Thursday, May 07, 2009
The golden rule of prospecting
It’s 7:00 p.m. and you’re about to sit back in your favourite chair when the phone rings. You pick up the receiver and this is what you hear: “Good evening, I’m with Best Carpet Cleaning. How are you tonight?” If you are like most people, you respond with three simple words: “I’m not interested.”

But why do most of us react in this negative manner when we don't even know what the call is about? In fact, had you listened to the rest of the presentation, this what you would have heard: “As a promotion by a local carpet manufacturer, your house has been selected to receive free wall-to-wall broadloom. This top-of-the-line carpet is available in a choice of ten different colors and includes installation and taxes, so it won’t cost you a cent.”

Getting the appointment would have been easy had this salesperson not been the master of her own demise. She destroyed her chance of landing the appointment by breaking a cardinal prospecting rule; she told the prospect what she was selling before offering a benefit. The moment you heard the words carpet cleaning, you stopped listening to the presentation and began to prejudge the value of the call.

When prospecting for new clients, keep in mind that the person on the other end of the phone is going through this same mental evaluation process. For example, when a receptionist picks up the phone and hears “Good morning, it’s Peter calling from Best Publishing.” or “Good morning, it’s Peter calling from On Target Magazine. Could you please tell me who is handling the advertising for your company?”, he will most likely react to your phone call in the same way that you did when the carpet cleaning company called. He’ll say “Thank you for calling, but we’re not interested right now,” because he’s been listening for and has just heard the key words that allow him to screen the call; the moment that you said “publishing, magazine and advertising,” the sale was over. Since most receptionists have instructions to block salespeople, it is crucial that your initial telephone presentations deny them this screening opportunity.

So here’s the most important prospecting rule of all: when making a cold call, don't tell the receptionist what you are selling. Instead, use one of the following techniques:

1. Don’t mention the company or magazine name. Just ask for the person you want to speak to. “Good morning, could I please get the correct spelling of your marketing manager’s last name?
2. Use an acronym. Instead of saying "It’s Peter from Best Publishing," use the first letters of the company name and say "Good morning. It’s Peter form B&P."
3. Drop the give-away words. Instead of saying, “It’s Peter from Eclipse Media,” say "Good morning. It’s Peter from Eclipse."

Consider the huge difference this small change can make. Since the receptionist doesn’t hear the key words that identify your product and service, he cannot screen your call. Although he may ask some probing questions, if he’s busy, he’s likely to just put your call through. By making this small-but-important change, you will dramatically increase the number of appointments you land while making fewer cold calls.
- Peter Ebner
About Me
Peter Ebner
Peter is a professional sales trainer and marketing consultant with over 25 years of industry experience. He is author of several books including Grow Rich Selling Magazine Ads. He can be reached at (905) 713-2274 or on the Web at
Most Recent Blog Comment
Pardee says:
I'm with Todd and Ad Girl on this one. A complete media kit including rate card is best. In fact I t...
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