You Gotta Make The Call – Part One

This will be a two-part post focusing on one of the most disliked aspects of selling. That aspect is cold calling. Part One will focus on cold calling over the phone and Part Two will focus on cold calling in person. 

 

I’ve never met a salesperson who truly loved making Cold Calls. I’ve met some who claimed to but their actions showed otherwise. But the discipline to make those calls whether you like to or not often determines the success of a sales professional. 

 

Successful people have developed the habits of doing the things that less successful people simply don’t like to do. Successful salespeople have developed the habit of prospecting even if they don’t particularly like it. 

 

If you’re Cold Calling over the phone then use a script. But, and this is huge, never, never, never read your script. Use it as a roadmap to make certain you don’t skip over important points. Use it as a confidence builder so you’ll actually make the call but if you’re calling people up to read to them expect to be a far less than successful salesperson. And please please please, don’t tell anyone you have exactly what they need before you even know their name.

 

Your first question MUST be relative to time. Never assume your prospect was just sitting around waiting for you to call. No matter how good your product is or how helpful it could be you ARE an interruption to your prospect’s day. You must demonstrate immediately that you understand that. Also demonstrate that you will ALWAYS be respectful of their time. 

 

Don’t ask if this is a good time to talk because it almost never will be. Ask instead if they have a few moments to talk about an idea, product or solution they may find beneficial. A few moments seem like less time than a few minutes so your odds of getting a yes are better. Just remember if after getting a yes you burn up too much of their time you are an instant liar. 

 

Your goal on a cold call is most commonly to sell an appointment. If you’ve done even a little research on how your product or service can help the person or company you’re calling then setting an appointment should go pretty quickly. 

 

Speaking of research if you’re not going to do any then you’re not going to have much success cold calling, on the phone or in person. It’s never been easier to find information about a potential customer than it is today. A 5 or 10 minute investment of time on the internet can make all the difference in the success of your cold call. After all, if you’re selling hay then don’t expect much success when cold calling a person raising chickens. Find the prospects raising horses… BEFORE you call.


Technically the research means your cold call isn’t nearly as cold as cold calls used to be. You have the ability to “warm” it up as much as you want. If you’re making cold calls the same way it was done in the 70’s and 80’s you’re completely missing the boat. 

 

I know this sounds stupid but you need to rehearse. Out loud, not in your head. 

 

I once knew a guy who was arguably the best salesperson who ever lived. He sold life insurance. Billions and billions (literally) of dollars of life insurance. He was his company’s top salesperson for 54 consecutive years. 

 

I ran into him shortly before he retired. He was standing outside an office building talking out loud to himself. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was about to make a cold call and he was practicing what he was going to say. 

 

As he had many times during our friendship he amazed me. He had to have made thousands of calls during his illustrious career and yet he wouldn’t even consider making a call without practicing first. 

 

I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of even mildly successful salespeople rarely if ever practice before a call. They figure they are good enough to “wing it.” It’s common practice to not practice but you should know that you will never achieve uncommon results by doing what’s common.

 

Those are all helpful ideas to increase your success rate when cold calling over the phone. However, none of them are the biggest reason salespeople fail at this important aspect of selling. The biggest reason they fail is because THEY NEVER MAKE THE CALL. If you’re going to have any success at cold calling you gotta make the call. 

 

No amount of practice, research, or planning will help if you never actually get in the game. Very successful salespeople fear failure as much as less successful salespeople do. They difference is they try anyway. 


Make the call! 

 

 

Actually, Winners Do Quit

I saw one of those motivational posters the other day that said “Winners Never Quit.” I’ve heard that for years. I‘ve seen similar posters forever. The premise of the posters seems to be that if you quit you’re a loser. 

 

Funny thing is, it’s not true. Winners actually quit all the time. 

 

In fact, I’d submit that the fastest way to lose is to never quit. Not quitting is one of the biggest mistakes that less successful consistently make. They may try news things but they never completely quit the old things that hold them back.

