Sales and Sales Management Blog

June 5, 2009

Boost Your Sales Series: “Turn Your Cold Calls into Welcome Introductions,” by Paul McCord


Here’s the last article for the “Using the Phone to Generate Business” week.  It’s my contribution about the process I use to connect with prospects via the phone.  I never make cold calls, but I speak with a lot of decision makers I’ve never interacted with before.  This is how I turn what would be a cold call into a referred introduction.

Next week we’ll deal with Successful Networking.  First up will be The Sales Hunter–Mark Hunter; Tuesday bring in Andrea Sittig-Rolf; on Wednesday it will be Jonathan Farrington’s turn; Thursday I’ll introduce you to Will Kintish; and then Friday, as always, it will be my turn to tackle networking.

Come back everyday to get your daily dose of great, actionable sales and management guidance and discussions.

——————————————————————————————————————————————–Never a Cold Call, Always an Introduction
By Paul McCord

Are you a business-to-buisness seller who must use the phone to generate buisness and who is frustrated with amount of time you must spend, the number of calls you must place just to get a single appointment?  I feel your pain.

Are you tired of trying to find ways around the gate keeper, create voice mail messages that will be returned, and find a way to capture and keep your prospect’s attention?  Again, I feel your pain.

I’m a salesman, too.  I sell sales training, management consulting, coaching and speaking presentations.  My clients are companies, individual salespeople, business owners, and business and industry associations.

I prospect.  I have to if I want to stay in business.  I, like every other seller, am constantly looking for potential new business.

I also market my services and myself.  I have to invest a significant amount of my time and effort in getting my message out to potential clients.  The marketing I engage in takes many forms–from writing articles to giving interviews to writing newsletters to attending events and functions to networking and seeking referrals.

In other words, my business is exactly like yours.  I engage in the same activities you do.  I face the same obstacles, the same setbacks, the same disappointments, and enjoy the same victories. 

Whether you sell insurance, parking lot maintenance, copiers, communication systems, or the most sophisticated computer networks, business-to-business selling is in its essence the same for all of us.  The details are different.  The process may be vastly different.  The sales cycle may be months or even years apart.  But the basic essence is the same, and the most basic is you have to have a prospect that will accept your efforts to connect with them.

Like almost every other seller, I must use the phone to connect with some of those prospects.  Nevertheless, I refuse to make cold calls.  In my opinion, there is hardly a more worthless use of my time and energy than cold calling.  Cold calling is time consuming for the sellerCo and it immediately signifies to the recipient of the call that the person making the call isn’t an expert in their field because most prospects assume that true experts aren’t sitting at a desk pounding the phone.

Yet, that creates a dilemma for me—there are prospects I can’t find a way to reach without picking up the phone and calling them.  Despite being a strong advocate of referral selling, networking, developing referral partnerships, and using PR to create interest and get prospects to pick up the phone, those methods, no matter how expertly I implement them, just can’t get me to every possible prospect that I’m interested in reaching.

Not having a way to connect through other means and refusing to cold call presents a serious problem.

Fortunately, there is a solution that allows me to NEVER make a cold call and still call prospects that I’ve never interacted with before.  In fact, it always allows me to begin establishing a relationship with almost every prospect I connect with that I can expand and nurture over time.  In addition, this simple method allows me to gather a wealth of information about the company, their needs, their plans, and in many cases, key information about the person I’m about to speak to before I ever make the call.  Before I call, I know whom I’m calling, why I’m calling, and I have a very good idea of where the conversation will be going. 

And if my prospect doesn’t answer the phone, I almost always get a return call from the voice mail I leave.

What is the incredible system I use?

Actually, it is so simple and so obvious I almost hate to admit it.  But it works.  It takes the pressure off me, as well as off the prospect.  When I call, I’m simply doing follow-up work, fulfilling my obligation to one or more of the prospect’s employees.

Once I’ve identified a company to approach about any of my services, I do my homework.  I call three or four of the company’s salespeople (remember my prodict– I’m selling sales training and consulting).  My hope is to speak to a salesperson that has been with the company for only a short time, to another who is an old hand with the company, and one who is a top producer. 

When I speak to these individuals, I am upfront with the purpose of my call.  I let them know who I am, why I’m calling them, what my intentions are regarding calling the company about my services, and request their permission to ask them some questions about the company and their experience with the company.  Seldom does anyone refuse speaking with me.  If they do, I’ll just call another salesperson within the company.

I ask a number of information gathering questions such as:

  • what type of sales training the company provides
  • their personal evaluation of the quality of the training
  • whether training is provided by outside vendors on in-house trainers
  • if they use outside trainers, what companies do they use
  • what training needs do they see the company has that aren’t being met
  • who in their opinion I should speak to about training
  • if there is anything else I should know prior to calling the person they suggested I call
  • prior to ending the call, I ask for permission to use their name when I make the call.

