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How to make a terrible sales call

Asking an either/or question, rather than a yes/no question, is a big no no.


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It happened again.

Yesterday I got a call from a salesperson with a company here in Colorado. She breathlessly told me what she did, mentioned she was going to be in my area and asked me if Tuesday or Wednesday would be better for her to stop by.

That’s it.

No rapport-building, no questions about whether I might actually need what she has, no asking for permission. She just assumed I’d be happy to set aside some of my valuable time for her to make a more detailed sales pitch. As if I sit around my office twiddling my thumbs, wishing a salesperson would stop by to break up the monotony.

The technique she used – asking an either/or question rather than a yes/no question – is an old one. The idea is you don’t give the prospect the option of saying no, so you’re more likely to secure an appointment.

I can’t believe companies (and some so-called sales experts) are still training people to use garbage like this. The tactic didn’t work when it was first conceived and it doesn’t work now.

On the contrary, it can work against you. It’s a manipulative, annoying, high-pressure approach that makes prospects uncomfortable, angry and skeptical. Not how you want to start out a sales call.

I’ve done business with this company before, but this salesperson’s ham-handed attempt to set an appointment annoyed me so much that I’m actually less likely to buy from them in the future. (At least their competitors don’t call me up and try to force their way onto my calendar.)

When you’re making cold calls, keep these principles in mind:

1. Respect your prospect’s time.

2. Ask permission for everything.

3. Lead with a problem your prospect might be facing and/or the benefit of your product or service.

4. Determine quickly whether or not what you’re offering is of any interest to your prospect.

5. Take “no” for an answer.

6. Offer something of value, like a free report, consultation, audit, webinar, sample or ebook. (And no, your brochure, informational DVD, or catalog is not something of value. At least, not from your prospect’s perspective.)

A cold call is an interruption for your prospect, so you’re already starting out with one strike against you. Proceeding like this salesperson did only makes things worse. Instead, employ these six principles to make your cold calls more positive—both for you and your prospect—and you’ll never make a terrible sales call again.

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