SALES

6 Classic Cold Call Mistakes

Listen to these short sound clips and you'll never make these mistakes again.
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Here are some real-life examples of cold calls gone wrong.  These short (less than 30 second) clips were recorded by Steve Kloyda, also known (rightly) as "The Prospecting Expert," whose website has great advice for avoiding them.  (I've added my own "solution" to the mistakes.)

1. Fake Friendliness

Mistake: The salesman attempts assess the prospect's receptiveness by asking an inappropriate question, thereby antagonizing the customer.

Listen: FakeFriendliness

Solution: Get to the point.  Say who you are, who you represent, why you're calling and why your offering is unique.  Then ask a meaningful question.

Example: "This is John Doe from Acme, and I'm calling because..."

2. Spray and Pray

Mistake: The salesman misses an important cue, then runs off a long list of products, clearly hoping that one of them will pique the prospect's interest.

Listen: SprayAndPray

Solution: After you've briefly described what you're selling and why it's unique, ask a question that helps assess if there's a need.  (And keep your ears open for cues!!)

Example: "We help couples like yourself plan for the future, so that you can send your kids through college and still have something to retire on.  Just out of curiosity, how do you and your husband make these kind of decisions?"

3. Talking About Yourself

Mistake: The salesperson goes on and on about what he wants and what he's doing until the exasperated prospect just wants to get off the phone.

Listen: TalkingAboutYourself

Solution: When you're explaining what you're selling, tell the customer's story, not your story.

Example: "Long story short, I sell investments, but the real story is that I make my living helping people like yourself make better investment decisions."

4. Folding Up Too Soon

Mistake: The salesman is not prepared to answer even the most obvious objection to continuing the conversation.

Listen: FoldingAtFirstObjection

Solution: List out the objections that you hear most often and devise a follow-on question that keeps the conversation going.

Example (in response to "we've already got things set up."): "That's wonderful! Most people ignore these important issues until it's too late.  Just out of curiosity, how are you estimating the amount of savings you'll need?"

5. Failure to Differentiate

Mistake: The saleswoman engages the prospect in a conversation but is unable to express why what she's selling is different from what the prospect already has.

Listen: FailureToDifferentiate

Solution: With the first 10 seconds of the conversation, include something that your firm does better than anybody else in the world.

Example: "Several firms in your industry have saved around 25% on inventory expense using our software and I'm wondering whether you might be interested in learning more.  Is this a good time to talk?"

6. Asking the Wrong Questions

Mistake: The saleswoman asks a series of Yes/No questions that give the prospect the opportunity to express disinterest. Then she asks for a referral, which is absurd at this point because she hasn't created sufficient trust.

Listen: FailureToDifferentiate

Solution: Ask open-ended questions that start a conversation that might uncover hidden needs.

Example: "How are you ensuring that your retirement income will meet your needs when you're no longer working?"

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Last updated: Aug 15, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is "Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts that You Need to Know."

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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