Selling Your Wood Work Tutorial #5: Cold Calling

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Blog entry by Michael1 posted 10-11-2011 10:37 PM 8606 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Effective Prospecting Part 5 of Selling Your Wood Work Tutorial series Part 6: Interviewing your prospect »

When making a cold call I leave out the pleasantries and formalities and tend to get to the point. I do not ask the person that I have called if I am catching them at a bad time or how their day is going? After all what do I expect them to say? “No, you are not disturbing me, I was just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.” Of course you are disturbing them from whatever they were doing before you called.

For most the prospecting stage will take the form of COLD CALLING. This is where you call your prospect to introduce yourself and is the initial stage of the sales cycle. It is important to remember that with each stage of the sales cycle, your objective is to get to the next stage. Just as the purpose of a resume is to gain an interview with a prospective employer, the sole purpose of the cold call is to get an appointment.

Secondly I do not try to sell to them at this point. The cold call is where you determine with the prospect if what you have to offer might benefit them enough to make an appointment.

You might have heard that in selling to always ask a “yes” question. I agree with this to a certain extent but also disagree with it. The problem I have with it is many sales people ask the most retarded “yes” questions that make a prospect feel like an idiot and when a sales person does this to me, it immediately puts me on guard. Stock brokers and investment planners are notorious for this. I might get a call from a financial planner that comes up with the most ridicules question like “You want your kids to go to college right?” or “You want every dollar you invest to bring the maximum return possible right?” What does he expect me to say, “No, I want my kids to be uneducated and spend their adult life struggling to make ends meet and I invest my money where the risks are high and the rewards are low.” This type of idiotic questions result in making a person put on a defensive guard and is no way to start a trusting relationship. But let’s say that that annoying stock broker rephrased his question to something like: “If I were able to sit down with you and show you a system that would allow you to gain maximum returns on your investment with limited risk, would you be interested in setting aside about 30 minutes where I could explain this system to you?” I am not a stock broker but as a consumer I might be a little more inclined to set an appointment with the person to learn more of what they had to offer and wouldn’t have my guard up in the process.

The most important part of the sales call is to simply ask for the appointment. I do not keep my prospect on the phone asking a big series of questions either. I try to keep it brief, concise and to the point. I do have variations of my sales call that I use depending upon the situation. If I am calling from a referral of someone else I definitely use that referral as it helps establish credibility.

When making the cold call, if you are calling another company, you always want to speak with the decision maker. This might be the owner, or a manager in charge of purchasing. For a General Contractor this is generally a Project manager, For a retail store this will generally be the owner or store manager. If you are trying to sell to a large company, say a large retailer, that has several locations, you will want to speak with the director of the purchasing department. It does not do any good to try to set the appointment with the receptionist or someone that does not have the authority to buy. On some occasions, this might be your only option to try to sell a person that does not have the authority to buy just to get them to present the idea to the person who does have the authority in order for you to get the appointment. However; I do this as a last resort as it does nothing but prolong the sales cycle.

Having a script is important prior to making the call. Outlining a script of what you are wanting to say keeps you focused and helps to organize your thoughts. DO NOT rely on knowing what you want to say and shooting from the hip. You do not have a second chance to make a first impression and it is too easy to say something that might sound wrong, or after the call you might think, I could have worded that differently. When writing your script, write a couple variations to it. But use your script to make sure you have your thoughts organized. DO NOT read your script verbatim as people can tell your reading your script and it is very impersonal.
Your script needs to be tailored to your style and I highly recommend that you DO NOT use proper English in writing your script. Why would you not use proper grammar when writing your script? In general people do not speak in proper grammar. I am not saying to murder the language and sound ridicules, but write your script as you would speak and not speak as you would write.

There are allot of variations that you can use to your script and it will greatly depend on your style and the industry you are selling to. I know of a very successful cabinet maker that told me he doesn’t use the phone at all for cold calling but goes to a contractor’s office or job site instead unannounced. Once he is in front of his prospect he simply extends his hand to shale there’s and says, “My name is John Smith, cabinet maker, here to offer my services.” It seems to work for him as he never seems to be in short supply of work.
For me, I prefer to make an appointment over the phone as I am not as comfortable doing impromptu in person meetings. I am not saying that my friend is doing it wrong; it is just not my style.

One very simply script I use quite a bit:
“This is Michael Mills with Showcase Caskets located in Greensboro. We are manufacturers of handcrafted wood caskets and I was calling to make an appointment to discuss our product line. I will be in your area on Thursday; would 10:30 be a good time for you?

At this point the prospect will usually give an alternate time. I have performed an unscientific study of comparing the obituaries in my local paper and determined that fewer funerals are performed on Thursday than any other day of the week. The most common days for funerals and hard days to get appointments with funeral directors are Fridays, and Mondays. Similarly the most common times for a funeral is 2 pm. By picking a morning time I have a greater chance they will not be busy. If so they usually counter with an alternate time but it tells me that they are listening. Often times; what I here in reply is, I have a service scheduled for 10:30, can you be here late afternoon, or sometimes they will ask for an earlier appointment at like 9 am.

Of course nothing is full proof. One day I called a particular funeral home that was several miles away and they failed my “Are they listening test.” I asked for the appointment at 10 am and they agreed. When I got there the place was packed with about 200 people and they were in the middle of a service and I was forced to reschedule for another time.

I always throw the time out there though. If I were to say I wanted to meet with them sometime, but not specifically set a time, It is too easy for them to say they will check there schedule and get back with me, and guess what, they don’t call back. It is not that they are not interested, just that calling me back is not a priority and five minutes after they finish talking with me they forget and are off doing something else.

