Question From The Mailbag

Hi, I'm a salesperson for a fairly large vendor. We have sales contact quotas where I need to make 20 phone calls a day. I guess it's just a "numbers" game as my sales manager says, but it's hard to make that many meaningful calls. Any tips to get me through?

Jason says: I have a hard time with salespeople who tell me that this is the job they perform, mostly because I feel their pain. I had a job like this once during a summer at college. A friend and I worked in an office located in a strip mall that had a room full of phones and phone books. We were to call numbers and pitch whomever answered. I do not even remember what we were selling. We did this for one or two days but had to quit due to the monotony. Now, I'm not implying that your job is that mundane (if it is, get out now) but I'll try and help you out.

1. First, when you are selling anything (software, ads, cookies, shoes) you will never make a sale to someone on the other end of the phone, who's not equipped to actually buy that something. So hopefully you can qualify the person you will be calling.

2. Second, try and know something about the person or company to whom you will be speaking. If you can only speak intelligently about your product, you will bore the people on both ends of the phone.

3. Lastly, for this type of sale, it is important that you really believe in your product -- I.e, does it work? Have other people used it successfully? Is it well respected in the marketplace it serves?

If you do not have these things going for you, it's doubtful that you (or your company) will last very long doing things this way. Something tells me that people on the receiving end of your pitch might also know they are just a number to you and thus are less willing to buy something. But I'll leave the thoughts on that end of the phone call to our chief buying expert, Amy.

Amy says: Difficulties getting through to buyers is the number-one complaint I hear from sellers. And the number one complaint I hear from buyers is the volume of phone calls they receive from vendors. But, it's how business gets done, so here are some tips that may help:

  • Leave a brief voicemail. Don't ever leave your pitch on a voicemail. It's a huge turnoff for buyers; they will remember you for doing that. Instead, just leave your name and number. Buyers may be curious who you are and call you back.

  • Buyers rely on caller id. Buyers are conditioned to pick up only when they recognize the number. If you are cold calling, change phones often so you're number isn't associated with stalking. Or, if you don't get an answer on the first call, don't leave a message. Instead, hang up and call right back. The buyer will be curious about who needs to talk to them only in person.

  • Call after 6 p.m. That's when there's a lull in the day of buyers who work very late. Your call may catch them off-guard, or they may welcome the distraction as they prepare for their all-nighter with PowerPoint. Your empathetic ear may be just what they need, which means you will have a friend for life.


    Once you get through, find out what the buyer needs and how you can be a resource. The life of a buyer is tough and the best sellers are more helpful than pushy and more patient than aggressive. As trust builds, you may find that the buyers are trying to call you 20 times a day. Good luck and don't get cauliflower ear from all those calls!

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    We want to highlight what's going on behind the scenes in the community of ad sellers, media buyers, technology vendors and buyers.

    Over the years we've come to see that truth is certainly stranger than fiction -- so we want to hear from YOU. Please submit your true stories of the good, bad and ugly that fill our days and nights. The ground rules are simple: you tell us the truth and we'll never reveal you. Submit your story to, but don't include your name or company or any overly identifying features of the real characters -- just whose team you play for (buyer or seller of technology or media). Only Amy, Jason and our editor will see the stories.

  • 1 comment about "Question From The Mailbag".
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    1. Patrick Fitzgerald, July 31, 2009 at 4:15 p.m.

      Maybe tell your boss that you got a call back; from the 1980's and they want their sales management back! While I think that the answers that Jason and Amy provide are good, I have a problem with the basic approach. This is the most difficult part of selling and this approach is mostly wasted effort as the buying process has been fundamentally turned around. Sales organizations need to adapt. First, buyers are researching products/solutions in an organized way at their own pace. Has your sales organization sat down with the marketing group and agreed to a unified lead definition and generation strategy? There are many reputable firms out there consulting in Demand Generation (try The Pedowitz Group, I am not a customer but I have seen them present). Demand Gen firms provide good platforms and information to align the sales/marketing effort with the new buying psychology. A lead scoring system should be implemented with the marketing group so that when a sales professional is connected to a prospective buyer they are aware of where they are in the buying cycle and they are a qualified lead.
      It is a numbers game, and a sales professional should have enough qualified leads to occupy their valuable time.

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