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Outside cold calling

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Outside cold calling

I've been saving this article for the winter: COLD CALLING. Just trying to be seasonal. This month’s topic is making outside cold calls to businesses in your local surrounding marketing areas.

Operating a successful retail tire and service store requires customers, a good healthy car count to make acceptable profits. There are ebbs and flows in the retail consumer traffic during certain times of the year, so aggressively pursuing some B2B (business to business) sales is wise.

It’s been my experience over the years that the best performing stores have a healthy mix of consumers and local merchants to balance the monthly car count. It’s also been my experience that a lot of time and money can be wasted making outside sales calls if a sales person is not prepared.

The value of the outside contacts is the potential additional revenue generated by the additional car count. I would like to address several points in the article this month:

* sales preparedness,

* success story from an experienced dealer, and

* the difficulty in cold calling.

First impression

They say, "Perception is reality," and that may be true in many circumstances, but not in this case. Many sales persons associate cold calling with a high failure rate. Research by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) reveals that cold calling customers actually yields the highest response rates; higher than direct mail, email blasts, paid search and Internet displays. When I think about it, using myself as an example, who or what has the best chance to make a positive first impression, me or email? Please!

Same for you, what is going to make the bigger/better impression? You, or a piece of paper inserted in a mail box? If you think the answer is a piece of paper, quit reading this article and resign your sales position. If you know the answer is you, then you should renew a commitment to cold calling by hitting the streets or making some phone calls.

At first I was an untrained sales person, and my cold calling expectations were unrealistic so I became frustrated. Soon I learned that the first call is simply an introduction, and it changed my expectations and my aversion to cold calls. It wasn't long before I began receiving orders from some recent cold calls, and I soon had a reputation as the new accounts guy. Because I was new at the sales game, I really didn't understand how important new accounts are; it’s the life blood of any sales organization.

Beware of the natural adverse tendency to cold calling. The facts are that cold calling pays off. It’s the best way to uncover new potential business. My suggestions...

* Move cold-calling up on your priority list.

* Don't over-prepare and don't procrastinate.

* Schedule regular time for cold-calling activities.

* In some cases, it’s best to call ahead for an appointment.

* If you have "telephobia,” get over it!

* Get out there and do it.

* Evaluate quickly; don't waste time with low-potential prospects.

* Follow up, follow up, follow up.

Smooth operator

I've been in the tire, wheel and service aftermarket in the West for over 35 years. I've served as far east as Kansas City, Texas, New Mexico and the entire West Coast from Mexico to the Canadian border. I've met some incredible store owners and operators, and I'd like to tell you about an operator who executed a plan of cold-calling like I had never seen.

First, he/we designed a simple yet effective hand-out piece that contained real offers with real values. We printed 5,000 pieces using their new store colors, complete with maps, phone numbers, websites, and QR codes. He had recently taken over a muffler shop and an older repair shop. These businesses were dead and desperately needed a customer base fast. Equipped with a city map, he drew up a plan to hit all the businesses surrounding his location. He put together a schedule and a plan and hit the streets, block after block in every direction. He visited the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. With enthusiasm and determination, he and his staff covered dozens of city blocks in all directions from both stores. Within hours of handing out flyers, he had customers showing up at the store. Because he is an extremely smart operator, he lightly inspected the customers’ vehicles and made very customer-friendly recommendations. These small footprint locations are now generating over $150K each month, with a healthy bottom line and a growing customer list.

The bottom line is this: Cold calling works. Don't be lulled to sleep thinking that a mailer or an email is as effective as a personal visit.

We used to call it "pressing the flesh." Go shake a few hands and build your business; you're going to meet some great people in your neighborhood.

Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at

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