Cold callers face a dichotomy. Picture the receptionist/secretary, barraged by telephone and mail solicitations, whose boss says, “Hold all my calls. I don’t want to see anyone.” The next week this same boss says, “Why aren’t you giving me any quotes on competitors’ prices?” And the secretary replies, “But you told me to hold all calls!”
Corporate gatekeepers are skilled in screening unwanted or suspected time wasters, but they also have a responsibility to see that information about useful products and services gets through to their managers. As a salesperson, you must meet the challenge of showing these gatekeepers that you come bearing good and useful news about products and services.
In your pre-call planning, find out who makes the key decisions and how he or she makes them. If you sell to specific industries, become active in related trade associations. Read their publications and attend meetings and conventions that you think will attract key decision makers. Many national trade associations have local or regional chapters. Join these associations and volunteer for committee assignments or run for a board-of-directors seat. You could also write articles for their publications or offer to present a program at meetings or educational sessions.
Another good source of information is the prospect’s salespeople. They are easy to reach because they return phone calls. They understand your situation and are usually empathetic.
When you know who the key decision maker is, you are less likely to be shunted downward when you approach the receptionist either in person or by phone. You must come across verbally and nonverbally as a potential asset to the company. Your manner must reflect wholehearted confidence without pretense or cockiness. Maintain a poised, confident manner that radiates belief in your potential value to the prospect. Help the screener recognize the value of your offer and you’ll be helping yourself to more sales.