Don’t ever ask this question again

May 2014. I was in the market for a tool that would help the sales team increase call volume and turn more conversations with prospects into meetings.

A quick Google search led me to a vendor who had lots of content aimed at making me smarter about my problem and the options for solving it. So I submitted my contact details in exchange for an e-book. 20 minutes later I got a cold call from a sales rep.

Here’s the call:

Marketing did it’s job. They pulled me in. And I had a pain that laddered back to the vendor’s product. But Scott ran into a conversation cul-de-sac because he asked a question that didn’t open up a dialogue about my problem.

Here are the most common “dead end” questions sales development reps ask me after I download content:

  1. “Did you get the e-book?”
  2. “Did the e-book make sense?”
  3. “Do you have any questions about the e-book?”

A better question

Here’s a question Scott could have asked that would have opened up a dialogue about my problem.

Scott: “Hi Josh, this is Scott, with XYZ. I was hoping you could help me out for a moment.” Most people will respond positively to this opener. Why? Because our normal human reaction when someone asks us for help is to offer it.  (Hat tip to Ari Galper for this phraseology.)

Me: “Sure Scott.”

Scott: “If our marketing robots are working it looks like you recently downloaded our e-book about the 5 mistakes sales development teams make when cold calling and I was just calling to see if you’d be open to sharing what piqued your interest.

Why this works

  • Uses humor to diffuse sales pressure (“marketing robots”)
  • Reminds me of what I downloaded (since I typically forget what I download after 3 minutes)
  • The title of the e-book speaks to my problem so even if I don’t recall downloading the content, I’m still leaning forward
  • Asks a question that naturally leads into a dialogue about my problem

Use incoming cold calls as teachable moments

If your sales team is centrally located, put incoming cold calls on speaker.  Have the team listen. Then critique the call.  Ask “what worked?”  and “what could be improved?”

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