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Setting Appointments on the Telephone: How to Qualify the Decision Maker in a Prospecting Cold Call

One of the many challenges sales people face in setting appointments on the telephone is qualifying the prospect, which has become a major issue and causes tremendous amounts of lost income and time. One of the main reasons for this is because many sales people still operate under the old Smile and Dial mentally. Out of fear of failure and the expectation of rejection, sales people, often intentionally fail to properly qualify or identify the true decision maker.

The Old Smile and Dial Mentality

Here is an example: A sales person goes through two dozen cold calls, of which many ended with the prospect abruptly hanging up phone. Our hero perseveres however, remembering the sales manager's advice not to take it personally, which of course is impossible, but he keeps plugging away. He gets hung up on a few more times and finally gets a person on the telephone who sounds like she will listen. This prospect is kind and patient and seems to have an interest. Although the prospect's job title warns that she may not be the real Decision Maker (DM), the sales person is too afraid to ask. He finally has a good sounding person on the line and he does not want to mess up a good thing. The salesman then convinces himself that this prospect is indeed the DM, sets the appointment and gets off the telephone as soon as possible with the belief that positive thinking did the trick.

Positive or Delusional

There is positive thinking. Then there is wishful thinking. And finally there is delusional thinking. Unfortunately many sales people, when it comes to qualifying for the DM on the telephone fall between the wishful and the delusional.

I am not selling anything!

Another reason sales people are afraid to ask to verify the DM is because they do not want to ask "buying" questions so early in the conversation. To ask direct qualifying questions early in the call exposes the true reason the sales person is calling. "Do you make the buying decisions for shipping services for your company?" That question clearly reveals that you are calling to sell shipping services and many sales people are still under the outdated idea to try and hide, disguise and delay their identity and true purpose. They are still trying to bait the prospect along and keep them on the telephone until they can get to the good part of the pitch, when the prospect can hear some benefits.

Not only do those antiquated slick, Money Mouth, Smile and Dial tactics no longer work, but in some states they're illegal! Today's prospective customer is educated, advanced, wise, suspicious and sick and tired of the old fashioned telemarketing pitch. To communicate with today's modern buyer, be up front, clear and honest. Be professional and you will set more quality appointments with more qualified prospects.

How to Qualify the Decision Maker

The best way to qualify the DM in a cold call is simple: ASK. Just come right out and be straightforward and ask the prospect if they are the person who actually makes he decision or makes the purchase of whatever it is that you sell. To some, this may seem like a radical concept, but try it. Also ask the prospect regardless of the person's job title or other signs that allude to the prospect's purchasing authority. Ask anyway.

Let us imagine that you sell help desk management software and your sales model says specifically that the "Help Desk Manager" is the DM which is usually true. You should still confirm anyway regardless of title, if they make the decision. With this approach, you not only qualify the prospect technically, but also psychologically as to their attitude and disposition toward you and what you do.

Be Clear and Concise

You want to ask the prospect if they are the DM but also explain exactly what you do and sell. As in our example with helpdesk software sales, you do not want to ask the prospect, "Do you make the decisions on software?" Depending on exactly what type of software, any number of people may be responsible. Also, do not ask weak questions like, "Do you handle that area?" Be complete and direct:

Sales Person:

"Yes, again Mrs. Prospect, I am with Help Desk Systems and we help companies manage help desk calls across multiple platforms. Do you purchase enterprise wide help desk management software for ABC Financial?"

Sales Person:

"So, Peter, I help independent business owners with inventory management. As the owner, do you also make all the decisions on your inventory management and costs?"

Explain exactly what you do and ask the prospect if they are the fiscally responsible party. Keep in mind also that often there may be more than one DM. Ask. Be honest, be professional and ask.

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About the Author

John Landrine, John Landrine,
1804 Quincy Street
Savannah, GA 31405

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