you’ll have a process that is quick and efficient.

If you had to choose between web research and telephone research chose the telephone. Hands down. It is fast and usually more accurate than the web.


Don’t get me wrong: there are some sales situations where extensive research is vital and necessary.  Take the time and prepare accordingly.  Visit web sites, go to Linked in, and Google the crap out of the company.

But in the vast majority of cases only a minimum amount of research is necessary. Get familiar with your prospect. No more, no less.  Take a balanced approach to research. Do enough to feel comfortable with your prospect but don’t do so much that you are overwhelmed with detail.  Then, pick up the phone and dial. That’s where the real information lies.

At the end of day you’ll be more productivity because you’ll be able to make another 8-12 dials with the time that you saved. And at the end of the day you’ll be more effective because you’ll have more relevant information you can use it necessary.

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How Mr. Spock Would Plan and Prepare for a Follow Up Call

Mr. Spock, the venerable Vulcan from Star Trek would make a heck of a B2B telephone rep especially when it comes to making a follow up call to a prospect.

In many ways, a follow up call is more significant and critical than the initial cold call.  While the cold call may have initiated the sales cycle, the follow up call (or calls) completes it. It is here that the prospect turns into a customer … or at least takes another step down the path to becoming a customer.    Whether you are following up on a proposal or quote or webinar or whatever, making the most of the moment is the key to success.

Enter Spock.

Just in case you have never followed Star Trek,  Vulcans are a humanoid species that value and cherish logic above emotion.  They are trained from birth to think, analyze, and prepare for virtually every situation and event.  And that’s precisely why Spock would be magnificent with his follow up calls. His dedication to logic and planning would ensure a highly effective call and increase his chances for a sale.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be from another planet to be successful with your follow up. All you need to do is apply Spock-like principles to the planning and preparation of your call.  To help you with the process here is a downloadable call guide to get you thinking like a Vulcan.

Mr. Spock’s Tele-Prospecting Follow Up Call Guide

Spock’s tele-prospecting follow up guide is really nothing more than a job aid that you can use with each and every follow up call. It provides you with a 7-step process for organizing and planning your call.

1. Background Information and Assessment

The first step to a Spock-like call begins with a review of your last call to the prospect.  What was the key motivator that you uncovered? What were the hot buttons? Was there any personal information you can use to build rapport?  Note these items in the space provided on your guide.

Of course, all this really does is force you to pause and ponder.  It gets you to think before you dial. It takes only seconds but it will give you insights on how to proceed.

2. Objectives of the Call

It would not be logical for Spock to pick up the phone without having clearly defined objectives. Objectives force you to precisely determine what you want to achieve on the call.  Spock’s call guide forces you to prepare at least three objectives.

The prime objective (#1)  is the ultimate goal for that particular call. In a perfect world, this is THE NUMBER ONE thing you want to achieve.  In many cases, that objective is a sale but depending on the nature of the transaction, it might be something that moves the sale further through the cycle. Either way, it is definitively established.

But Spock’s approach  goes two steps further by getting you to establish at least two additional back up objectives. These are goals you would like to achieve in addition to the primary objective. Or they might goals you’d like to achieve if the primary goal is NOT met.  In other words, it is a means of salvaging the call should a sale or an advance not occur.

3. Opening Statement

Spock would never speak to the prospect without having prepared his opening statement because he would know that this is the most critical component toa follow up call. It is here, at this precise moment, that the prospect’s interest must be re-kindled and nurtured. Prospects are busy. They either forget what prompted them to agree to your follow up or, over  time, the sense of urgency has diminished.

Whatever the case may be, it is vital that you quickly bring the prospect up to speed to capture and keep their interest. Prepare your opener word for word and don’t wing it.

After introducing yourself and your company, take the prospect back to the prime motivator that was uncovered in the initial cold call AND the benefit that you could provide.  This gets the client engaged and actively listening! Secondly, provide an agenda of what you’d like to accomplish in the call. This primes the client for the remainder of the call. It creates focus and efficiency. For example,

“Hi Carson, It’s Mr. Spock calling from Trek Training.

Carson ,when we  last spoke on Monday you indicated that the average value of your sales were down and this was impacting your bottom line.  At that time I promised to send you some ideas on how add on selling training could help improve the average value of a sale by as much as 25%. I sent that on Tuesday.

