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Name. Number. Click.

Frost on a pine needle
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lida Rose

Cold calling. Really.

Or maybe this particular call should be considered warm, since this vendor and I have what most doctor’s offices would consider a “relationship”. Only a doctor’s office would consider it such a thing, but I digress.

Anyhow, a vendor rep called me not long ago. I let the call go to voice mail because I was busy and in the middle of something. (Hint: You should do more of that unless taking calls is your job.)

The odd thing about the call was that the person left their name and number, but didn’t bother to address me, suggest a reason for the call, or give me a compelling (much less lousy) reason to call back.

Name. Number. Click.

That’s what I got.

Why exactly did you call?

I was reminded of Raymond Chen’s “Is that i or y?” post when I got the call.

If you are going to depend on cold (or even lukewarm) calls to make your sales quota (or your business profitable), one thing would help.

  • Appear to give a darn when you call. “Name. Number. Click.” doesn’t leave that impression. Nor does a “Oh my will this day *ever* be over” tone of voice.
  • Leave a message – but not just your name and number and a click. Give me a compelling reason to drop everything else I have going on and call you back right away. If you don’t have such a reason, then cold calling is a poor way to sell your stuff, no matter how valuable it might be. It’s ok that it isn’t so romantic or enticing that I don’t call you right back  – but it had still better bring some value and/or intrigue to the table. Provoke me to be interested. “Name. Number. Click.” doesn’t do that. Not even close.
  • Find a way to improve your sales process. I really doubt that management would suggest calls made like that. I can just about guarantee they’d never return a call like that. “Name. Number. Click.” calls just don’t get returned. So why make them?

OK, so that’s three things. I could continue, but let’s keep it simple.

Back to #3 on that list. Make a serious effort to improve. Just about any sales self-improvement author could help, like Tom Hopkins, Chet Holmes, Zig Ziglar, and if you want to focus specifically on sales calls, Art Sobczak.

The “Name. Number. Click.” thing isn’t working at all.

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The ladies really dig my shiny new membership card

Got a pre-election call from the National Rifle Association (NRA) the other day. It’s that time of year – my phone has been ringing off the hook with election-related calls. Yep, it came on the famous 13 call day (15 as it turned out).

The call is made under the guise of checking how you’re going to vote, but the real reason for the call is to find new members.

Anyhow, I had some ulterior motives for letting him talk, so I gave the NRA guy a minute or so just to see what he had to say (usually the call center delay is all it takes to get me to hang up). After a bit of small talk to find out where I was on gun-related issues, he said something about joining and that “your benefits include a membership card…”

That’s what he STARTED with.

Now, if you’re trying to sell someone a membership to the NRA on a cold call, is that really how you want to start a call with me? Is that the best benefit they could come up with? I know better.

  • He didn’t ask if I hunt (I haven’t in probably 30 years – Ouch, that makes me OLD!). If the answer is yes, the natural follow would be to find out more about what I hunt for.
  • He didn’t ask if I target shoot (I do, occasionally).
  • He didn’t ask if I own any guns (I don’t, got rid of a .410 shotgun a few years ago cuz I wasn’t using it) and if so, what I own and what I use them for. This would easily allow the caller to extend the conversation with questions about the history of them, where I got them, how I like them etc. Why? To develop some rapport and common ground.
  • He didn’t ask what I knew about the NRA and proceed to figure out which benefits of being a member would be important and beneficial to me – and focus on them.

If you’re cold calling (and I hope you have other, far better ways to generate leads), you have to quickly develop some rapport. Of course, the first part of that cold call is no different than your situation in an elevator, a trade show booth or when someone asks “So, what do you do?” and you *know* they could benefit from what you do or sell.

Had he asked the right questions, he would have found that I was interested in blackpowder instructor courses – because the boys in my Scout troop want to start a blackpowder shooting program. That requires professionally trained leaders. He might also have found out that I might be interested in the other training and gun safety programs they have – and perhaps that I could use a few of their experts at Scouting events now and then.

But he was too interested in selling me that shiny new membership card.  On a day with 13+ electioneering calls, that isn’t going to get me excited about staying on the phone and whipping out my credit card.

No matter what started the conversation, develop rapport. Sell benefits that make sense based on what your rapport has taught you about your prospect.


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Are most cold callers lazy? Absolutely.

While I really don’t have anything against cold calling from a pure marketing perspective, more often than not, it’s a really poor use of time and people. This is especially true when it is done by the lazy.

More often than not, it is done in a carpet bombing fashion, where everyone in the phone book (or everyone on a particular exchange) is called. That’s lazy. Really lazy.

If people used it wisely according to prospect demographics and psychographics, I’d mind it a lot less and it’ll waste a lot fewer hours – much less being far more effective.


Because if I’m the right prospect for that cold call, I might actually be interested. Assuming, of course, that you didn’t interrupt me at the worst possible time. If I do happen to pick up the phone (rare), once in a while I might actually be interested – especially if you put even a little bit of effort into market research before you made the call.

There is more to this than just choosing the right group of people to call. There’s that whole permission marketing thing that Seth Godin talks about. In other words, the Do Not Call list. Twice in the last 3 days, the same vendor has called two of my numbers that are on the Do-Not-Call list.

I understand that registering to use the Do-Not-Call list is expensive for a business that wants to make telemarketing calls. However, it isn’t as expensive as dealing with the FTC when they slap you around for violating the Do-Not-Call law.

Another problem with cold calling is that you haven’t done *anything* to begin to create a relationship when you make that call. Many people detest telemarketing calls, so you risk ticking off that person with your first overt act to contact them.

Some people swear by cold calling, and make no bones about it, in some markets it is very effective. But you won’t catch me doing it. I think it’s idiotic when done poorly. Maybe I just don’t appreciate the lack of effort most businesses put into finding the right people to call.

Cold calling done poorly is harder than selling a comb to a bald guy. If you’re going to do it, at least be smart about it.

I think you can do better.