Sales Calls 101


Selling is not easy and it is hard work but is actually quite simple. It’s a numbers game, the more calls you make, the higher your chances of making a sale. South Africans are traditionally quite backward in coming forwards when it comes to contacting people and striking up conversations with total strangers. We can definitely learn from the Americans. I will never forget taking an internal flight in the States and looking in bewilderment at the five business cards I had been given in a three-hour flight. I am generalizing hugely, but as a society, Americans are very open to making and receiving contact; “nothing ventured, nothing gained” seems to be a business motto.

Procrastination is the great preventer. There are always a hundred reasons not to pick up the phone, ranging from negative self-talk, “I’m useless at sales!” to “clients are usually busy first thing in the morning, so I won’t intrude…” Suddenly we have VERY IMPORTANT emails to attend to or that reporting deadline is looming. Make the call and half the job is done!

Inadequate planning or preparation for the call is another obstacle to actually making the sale. Business to business selling is easier than selling directly to customers because information can be gleaned about that business and the specific client, which may provide an opportunity to hook the client’s interest. Keeping abreast of social media and the press is an important tool to discover information that will make your call relevant and interesting. A client is more likely to respond positively to “I see from your Facebook page that you will be expanding your offices in Midrand… We are an office furniture supplier based in Midrand and I think I may be able to save you a lot of stress and money.” As opposed to “Do you need office furniture?”

Making insufficient calls per day is the next hurdle to jump. It is vital to analyze how many calls result in either a sale or a “live lead”. If your experience is 1 in 7 and 3 sales per day are needed to cover your salary, then the minimum call target per day is 21. I am not a proponent of “make a 100 calls a day and pray” which leads to the awful telemarketing experience of dial until your shift is over. Be careful that your targets and metrics are developing the right kind of behavior. Surely it is more important to have ten proper conversations with potential clients rather than meeting a cold calling target that produces very few real leads?

Be consistent with your calling so that the discipline becomes a habit. Diarise and prioritize the time to call. This is a big ask of small business owners who may be the chief cook and bottle washer but it is vital to ensure a continuous stream of business. Too many small businesses suffer from famine and feast cycles because marketing and selling efforts are neglected when the business is busy.

Be clear as to the goal of the call. If your aim is to build a potential lead, then the approach is different from a call aimed at making a direct sale. It is immensely frustrating and an immediate switch off for a client when the caller wastes time and energy on inquiries after health. Let’s be honest, if this is the first contact, then the client is hardly likely to share and you really don’t care. Be upfront about the purpose of your call and remain businesslike.

Follow up and build a relationship; be creative and dedicated to your follow-up methods. If the client has asked you to call back at 2 pm then set an alarm and do so. This shows commitment and reliability. It is fascinating how many times I have personally asked a home maintenance service provider to call me and I have never heard a word, even when I have responded to their advert. Forward articles that you think may be of interest to the client. Tweet, text or Instagram… use the social contact media available to your benefit, send a handwritten note, whatever works, but stay top of mind.

  • Make the call

  • Prepare for the call

  • Ask for what you want

  • Follow up!

Author: Janet Askew


Janet Askew

Janet is a trainer, coach, speaker and writer who is passionate about promoting women in business and SMME development. In addition to her consulting work, she is a director of Essentially Natural and serves on the board of the Wot-If? Trust.



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