Current Issue

by Greg Walters 

Newbies, take caution. Some say phone cold calling is dead. But, for the new copier salesperson, the phone is your lifeline. For you, the cold call is alive and well. For you, it’s dial for dollars or hit the bricks. It is a miracle anyone survives. Yet, some do. Some even thrive.

The phone, a mirror and the Yellow Pages. That’s all it took for the rise of copier empires and fulfilled selling destinies — the stuff of legends.

I once loved to cold call. Back then we called them “phone blocks.” Phone blocks filled Franklin planners. Appointments paid for diapers, private school and vacations.

It’s different today as marketers promote the demise of the cold call. Because 90 percent (or whatever) of the decision-making process is complete before a prospect speaks to a salesperson, we don’t need to reach out to those not interested.


Most who proclaim the death of cold calling loathe salespeople, don’t know Glenn Ross and find the thought of selling repulsive. Ignore the chatter; you’ve got a calendar to fill. Let’s get started.

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There is a great motto that says, “You are only as good as your tools” and in phone work, having the correct utensils makes a difference.

Technically, all one needs is a list of companies and a phone. That’s it. If a sales manager threw a list at a seasoned professional, that salesperson would dial up appointments. No internet. No prospect profiles. No decision maker contact information.

This is how you should approach phone blocks — no research beyond what you have between your ears. “Research” can become a crutch or worse, a quagmire.

So, excluding the internet, here are some observations that make the drudgery of dialing for dollars less painful.

I’ve got three levels, three tool kits for you to consider:

Kit One — Required

  1. Phone — goes without saying, but a faulty connection or bad handset will drive you crazy and your call quality will suffer. If they cannot hear you, prospects hang up.
  2. List of names — in the olden days, this was called the Yellow Pages. Your list can be built for you or you can create it.
  3. Pencil — duh.
  4. Pad of lined paper — writing while on the phone is still a viable and sometimes more productive manner of capturing data.

Kit Two — Suggested — in addition to or in place of, the items above

  1. Mirror — This is real and old school. When you smile, your voice sounds better. What better way to guarantee a smile than with your smiling face in the mirror? Do this.
  2. Headset — Walking and talking is a nice enhancement
  3. CRM/Laptop/Computer — I still like the pen and pencil approach, but ultimately, the data needs to be entered into your system. Also, sending calendar invites while on the call is a superior method of securing a real meeting
  4. Desk — I once did my blocks from a picnic table on Newport Beach, California, toes in the sand, literally. I miss those days. The point here is to have a space. It can be a cubicle or a card table in the middle of the room. For newbies, I’ve seen success occur in a sales-pit style environment. Your peers are the strongest and best critics.

Kit ThreeLuxury — in addition to or in place of, the items above

  1. Music — There is nothing better than your choice of tunes in the background.
  2. Water/Coffee — Hydrate and stay buzzed. Red Bull, whatever.
  3. Snacks — Skittles and M&M’s
  4. Colleagues — Shoulder to shoulder, those who share the same experience create a bond. Ask any veteran (right after you thank them for their service).

The critic may spot holes in my review. So be it. I didn’t talk about scripts because everyone talks about scripts. I didn’t bring up dial-to-conversation-to-appointment ratios because everybody has a ratio. I don’t say cold calling is dead; the point is moot.

I will say this: When it comes to on-the-phone expertise, I recommend Steve Schiffman. Do yourself a favor and check him out — classic and timeless — you’ll find most of his stuff has been pilfered and repackaged as new.

However you execute phone blocks, working the mechanics of a process is almost as important as securing appointments. Almost. Process won’t buy diapers.