 

The most successful people know that much of their success in the coming year will come from what they quit doing. They know that in many cases they will need to quit something old in order to try something new.

 

If you don’t believe that then invest one day, just one day, to exam your actions.  After every time you do something stop for a few seconds and ask yourself if that “thing” you just did got you closer to a goal or not. Ask yourself if that “thing” you just did was productive or whether it was just something you have always done. Ask yourself exactly why you did it. 

 

If you’re like me, and most other people, you won’t be able to say with any level of specificity why you do many of the things you do. You’ll be able to explain the big things you do but likely not many of the little things that chew up most of the minutes in your day. 

 

Not being able to explain why you do what you do is what kills your productivity. Doing things simply because you have always done them destroys the discipline you need to reach your potential. 

 

I guarantee, no matter how successful you are, that there is something you frequently do that if you quit you would be more successful. There is likely something in your life that needs to change in order for you to be more successful. If that’s the case then you should know that nothing will change in your life until you quit doing something that you do everyday. 

 

Here’s an idea…quit reading motivational posters that say winners never quit. Start looking hard at all the things you do that pay zero dividends to you. Then win by quitting those things. When you quit unproductive activities you have to opportunity to start new more productive ones. 


You see, winners do quit but only so they can begin anew! 

A Million Dollar Meeting

Years ago when I was a younger salesperson one of my biggest potential accounts was the 3M Company in Minnesota. They had a group there that was called the 3M Meeting Management Institute. The group published a paper that gave lots of guidelines on how to hold effective meetings. They also estimated that the 3M Company was wasting 1 million dollars a day on ineffective meetings. (Apparently they weren’t following their own advice)

 

I hadn’t had a lot of luck breaking into that account until one day I was in a stationary store and saw a poster with a picture of 1 million dollars on fire surrounded by smoke. I bought a bunch of them and began mailing one a day to the CEO of 3M with the same short note every day. The note said “another million up in smoke…I can help put out the fire but only if you give me the chance.” 

 

I think I sent 14 or 15 posters before his administrative assistant called me to set up an appointment. 3M became the biggest account for my entire organization. 

 

The fact that 3M was losing 1 million dollars a day (if that was indeed accurate) speaks more to the shear size of their company than it does to their inability to hold productive meetings. I don’t think they were really any worse at meetings than any other company, including yours.

 

The jokes and one-liners about ineffective meetings are endless. You have undoubtedly heard many of them yourself like, “meetings are where the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.” Or “meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to get anything done.” 

 

They are funny and would be even funnier if it were not for the serious loss of productivity. Meetings are serious business. They are expensive whether the person or organization calling the meeting realizes it or not. 

 

You may never learn to like meetings but you can learn to give them at least a chance at being productive by following a few simple guidelines. These are in no particular order but the more of them you follow the better your chances of have a meeting that matters. 

 

Before you call a meeting, justify it. Don’t schedule a meeting until you’re certain you need a meeting. Most people assume that meetings are productive. If you want a productive meeting then you should assume the exact opposite. Ask yourself, “What is the intended outcome? What are we trying to accomplish? Do we need to put people in a room together to accomplish it?” If you can’t specifically demonstrate the need for a meeting, don’t have a meeting. If you can, then the process of justifying it will help you focus on what you want the meeting to accomplish. It will increase the chances of the meeting achieving your goals.

 

Don’t invite spectators to the meeting. It’s easy to “over-invite” people to meetings. We include people that may or may not help us accomplish the meeting objective. Don’t do that. Only invite people who you know will add value to the meeting. Inviting spectators to a meeting means you have people in the meeting who feel no responsibility to follow through. They feel no responsibility to accomplish anything. The only thing spectators actually accomplish is making the meeting take longer than it should.

 

Schedule only the amount of time required to accomplish the objective. Programs like Outlook are no help when it comes to planning productive meetings. The default time when scheduling a meeting with Outlook is 30 or 60 minutes. Ignore those defaults. If you can accomplish your objective in 12 minutes then schedule a 12 minute meeting. People will appreciate your respect for their time. You’ll likely accomplish as much in those 12 minutes as you would have accomplished in a 60 minute meeting. 

