The Approach—Chapter 34 from “Selling Fearlessly”

Robert Terson

I’ve spoken to a number of salespeople the past seven years who sought my help.  They all needed to read my book, which was published in October, 2012.  In every case I spent a lot of time talking about the approach in cold calling, so I’ve decided to post that chapter of my book for all of you—I think it’s important.  I hope it helps.

Part IV



The Approach

“There is only one way…to get anybody to do anything.  And that is by making the other person want to do it.”

Dale Carnegie (1888-1955)

I believe in a memorized approach.  I used the same one for 38 years—pure and simple, it worked.  Not by itself, of course; without the ability to quickly rebut and arouse interest when a prospect politely, or otherwise, attempts to get rid of you, even a transcendent approach won’t get you far.  Think of the approach as a Christmas tree and the rebuttals (interest arousers) as ornaments decorating the tree; without the ornaments, all you’d be left with is a drab, barren evergreen.

Winging it

Salespeople refer to a non-memorized approach or presentation as “winging it.”  Some salespeople believe they’re talented enough to just wing it; good for them.  I’m recommending what I know works; winging it is what I did when forced to get off track, but having a track to get back to was always a plus.

Your company may have a scripted approach for you; if not, take the initiative to create one suitable for your business.

Joe Smith’s Approach

Let’s create a scripted approach for Joe Smith; Joe also sells advertising to small businesses, but you can easily adapt his approach to your business.  On this call to an insurance agency, he knows the prospect’s name—Max Jones; although that won’t always be the case.  Is it easier when you know the prospect’s name?  Indubitably.  If someone calls and directly asks for you, aren’t you apt to be more open minded than if he says something like, “Is the owner in?”?

The receptionist answers the phone, “Jones and Jones Insurance.”

“Max Jones, please.”

“Who’s calling?”

“Joe Smith.”

“Is Mr. Jones expecting your call?”

“No, but I’ve been asked to call on him; may I speak to him please?”  Joe speaks with strength and confidence.

“One moment please….”

Thirty seconds later: “Max Jones here.”

“Mr. Jones, my name is Joe Smith and my company is XYZ Marketing.  We do business with, oh, two- to three-thousand insurance agencies around the country and practically to a business they’ve told us we’ve increased their profits tremendously.

“What we’ve got is kind of a new idea in the field of business promotion.  It takes a very short time to show our program, but if you’re like most of the businesspeople we’ve talked to in Fresno, I think we can show you something you’d really like—

“—but let me ask you this: If at the end of ten, twelve minutes, I was showing you something you didn’t agree with, I’m sure you wouldn’t hesitate to ask me to stop—true?”

(Get an agreement.)

     “I’ll turn that around; if I could show you something good, profitable, something you liked, is there anyone besides yourself—wife, partner, business associate—who should also see it, or are you the sole decision maker for the company?”

“No, I make the decisions around here.”

“Okay, what’s the best time for you, first thing in the morning or later on in the day?”  Always use an alternate of choice close; never ask an open-ended question that can be answered “no.”  At times I did it this way: ‘I have an opening at 8:00 A.M. or right after lunch; which do you prefer?’

“I’m here at 6:00 A.M.”

“That’s a bit early for me; how about 8:00 A.M.?”

“Sounds good.”

“I go by Joe; may I call you Max?”

“Sure, we’re not formal around here.”

“Max, would you do me a huge favor?  I’ll be coming from one heck of a distance tomorrow; if you’d block that on your schedule, I’d sure appreciate it.”

“I’m doing that right now.”

“Max, I’ll see you tomorrow morning at eight o’clock sharp.  I’ll look forward to it”

That was pretty easy, wasn’t it?  However, most successful approaches don’t go quite so smoothly; more often than not you’ll have to use your rebutting skills to secure an appointment, and the need to rebut can come at any point in the approach—not all prospects will allow you to speak uninterrupted from start to finish.

Let’s try it again; we’ll pick it up right after we qualified him as the sole decision maker.  Qualifying is absolutely vital; in a one-call-close you never give a presentation unless all decision makers are present.

“Okay, what’s the best time for you, first thing in the morning or later on in the day?”

“What’s this all about?”

“It’s a marketing program I want to show you; our clients—“

“—I’m not interested; I’ve got all the advertising I need.”

“Tell me something, your advertising, are you pleased with all of it?”  I guarantee you, no businessman is pleased with all his advertising.  Create a question for your business which points out a problem the prospect deals with and would jump through ten hoops to solve.


“Let me ask you this then: if I could show you something you yourself really thought would work far more effectively than what you’re not happy with now, would you at least be open minded enough to spend, ten, twelve minutes to take a quick look at it?”

