Selling Power Magazine Article

It's About Strategy
Kim Wright Wiley

Cold calling may date back a century or more, but it’s a long way from the graveyard. That’s right. Rumors of its demise aside, author, speaker, and sales coach Sharon Drew Morgen (newsalespara digm.com) says it’s a matter of using the cold call strategically.

One common cold-calling assumption ought to hit the dumpster, according to Morgen.“If you call maybe a hundred people to tell them you have a new product, maybe ten will say, ‘Come out and show it to us.’ You usually close about two of those people, so our business has grown to accept a 2 percent success rate, which is lunacy.”

But don’t throw your phone away yet. Morgen says the telephone can be an effective sales tool if you shift your thinking. “Salespeople have primarily used the phone as a way to get a face-to-face appointment,” she says. “But even if you do [secure an appointment], rest assured you won’t be the only person who’s showing up. Any company that’s making appointments over the phone is early in the decision-making process and talking to your competitors, too. Even worse, the person you’re talking to on that first visit probably isn’t a decision maker, but is there to vet you before you even get to the buying team.”

Morgen, as she explains in her book Dirty Little Secrets: Why Buyers Can’t Buy and Sellers Can’t Sell and What You Can Do About It (Morgen Publishing, 2009), thinks this is the wrong way to go about making a sale. “Why use your body as a prospecting tool?” she asks. “Companies throw lots of money at presentations, but often they’re not even in front of the people who have the authority to sign off on the sale. Your early phone conversations – and for a big sale there will be many – should help the company start the process that will ultimately lead you to the buying team.”

Rather than rush to set up the face-to-face appointment, which many salespeople see as the holy grail of cold calling, Morgen suggests you focus your first contact calls on a single question: “What is your pressing problem, and what are you doing now to solve it?” 

“Most companies don’t even try to solve a problem the first time it occurs,” she says. “So if prospects are talking to you, the odds are they’ve had this problem for a while and have learned to work around it. Ask them, ‘What’s the work around? Why are you unable to create a solution on your own? What have you tried in the past?’”

Morgen recalls a time when she was on a conference call with six people, including a high-ranking VP. “He brought up something they’d tried three years earlier that had failed and wasted a lot of time and money,” Morgen says. “Without that knowledge, I might have gone in and offered things that were too similar. He would have shot me down immediately.”

But that’s not the only reason that going for the quick presentation can backfire. Morgen recalls another situation, when she was working with a bank that used an Internet site to generate leads. “It was obvious that a lot of potential customers were going to the site, but the qualifying questions were so long and complicated that people stopped before they were finished,” she said. “The bank was following up by calling these people, who presumably had interest in the service or they wouldn’t have visited the site in the first place, and saying, ‘We saw you were looking at our site. Do you have any questions?’ Of course, the visitors would say no, and then the bank employee would say, ‘Well, here’s my name and number. If you have any questions in the future, call me.’” 

Not surprisingly, this sales model wasn’t working. “The bank had spent a lot of time and money creating a site, but once the bank drew people to the site, the bank punted,” Morgen says. “It would have been (continued on page 2)
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