Business intelligence for 21st-century sales professionals.

Cold calls: Nail the first 20 seconds and you’re in

by Art Sohczak

How do people react when they take your prospecting calls? Do they drop everything they’re doing to listen to you, show mild interest and agree to a callback – or growl brusquely that they’re not interested?

You’d like everybody to fall into the first category, wouldn’t you? Well, I’m here to tell you that you can grab prospects’ attention and within 20 seconds have them listening attentively.

Opening steps

1. Introduction, with or without your name.

2. How you might help.

3. Respect for their time.

4. Action plan for the rest of call.


I don’t mean to imply that your current approach is terrible – a smart person like you wouldn’t repeat something that was an utter failure. But the fact is, almost all sales pros can benefit by sharpening the front end of their prospecting calls.


I’m going to give you a f9rmula to do that sharpening – and explain why it’s not as obvious as it may look.

Here it is:

1) Introduction. “Hello, I’m Darrell Doright with Worthwhile Widgets.” No surprises there.

Except that sometimes, you might want to give your company name but not your own – the idea being that prospects will care more about your name, and ask you for it, after you’ve explained what you can do for them.

2)How you may be able to help. “I’m calling today because, depending on what you’re now using for flow control, there’s a possibility we may be

able to help you minimize waste and maximize throughput.”

Consider the studied modesty of this statement. You’re not doing the cheesy hard- sell thing by assuming bombastically that you have the answer to all their problems.

Instead, you’re acknowledging right up front that they know their situation better than you, and that they have to make the call on whether you can help.

3) Expression of respect for their schedule. “If I’ve caught you at a good time …”

Notice you’re not asking whether this is a good time. That’s risky. But you are leaving them an opportunity to say it isn’t a good time – an opening that relatively few prospects will take when you express it this way.

4) Action plan for the remainder of the call. “… I’d like to discuss your situation/ask you a few questions and see if this is something you’d like to take a look at.”

Here you move seamlessly into the payoff. You’ve shown what you have to offer, and done nothing to turn the prospect off. Chances are she’ll give you the minutes you need to see whether she’s got potential as a buyer.


Here’s how it sounds strung together:

“Hello, I’m Darrell Doright with Worthwhile Widgets. I’m calling today because, depending on what you’re now using for flow control, there’s a possibility we may be able to help you minimize waste and maximize throughput. If I’ve caught you at a good time, I’d like to ask you a few questions and see if this is something you’d like to take a look at.”

And it takes only 20 seconds or so. Time it for yourself.


This approach, seemingly so simple, is carefully constructed to avoid the pitfalls awaiting the unwary prospector. Here are some of those pitfalls.


This happens when the salesperson starts with a description of his company and its products.

Naturally, if the salesperson hasn’t given the prospect an idea of how all this may be relevant to her, she’ll start drumming her fingers.


This is an extension of the first mistake. It happens when a salesperson launches into a pitch for a product he’s not sure the prospect even needs.

Usual result? The prospect fumes for a while and then cuts off the call.


You aren’t 100% sure you can help the prospect the first time you call. So it’s plain wrong to say, “We guarantee results” or “I know we can make a

difference in your business.”


This happens when the salesperson starts by saying something like “I’m calling to see about switching you over to our service,” or “Let’s discuss your potential purchase of our geekbenders.”

That’s like stopping somebody on the street and saying, “Hey, let’s have a relationship!”

How to regain momentum when you’ve hit a plateau

by Anthony Parinello

All of us who have been in the business for a while have experienced it – the plateau. You know, when your results are still acceptable – you’re meeting quota, the sales manager isn’t biting your butt – but they’re not getting any better.

Hitting a plateau isn’t terrible news all by itself. But the problem is, unless you take action to rise from the plateau, you’ll eventually find yourself falling off the o’ther side as gravity drags you down.


Why do people hit sales plateaus? One big reason: fear of success.

Truth is, as our sales income rises, an unconscious fear of success kicks in. Part of us doesn’t want to breathe that rarefied high-income air. So we actually sabotage ourselves.

That’s the why of it. More important is the how – how are we going to kick that fear and lift off from the plateau?


Before you change your methods, you may need to shift your thinking. Check your “internal messages” – the self-assessing thoughts that run through your brain.

You may be playing self-sabotaging messages like:

•Why would this person want to meet with me again?

• That sale was mostly luck.

• Anybody could do what I do.

Once you see these thoughts for what they are, try reprogramming yourself with thoughts like these:

• I know I can help this person.

