Stefan Drew - The Marketing Magician

FE, Education & Business Marketing: Quick, Effective, Low Cost Marketing

Stefan Drew - The Marketing Magician

Tag: selling

How To Know Your Customer BEFORE Cold Calling

Doing Your Homework Can Boost Sales; Not Doing Your Homework Costs a Fortune


I recently had a cold sales call.

Here’s why I didn’t buy .. and how the caller could have made the sale.

The copy is long, but bear with me and note the mistakes the caller made and how he could have made a sale.



 A Typical Cold Call

The call I received went like this …. my thoughts as he spoke are in brackets 

Hi, I’m Robert phoning on behalf of the IFE (Institute for Education, this is a made up name to save the real organisation too much embarrassment as they are clients of mine.  The rest of the story is true though!) 

How’s your day? (This is a sales call and he doesn’t actually care how I am or what my day is like) 

Me: OK (my tortoise/hamster/goldfish has just died!) 

The IFE is … the explanation lasted several minutes.   

Me: I know the IFE, that is why I enquired several months ago about exhibition space for a client.

Robert: I see you recently enquired about taking some exhibition space at the conference next week.

Can I book the space for you now? (What, with a few days to spare, we can’t get ready in time and you must be desperate to sell this space)

Me: (I was drinking coffee and had a few minutes, so thought I’d play along). How much is it? 

Robert: We have space in three areas.  First there’s … and then he spent several minutes explaining the areas but didn’t mention the price. (Please answer my question, when I ask it. ) 

Me: And how much is it? (This is rthe second time I’ve asked.  Is it so expensive it embarrasses you to have to say what it is?)

Robert: It’s reduced to between £2000-3000.  (How much?  That’s a lot of money.  By the time I add on travel and hotels and meals and literature and staff .. it will be treble that. )

Me: I’m not interested.  It is too expensive.  (I bet I could negotiate this down if I wanted to)  

Robert: Do you work with colleges?  (What a stupid question.  Haven’t you checked me out before calling?)

Me: Yes

Robert: How many?  (Why does this matter?) 

Me: That’s confidential.  

Robert: ….. uh…. It would be worth you being there.  (He didn’t know what to say as I wasn’t working to his script)

Me: Why? (I bet this question isn’t on his script)

Robert: You’d meet people from colleges.

Me: Is that important for my business? (You don’t know me or my business and have no idea)

Robert: Ehhh ….. Yes.

Me: Why? (He is clearly grasping at straws her) 

Robert: You could sell to them.  (How do you know I sell anything) 

Me …getting bored again: Do you know what I do for colleges?  (Of course he doesn’t) 

Robert: No  

Me: Don’t you think you should know more about my business before telling me I would benefit from being there? You don’t know what I do. ( I wonder if logic will work) 

Robert: I’m now looking at your website.  You have a lot of  .. (thinking of a word) .. eh .. skills.  (Well the website must work if he has gleaned that in a few seconds .. oops no he is grasping at straws)

Me: Yes, I use them when I speak at IFE conferences.  If you look at my “colleges” website you’ll see I spoke at both the Business Development and Digital conferences  for the last two years.  If you look even further you’ll see I’m on your list of preferred consultants.   

Suddenly the line went dead.. had the BT elves given up … or had Robert? . 

Well Robert, if you read this you might have sold to me even at this late stage.  If you had checked me out on line and knew more about me it could have been easy.   If you had said to me that you had just one place left, and that your CEO had suggested you offer it to me at a discount, you might have got my attention.  (But only if it genuinely was the last space in one of the halls.  I’d hate to get there and see two spaces free, because I’d know you’d lied to me).


Why Cold Calling Often Fails

Robert failed from the outset because he tried the usual sales techniques that starts with asking me how I was.  Someone somewhere had told him to build rapport with prospects; and this was the best they could do.  If he had discovered more about my business he would have been able to see my interests and tailor his approach around my specific needs as a consultant.


Selling to Your Customers

Whether you make a cold call or are selling to a warm lead/existing customer it is vital you build a rapport.  But that takes time to do the research or check your memory if you’ve known them for a while.  You can’t do this from a script; everyone is different and people buy from people not scripts. 

You also have to be genuinely interested in the people you want to buy from you.  And you mustn’t sell, people hate being sold to. But they do like buying, so you need to encourage them to want to buy.  This may sound to be the same thing but it isn’t.

If you research your prospects needs, either in advance via LinkedIn or their website, or by asking the right questions it is much easier for them to see you have the answer to their problems than if you just use a cold calling script.


So how could you improve your selling skills?





Negotiation Skills: When Buyers Announce a Very Low Buying Price

Negotiations Rarely Go Smoothly.  Negotiation is often about money. How well do you negotiate? One Problem That Sometimes Occurs is When the Buyer Suddenly Announces a Maximum Buying Price Way Below Your Planned Selling Price.

Imagine the scene.  You are negotiating a sale and everything has been going well.  Suddenly the buyer drops a bombshell.  You are still talking about the product or service and the delivery and they suddenly say that their  maximum budget is far below what you were about to suggest as an asking price.  In fact it is even lower than your cost of production. 

It might be they were buying widgets, a consignment of meat, boxes of biscuits or new software. The product doesn’t matter.  Even the price doesn’t matter; it might be pens at £5.00 a box or widgets at £1m each.  The thing is they have just put a price expectation on the table and it is much too low for you. 

What do you do?


What they have done is “anchored” the price at their figure. Even if you then come in with your figure and finally meet in the middle they have taken control of the starting point.  And it will often be below the figure you hoped to finish at. 

So here are some answers.

Firstly you should be the first to mention a figure. 

A lot of people hate doing this as they are afraid of driving the customer away.  So a good tactic is to use your competitors starting point.  Our competitors are selling this at £X .  This gives you the chance to see their reaction.  If they think it high, you can ask why they think the price is unacceptable.  It also means you can then come in at your price and address the issues already raised.  E.g We are 5% lower than our competitor and the issue you mentioned isn’t a problem for us as we do xyz.

The other thing to judge when they come in first is whether this is a real price or a ploy to start you on the back foot.  Often they are playing with prices to beat you down before you even start.

Finally knowing what their alternatives are is a good tactic for you before you even meet them.   for example if you have the product now and they need it urgently, but your competitor can’t supply; then they have no alternative.  But if your competitor has shed loads of the product, it is as good as yours and is cheaper then you need to think again.  Now you have to think about the extras or better service you can throw in.  Even simple things like having a good or better instruction manual can be a clincher.  Offering 24/7 support service can also clinch it.

This is something I offer myself.  I have a standard service but my deluxe service includes 24/7 support.  It brings me in a premium, but is rarely used.  So it costs me very little but gives my buyers massive peace of mind.

The whole issue of anchoring is one that can be overcome if you plan in advance.  Ideally you should anchor the price very early in the discussions.  Even before you enter the formal negotiation stage.  Because in reality negotiations start as soon as you advertise or get a call.  

 Finally, remember one thing. NEVER settle at all costs.  If you cannot agree a price where you can make a profit, don’t do business with them.  Before you start any negotiation have a walkaway figure that you will stick to.