How To Get Your Foot In The Door On That First Sales Call?

Even if you are experienced, making the initial sales call on a company on which you have never called before requires nerve, at the very least, and perhaps some other attributes as well, like confidence and a positive attitude. But what else? How should one prepare?

A group of us belonging to the Greater New Haven (CT) Chamber of Commerce are planning a seminar on this topic and are soliciting good ideas and fresh input. Here are some initial thoughts to stimulate your own suggestions:

Prepare your mental attitude and emotions beforehand: confidence, optimism, calmness and the determination to succeed eventually, even if not on this first attempt

  • Remember the purpose of the first call is to confirm who you should be talking to and to handle the call so as to start a relationship with the company, i.e. to develop a welcoming attitude towards your future contacts
  • Also, use this initial call learn something helpful about how (s)he likes to be approached …or how not!
  • Plan your conversation so as learn more about the company and the needs of the person you really want to speak to. Do not give the listener a canned presentation.
  • Remember that you are doing the customer a favor by offering your product or service ….he or she will benefit from doing business with you. Stay confident.
  • Keep focused on the long term opportunity for success, not on the possibility of an immediate turn down.

That is a start; what other thoughts and suggestions do you have? I am looking forward to “hearing” from you. Thanks!


About Wilder Baker

Retired advertising agency CEO now active as management consultant with focus on marketing and marketing communications. Work with small companies and business owners to develop their business over the long term. My relationship with clients often evolves into that of trusted personal, as well as business, adviser. I also take short term projects as I can be helpful. I serve on the Board of the American Advertising Federation where I am a past Chairman and am a Trustee of the Hyde Leadership Charter School in New York City.
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6 Responses to How To Get Your Foot In The Door On That First Sales Call?

  1. William says:

    Of course the basic “do your homework first” on the company will help you ask the questions that will help probe into the information you want, or get them to elaborate on what they give you.

  2. Tony Caramagno says:

    Use your travel time to mentally prepare.

    When I first started selling, I would hop in the car, turn on my favorite tunes, and rock out on the way to the appointment. But I soon discovered, while this formula worked when I was trying to get pumped for the big game, when I showed up at the prospect’s office, I wasn’t in the right place mentally. Now, obviously you can’t review your notes while driving. But, I’ve found books on CD to be a great tool. I now always have a CD in my car by Zig Zigler, Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie or anyone of a dozen others. And, while this obviously won’t help with the specific details of this sale, they all stress good sales/interpersonal skills. And lets face it, the autonomy of a sales career can be great, but it also allows the opportunity to develop some bad habits. These CD’s give me a consistant reminder of good habits, and when I show up at the prospects door I am ready to implement them.

  3. Rob Orr says:

    This is good start to an interesting topic. Here are a few ideas from my experience:

    – Although I agree that you don’t want to “give the listener a canned presentation”, when I am making numerous calls (like when following up on a direct mail campaign), I do prepare an initial script. I also try to anticipate what objections I might hear and have answers ready. That said, you still will have to be prepared to think on your feet.

    – While it may not be on the initial call, I find it best to be able to make a provocative statement or ask an open-ended question that gets the prospect talking. Then LISTEN. Hopefully you will get ideas about what issues the prospect is faced with that you can then help address.

    – Don’t expect to get the order or engagement on the first call. Plan to stay in regular touch with your prospects going forward. Consider using means besides phone calls. Add them to a newsletter or blog list, share an idea with them via postal mail, etc. Ongoing touches are important because you have to be on their radar screen when their need arises.

    – Don’t alienate the gatekeepers. They have a job to do. Be friendly and show appreciation for any information they share or messages they agree to pass along. Get them to verify the contact’s email address for you.

    – If it becomes necessary to circumvent a gatekeeper, try calling before or after normal work hours. Sometimes I’ve been able to connect directly with the person that way, especially if I know their telephone extension.

    – Finally, I’ve learned to not take it personally. While most people are quite nice to talk to, others are rude. If that’s the response you get, don’t worry about it and move on.

    Hope these are helpful!

  4. Another piece of information that we have found quite valuable is to know what trends or economic changes are impacting their industry (including their competition).

    Linda Wellins

  5. WDB says:

    Thanks all; Good comments which I have forwarded on to our Chamber of Commerce aggregator for our project. And, if you are checking back to see if your comments were published, I apologize for the delay. When I take a vacation I leave my computer at home!
    Please let me know if you have suggestions for topics which you think will be of benefit to your fellow readers.

  6. Preston Bealle says:

    To your point about not giving a canned presentation, the worst magazine salespeople used to make a call on an ad agency, plunk the magazine on the desk and say “let me take you through the book”. As the receiver of many of these pitches, I’d groan inside and try to get them not to do it, always to no avail. They’d go page by page with pride, explaining every feature and why the mag was laid out as it was, what features their readers liked most and so on. After half an hour, the salesperson would walk out, confident he’d just had a great call at a big ad agency that would look good on his weekly report.
    While he might have succeeded in delivering the message “I have a good product”, he got no closer to an order because there was no interaction re what the client needed. About 20% of the reps did it differently. They asked a lot of questions and didn’t pull the magazine out until after they knew what would solve a client’s problems or needs. Those people usually ended up as publishers or ad directors.
    The other thought I have recalled many times in selling something came from a very successful developer friend. He was used to being told no, and in fact he’d noticed he was usually told no 7 times, and the 8th answer would be yes. So he came to like no, and see it as a victory, because it was one more step out of the way to the 8th answer, where he would get what he wanted. I have found this to be more true than not. Very few people will push through 7 “no’s” to get to a yes.

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