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Fail at cold calling to improve sales

Rochester Business Journal
May 16, 2003
Here's a new way to view the cold call: A cold call is not a place to make sales, a cold call is an opportunity to learn to sell. Why not start "the fail-your-way-to-success" method of cold calling?

Here's how to get great at selling by failing at cold calling. Identify the skills you want to practice. Dedicate an hour or two a day to learn, and understand that it's not about making a sale-it's about learning how to sell. With that mindset, you don't mind rejection because it's part of the learning process, and, as you improve, occasionally you'll get paid for learning.

Select one skill you want to perfect-let's say finding the decider-then make 10 calls, and aim to get in to see (through to talk to) five.

Below is a list of the 13 lifetime sales skills you can develop through the fail-your-way-to-success method of cold calling:

1. Develop a fast opening that grabs attention and gets you to the next step. What can you invent that gets immediate attention? Something that creates a smile-gets you in the door and gives you that 30-second opportunity with Mr. Big. What can you create that's innovative and gets you in every time? Long-term benefit: Teaches you to get to the point faster in your face-to-face presentations.

2. Build instant rapport. How fast can you put the other person at ease? How quickly does he warm up to you? How quickly does he like you? Long-term benefit: Teaches you that rapport is the jumping-off point to begin the sale. The faster you can gain it, the smoother your path to sales success.

3. Gain acceptance. Being real. Having your words be believed. Long-term benefit: Teaches you that rapport leads to acceptance-if I like you, I'm more likely to accept what you say. The cold call leaves very little time to gain acceptance.

4. Find the decider. Being in front of someone who can say yes to you. Too many salespeople give a great sales presentation to the wrong person. Long-term benefit: Teaches you that selling the non-decision maker leads to a non-sale.

5. Qualifying the decider. Finding out if the decider has the need and or money to buy what you sell. Long-term benefit: Teaches you to be certain you are speaking to someone who can buy and spend. (Caution: "Qualifying" is not to be mistaken for its evil twin, "pre-judging.")

6. The power of questioning. Being able to ask questions that make the prospect think, evaluate new information, and that separate you from your competition. Long-term benefit: Teaches you that questions about them lead to answers about you-which lead to sales.

7. Gaining prospect interest. Having useful information and ideas. Having information about the market and the ability to make your prospect's business grow and profit. Long-term benefit: Teaches you that the ability to gain the prospect's interest in your product or service stems from your interest in hers.

8. Fast persuasion. Getting others to say yes in a short space of time takes talent that can only be developed by practice. Long-term benefit: Teaches you to practice at, and be effective at, presenting a compelling message.

9. Persistence-the breakfast of winners. The cold call will usually not generate a sale. It will generate a follow-up opportunity. Long-term benefit: Teaches you that most sales are made after the seventh "no," or, better stated, the seventh follow-up. Your persistence is in direct proportion to your level of success.

10. Thinking on your feet. You've got three seconds to figure it out-cold calls are not about fast-talking, they're about fast thinking. Long-term benefit: Teaches you to "think solution" and "think question" instead of spewing out a bunch of facts and figures that will be forgotten two seconds after the door has let you out of his office.

11. The value of (and need for) creativity. Cold calls are all about creativity. The opening line. The gatekeeper block. The decision-maker treasure hunt. The sale. The cool part about creativity is that it can be studied and learned. Long-term benefit: Teaches you that creativity (which leads to memorability) is at the core of your sales success. The more creative you become, the easier it is to differentiate yourself from the dreaded competition (and their dreaded price).

12. The joy of rejection. Most people take rejection as a negative. I have always thought of it as "the pathway to yes." Try this. Add a dose of humor to rejection. For example: Start thanking people for telling you no. Tell them that they're helping you get one step closer to yes. Tell the prospect that only one out of four people buy-ask her if she knows anyone else who might not be interested, because you still need three more nos before someone says yes. Tell them you need people to tell you no because it helps you get to the yes quicker; it'll blow them away-and it'll make them laugh. Humor. Make me laugh and you can make me buy. The problem with rejection is that most people take it personally-big mistake. They're not rejecting you-they're just rejecting the offer you're making them. That feels better now, doesn't it? Long-term benefit: Teaches you that rejection is part of the success of selling. The more you can learn why they rejected you, the easier it is to eliminate the next rejection.

13. It tells you if sales is for you. If you can find the fun of cold calling and view it as the fail-your-way-to-success method to sales mastery, you will ultimately succeed at sales. If you can't, sales might not be your best career choice. Long-term benefit: Teaches you to do something you love, have the attitude to have fun at it and dedicate yourself to be the best at it by learning something new every day.

You don't get great at sales in a day-you get great at sales day by day.

GitBit: Want to laugh at failure? Learn to be more persistent. A list of 24 ways to be more persistent is yours free. Just go to, click "free stuff" then GitBit, register and enter the word "persistence."

(Jeffrey Gitomer, author of "The Sales Bible" and "Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless" and president of Charlotte, N.C.-based BuyGitomer Inc., gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or his e-mail address,

05/16/03 (C) Rochester Business Journal

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