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Three New Approaches to Making Effective Sales Calls

By Deb Calvert (1308 words)
Posted in Sales & Business Development on March 19, 2013

There are (19) comments permalink

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By Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions

Auto dialers and CRMs, along with Sales Managers everywhere, are being questioned by Sales Reps due to escalating expectations & monitoring systems requiring more aggressive prospect follow-up. Most Sales Reps remain skeptical, feeling that following up too soon or too often will look pushy.


Usually, it’s the sales reps who win on this one. They may, if pressed, make the call, but they will choose not to leave a message. More often, they’ll defer the callback until another day and after 3 or 4 attempts, move on to newer prospects.


Three Common Questions Asked By Sales Reps

  1. What is the right number of callbacks to make on a prospect?
  2. How frequently should a sales professional make contact with a prospect?
  3. What is the tipping point when persisting becomes pestering?


Sellers may be relieved to learn that it doesn't happen as quickly as they think. Buyers are accustomed to multiple callbacks. In fact, some wait it out to see just how serious a seller is. If a seller gives up, the buyer reasons, “What they had to say to me must not have been very important.”


In our culture, we have idioms and sayings to support being persistent. Contrast “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” to “out of sight out of mind.” Sellers are expected to be the squeaky wheel, vying for the busy prospect’s attention and earning a chance to be heard by not giving up too soon.


Consider your own response to a seller who calls on you. You may miss the first call because you were out or busy. The second call may not come at a convenient time. The next message causes you to consider calling back, if only to say “no thanks.” But then it slips your mind. Since the seller doesn't call back again, you go on with your routines.


The same kind of responses are happening with your prospects, too. After the first or second call, they don’t even remember your name. You aren't a nuisance because you’re barely a blip on the radar. By the third call, you’re just beginning to register. Then, poof, you’re gone, never to be heard from again.


Part of the problem is that we aren't as memorable, important, compelling or highly prioritized as we think we are. Ouch. But it’s true. Your calls are unexpected, unplanned and unwanted at the times they come. That’s the nature of selling. That is how it will be until you break through and change the perception the buyer has of you, your company, and your products.    


At this point, the biggest risk you have is that the prospect will think you’re a nuisance. So what? If that’s the worst thing that happens, you’re in a good place. Put that side-by-side with the best possible outcome – on the fourth, fifth or tenth call you might get a new customer.


It takes the same amount of time to call three prospects three times as it does to call one prospect nine times. Making an impression and getting through with nine calls is more likely than “getting lucky” with three calls to three prospects. With each call, progressively, you are building name recognition, showing your determination and elevating the priority status you have. When you give up, you relegate yourself to the role of “just another salesperson.”


It may help to fret less about the quantity of contact attempts and to focus more on the quality of those attempts. Here are three new approaches you can try to increase your effectiveness in making a strong impression earlier in the callback cycle.


Three New Approaches to Making Effective Sales Calls


Approach #1

When leaving a voice mail message, say “I will follow up by sending you a planner for a time when we can meet.” Then send a calendar invitation. Make it for 1 week after the message, schedule just 15 or 30 minutes, and say in the invitation that you will call the number you left the message on.


One of three things will happen. You will get an accepted notification OR get a declined notification (often with a note or an alternate time), OR get no response at all. If you get no response at all, e-mail the day before the appointment. The subject line should read “Are we meeting tomorrow?” and the message should reference the appointment and mention that you haven’t heard back and were hoping to confirm.


Surprisingly, more and more people rely on others to set appointments for them. You will find that many prospects appreciate you taking this extra step.


Approach #2

Be sure that each contact attempt you make has a clear focus on value to the prospect. The more you pitch your product and talk about its generic features, the less interesting your messages will be to the prospect. Leave out all those bullet points and strip all your messages down to the bare essentials. Just say “I’m writing (calling) to talk with you about solving the problem you have with ______.”


That’s a message that is hard to ignore. In order to craft a message like this, you have to do a little bit of research. Take a look at the company website if you’re selling B2B, know your audience if you’re selling B2C. Use that information to demonstrate that meeting with you will be time well spent.


Approach #3

If you have called 12 times, make the 13th message a “last call.” Say something like this, without any sarcasm or irritation, “I have tried to reach you on 12 other occasions, and I have not heard a single reply. I am left to conclude that the solution I have to offer you for ________ is not of interest to you at this time. I will not call again, but I do want you to know that I am here for you when you are able to spend a little time focusing on this problem. You can reach me at _________.”


These techniques work best when a seller genuinely believes they have something of value to offer to the prospect. It’s easier to be persistent when you are motivated by a desire to help someone. Otherwise, if all you’re doing is pushing products because you have to, it may be true that you have become a pest rather than a sales professional. Be sure to check your intent and that may liberate you from the nuisance feeling that has been nagging at you. 



{#/pub/images/DebCalvert.png}Written by Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions

Author of the DISCOVER Questions book series, Deb has worked as a sales productivity specialist and sales researcher since 2000. She is certified as a Master Sales Coach, Master Trainer, and host of CONNECT! an online radio show for selling professionals where listeners ignite their selling power in just an hour.