“I’m not interested in spending any more money right now, things are tight.”

“You just gave me the reason why I should show you the program; good marketing doesn’t cost money, good marketing makes money.  If you’ll look at it with an open mind, I think you’ll be glad you did, and if at any point I don’t make sense to you, I’ll shut up and shake your hand; is that fair enough?”  Asking a prospect to be open minded will work no matter what business you’re in; so will telling him you’ll shut up and shake his hand at any point if you don’t make sense to him.


“—I can be free at 8:00 A.M. or right after lunch; which do you prefer?”

“Morning’s best for me….”

That was a bit more difficult for Joe, but no matter, he got his appointment.

Typical Objections

Here are a few more objections you’re likely to encounter, and rebuttals to neutralize them.  Adapt them to fit your business.

(1) “I’m too busy to listen to any salesperson right now.”

“I’m sure you’re far too busy to waste your precious time, but let me ask you, as busy as you are, would you invest a few minutes if you knew for a certainty that what you were going to hear would produce thousands of dollars in additional profit?”

“That’s a trick question; who wouldn’t say yes to that?”

“Give me the opportunity to show you what our insurance clients rave to us about, you won’t regret it.”  (Close with alternate of choice times.)

This also was one of my favorite rebuttals to the “I’m too busy” objection:

“I know you get 20 calls a day and probably want to get rid of 19½ out of 20, but if you’ll look at this with an open mind, and you’re like most of the businesspeople we’ve talked to in Fresno, you’ll be glad you did.”  (Close with alternate of choice times.)

(2) “What’s so special about your program?”

“That’s what I want to show you; share a few minutes with me, Mr. Jones, you won’t regret it.”  (Close with alternate of choice times.)

(3) “I’m not interested!”

“No, of course not, you haven’t seen the program yet.  Tell me, though: would you be interested in something if you knew it was going to be highly profitable, make a huge difference?”

“Of course, who wouldn’t?”

“Let me show you why our insurance clients rave to us.  We’re going to have one of the top insurance agencies in Fresno on our program; even if you decide it isn’t for you, at the very least you’ll know what the competition is using to grab market share.”  (Close with alternate of choice times.)  Here we just threw a little fear of loss into the equation.

Another tack I took when a prospect said he wasn’t interested was to tell the following story:

“My father has a cartoon framed and hanging on the wall behind his desk.  It’s a scene from an ancient battlefield, around the time they fought with swords, bows and arrows, and catapults.  The commander is in his tent talking to his underling.  The underling tells him that there’s a salesman outside who has called on him.  The commander says, ‘I’m not interested in seeing any salesman!  I’m preparing for the battle!’  Do you know what the salesman wants to show the commander?—a Gatling gun.  The point is it never hurts to have an open mind, does it?”  I usually got a chuckle and the appointment.

A Rebuttal for Every Objection

After you’ve been in the field for a while, you’ll soon be familiar with the principal objections used to get rid of you.  You must create and memorize an effective rebuttal to neutralize each one.  There is a rebuttal for every objection, and you must be prepared to combat any objection you encounter.  The alternative is surrender, which isn’t a pleasant thought, is it?  You didn’t become a salesperson to accept defeat without a fight.

If your quiver of rebuttals is stocked to the brim, you’ll get your fair share of appointments.  Remember, selling is a numbers game: you don’t have to win them all; you only have to fill up your work schedule.

First-Name Basis

I always worked on a first-name basis after I set up the appointment: “I go by Bob; may I call you by your first name?”

Rarely was I refused.  Others disagree with me—they prefer to charge right in using a prospect’s first name.  I never was comfortable with that; to me it seemed disrespectful.  At the other end of the spectrum, using a prospect’s last name throughout the presentation puts you in a subservient position, so I don’t recommend that.  We’ll discuss the importance of equality in an upcoming chapter.

Don’t Give Up Your Thunder

The approach comes before the presentation; they are separate and distinct entities.  Your sole purpose in the approach is to set up an appointment to give a presentation.  You offer the least information possible to accomplish that goal.  You never give even part of the presentation while in the approach; give up your thunder in the approach and you’ve crippled your presentation before you utter the first word.


Your delivery must be strong, confident, and enthusiastic.  If you’re not confident what you have to offer is in the prospect’s best interest, he isn’t going to believe it either.  You’re calling on him to better his life; be excited about that and he will be too.  And remember, if you’re going to sell fearlessly, you must be his equal, not a groveling beggar (see Chapter 37, “The Importance of Equality”).

You can’t give a presentation without first succeeding in the approach.

Go make that call.


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