Q&As: On Making Sales Calls

Q: Should I send an email or a letter before calling prospects?

A: It depends upon the product or service you are selling, its price range, and the type of customer you are calling. Generally, for business-to-business telemarketing, it is recommended that you send an email, a simple letter, a flyer, and perhaps even a product sample before you place a sales call. If you are selling a less expensive product or service to consumers you may want to experiment. Test your sales results with a pre-telemarketing direct mail letter versus cold calling.

Sending announcements prior to phoning is less important when you are selling a brand-name product or a product or service that is easily described over the phone. It is also less important if the product or service that you are selling is relatively inexpensive.

Q: Where can I get lists of good prospects?

A: The best lists are so-called qualified prospects—people who have shown some kind of interest in your business, such as past customers who haven’t done business with you for some time, people who previously expressed some interest in your business but have yet to buy anything, referrals from current customers, or that stack of business cards from the trade show.

Beyond that, an obvious place for local businesses is to search on the Internet or the phone book. Start with the narrowest target group you can find with whom you have the highest chance of closing sales. Other sources are the lists of association members, subscribers to industry Internet sites or magazines, or lists from mailing list brokers. Most mailing lists are available in very small quantities and may be ordered with special selections by state, zip code, or business size, for instance. There are also all types of business and manufacturing directories available through your local library that would enable you to compile your own appropriate list of contacts.

Q: If I’m making my own calls, how can I motivate myself to place the calls?

A: Everyone has some degree of difficulty staying motivated to make many calls. Consider trying to call a certain number of prospects first thing each day. Or you might set aside an hour or two to make as many calls as you can. More so than face-to-face selling, telemarketing can quickly get repetitive and boring. Try to call for shorter periods of time over a number of days.

Q: When is the best time to call people?

A: Try calling at different times of the day to determine what works best for you and your product. With the increase in two-income families and individuals working more than one job, it can be difficult to find prospects at home. If you reach your prospects just after they have come home, they are less inclined to want to bother with a sales call. If you call late, they may feel you are intruding on their privacy. It’s tough. Keep trying for the right balance.

For business-to-business, calling during business hours obviously makes sense. But try to avoid Mondays. Monday is usually a very busy day. The best day to call seems to be Friday. People tend to be in better moods as they look forward to their weekends.

Q: Should I wait for prospects to call me back?

A: Prospects who offer to call you back if they are interested in your product are telling you one of two things. They might be politely informing you that they have absolutely no interest in your product. Or they might want to consider the product without any pressure. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for a telemarketer to determine which tack the prospect is taking and whether or not there is any potential for a future sale.

If you believe the prospect is showing some interest in your product but you are certain that you can’t close the sale during this particular call, offer to make a follow-up call yourself. End the conversation with, “Tell you what? I’ll call you back in a week. That will give you some time to think about it.” Otherwise, even if the prospect really does have some interest in your product, chances are that he or she won’t call back.

About Bob Adams

Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, the go-to learning platform for starting and running a business.