What I’d like to do is explore your situation a little further,  review the proposal I sent and, if it makes sense, determine the next steps, if any, relative to training…”

4. Key Question, Key Points, Potential Objections

Bearing in mind your objectives, prepare three other elements to your follow up call.

First,  prepare a few ‘killer’ questions to gather more information and ‘build your case’ for a sale. Killer questions are those that get the prospect to THINK.  For instance, questions that get the prospect to quantify the ‘pain’ they’re experiencing . In turn, this magnifies the need for your solution.

Second, prepare a  list of 1-3 key selling points that support the solution that you’re offering.  Jotting these points down will  act as a prompt when you present.. It ensures you don’t forget!

Finally, Vulcans know all about contingency planning. Objections can derail your call in a New York minute.  Listing the typical objections that the prospect might toss helps ensure you’re not caught off guard.  It takes only seconds but it gets your mind oiled and greased.

5. Notes

Spock probably doesn’t need to take notes because he has a mind like a steel trap. But unless you have that Vulcan-like quality taking notes is a heck of a way to stay focused and to remember key points, objections or issues. Don’t argue. Just do it.

6. Actions Plans

Spock’s guide also provides space for you to list any actions that might ensue as a result of your call. Of course, a sale would be great but sometimes you need to take a few additional steps to move the cycle forward.  Whatever the case, note it.

7. Voice Mail Strategy

If Spock called and the prospect was not there at the appointed time,  he’d have his voice mail prepared and ready to go. He would not stutter and stumble and ramble about.  Do the same thing.


Spock’s call guide is not complex.  In fact, it is common sense.  Vulcans have common sense in abundance. Humans sales reps often don’t. Ultimately, the call guide creates a discipline process that trains your mind to thinking in a logical, step-by-step process. All it takes is a couple of minutes to complete. Peanuts.  Use this guide to provide structure, direction and focus. When you do, you’ll get better results.

Sell well and prosper!

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The 7 Closing Habits of Highly Effective Tele-Sale Reps (Habit #1: Be Prepared for a Close)

Ever notice that some tele-sales reps consistently out sell other reps?

Why is that? Why do some reps continuously lead the pack in terms of sales and revenues and others don’t?

Sure, knowledge and experience play a role in their success, but when you scratch the surface you quickly discover that highly effective tele-sales reps all have one thing in common:  they are exceptionally good closers.

They know precisely how to get the client to commit, take action and buy the product. This is not an accidental trait. It’s a habit they have formed.  In fact, there are seven closing habits that highly effective reps share.  Here is the first.

Habit #1: Great Closer are Prepared for the Close

Hide behind a corner in your office and watch a top closer.  Very rarely do you see them pick up the phone and start dialling and smiling. What you’ll see is that virtually every top closer takes a few extra seconds to plan out their call on a pad of paper.

A good closer begins by assuming a sale has been made and then works backwards from the point. They ask themselves, ‘what must be done to get me here?’  While each rep will have their own individual approach they all focus on three core components of the call:


First, highly effective closers have two sets of well-defined objectives.

Primary objectives are those objectives that they want to achieve on that particular call. Depending on the situation, the primary objective is often to get the sale – dollars in the door.  But not always.  For example, the primary objective might be to get the prospect to attend a webinar . The primary close is not the monetary sale but rather the commitment to the webinar. The sale might come next. Whatever the case, the rep knows the end game of that call and writes it down.  This sets the tone for the rest of the planning.

Great closers also have secondary objectives.  A secondary objective could be a contingency objective. For example, the primary objective might be to close the monetary sales but failing that, a webinar might be the contingency objective.  A secondary objective might also be an action that the closer would like to accomplish in addition to the primary objective. Perhaps it is a cross sell or a referral.

The Strategy

Once the objectives are clear, the next step is defining a strategy. A strategy is nothing more than the ‘way’ the objective will be achieved.  Typically, a good closer will address three issues.

Questions – Prior to the call, a highly effective closer will have a handful of key questions that are designed to direct the client’s thinking. Almost like signposts, these pre-planned questions point to the challenges or the opportunities that a client might be experiencing. These are the motivators that must be tweaked if a successful close is to occur. Motivators are what gets a prospect to take action … and hence, buy.