 

If you scheduled the meeting then it’s your meeting. When no one is in charge of the meeting then no one is in charge of the meeting. Few objectives are accomplished from meetings with no one in charge. If you called the meeting then you’re in charge of the meeting. You’re responsible for maintaining focus. Your responsible for accomplishing objectives and you’re responsible for keeping the meeting on time. If you can’t accept that responsibility then don’t schedule the meeting. 

 

If there are no action steps it wasn’t a productive meeting. I’ve never been in a meeting where there wasn’t lots of talking. I’ve been in a ton of meetings where there was no action. Talk is cheap but action is priceless. If no one is assigned an action step, or several action steps, then nothing will come from the meeting. (Well actually something is likely to come from a meeting with no actions steps….another meeting) Every meeting participant should know exactly what is expected of them as a result of participating in the meeting and also when it is expected of them. If, and that’s a big if, if there is a follow up meeting it should begin with a discussion of those action steps. Remember, a lack of action steps lead to only one thing… no action.


Just because most meetings are not productive doesn’t mean most meetings can’t be productive. You may not be losing a million dollars a day in unproductive meetings but you almost certainly aren’t getting what you could get from them. If you’re calling the meeting then the ultimate success of the meeting is on you. If you can’t accept that then no one else should accept your meeting.

Customers are People Too

In many industries customers often become more than customers. They become friends. Not necessarily the kind you would invite to non-business gatherings, but people you truly care about and who care about you.

 

You may think you are in the business of selling or manufacturing stuff, but you are not. Even if your products are sold only to other businesses, the business doesn’t make the buying decision. A person does. You are in the people business. Learning to show people that they are important and cared about will help you make both the initial sale and long-term sales over the course of time.

 

No matter what you sell, every customer should receive your best service during the sales process and after. That service should be delivered in a way that shows you care about the customer. 


Good salespeople listen far more than they talk. They ask meaningful questions and then listen. The best salespeople even take notes. 

 

A Minneapolis business legend, Harvey Mackay, has a long list of information he requires his salespeople to gather about customers. This includes not only information required to do business, but a few personal details such as birthdays, whether or not they’re married, children’s names, and whether or not they have pets. That information is used to make contacts and to start conversations with customers after the initial sale.

 

It also helps the salesperson…and customer, develop a relationship beyond the sale. It’s far easier to do business with people you know than it is to do business with someone who shows up to peddle something every once on a while. 

 

People like to do business with people who are like them. People who demonstrate that they care about them beyond making the sale. People who keep them in mind when something new that might be of interest to them pops up. They come to rely on businesses and salespeople they know they can trust to have their needs and interests at heart.

 

Here is the real trick to building real, long lasting relationships – there is no trick. You need to understand that you can’t build a relationship with a business or an organization. You can only build relationships with other people. 

 

Even the biggest companies and organizations are nothing more than a group of people. Real people. People who value real relationships with other people. Even salespeople. 

 

To build a real relationship you must have the other person’s interests at heart. If you do not, they will eventually figure that out and you will become just another product peddler that they will try to avoid.

 

Customers are people too. Never forget that simple, too often forgotten fact because you do so at your own peril. 


One more thought….if you’re a Sales Manager or a business leader who expects your people to build relationships with your customers then you should know that your people are unlikely to build those relationships unless you have built one with your people first. 

Are You a Talker or a Communicator? Part Two

In my last post we talked about accepting 100% responsibility for everything you say AND 100% responsibility for everything the person you’re speaking with hears. Once you’re willing to do that then you’ll have the opportunity to improve your own communication skills. 

 

The beauty of accepting 100% responsibility is that it doesn’t matter how good the other person’s communication skills are. You still get your message across and have the possibility of better understanding their message as well. 

 

To communicate well you’ll want to make certain that your thoughts are delivered in as clear and concise a manner as possible. It helps to have a good idea about what you’re trying to communicate. If you don’t know what you want to say how will the other person ever figure it out? 

