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The Green Sheet Online Edition

August 09, 2010 • Issue 10:08:01

Putting the cold call in its proper place

By Jeffrey Shavitz
Charge Card Systems Inc.

By entering the payments space as a merchant level salesperson (MLS), you have just committed to making the dreaded cold call. And any MLS that tells you he or she enjoys making cold calls is lying.

However, as a bright-eyed person getting into a space with unlimited earnings potential - which is still true despite being a bit harder to accomplish than it used to be - you can become incredibly successful once you have merchants processing with you.

This task doesn't seem hard until you realize you must first prospect and meet some new customers.

Many sales managers will sit with their new crop of sales recruits and discuss the power of the cold call. As many best-selling books on cold-calling will tell you, the conversation may begin something like this:

    Have you heard about the 15-3-1 rule? Simply stated, the rule means that you likely will need to make 15 cold calls to get three appointments; of these three appointments, you will close one sale.

If these figures held true, you would be making one sale a day, five times per week, or 20 sales a month. Sales managers constantly reinforce that a no answer just gets you closer to the yes.

Theory versus reality

If cold-calling were this easy, most MLSs would be averaging 20 deals per month, and we would all be enjoying great careers in our industry. At a recent financial services conference, I was surprised to learn that only 1.4 percent of new salespeople entering the insurance industry actually enjoy this level of success after two years.

It would be interesting to learn how many full-time MLSs feel they are enjoying a productive and successful career in our industry after two years.

Selling is hard, and the simplistic algorithm mentioned above does not have merit in 2010. It's just too competitive. Fifteen phone calls should take only a few minutes per day because we so often reach a prospect's voice mail. And those we do reach may quickly end the call.

Let's be generous and say the cold calls take one hour in total. Assuming you work eight hours a day, you need to make a lot more cold calls than 15 per day to generate significant sales. And you will have the time to make those extra calls.

The nightmare scenario

An old Seinfeld episode dramatizes the newbie's nightmare of making the disastrous cold call. In this episode, Jerry receives a call from a salesman who annoyingly pitches his product or service during dinner time. Jerry, in turn, says to the salesman, "What is your home telephone number, and I'll call you back later." The solicitor, of course, refuses to give his personal number because he doesn't want to be disturbed at home, giving Jerry an easy excuse to hang up on him with the comment, "Now you know how I feel."

Working the trust network

Yet the cold call doesn't have to be like that. Cold-calling can work, although it's very difficult in today's market. We have better ways to get solid leads and increase sales.

People buy from people or organizations they trust. So why not spend your time networking with your friends, college alumni and the business people within your community? Get referrals and introductions, and I promise that you will enjoy your sales profession more and have the results that we are all trying to achieve.

Haze your new recruits

As a sales manager, one way to make your new salespeople love you is to have them cold-call for the first few days. Let them suffer; then come in and share better alternatives with them. Cold-calling is like rushing a fraternity or sorority in college: It's good for everyone to try. It will make you a tougher salesperson and help you better appreciate the easier and more productive ways to sell. end of article

Jeffrey Shavitz is one of the founders of Charge Card Systems Inc. He is also an active member of The Green Sheet Advisory Board and the First Data ISO Advisory Board. He can be reached at jshavitz@chargecardsystems.com or 800-878-4100. For additional information on CCS, please visit www.chargecardsystems.com/gsadvisoryboard or the company's corporate website at Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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