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SALES TIPS: Avoiding costly prospecting mistakes

Apr 13, 2001 12:00 AM


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It’s 7 p.m., and you’re about to sit back in your favorite chair when the phone rings. When you pick up the receiver, you are greeted with, "Good evenin. It’s Peter from ABC Carpet Cleaning. How are you tonight?"
How would you respond to this call?
If you were like most people, you would probably respond with three simple words: "I’m not interested." But why would you react in such a negative manner when you don't even know what the call is about?
In fact, had you listened to the rest of the presentation, you may have been told, "The reason I'm calling is to offer my congratulations. In a promotion by a local carpet manufacturer, your house has been selected to receive free wall-to-wall broadloom. This top-of-the-line carpet is available in a choice of 10 different colors. The promotion includes installation and taxes, so it won’t cost you a cent."
It’s Saturday morning and you are busy working around the house when the doorbell rings. When you open the door, a well-dressed woman hands you her business card and says, "Good morning; my name is Susan. I’m with Acme Real Estate."
How would you react to this intrusion?
Once again, most people would simply say, "Thank you, but I’m not interested," and swiftly close the door. But why end this conversation so quickly? If Susan had been given the chance to talk, she may have said: "I represent a corporation that is transferring one of their executives into this area. As such, they are willing to pay a large premium for your house."

Cardinal prospecting rule
In both of these examples, getting the appointment would have been easy had the salesperson not contributed to their own demise. They destroyed their chances of landing the appointment by breaking a cardinal prospecting rule: They told their prospect what they were selling.
The moment that you read the words "carpet cleaning" and "real estate," you, too, immediately stopped absorbing the presentation and began to prejudge the value of the call. So when you’re prospecting for new business, keep in mind that the person you’re talking to is going through this same mental evaluation process.
For example, if a receptionist answers the call and you say, "Good morning, it’s Peter from Lucky Print. How are you today? Could you please tell me who orders the printing for your company?" he or she will most likely respond, "Thank you for calling, but we’re not interested right now. We’re happy with our printer."
The receptionist knows to respond that way because she’s been listening for and has just heard the key words that allow the call to be screened. The moment that you said "printing," the sale was over!
Many receptionists have clear instructions to block salespeople, so it is crucial that your initial telephone presentation bypasses screening techniques.
The most important prospecting rule of all: When making a cold call, never tell the receptionist what you are selling. Instead, use one of the following techniques:

  • Don’t mention your company name.

    Instead, just ask for the person you want to speak to. "Good morning, could I please get the correct spelling of your marketing manager’s last name?

  • Use an acronym.

    Instead of saying, "It’s Peter from Lucky Print" use the first letters of the company name and say, "Good morning. It’s Peter from L&P."


Since the receptionist doesn’t hear the key words, he or she cannot screen your call. Although you may be asked probing questions, if the receptionist is busy, he or she is just as likely to answer your question and put your call through. By making this small but all-important change, you will dramatically increase the number of appointments you land, while making fewer cold calls.

Peter Ebner is a professional sales trainer and marketing consultant with more than 22 years of industry experience. He is author of several books, including "Earn $100,000 a year Selling Printing--Guaranteed." He can be reached at (905) 713-2274, or visit www.ebnerseminars.com.