To Succeed at Sales, You’ve Got to Interrupt

“Nobody answers a phone that doesn’t ring.” — Jeb Blount

Salespeople must interrupt on the phone

Photo by auremar

Blount, author of Fanatical Prospecting, is a proponent of cold calling.

Mostly on the phone, but he’s not against other methods. The key, he says, is to interrupt:

If you want sustained success in your sales career, if you want to maximize your income, then you’ve got to interrupt prospects. You’ll have to pick up the phone, walk in the door, send an email or text message, or ping a prospect on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and interrupt someone who is not expecting you to contact them (i.e., you don’t have an appointment or they are not waiting for you to call  or write) and with whom you are not currently engaged in a sales discussion.

Interrupting works. Here is a true story to illustrate:

How Phil Found a Hotel Room
A Sales Prospecting Parable

Last week I finished off a successful revenue initiative with a TV station in Kentucky. On Saturday, I attempted to fly home to Portland, Oregon from Lexington.

Bad weather stymied my first attempt. As I sat at the gate, my plane’s departure time went from 1:25 to 2:00 to 3:30 to 6:00 to…cancelled. 

There were no more planes out of Lexington that day. United Airlines put me on a flight leaving the next afternoon. I was going to need a hotel room for the night.

I set my iPad on a vacant gate counter and began to search online. No dice. Every hotel website within range of Blue Grass Airport was completely full.

  • The Hampton Inn was sold out.
  • Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn had no rooms available.
  • Comfort Suites…America’s Best Value Inn…Holiday Inn Express…no vacancy.

It was time to stop looking at websites and start interrupting real human beings. 

I pulled out my phone and began to call the same hotels whose websites had turned me down. Each time a front desk clerk answered, I got to the point quickly.

“Hi, this is Phil Bernstein. My flight’s been cancelled and I’m stuck at the airport. Is there any chance you could get me into a room for the night?”

The first three people I talked to were sympathetic, but it was simple math — every room they had was taken.

I hit paydirt on the fourth call. The clerk at Fairfield Inn & Suites said, “Hang on — we may have something.” I heard him tapping on his keys, and then he said four of the sweetest words on the planet:

“Got a credit card?”

Twenty minutes later I was in my room.

Jeb Blount sums up resistance to cold calling this way:

For thousands of salespeople, picking up the phone and calling a prospect is the most stressful part of their life. Many of these reluctant salespeople stare at the phone, secretly hoping that it will disappear. They procrastinate, get ducks in a row, and work to ensure that everything is perfect before they dial. Any excuse—and I mean any excuse—to do something else takes priority.

They work over their leaders, too. Whining that no one answers the phone anymore. Arguing that it is a waste of time. Complaining that people don’t like to be contacted by phone.

The complainers have a point: some people don’t like to be contacted by phone. If you call, they might send you to voice mail. Or hang up on you. Or curse you out.

Heck, not long ago I interrupted a car dealer. He cursed me out and hung up on me.

It’s the sort of thing that makes those hotel websites very attractive. They just sit there just waiting for someone like you to fill in the dates and hit “Submit.” No interrupting, no awkward conversation, no cursing. Just a few taps on the keys.

But on a recent Saturday evening, none of those websites had any opportunities. To get what I wanted I had to step out of my comfort zone.

Because nobody answers a phone that doesn’t ring.

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