Guide

The sales process

How to get sales appointments

The main purpose of many sales calls is to get an appointment with a potential customer. Making a sales call can be a challenge, and you'll develop this skill through preparation and practice. Group your list of prospects into similar business sectors. This may help you to spot any similarities in their objections, and adjust your approach accordingly.

When making a call, it is normal to have a degree of nerves and it can even help to keep you focused. Standing up and smiling can help you feel, and sound, more confident, positive and in control.

Getting past the gatekeeper

It is unlikely that the person you really need to speak with will be the first person in an organisation that you come across. In larger companies, receptionists, personal assistants and other employees may be asked to shield their managers from unwanted sales calls. You can get past this gatekeeper by:

  • showing some knowledge of their business
  • asking for the key contact by name
  • developing a rapport with the gatekeeper
  • presenting the prospect with a lost opportunity if they don't assist you

An email or letter may get past the gatekeeper. However, you should follow up, after an appropriate period, with a phone call to check if the right contact has received it.

Don't try to sell your products or services to the call taker. They may not have sufficient interest in your product or service to convince the decision-maker to respond to your call.

If the decision-maker is not available or you are put through to their voicemail, explain who you are and say you will call back later.

In smaller firms, the owner or other decision-maker may answer the phone so be prepared to launch into your sales pitch straight away. 

When you get through to the contact, remember that most business people are busy and won't have time to see everyone who calls them. Make sure you quickly establish why they cannot afford to miss out. Pick one key benefit of your products or services and tailor the way you present it to fit that particular customer's needs. See understand your customers' needs.

Dealing with brush-offs

Getting the brush-off is a fact of life for any sales person. The key to success is learning the most common brush-offs and planning in advance how you will handle them.

Here are some examples of common brush-offs and how you might deal with them:

"Put something in the post to me/send me an email."

  • "No problem. What is it that you're particularly interested in?"
  • "OK. I'll send you some basic information and then I can call you next week to discuss it."

"I'll need to think about it."

  • "Of course. What are your particular concerns?"

"I'm afraid I haven't got time to speak now."

  • "That's fine. I'll send you an email following up on our discussion."
  • "OK. When would be a good time to talk instead?"

Sometimes you will get an outright brush-off and the customer will make it clear they are not interested at all. If this happens, try to find out why. It may be that a follow-up call in a few months' time may be better received.

Don't take comments personally and compose yourself before moving on to the next call. You may find that you lose confidence if you receive repeat rejections. 

If the customer sounds interested in what you have got to offer, ask for a meeting to discuss things further. Propose a time that's convenient for you and let the customer come back with an alternative if they wish.