Do you have a sales question for Deb?  Please visit our Sales Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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Here are some related articles you may be interested in:

You Are the Ultimate in Added Value

Improving Your Odds for a Successful CRM and IT Strategy

You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression

Managing Customer Expectations



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Comments (19)

Slap Dog Hoops (SDH) posted on: April 1, 2013

By virtue, sales phones will always be a nuisance. They're annoying and intrussive no matter who calls you or what they call you for. In my opinion, there is no way to make them even less so. With email and internet banner ads, I thought that it would be gone into extinction.

Pamela Adams posted on: April 2, 2013

Excellent points made in this article. Sometimes it helps to just stay the course.

Linda Allen posted on: April 2, 2013

Thank you, like many of us I do not like making phone calls.

Gen Liquori Byrne posted on: April 2, 2013

Great article! Thanks for sharin. Some great take aways to share with our Business Development team.

Kathy Quinn posted on: April 2, 2013

I agree with everyone else. This is a great article - especially the specific suggestions for approaches.

Jenifer K. posted on: April 2, 2013

This is a great article. Thanks for sharing. I often feel like I am being a nuisance so this was very reassuring.

Tammy K. posted on: April 2, 2013

I just read the article. It's really good. I think a lot of sales people, myself included, stop short of the mark sometimes for this very reason—we don't want to be pushy. I'm going to remember this and implement. Thanks.

Luke H. posted on: April 2, 2013

I would counter this article, which was well written, with the notion that sales should focus less on these calls and more into social media. Now more than ever, we all have the capability to fully customize our lives from the food we eat, the news we consume and advertising we want to engage with.

If your brand can build a dynamic social presence, your customers will find you. That's how they prefer it anyway.

Sandy P. posted on: April 2, 2013

Great article. I am going to pass it onto my sales team!

George Barrett posted on: April 2, 2013

I thought the article had great strategies. Telesales is very intrusive but there's a method to this.If no one answers, implement the first strategy. When contact is finally made its, the next best thing to an actual face to face meeting. Its surprising how many times it takes to get someone's attention. But in the end they're going know your business.

elisa tetreault posted on: April 3, 2013

I really enjoyed this article. I hate cold calling and have often wondered how to make them more effectively and when to quit - this article provided some valuable tips on both.

Celia Birdling posted on: April 4, 2013

Great article. Good idea to re-read it often!

Bandula Gunaratne posted on: April 4, 2013

like that article fine

Steve Goscinski posted on: April 4, 2013

Good article. I agree we need to be more persistent and stop worrying about being annoying. After all, you can’t be a pest until you’re remembered! Until the prospect hears and remembers your name, your company, and what you do, you’re just part of the background noise.

I have used each of the approaches you mention and each has been effective at one time or another. I am always amazed when I send an outlook invitation and the prospect accepts the meeting even though he’s never answered my call or returned my message.

The fact is you never know what’s going on, on the other end of the phone. Often we imagine the worst – he’s avoiding my calls, or I’m just annoying him, when in fact he may well be saying “I’ve really got to find time to return that call, it sounds interesting.” After all we all have things we’re meaning to do but can’t find the time.

Unless you’ve been asked not to call, you should call.

Doug Rietz posted on: April 4, 2013


Your outbound calling and emailing strategy should depend on the number of prospective companies in your target area, the titles of the contacts you're pursuing and the type of companies.

The techniques described would make your company look very amateur in the eyes of V & C-Level executives at Fortune 500 companies. And if you only had a hundred or so of those targets in your territory, you might be shooting yourself in the foot once your reputation as a pestering telemarketer was established.

I've been called back by people at those levels simply because I didn't robo-dial and leave the standard messages about how I could save them millions if only they would return my call. Honestly, how the heck do I know how much money I can save them when I don't know the details of their challenges. Even if their competitor saved millions with my application, I still need to do a discovery to understand their problems.

Doug Rietz posted on: April 4, 2013

To your credit, in my career I have been in positions where I have focused strictly on V & C-level executives within organizations that would be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars or more for a solutions. My experience may not be the best advice for someone selling in a different environment. My advice to anyone prospecting in this tough economic environment - differentiate yourself from the competition calling into the same person. Use Linked In to ping the right people. Ask for things that are not difficult or time consuming. Give more back in return for their response. Avoid the "call-center", lengthy messages and emails. Those techniques might just get you in the door instead of being told to stop calling.

John Sawhill posted on: April 4, 2013

Be honest. Tell the prospect you do not want to be a pest. Recruit the receptionist to help you contact your prospect but make sure to qualify them before sending invitations for meetings. Are you really contacting the right person? Maybe that's why they won't pick up the phone. “ Who is this guy and why is he calling me ? “
I find that calling very early or late works when contacting owners of small businesses. If you have to leave multiple messages then bring some value to the message. Remember.........what’s in it for them? They don’t care if you sell the best widget.
NO....! When they say NO......... call back in 6 months or a year. Maybe they have moved on and you’ll have a more receptive new prospect or even better they may not be as happy with their current vendor.

Rick Ayers posted on: May 18, 2013

Right on target! Often times I have left messages, "at the risk of being a pest, I thought I would reach out one more time to see if...."

Your scenario helps me justify this persistence. I will use the calendar invitation as a bullet in my marketing arsenal.

What's the worst thing that can happen? I mean, they certainly can't take my kids away from me for trying! But, with success, they may end up helping me put them through college when we.... finally... make the connection.

Hnr, Daniel Edwards posted on: February 19, 2015

"Can you please give insight to mopre tips that can betrieve the person buyer ie:?....

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