Selling Points – An effective closer will jot down the key selling points that will have the strongest impact on the prospect.  Usually in bullet form, the selling points revolve around the ultimate benefits the prospect will derive. Writing them down on a sheet of paper ensures that they will not be forgotten or diluted when presented.

Objections – Finally, great closers are never caught off guard. They  will note the major objections that he or she is likely to encounter and are prepared to respond accordingly.

The Close or the Advance

The third area that closers focus upon when planning is the ‘close’ itself.  Top closers are not hesitant about writing down a closing phrase or two.  For instance, “Would you like to give it a shot,” or “When would you like to get started?” “How many do you need.”  The act of writing the close imprints the close on the mind of the rep and increases the likelihood that it will happen.

Similar to secondary objectives, highly effective closers prepare a back up ‘close’ – called an advance – that they can apply if closing the monetary sale is premature.  An advance is action that the client agrees to take (e.g., attending that webinar) by a given date and time.  Effective closers do not say, “Attend the webinar next week and I’ll give you a call later on.”  Effective closers say, “Let’s sign you up for the Webinar on Tuesday, the  9th at 11:00 a.m. , and I will give you a call to discuss the session and the next steps, later that afternoon…how does 2:15 look on your calendar?”


Highly effective closers begin with the ‘end in mind’ (as Stephen Covey might say). They know precisely what they want to achieve from the call and have a written plan on how they are going to achieve it.  Having a call road map is the first step to a higher closing rate.

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Do This Today

Quick, before the month is out, do this:

Make a list of your top fifteen or twenty clients.  Then go out and buy a box of plain, ordinary “Thank You” cards and a roll of stamps.  Hand write a thank you note to each and every one of those top clients.

Make your note simple.  Say something like,

“Eva, I just wanted to say thank you for all the business that you have given me (us) over the past year.  I am well aware that you have a choice of vendors and I appreciate your confidence. I look forward to continue working with you this year. Kind Regards…”

Then hand write the envelop. (Whatever you do, DON’T use a label!)  Put a stamp on each envelop. (Do NOT use a postage meter).  The card must be personal; from you. It cannot have a hint of ‘corporate’ marketing.  And then send out the cards.

This small effort does several things.

  • First, it is an unexpected gesture of appreciation. At some level, your customers will experience a degree of delight.  It will ‘wow’ them.  It will make them feel good.
  • Second, because you took the TIME to hand write the card and the envelop, it shows a degree of  personal effort.
  • Third, the vast majority of vendors – including your competitors- don’t send a thank you card; certainly not at the beginning of the year. This differentiates you.  Customers often remember these gestures. It can sometimes tip the scales in your favor in a tight selling situation.
  • Fourth, it tells your client that you don’t take them for granted; that you appreciate their patronage; and that you’ll work to keep it.
  • Finally, this is a heck of way to kick off the selling year.

Sometime we get so caught up in generating leads, selling products and meeting our objectives that we forget about the people who really make it happen: the customer.

Show them you care.

Do this fine gesture today.

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Why Secondary Objectives are More Important Than Primary Objectives

Before you ever lift the receiver to make a customer call or a cold call you need to established not one, two objectives.

By doing so you’ll increase your volume of sales/leads and reduce your level of frustration. While both objectives are extremely important, one is more significant than the other.

The Primary Objective

Whether it’s a call to an existing client or a prospect, take a few seconds to think about and establish your primary objective.  In a perfect selling world, the primary objective is the ideal goal you would like achieve.  It the ultimate result.  A primary objective does not necessarily need to be a ‘sale.’  Depending on the nature of your calling, a primary objective could be an appointment, or gathering a key piece of information, or a commitment to the next, or attendance at a webinar, or agreeing to review a proposal or whatever you decide you want from that particular call.

Write that goal down somewhere even if it is in the column of a sheet of paper. Studies reveal that writing a goal increases the chances of it being achieved compared to a goal that is not written. It seems that the ‘mind’s eye’ become more fixated on the attainment of goal and tends to drive behaviour to that outcome.

Of course, primary objective is important. It is vital. But curiously, it is not necessarily the more important of the two.

The Secondary Objectives

You see, most sales reps ‘get’ the concept primary objectives.  They are kind of obvious and intuitive.