 

Make what you’re saying easy for the other person to understand. You do not want people guessing at what you mean because if they guess wrong that’s on you. Speak the way they speak, speak at their level and never never ever talk down to someone. Once I get the sense I’m being talked down to I shut my ears off cause I figure there isn’t anything to learn from this person.

 

Don’t try to convey multiple ideas in one sentence. This is especially true in written communications. Do your best to avoid “filler” words. Phrases such as “you know” “I mean” and “kind of” usually don’t add any meaning to what you’re saying but they can make it harder to decipher your message. 

 

Practice using fewer words. Try not to use 9 words to make your point when 8 words or 7 words or 6 words or 5 words would do. (See my point?) 

 

Don’t stop communicating part way through your message. Is there something you want to happen as a result of your communication? Then say so. Make certain you’ve given the other person ALL the information they need to correctly take the action you’re wanting. Remember YOU are 100% responsible for the success of every communication. When you leave out needed details then whatever happens is your responsibility too. 

 

We all communicate in some form every day. The better you communicate the greater the credibility you will have with your customers, your boss, your coworkers, your family and friends. 

 

I can pretty much guarantee you that almost every disagreement I’ve ever had with someone came from me not investing those 2 or 3 seconds required to think about what I wanted the other person to hear and to ensure that my communication was successful. 


Everything is simpler when I communicate well. I suspect you’ll find that to be true for you too. 

Are You a Talker or a Communicator? Part One

Before I begin this post on communication I feel that I must point out that I’m only writing about half of the communication process. And it’s the least important half. 

 

The communication process of course involves speaking and listening. Of the two listening is far more important. Listening is how we learn. You will learn more in five minutes of listening then you will learn in a lifetime of talking. Sometime in the future I’ll probably do a post on listening, maybe right after I do that post on procrastination. But for now we are talking about the speaking part of the process. I should also point out that much of the speaking part can also apply to our written communications. 

 

Here’s something you might not like to hear but you’ll be a much better communicator if you believe it: you are 100% responsible for both parts of the communication. You are 100% responsible for everything you say and you are 100% responsible for everything the other person hears.

 

If you ever had a disagreement where the other person says “well you said…..” and then you say, “no, I said…..” then YOU have missed the mark as a communicator. If the person you’re speaking to doesn’t understand what you’ve said then the whole point of the communication has been missed. 

 

The first step in being a more effective communicator is to accept total responsibility for the miscommunication. If you simply blame the other person for their poor communication or listening skills then you will miss the opportunity to improve your own. 

 

Speak in such as way as to encourage the other person to listen. Use words and a tone of voice that draw your listener in. Talk in terms of THEIR interests to encourage them to linger on your words long enough to understand them. 

 

Don’t use a bigger word than you need to. Don’t use lingo you’re familiar with, use their lingo. Or don’t use lingo at all. Sometimes people use lingo to try and impress someone but what’s truly impressive is being able to communicate in a way that anyone can understand. 

 

What surprises me most about my own communications is how often I say something with no consideration of how it will sound to the person I’m speaking with. I just blurt it out. I mean who has time to think about what they are saying before they say it. 

 

Well, I have time. So do you. 

 

The challenge is taking 2 or 3 seconds, yep, that’s all it takes, to consider our words before we say them. There will be a bit of silence in that two or three seconds and we, well me, thinks that makes us look stupid, like we don’t know what to say. 

 

Abraham Lincoln once said something like “it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.” 

 

Talkers talk. Communicators chose their words to convey the intended message. Which one are you? 

 

I’ve been working hard at thinking about what I’m about to say for a few seconds before I say it. What I’ve found is that I often end up not saying anything. It’s like my mom always told me…if you have nothing of value to add to a conversation then perhaps nothing is what you should add. 


In the second part of this post we’ll look at some of the more technical aspects of effective communication. There are clearly methods of communication that work and methods that don’t. We’ll be looking at the ones that work!