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Article published in Issue Number: 061201

Hot cold calling

By Daniel Wadleigh, More New Customers

There are two kinds of leads: 1) They called you, and 2) You called them - also known as cold calling.

Close rates for the first type of lead historically average from 25% to 65%, depending on price, added value, marketing and selling skills.

Cold calling close rates are in the 4% to 5% range for almost any industry. But, at least it's predictable, as long as you don't exhaust your market universe too soon (thank goodness for start-ups).

None of this information, so far, is a big surprise. But I am setting the stage for the elements that maximize leads and sales.

In our industry, services and buy rates are very close, and there are a lot of salespeople. So, using a different approach to generate leads and close sales is what this article is all about. Prospects are tired of hearing, "I can save you money on your discount rate; give me your last three statements."

The pro knows

I have been cold calling in numerous industries for over 30 years. I have noticed that too many salespeople have a problem getting past gatekeepers to get to decision makers.

Some very accomplished sales trainers in this industry put an emphasis on requesting to see the business owner when making calls. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

In a competitive industry, service and added value are king, in that order. If gatekeepers or decision makers deem you are too pushy, they will also conclude you are too aggressive to be service oriented.

And, people do business with people whom they want to do business with.

Deconstructing decisions

The two attributes that drive decision making are impact and credibility. Price is the only issue for 25% of the population, but this is the case only if you offer prospects added value (including service) and get the chance to tell your story.

Carrier Corp. did a study to determine what factors contribute to decision making. Twenty-five percent of respondents said price was primary.

Seventeen percent emphasized added value, such as warranties, service, etc. But, 58% went either way, depending on how a product or service was presented - by price or added value.

Seventy-five percent of the market is available if you offer added value, and service is what customers want most. Do you always buy the lowest-priced items or services?

No. Why not? Because maybe one vendor is easier to deal with or adds the little things that matter to you, like personality and attitude.

Keeping gatekeepers

There is a way to successfully get past gatekeepers. It has three steps:

1. Treat gatekeepers with respect and regard. That means taking the time to properly get their attention.

2. Sell gatekeepers on the benefits to the boss (and thus to them) of what you offer.

3. Provide useful leave-behind materials that summarize the benefits you bring to the table.

Issues with impact

Service is the No. 1 impact issue, particularly in an industry where it is too often MIA (missing in action).

Service means taking care of problems and providing regular, sincere attention, not just offering something extra to buy every time they see you.

Added value is the other impact issue.

Credibility is essential, too. It means you have bothered to verify all claims you make. Any form of exaggeration will be found out, and the first opportunity a duped customer has to switch will be your demise.

Price is not the major factor. Of course, nobody wants to waste money or make lateral moves, but price isn't all there is.

Emotion inspires; logic justifies. Merchants may hope to save money by switching to you, but if there is a risk of emotional damage (otherwise known as hassles and surprises) they will not pull the trigger.

That's why impact also needs credibility. Testimonials are gold in terms of building trust if they're done right.

Don't make them too long. But they should address the two impact and credibility issues: the value-added benefits of doing business with you and your over-the-line service.

Put some of these tips to work, and I'm sure your cold calls will be warming up in no time.

Daniel Wadleigh, a nationally published marketing consultant, has programs for start-up and existing businesses covering topics such as effective Web sites, e-mail and database tips, non-Internet ways to drive customers to your Web site, and other low-cost ways to attract new customers. For more information, call 512-803-0956, e-mail or visit

Article published in issue number 061201

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