• People who decide to meet with me a second time are glad they did.

• I have unique skills and perseverance.

Thinking differently isn’t enough, however. To relaunch yourself, you’ll probably want to do some things differently, too.


Beyond fear of success, boredom is the main force that sticks people to a plateau.

Do you always call on your accounts in a certain order? Change it. Do you carry your materials in a briefcase? Try a messenger bag, if appropriate.

Do you always start the week by doing your expenses? Do them Friday afternoon instead.


There are many ways to skin a cat. Could you find a stronger opening statement? Could you find a new way to express your value proposition? Could you close more aggressively, or use trial closes more frequently?

Two effective ways to gain insight:

Get yourself a shadow. Have an

experienced associate or sales manager listen in on calls or join you in the field. They may spot something you’re doing unconciously, like body language.

Tape yourself. Watching yourself in

action can give you ideas about what to do differently. If stagnation has caught up with you, the “ouch” factor you’ll get from video- or audiotape may spur you to change.

Based in part on “Getting the Second Appointment, ” by Parinello, published by John Wiley & Sons. Info: www.viloselling.com

www.b21pubs.conz Value-Added Selling 21. April 21, 20083

Knowing when to walk away

By Tim Connor

It’s hard – but sometimes necessary – to admit that a prospect or even a customer relationship just isn’t working out.

That’s the time when you need to walk away. After all, you don’t want to throw good time and effort after bad.

But you don’t want to bail out too early, either, neglecting some approach or tactic that might resurrect the sale or the relationship.

So how do you know when you’re facing a situation that you should – walk away from?

Five warning signs

In my experience, such situations will fly one or more of these five warning flags:

•The prospect or customer shows no concern for anything but price. They’ve shown they’re adamantly not interested in how you can help them solve problems or grow their business.

• You’ve lost control of the sales process. This can happen in a number of ways, but one common way is that the prospect introduces multiple new decision-makers or requirements.

• The time, energy, or corporate resources to keep the sale or relationship active are no longer a wise investment.

• In the case of existing customers, you determine that the potential for additional business isn’t there.

• Your intuition tells you to get out. Go with your gut

As the last warning sign implies, don’t be afraid to go with your gut.

If you’ve analyzed the situation rationally and still aren’t sure what to do, trust your instinct. That instinct is the subconscious accumulation of everything you’ve learned in your sales career.

Adapted from “911 Mistakes Smart Salespeople Make, “by Connor, published by Sourcebooks.

How to translate we’re happy as we are

We all know that prospects don’t always say what they mean. One particular phrase – “We’re happy with what we’ve got now” – provides an excellent example. What does this really mean?

A hint: It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re particularly happy. Usually, it means they haven’t grasped how your product or service would add value to their business.

If you can show them how you would do so, the “happiness” with their existing solution may evaporate quickly.

Source: “Metaphorically Selling,” by Anne Miller Chiron Associates.


All sales pros know the powerful impact of a smile. But do you smile long enough? It’s important not only to smile frequently, but also to sustain your smile. Many people don’t.

To train yourself, smile at your buyer and wait until he smiles back. Then hold your smile for a further two seconds. That’s longer than you’d think, and it will imprint your winning personality on the other person. (Don’t go on longer than that: People may wonder what you’ve been drinking …)

Source: “Secrets of Power Persuasion for Salespeople,” by Roger Dawson.

Career Press.

It takes a lot of vigilance to avoid falling into an excuse trap – you know, where you try to explain away failure before it occurs. Even the best salespeople aren’t immune.

One of the most insidious excuse traps is the seasonal one: “Prospects never buy the last week in the quarter because their budget is exhausted,” or “It’s a waste of time to call in December because of the holidays.”

It may well be that certain times are tougher than others to sell. But if competitors are tangled up in seasonal excuses and you’re not, these times may offer surprising opportunities.

Source: “The Best Damn Sales Book Ever, ” by Warren Greshes. John Wiley.


If you’re not satisfied with your current method of meeting objections, or if you need an additional approach, try the three Fs:

Feel, felt, found.

Here’s how it works. A prospect raises an objection like this: “I don’t see how I can commit my company to a product we don’t know much about.”

You reply: “I can understand how you’d feel that way. We are relatively new to the market. Other customers have fell the same way. They’ve found, however, that our product provides a revolutionary new solution that our established competitors can’t match.”

Source: “Selling Without Selling,” by Carol Super AMA COM


Cold calls- Nail the first 20 seconds and you’re in by Art Sohczak