For this same reason, I do not leave messages if I am not able to talk directly to the person I need to talk with. I have heard different methods of leaving a message so that people will call you back, but personally I haven’t had success with them. If I am not able to talk with my prospect, I might ask the secretary or receptionist for a better time to call, but I do not leave voice mail messages to my prospect.

Sometimes when you make a cold call, the person whom you are speaking with will ask for you to send literature of a brochure or ask if you have a web site. Do not send out any literature to them. I use brochures as a means to introduce my company and hopefully get a person to initiate contact with me. But when you have initiated the contact, sending a brochure will only prolong the sales cycles. Secondly, I don’t care how carefully worded your brochure is, there is no comparison to an in person meeting. Your brochure can not sell yourself the way an in person meeting can.

Secondly when you send out sales literature often times it is not read. The secretary sorted through the mail and threw it away considering it junk mail, it was lost it, and they didn’t have time to read it anyway. It doesn’t really matter what happens. It only prolongs the sales cycle by making it a longer process before you can move on to the interview, presentation, and closing stages. When I am asked to send a brochure or other sales literature, I simply and tactfully tell them I don’t do this. Of course tact is very important here than just simply saying no. How I usually handle a request for a brochure is to say: “Mr. Prospect, we normally do not send out sales literature as they service we offer with our caskets is unique and different from the other manufacturers and I can best describe our products and services with an in person meeting. Would Thursday at 10 am work for you?”

What your particular style is will determine the best approach for you in cold calling. Do not try an approach you are not comfortable with as it will reflect and most likely be unproductive. If you are comfortable with a particular style, then you will naturally be able carry on a flowing conversation.

-- Michael Mills, North Carolina,

5 comments so far

View tom427cid's profile


294 posts in 3483 days

#1 posted 10-11-2011 11:07 PM

Interesting and informative. However,some wood products such as small clocks and pens do not lend themselves to calling in advance IMO. As an alternative to cold calling I prefered to visit the shop in question. To avoid the salesman detection device that seems to be a part of every gift shop I carried my products in a briefcase. I dressed casually and this sort of low profile approach allowed me to survey the shop and the products that were being offered for sale. Sometimes I would decide that my products and the shop in question would not be a good match. At which I would thank them for their time and exit. If I thought that the shop would benefit from adding my product(and benefit me also) I would ask if they carried any other clocks or pens. Or I might comment about the products that they did have on hand. Point is,I did not use a script. Sometimes they would purchace,sometimes not.
I did this for about 4-5 years. I would supply my customers two to three times during the year or ship items to them on a needed basis. I also made it a point-especially to the customer- that I would not have my product at another store in the same town. During the “supply trips” I would also keep on the look out for new customers.
Another thing that I think is worth mentioning is not to sell more than you can produce.
Just my .02

-- "certified sawdust maker"

View Michael1's profile


403 posts in 3673 days

#2 posted 10-11-2011 11:26 PM

That is a very good point Tom, Not all products will necessitate a cold call or appointment setting and a walk in style of prospecting can be a better approach. Particularly anything that you make that has a good WOW factor once someone gets to view what you make. I would believe that also small priced items or “Impulsive buy” items would fall into this category like some of the scroll saw work that I have seen people do.

-- Michael Mills, North Carolina,

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 4000 days

#3 posted 10-12-2011 12:27 AM

This is turning into a great series on selling.
Thanks for taking the time to do this.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View doordude's profile


1085 posts in 3996 days

#4 posted 10-12-2011 07:06 AM

Michael,loved your discertation on your selling process; it’s right on the money. i don’t know if you run out of cold calling prospects,after you build up your clientel like i have. cold calling is the funnest part of selling for me. but there is always a
new business that pops up, and the fun begins again.
loved the cremation urn you did for the twelve year old. must have been rewarding.

View becikeja's profile


1168 posts in 3826 days

#5 posted 11-15-2011 02:36 PM


I just stumbled across your blog this morning. This is a very interesting read. I have developed and trained sales and marketing teams on sales processes for the past 10 years, so I know a little about the subject. I read a lot of these type blogs and am in full agreement with you that it is amazing some of the tactics you come across. There are 2 comments I would like to add to your entry number 5 on making cold calls. I hope you don’t mind. I would also enjoy your thoughts on these points.

1)We are all individuals. Some are very comfortable with cold calling; some would prefer living under a bridge as long as they never have to talk to anyone they don’t know. One thing I stress to people is to know who you are, and be that person. All of us can spot a fake, what will work for you is based on who you are not what works for others. Be yourself. You know your product better than anyone else, and have absolutely nothing to loose in telling others about it. In fact your passion around what you have to offer will result in more sales than the product itself. Once you have this understanding cold calling becomes a little easier but can still be very difficult for many of us. I have been cold calling for 24 years, and I still struggle with it. In fact I absolutely hate it. But one thing I have come to realize, if I don’t tell others about what I have, I can’t count on anyone else to do it. Even if word of mouth spreads I still have to address the customer at some point and be confident in my abilities. This even works for small items at a craft fair. Your cold call is when the client walks by your table, and you simply say hello and recognize that he is walking by. That’s the start of the cold call. Now find out where his interest is, and show him what you have.

2) Set the expectation. When you make your initial phone call you suggest a time to meet. This is great. The expectation has been set for the next step in the cycle. What I have found is that if you continue to set clear expectations as you move through the process it becomes much easier for you and the client to come to terms and complete the sale.

I look forward to reading the rest of these, keep them coming.

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

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