But what many reps don’t ‘get’ is the concept of secondary objectives, and regrettably, they tend to ignore them completely.  But it’s these little puppies that often produce the best results because they maximize the moment. This is precisely why secondary objectives are more important the primary objectives.

Secondary objectives are ‘back up’ objectives; things you’d like to accomplish if you don’t achieve your primary objective or things you’d like to accomplish in addition to achieving the primary objective. They are the little extras; the nice-to-haves. Hidden gems. Diamonds in the ruff. They are the items that leverage your telephone contact and help make the very most of the moment.  Put another way, secondary objective can act as catalysts that help “synergize” the net result of your call.

Secondary objectives can be any number of things. For instance, they might include:

  • a cross sell,
  • a request for a referral or a testimonial,
  • an up sell,
  • a piece “market intelligence”,
  • a query about an ongoing project,
  • a strategic question,
  • an e-mail address of another contact,
  • a request for more information,
  • the mention of a new product,
  • the best time to reach someone
  • … virtually anything over and above your primary objective.

Here’s the other thing about secondary objectives. Suppose you don’t achieve your primary objective. It can be discouraging especially when prospecting. But a secondary objective helps you salvage a portion of that call. It gives you the feeling of achievement; a psychological edge. It helps combat frustration and burnout. You hang up feeling that the call wasn’t a complete waste of time and effort. And of course, if you do achieve your primary objective, anything over and above that is pure gravy.

Like primary objectives, write them down. This will help you remember them as well as improve the likelihood of achieving them. It is that simple. Period. Do it!


Getting a hold of a client or a prospect by phone is tough at the best of times. And often you only have a minute or two of their busy time.  Make the absolute MOSTof those minutes and seconds by being prepared. Think of your primary and secondary objectives, jot them down and seek to achieve them.  Your results will improve dramatically.

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What’s Important to You is Not Important to Them

Here’s the thing: selling something is far more important to you than it is to your prospect or your client.  Think about this for a moment because it is rather profound and it often dictates your approach to a buyer.

Your job is to sell product, to make a commission, to achieve your objectives, to keep your boss happy. And so with single minded focus off you go into the world of tele-sales. I get that.

The trouble is, your client or prospect doesn’t get that. They don’t give a flyin’  fig.

They could care less about you. They don’t care about your quota. They couldn’t give two hoots if you are lagging behind in sales or leading the pack. They don’t give a damn if  your boss is on your back.  They simply don’t CARE.

They care about one thing and one thing only.


They care about their needs, wants, desires, goals aspirations, opportunities, problems, concerns, issues and worries. Can you blame them?

And therein lies the inevitable clash.

When you call a prospect and put your interests, needs and desires at the forefront there an immediate disconnect.  At a conscious or subconscious level, the prospect puts up a shield of indifference or annoyance because it is abundantly clear that the call is not about him or her, but about you. They see it. As clear as glass.

So here’s the point: make your call about them. Shape your call around them.

Before you pick up the phone, make absolutely certain that your opening statement focuses on the benefits a client can possibly achieve, not about your latest software upgrade or  your hot mutual fund or special offer on wiper blades.  When you engage your client, question them about their situation, their problems, their opportunities. DON”T tell, explain, pontificate, brag, lecture or preach about your products, your services, your unique selling proposition or your special offer.

This is SO simple yet it is ignored daily by tele-sales reps (and field reps) across the continent.

THINK before you dial. PLAN before you dial.

The make your call and make it about them.

Because that’s what’s important.

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The Top 10 Things Every Field Rep Should Know About Making Telephone Cold Calling

Many field reps are uncomfortable using the telephone when cold calling. Here are some tips to make the process of cold calling by phone easier and more effective.

1. It’s NOT a numbers game, it’s a results game

You’ll often hear this about cold calling especially from you boss: “It’s a numbers game.” Translated it means you have to make a zillion calls. No way. Don’t believe them.   Telephone cold calling is not about quantity, it’s about results.

Results come from smart tele-prospecting, not mindless dialing. Being smart means have the skills and techniques to make the most of the dials you make.  It means learning new processes and using job aids to convert more prospects into leads. It means being good at cold calling.

2. Use a verbal GPS (call guide)

A verbal GPS is a written ‘map’ to help guide your cold call.  Like a GPS, enter your destination (your primary objective), your starting point (your opening statement)  the sites you want to see along the way (your secondary objectives) and the route you want to take to get  there (your key questions, the key points you want to make).

