Archive for January, 2014

I Found My Trumpet On A Cold Call…

January 30, 2014

Pete Promo 4You’ll be amazed by the opportunities you’ll find on the other end of the telephone if you are willing to turn the door knob, or make that cold call. Every time you shy away from making a cold call you are cheating yourself out of a true adventure, and perhaps the experience of a lifetime.

Several years ago I was selling a middle office trade management software product to Tier 1 financial institutions. One of my target prospects was Credit-Suisse. They have a huge office in downtown New York on Madison Avenue & 21st Street. I found the name and phone number of the managing director of fixed income trading, and made my cold call.

My prospect and I struck up a good conversation that led to a closed sales appointment on the calendar.

As I was confirming the sales appointment to the calendar I went through the usual process of confirming the phone number, and getting e-mail information so that I could send a calendar invite. As I gave my prospect my phone number he recognized the area code, and asked if I was from Long Island. I said yes, and then he followed up with a question, and asked whether I liked music. I most certainly do, I replied, and that’s when he told me that he played in a band, and that they were playing a concert in Rockville Centre near where I lived. So, we decided to have our scheduled sales meeting at a local pub – a first for me in 25 years of selling.

A couple of weeks later we met for lunch, and it was over lunch that I mentioned that I wished I was in a band, and said that it looked fun. I had played trumpet since grammar school, and all through high school, but never touched the horn again after graduation. My prospect told me that he knew of a retired music teacher that gave trumpet lessons, and gave me his number. So, off I went to the Sam Ash music store, bought a trumpet on display in the window, and scheduled my first lesson. That was 7 years ago…

To make a very, very long story short, after 7 years of taking trumpet lessons and plenty of practice, I look back and can hardly believe what one single cold call to a prospect has done for me.

Upon learning to play the trumpet I started volunteering to sound Taps at U.S. veteran’s internment cemeteries with a military honor guard.

I made a guest appearance with Sean Hannity on Fox News, and also played my horn on TV in a Showtime Networks documentary.

A big day for me was when I played ceremonial Taps with the United States Marine Corps. at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

I now play trumpet with a full orchestra, am a member of a brass quartet, play in an 18-piece Big Band orchestra, and have marched in parades down 5th Avenue in New York City.

I know prospecting stinks, and you’d rather do anything else but make a cold call to a prospect. Think again! Something great can happen to you on a cold call. Look what happened to me! Chart a course for a new adventure – make that call!

US Navy Honor GuardWith the U.S. Navy Honor Guard – Annapolis, MD


The Problem With Gatekeepers

January 24, 2014

Cartoon 1The one question I get asked most often by salespeople is, “How do I get past the gatekeeper“? I usually ask in return, “Why do you talk to gatekeepers in the first place“? With so many options available to salespeople in the information age to get direct dial numbers, and the opportunity to call prospects early morning (0800) or late afternoon (after 5:30), I’m surprised that the ‘Gatekeeper Screen’ continues to be a problem for salespeople around the world.

Gatekeepers have a job to do, and we should respect them for that, but that aside, they remain an obstacle to salespeople that desperately want to make contact with decision-makers. To help us all understand why the gatekeeper remains an obstacle, let’s take an closer look at the role of the gatekeeper in modern times.

The Attention Economy
We are living in a new era called The Attention Economy. The Internet age has created the Attention Economy, and it delivers to us an overwhelming abundance of things we pay attention to on any given day. Take a look at the sheer volume of information coming at you on a daily basis in the form of e-mails, text messages, and tweets. With so much information in play there simply isn’t enough time to pay attention to it all. Under the weight of so much information sales prospects can only skim the surface in terms of interpreting all the information that comes their way, and they are very quick to discard anything that doesn’t meet their standards for being attention worthy. Consider this, if sales prospects paid in-depth attention to every piece of information coming at them in all forms, chances are they would never get anything done.
Like attention and money, anything that is in high demand and in short supply increases in value. It shouldn’t surprise you that attention in general is in very short supply, and as such, attention is treated  like currency by decision-makers. For many sales prospect’s, their attention has become so valuable that they actually need a guard (gatekeeper) outside their office door in order to protect their attention from being stolen by others, and that of course includes cold calling salespeople.

