You’re walking down a street in your home town and you have some time on your hands so you’re window shopping. You suddenly stop—transfixed by the fabulous shoes in the store window. Being a great fan of fabulous shoes you feel drawn to go into the store.

At the store entrance your path is blocked by a sales clerk who demands: “Are you going to buy shoes from us today?”

If you are like most you’ll respond, “Huh?” Possibly you’ll say, “Well I don’t know yet.” If the store clerk then persists in asking, “Are you going to buy shoes from us today?” what is the likelihood that you will continue on into the store to buy shoes? Slim to none.

Unfortunately, this is the type of scenario that many prospectors set up for themselves when cold calling. On an introductory call, that first call with a prospect, you are not asking that prospect to buy from you—you are asking the prospect to have a conversation with you. Yes, ideally you want your prospect to buy, however, that comes later.

Here’s an example from a script I was sent recently to review:

“Hello (Prospect’s Name). I’m calling to find out if you are happy with your current vendor.”

Few prospects, unless they are absolutely miserable, will answer “No, I’m not happy,” to that question. When faced with this type of question, even prospects who are unhappy with their vendor will tell you they are perfectly content. This “are you happy?” question is exactly like asking a prospect “are you going to buy from us today?” at the entrance to the store. It backfires and gets you the answer that you don’t want.

Here’s another example from a financial advisor who did his entire sale process over the telephone. I asked this financial advisor what his goal was for his very first phone call with a prospect. His response? “I want them to let me review their 401K.” That is not a realistic goal for a first phone call. It’s kind of like the “Are you going to buy shoes from us today?” question. It’s too far into the process for the first conversation.

The advice I gave the financial advisor was to chunk down his goals and make them manageable. For example: His first goal might be to get the prospect’s agreement to have a conversation. The next goal might be to get answers to some specific questions. And so on. This financial advisor needed to lay out his sales process. Later in the process he could ask to review the 401K and then he would probably be able to get that agreement.

If however, this financial advisor persisted in seeing his goal as reviewing the prospect’s 401K it would be exactly like the shoe clerk asking, “Are you going to buy shoes from us today?” It’s too early in the process; it creates pressure which, in turn, causes pushback. Prospects flee, much as you would if accosted by a sales clerk at the entrance of a shoe store demanding to know whether or not you are planning to buy.

So look at your process. Determine a set of small and manageable goals for each conversation. This will help you lead your prospect, step by step, through your sales process to arrive at the other end with the sale.

© 2009, Wendy Weiss

Author's Bio: 

Wendy Weiss, “The Queen of Cold Calling,” is a sales trainer, author and sales coach. Her recently released program, The Miracle Appointment-Setting Script, and/or her book, Cold Calling for Women, can be ordered by visiting Contact her at Get Wendy’s free Special Report, Getting in the Door: How to Write an Effective Cold Calling Script, at