Put this information on a green sheet of paper so that it sticks out on your desk or wall. Look at it before you call. Use it during the call to keep you on track. The mere process of writing these items down will increase you success rate by a minimum of 20%.

3. Script – yes, script- your opening statement

Most field reps would rather undergo a root canal than use a script. Instead of a script, field reps tend to ‘wing it’ and justify their behavior by saying, it sounds more ‘natural.’ The net result is that the cold call feels like a root canal.

If you were going to make dozens of cold calls to similar prospects regarding your products or services, why would you try to ‘wing’ it every time? Script your opening statement so you have the very best mix of words that entices the prospect to listen further.

4. Avoid Shooting Yourself in Both Feet by Avoiding these Killer Phrases

Cold calls quickly become lame when field sales reps inadvertently shoot themselves in both feet by using two killer phrases.  The first phrase is “How are you today?” In cold calling situations, the vast majority of prospects perceive this phase as trite and insincere. It instantly puts the prospect on guard; makes them skeptical and suspicious. Just eliminate it from your vocabulary.

The other killer phrase is “Did I catch you at a good time?” While polite, it gives your prospect a fast and easy way to ditch you. Instead, use this phrase, “If I caught you at a good time, what I would like to do is ask you a few questions to get a feel for your situation and to determine if we might be able to … (list a benefit).”  The prospect has the definite sense that permission was asked but the real question was not if he had the time but rather could questions be asked.” Big difference.

5. Know When and When NOT to Leave a Voice Mail – and Avoid Call Display

If you are never going to call this prospect again, leave a message. You have nothing to lose. Script – yes script- your message ahead of time and be prepared to leave it. If you are planning to recycle the list a few times, don’t leave a message. It warns them you’re coming. They use call display to screen your calls. Hang up. Take three or four shots at getting the client live.

6.  Anticipate Knee Jerk Objections

The majority of prospects are not sitting back and waiting for a call from a sales person. They are typically working and your call is an interruption. Many prospects will toss out an objection out of reflex not unlike what happens when a doctor taps your knee with a rubber hammer.

Here’s what to do. List the typical knee jerk objections on a sheet of paper so you’re not caught off guard. When you hear an objection follow the “EIA Process.” First, empathize. Next, ignore the objection completely. It’s not legitimate anyway. Third, calmly ask ‘one quick question.’  (Example:  Prospect: “I am busy right now.” Rep: “I understand completely…Brian, while I have you, one quick question: do you…)

Amazingly, over half the prospects will answer your question and most they will continue to answer additional questions simply because their reflexive reaction has settled down.

7.  Ruthless Disqualify Your Prospects

Have your key qualifying questions prepared and get to them right off the bat. You do this to determine if the prospect is worth YOUR time. If not, ruthlessly disqualify them and move on to greener pastures.

8.  Script- yes, again, script- your offer

For most sales reps, the offer is a request for an appointment. At this point in the sales cycle,  your product is the appointment.  Therefore, script your request for their time word for word.  Explain what the appointment will entail. Most importantly, list the benefit the client will get by granting you thirty or so minutes of time. By having this prepared ahead of time you won’t fumble the opportunity.

9.  Forget About Sending Literature

Prospects can make mince meat of your efforts by getting you to send, fax or e-mail literature. This smokescreen objection is a classic, if not polite, way to blow you off. Don’t fall for it. If you do agree to send marketing material, get commitment by asking for a specific follow up date and time (e.g., Thursday at 3:15). No date and time, no literature. Move on.

10. Make your call like an Academy Award Winner

The telephone is an audio medium.  Your tone, rate of delivery and volume of your voice accounts for about 80% of the message. Too fast, too slow, or too monotone will destroy your cold call in less than ten seconds. What this really means to you is that you need to practice your opening statement so that it flows naturally. You need to practice following your verbal GPS so you can transition your prospect through the call.  Practice your ‘offer’ as if you’re Brad or Angelina. Get your words and tone down pat. Do that and you’ll be a tele-prospecting star.


Telephone cold calling for field sales reps can be easier and more effective by simply bearing these ten tips in mind. Implement them and watch your success grow.

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