Gatekeepers Are ‘Human Attention Filters’
Because of the enormous value of their bosses attention, gatekeepers are constantly on guard against any threat to the theft of their superior’s attention. That’s why you are constantly asked about the purpose, or to explain the nature of your call. Upon hearing something that sounds like a sales call the gatekeeper defaults to asking you to send information, or tells you that the boss is in a meeting. (Yeah right…)
Gatekeepers know how to play the game. If you want proof of this, have a listen to any of the recorded interviews I’ve conducted with real live gatekeepers on the telephone.
On these recordings I candidly ask gatekeepers to reveal their tricks of the trade. I ask how they know it’s a sales call? What are the tell tale signs that a salesperson is cold calling? And finally, what do you say to salespeople to screen their calls? The information they share may, or may not surprise you. One thing is for certain in the Attention Economy, veteran gatekeepers know a sales call right away when they hear one.

What to do about Gatekeepers?
There’s no simple answer to the question about how to handle the gatekeeper screen. Some experts say that you should befriend the gatekeeper, and make her your ally. In principal I agree. On the other hand I think with so many ways to avoid the gatekeeper altogether I suggest doing whatever it takes to make direct contact with your prospect. Either call them very early, or stick around the office and try prospects between 5:30-6:00 PM, or even later. Some of the best sales appointments I’ve ever set have been with chief executives that answer their own phone around 6:00 PM.
I will also go as far as to suggest that if you call your prospect and the gatekeeper won’t put your call through, that you should simply say “thank you”, and say that you will call again later. There’s no need for you to suffer through 20-questions, and still wind up having to leave a message that will never be returned. In some cases you might want to consider saying that you have the wrong number and apologize. With gatekeepers in The Attention Economy, why subject yourself to a zero sum game with very little chance of a positive outcome?

That’s my take on things with gatekeepers. What are your thoughts? I’d like to know…

Cold Calling is NOT Forever (Thank God!)

January 13, 2014

Sun_peeking_through_the_cloudsIf you are a salesperson that makes cold calls I need not tell you that it is the hardest part of the profession. Calling complete strangers and trying to make sense and command attention is no easy task. It is also an activity wrought with failure. However, if you can find a way to ‘stomach’ the effort your chances of succeeding in business are much better than someone that never, or hardly ever cold calls. If you really want to succeed bad enough, you’ll find a way to put up with the mundane dialing that telephone everyday. The pain of failure is far worse than the pain associated with trying to succeed.
Here’s some good news – cold calling is not forever! While cold calling is generally a required task for new salespeople starting in their careers, over time ‘rookie’ salespeople should find themselves not having to do much cold calling at all – there will come a time when there should be more emphasis placed on networking and working off referrals. It will take some time, but it will happen.
For now, think of cold calling as an investment. You are putting the time and effort into the process (paying your dues). While you are working at making calls you should be keeping track of everyone you come in contact with and store it away for future reference. Also, it makes sense to connect with as many people as you possibly can through your LinkedIn profile. Keep in mind that it’s one thing to connect on LinkedIn, and another to have a real working connection with someone. So, only connect with the people you feel can do you some real good, or have a specific relevance to your business, or career. Additionally, you should keep an open mind to returning the favor. As you reach out to people on LinkedIn about getting referrals, you should let it be known to your LinkedIn contacts that you are more than willing to reciprocate. What goes around comes around, right?
I am reminded of Zig Ziglar’s book, Secrets of Closing the Sale. In his book Zig explains that if you help enough people get what they want, and put their needs ahead of yours, that people will help you get more of what you want. Manage your networking efforts like a ‘pay it forward’ system.
If you are frustrated with cold calling I feel for you. Dialing the phone can wear you down, and burn you out. To avoid burnout try to think of prospecting more objectively. Think of cold calling as an investment you are making now for the freedom of not having to cold call later on in your career. It is an investment well worth making on all levels. Just do it!

Most importantly, don’t let the ‘turkeys‘ get you down. There is a brighter side to cold calling that can actually make the experience bearable. Want proof? Listen to any of my recorded gold calls on Who says you can’t have any fun on a cold call? Not me…