By Bob Schoenbauer
Capitol Payment Systems Inc.
Question: What day or days have proven to be the best to cold call merchants? Best time of day?
"Coach" Bob's answer: My answer to this question is the same for cold calling or preset appointments. Our experience has shown that weekends just don't work for visiting merchants. As many of you may know, we do not have in-house sales at Capitol Payment Systems.
Several years ago, though, as an agent office we had as many as 16 outside salespeople and telemarketers. We tried visiting merchants on weekends through both cold calling and presetting appointments several times, with no results.
While I personally never tried to cold call on weekends, those who did, only did so once. I remember talking myself into taking preset weekend appointments on a few occasions. Red hot merchant! Needs to see me right away! Will be there waiting! Of those few that I tried, never once was the merchant even there. Not once.
As for the best hours of the day, the easy answer would be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. We found, with a little planning and research, we were able to shorten these hours, allowing us to save time and energy while achieving the same results. To do this, we need to break prospects in to three groups: retail, restaurant and service industry.
Retail and restaurants are similar, with the difference being the lunch rush. If you are only calling on these industries, waiting until 10 a.m. for your first contact is optimal. With most owners getting in at 9 or 9:30 a.m., this allows them to catch up from the previous day, make calls and settle in. The more you can minimize distractions and control the environment, the higher your closing ratio will be.
As for the end of the day, distractions become an even bigger obstacle; 3:30 p.m. was about as late as I would ever visit a merchant. I found the same with our reps and am still seeing this today with our agent partners. Any later, and the merchant's mind will wander off to thoughts of getting out the door and heading home. The later it gets, the shorter the merchant's attention span will be.
If you do visit a merchant late in the day, you'll need to work hard at controlling the environment. Asking additional questions during your presentation is an easy way to do this.
Restaurants are a different animal in that you need to know their lunch rush - not just when tables are busy, but how long it takes them to recoup from the rush. For some small restaurants, you may need to block out 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., while others may be 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You must be very sensitive to this.
The bottom line is that when calling on retailers and restaurants, we were able to work in the field from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., getting the same results and avoiding burnout. The service industry was our exception to the rule. Most of these owners are in very early - 7:30 to 8 a.m. We would see them from 8:30 a.m. until our first retail or restaurant owners were available.
While service businesses are great filler for an early start, they are also much more than that. Some reps are comfortable with them and some aren't. I was very successful with them due to my background, as were many sales partners I trained.
So there you have it. You can work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and try to not get stymied by prospects' rush times, or you can work a little smarter, beat the rush and be better prepared for tomorrow.
"Coach" Bob Schoenbauer is the President and founder of Annapolis, Md.-based Capitol Payment Systems Inc., which was established in 1997. Bob attests that CPS is a debt-free ISO/MSP built on clarity, respect and an open door for MLS partners. He is always available for advice, drawing on his experience in both face to face and phone sales. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or 410-897-4960. For more info on CPS, please visit www.capitolpaymentsystems.com.
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