When we’re talking the art of cold calling, a Best Practice is one that addresses certain events (or scenarios) encountered during the appointment setting process.

In this blog, I will describe the ‘Qualify on the First Pursuit’ Best Practice.

The payoff for being able to qualify an account on the first pursuit attempt is obvious – prospectors often call a target multiple times over a period of years; no more wasting time and calls pursuing a target that is not qualified will save valuable resources.

It is easiest to qualify on the first pursuit when there is a single piece of ‘public’ information that will qualify the account: For example, number of employees, number of locations or the technology used for a specific function. For other products, the information needed is more ‘private:’  For example, net worth, research budget or compensation structure.

Regardless of the sensitivity of the information, during the appointment setting process, it is more difficult than you might think to obtain the answer to even one question, so you should be prepared to call more than one person during the first pursuit.

Since Gatekeepers are often the first line of communications when prospecting, they are the first place to start the qualifying process.

Gatekeepers are notoriously cautious about giving out information, so the wording of the qualifying question should be ‘Can you confirm what my records are showing me? My records show that the last time we met with you that you had over 30 employees. Is that still correct?’ Asking a question such as ‘How many . . .?’ is fishing and most often will get you nowhere.

The ‘Qualify on the First Call’ Best Practice is to be willing to make up to three calls into the company to do the qualification. A typical approach looks like this:

If the Gatekeeper cannot, or will not, answer the qualifying question call back and ask for the sales department. They and we are in the same club and will gladly assist. If there is no Sales Department, call Accounts Receivable. They typically answer their phones and are usually friendly.

Some callers like to begin by saying that they are confirming information for marketing purposes. While this may seem like a ‘covert’ way to gather information, the approach faces the same ‘mindset’ with a Gatekeeper and you forfeit your ability to leave a voice message for the decision maker. The marketing ploy works best with Accounts Receivable, IT or Operations.

In summary, be willing to make three attempts to qualify the account. If you have more companies on your list than you can possibly call, consider removing the ones that cannot be qualified on the first call until your marketing efforts tell you that they may be worth another call.