Lessons from sales series: Have a compelling reason when you contact them

Prior to becoming a marketing director for a community college, I worked three years in advertising sales (1 in radio, 2 in outdoor). This series is dedicated to those invaluable lessons I learned while being a salesperson.

“I’m calling to set-up a time to meet with you.”

“I want to meet with you to find out about your business.”

“I would like a few minutes of your time to see how I can help your business.”

“I’m your new sales rep and I just want to stop by and say hello and introduce myself.”

These are all common sales lines that I hear all of the time and, admittedly, used myself when I first starting selling. I would leave message after message to prospects and either never receive a return call or just get a courtesy meeting so I’d get off their back. Neither of which are helpful when you are commission sales-based.

What I learned is, you have to have a compelling reason when you contact someone. If you don’t, you are wasting their time and your time.

Close-up of dialing keys on an office phone
Photo from Flickr: Mr. Thomas

Grocery store example

The example that most solidified this for me was when I was calling on a local grocery store chain. Wal-Mart was coming to the area and I knew they were nervous and needed help. But, numerous attempts to contact the owner failed because I was using the lines above. With some coaching from my sales manager (thanks Justin Escher!), I changed my approach.

There was lecturer coming to talk about how the entry of Wal-Mart into a market changes the local economics. I went to the lecture and then used that information to call the grocery store owner again. But this time, my voice mail was the following: “(name here), the day that Wal-Mart opens a store in a new market, the local grocery chains lose approximately x% of their business. However, there’s one strategy that has proven effective for local chains that has allowed them to keep most of their business. If you call me back, I’ll tell you what it is.”

He called me back in less than 30 minutes, I met with him, and I made a $14,000 sale.

The lesson

This lesson has stuck with me since. You must have a compelling reason for someone to do what you’d like them to do, whether its meeting with you or just calling you back. Does this mean I remember to do it every time? No, sometimes I get lazy. And you know what? I always end up paying for my laziness with extra time spent trying to get what I need.

So what do your phone calls and emails sound like? What techniques work for you?

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