Three or four short calls—each will only last a very few minutes—gives me a tremendous amount of information about the company and potential opportunities for me.  Often I learn a little bit of personal information about the person I’m about to call that helps me connect with them.  Typically, at least one and often two or three of the individuals will not only give me permission to mention their name, but will encourage me to call, giving me a referral into the company.  Now, I’ve not only upgraded the call from a cold call to a warm call, but I’ve upgraded the warm call to a referral. 

When I do call the company, I use the introductions provided by the salespeople to break the ice and gain credibility.  Those introductions turn the call into a conversation about their needs and observations rather than a sales pitch.   In fact, most prospects actually appreciate my call.  In many cases I’m informing them of issues and concerns their sales team has that they aren’t aware of, and in virtually all cases I’m not calling them wasting their time fishing for  a reason to meet with them, I’m discussing a real specific issue that their team has that needs to be addressed.

If I am directed to voice mail, I don’t panic.  I don’t hang up without leaving a message.  I don’t leave some misleading message hoping to trick someone into returning my call.  I leave a very brief factual message that introduces myself and mentions that salesperson X and salesperson Y asked me to call about some issues that concern them.  I almost always get a return call.

Naturally, the person I’m calling wants to know how and why his or her salespeople encouraged me to make the call.  Again, I don’t beat around the bush.  I tell them that I was doing my homework prior to making my introductory call.  The fact that I was willing to spend time learning something about the company, their needs, their salespeople, and their processes tends to impress the person with whom I’m speaking. 

Seldom do sellers take the time to be prepared before making a call.  Seldom do they find a way to turn a cold call into a referral.  So unusual is it that when someone calls who is fully prepared, the impression is not only positive but also deep and lasting.  Furthermore, by demonstrating my ability to find a positive, honest and effective way to connect with them that pricks their interest and almost demands they pay attention to me, they make the connection that I just might have something of value to teach their sales team. 

Naturally, I don’t turn every call into a sale.  I do, however, begin the process of developing a positive and trusting relationship that will, hopefully, turn into a sale in the future.

My method of reaching the prospects that I otherwise cannot find another way of reaching doesn’t allow me to make tons of calls.  I give up quantity for quality.  And to tell you the truth, I’d much rather have an introduction to a quality prospect than sit and pound the phone hoping that sooner or later I’ll fall into an appointment.

No matter your product, you too can find individuals within your target companies who can give you the information you need—and their endorsement when you do make the call.  Getting past gatekeepers and gaining the prospect’s interest doesn’t have to be a game of deception or manipulation.  Investing a little time before calling your prospect opens doors, eliminates resistance, pricks interest, and helps begin the relationship building process. 

You virtually never have to make another business-to-business cold call.  With a little bit of research and effort you can turn almost every cold call into a referred call.  Give it a try, it makes life much easier and making those calls much more enjoyable—and productive.

Paul McCord, a leading Business Development Strategist and president of McCord Training, works with companies and sales leaders to help them increase sales and profits by finding and connecting with high quality prospects in ways prospects respect and respond to.  An internationally recognized author, speaker, trainer and consultant, Paul’s clients range from giants such as Chase, New York Life, Siemens, and GE, to small and mid-size firms, as well as individual sales leaders.  He is the author of the popular Sales and Sales Management Blog (http://salesandmanagementblog.com). 

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5 Comments »

  1. Wow! This is the most innovative way of using the phone that I’ve found. Not only does it make perfect sense (as you say, once it has been pointed out it is really an obvious way of getting inforation before making the call) it works as I tried it yesterday after the article. Great, great help to me and I’m sure a whole bunch of other salespeople too.

    Comment by David Cane — June 6, 2009 @ 6:57 am | Reply

  2. That’s a great post of about “how to make effective telephone sales”. This one is really interesting with true facts in it. Great informative post for those who depend upon telephone to catch up sales.

    Comment by CRM Solutions — June 10, 2009 @ 6:08 am | Reply

  3. I have worked with many trainers in the past and this is probably the best piece of business development information I have heard. I sold my last business and have just launched a sales training business and I will put this to use immediately.

    Comment by Jeff Garrison — June 11, 2009 @ 6:52 am | Reply

  4. […] I prospect.  I have to if I want to stay in business.  I, like every other salesperson, am constantly looking for potential new business…. continue reading […]

    Pingback by Jonathan Farrington’s Blog » Top Sales Experts Latest Newsletter – Some Extracts — September 20, 2009 @ 4:28 am | Reply

  5. […] more effective phone strategies for business-to-business salespeople.  But whether one uses the issue discovery strategy I use and teach or just picks up a list and starts dialing, the phone should be an integral part of […]

    Pingback by Can B2B Salespeople Succeed Without Cold Calling? « Sales and Sales Management Blog — October 5, 2009 @ 9:12 am | Reply


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