"Hello Mr. Jones, how are you today?”

Those seven words contain three fatal mistakes, says Jim Barnoski of Performance Selling, the Somerset operation for the national Sandler Sales franchise. Barnoski, a Sandler Training expert, says saying those seven words could easily kill a cold-call sales pitch before it begins.

Barnoski is leading a “cold calling boot camp” seminar for salespeople on Thursday, July 16, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Performance Selling Training Center at 2 Executive Drive, Suite 120, in Somerset. For more information, call 732-764-0200, E-mail jim@performancesellingll.com, or visit www.performancesellingllc.com. The cost is $495.

So what’s wrong with “Hello Mr. Jones, how are you today?”

The fatal errors begin with “Hello.”

“The word ‘Hello’ spoken by a caller, if said with incorrect tonality can create a defensive trigger by the receiver because we hear it as an authoritative figure,” Barnoski says.

The next mistake is “Mr. Jones,” Barnoski says. It’s too formal and establishes distance between you and the person answering the phone. Of course, there really is distance, because you are talking to them for the first time, but the goal of a cold call is to get a conversation going as soon as possible. So, Barnoski says, use their first name instead.

“I will call you by your first name to engage you as if you are one of my friends or someone you should know,” he says.

After calling the person by their first name, and identifying himself, Barnoski likes to use a psychological technique. He waits. The pause fills the air and it gets awkward as the person on the other end struggles to remember who “Jim Barnoski” is. “You were in the middle of something, and I’ve got to get your mind cleared. I’ve got to create a little confusion to get you out of whatever you were working on. There’s some element of panic that goes through your mind.”

That’s when Barnoski steps in to rescue the person he’s talking to. He will say something like “It doesn’t sound like you know me …” Most people will be subtly grateful for this rescue, Barnoski says, and feel social pressure for reciprocity. “A lot of psychology takes place in the first five seconds.”

And in the “Mr. Jones” sentence, a lot has gone wrong in those first five seconds. The third fatal error is “how are you today?” It’s insincere — the opposite of the tone you want to set. You want to have an honest conversation with the person. That’s why Barnoski likes to immediately say something that establishes honesty, like “I have got to have brutal honesty here. I’m not even sure it makes sense for us to talk. Will you let me take 20 seconds to tell you who I am and why I’m calling? If you don’t think it makes sense to continue the conversation, we’ll end it. Is that fair?”

Barnoski says that people will feel comfortable talking to someone if they feel they are in control and that they have the ability to say no. No one likes being fast-talked with a sales pitch, or backed into a corner.

Once Barnoski has permission for 20 seconds, it’s no longer a cold call. It’s a conversation.

Barnoski says much of the psychology of getting into this conversation is about “scripts” of behavior that people learn when they are young children. A good salesperson has to recognize and overcome these scripts of behavior, which include deep-seated fears about talking to strangers.

Barnoski grew up in Manville, where his father was a federal meat inspector and his mother worked in production for a pharmaceutical company. He majored in industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and went to work for Union Carbide as an engineer in project management, transferring to sales after four years.

“Most people don’t think of engineers as people who would go into sales, but it’s becoming more and more common today. People think of salespeople as people who have these extroverted personalities that engage other people. What we find is that in today’s world, some of the best salespeople on the planet that I know through my network are introverts. They are analytical people, and they tend to be deeper in thought and better at intimate conversations. The old image of the outspoken, stand-on-a-stage, and quick-fix personality just isn’t as successful as it used to be in sales.”

After working with a Sandler trainer and noticing a marked improvement in his sales team, Barnoski joined Sandler himself and eventually opened his own franchise in 2001.

He has been holding cold calling programs for about 10 years, he says. “What we’ve found is that more and more, people are trying to pull away from cold calling, with today’s world of Internet, E-Mail, and social media. But if someone wanted to build a business and get a new account today, the number one fastest, most effective way to do that would be to pick up the phone.”

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