cold telephone sales calls

Get in front of more prospects when you know the Do’s and Don’ts for Appointment Setting Cold Sales Calls.


If you are an outside salesperson, your income probably relies on getting in front of new prospects. Yet many reps would rather have their fingernails removed slowly than make prospecting calls. And it’s no wonder: With the abundant number of resistance-inducing techniques out there, salespeople set themselves up for failure.

Here are some common sense do’s and don’ts to help you set more quality appointments:

1. Do get information first

The more you know about your prospects before speaking with them, the better your chances of making appointments. It will help you prepare a more customized opening and better questions, plus it impresses prospects.

Conversely, if you have to ask, “Uh, what do you guys do there?” you’re labeled as a time-wasting, self-interested peddler. Work with the screener or anyone who answers the phone:

“I hope you can help me. First, I’m looking for the name of the person there who handles the exterior maintenance and landscaping for your building. (After getting the name, continue.) Thank you. So I’m better prepared when I speak with him, there’s probably some information you can help me with first.

You could get almost all of your qualifying questions answered by people other than your decision maker.

2. Don’t send information before the call

Busy decision makers toss unsolicited, bulging packages of literature with form letters — regardless of how many times your word processor mail merged their names into the body. Starting out a call with “I sent you a letter; didja get it?” rarely elicits a response like “Oh, yeah. You’re that guy. I want to meet with you!”

3. Don’t believe it’s just a “numbers” game

The lottery is a numbers game. Calling for appointments is a quality game. Approach each call with an attitude of accomplishment and desire. Don’t burn through the list of prospects as fast as you can with the expectancy that your number will be drawn eventually.

4. Don’t ask for a decision in the opening

Never open the call by including the goofy phrase “. . . and I would like to drop by Tuesday at 2:00, or would 4:00 be better?” People are resistant when faced with decisions before they see any value. Also avoid the equally inane question “If I could show you a way to ___ , you would, wouldn’t you?” No one likes to be “techniqued.” The only way they’ll consider investing time with you is if they see some value in doing so.

5. Do have an interest-creating opening

Here’s one you might be able to adapt:

“Ms. Bigg, I’m ____ with ____. My company specializes in (fill in with the ultimate result customers want and get from you, such as ‘helping garden centers generate more business during the off-season’). Depending on what you’re doing now, and your objectives, this might be something worth taking a look at. I’d like to ask a few questions to see if you’d like more information.”

6. Do ask questions

Some pundits suggest going for the appointment quickly and never divulging information. Bunk. Those are likely people who are insecure with their (in)ability to communicate by phone. If someone doesn’t have potential, I want to find that out now from my office rather than schlepping across town (or country) to learn the same thing. And if prospects are qualified and have interest, I can pique their curiosity a bit by phone and pre-sell them on what we’ll speak about when I arrive. For example:

“Pat, based on what you told me, it looks as if you could show quite a significant labor savings with a system like ours. The best thing to do would be for us to get together so I can ask a few more questions about your operation and show you some of our options to see if we have a fit. How about next week?”

Then narrow down a convenient time for both of you.

7. Do make a confirmation call

Some might suggest this gives prospects a chance to cancel. That’s right. And if they’re of this mindset, they either wouldn’t be there when you did arrive, or they wouldn’t give you the time of day. A phone call gives you a chance to address either situation and save time.

9. Do keep calling

And don’t let a “no” get you down. The last call has nothing to do with the next unless you let negative feelings strangle your attitude. Talking to people generates income, but avoiding the phone, stuffing envelopes and walking around do not. Set a secondary objective, one you can accomplish on every call, such as simply qualifying someone as a prospect or not, so you can have a success of sorts on every call.