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Cold Call in Person or Over the Phone?

This is the question I struggle with quite a bit and I am really looking for some constructive opinions or suggestions. First, I should preface with a couple of points about my situation that may influence your response. I recently took over my territory from a rep that occupied the position for almost thirty years. When he took over the territory there wasn't any internet or really any other outlets for our prospective customers to purchase from unless they went through him.

Secondly, the majority of my customers and potential customers are within probably a thirty mile radius of my home office so I could hypothetically call on many of them in person. I would say twenty percent of my customers are probably 150 miles away in an area I only can get to about once a month.

Third, and this is the big issue, I am in competition with inside sales representatives in my home office. Although, I am the main sales rep in my territory selling the full suite of my company's products there are reps constantly calling my accounts trying to sell the same thing to the point where many of my customers are confused as to who they should be dealing with. What's worse is that if a completely new customer goes to our corporate website and types in a zip code that I cover my contact information will not even come up.

So am a bit torn as to what I should be doing for a couple of reasons. While I can certainly make more contacts via phone and email I feel that it does nothing to distinguish me from the reps that are calling from the inside. On the other hand, cold calling in person seems to take much more time and can seem like a bit of a waste. - by kenpo1980
This is the question I struggle with quite a bit and I am really looking for some constructive opinions or suggestions. First, I should preface with a couple of points about my situation that may influence your response. I recently took over my territory from a rep that occupied the position for almost thirty years. When he took over the territory there wasn't any internet or really any other outlets for our prospective customers to purchase from unless they went through him.

Secondly, the majority of my customers and potential customers are within probably a thirty mile radius of my home office so I could hypothetically call on many of them in person. I would say twenty percent of my customers are probably 150 miles away in an area I only can get to about once a month.

Third, and this is the big issue, I am in competition with inside sales representatives in my home office. Although, I am the main sales rep in my territory selling the full suite of my company's products there are reps constantly calling my accounts trying to sell the same thing to the point where many of my customers are confused as to who they should be dealing with. What's worse is that if a completely new customer goes to our corporate website and types in a zip code that I cover my contact information will not even come up.

So am a bit torn as to what I should be doing for a couple of reasons. While I can certainly make more contacts via phone and email I feel that it does nothing to distinguish me from the reps that are calling from the inside. On the other hand, cold calling in person seems to take much more time and can seem like a bit of a waste.
First, this is very poor management. Companies always have sales reps responsible for categories of accounts often defined by geographic areas with distinct boundaries. Newspapers may assign one sales rep to handle Real Estate or Farming while another focuses on downtown businesses. Car sales divide staff by days and shifts or other means that keep the sales efforts separate to avoid conflict.

It has always been done that why to avoid the very problems you are encountering.

To have one customer be approached by two sales reps from two different companies is expected, but when they both come from the same office that screams incompetence to the customer.

After 30 years of door-to-door-cold-calling, it became common knowledge that the top pros would see each account at least quarterly if not more. Maybe just to say hello. That tells the customer you are willing to take the extra mile.

Some in route sales travel entire regions taking up several states to make their quota. If an account from California moved to New York, the New York rep would get the account. And the California rep would call New York to gladly give them a "heads up."

That is, whenever the customer crossed the set mental boundary, the new location determines the commission direction.

FYI There are states that sued and won to block telemarketing calls such as California.

I know you have a set route and are not cold-calling but phone call or email often still means to the prospect that he or she is just a number to help pay the sales rep's home bills and not much more. Yes, you will make sales but you have no idea how many you have lost by not seeing them personally.

When cold-calling (and it never ends) the phone may appear to be more convenient but many cell users avoid answering unrecognizable numbers and when you leave your sales pitch, they just have you erased. Also, the contact to calls made ratio is astronomical.
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Back to your issue:

Finding some way to separate sales staff members is basic protocol and if your company is not going to follow standard practices, you're going to continue embarrassing yourself and degrade the integrity of the company.

If your complaint is ignored and you find it too uncomfortable, start looking elsewhere. Every company needs a good sales staff. - by John Voris
Thanks for the great response!

It's great to have confirmation again that my corporations strange internal competition issue isn't the norm. Almost every sales person I have spoken to from other companies and industries finds this extremely bizarre. What's even more frustrating is that once an inside sales rep list an opportunity on one of my accounts if I end up visiting the customer and ultimately sell something I will have to split the sale even if the inside rep called once several months ago.

And to tell you how bad, and embarrasing this is, there are many incidents of customers calling me to purchase something and then calling or emailing the inside representative. It then becomes a race to see who will make the sell first. To make matters worst we all have great discretion in what type of discounts we can offer so I could offer a customer one price and the inside person could offer another.

The other issue is that I have to openly tell my customers to call me first since I am their primary representative.They , of course, don't understand this and assume that I will receive credit for anything they purchase from my company because they are in my territory.

As to cold calling, I think my plan will just to be to mix up my days with emailing, phoning and in person cold calling and see what yields the most. - by kenpo1980
Thanks for the great response!

It's great to have confirmation again that my corporations strange internal competition issue isn't the norm. Almost every sales person I have spoken to from other companies and industries finds this extremely bizarre. What's even more frustrating is that once an inside sales rep list an opportunity on one of my accounts if I end up visiting the customer and ultimately sell something I will have to split the sale even if the inside rep called once several months ago.

And to tell you how bad, and embarrasing this is, there are many incidents of customers calling me to purchase something and then calling or emailing the inside representative. It then becomes a race to see who will make the sell first. To make matters worst we all have great discretion in what type of discounts we can offer so I could offer a customer one price and the inside person could offer another.

The other issue is that I have to openly tell my customers to call me first since I am their primary representative.They , of course, don't understand this and assume that I will receive credit for anything they purchase from my company because they are in my territory.

As to cold calling, I think my plan will just to be to mix up my days with emailing, phoning and in person cold calling and see what yields the most.
Your description is so atrocious that investigating into violations of labor laws would be very appropriate.

The basic premise is equitable work for equitable compensation. While everyone would agree that "accidents" occur, like "client-crossovers" in commission sales, what you describe are not accidents. This activity is being supported and encouraged by management which makes them legally liable.

You deserve to be paid for your labor.
If someone says "everyone" is doing it--he or she is either lying, does not have enough life experience, or does not have any litigation experience.

(While this may be their policy, policy is not law. Their policies cannot violate state ot federal statutes or codes. Every policy is legal until someone takes them to court)

When I was a Financial Recruiter, one of our associates began calling my leads. Her knowingly and willfully following through with my personally secured prospects was considered theft. She stole my time and was fired by management.

This activity is often tolerated by employees because no one knows what to do, no one wants to pay the attorney fees and/or there is the prospect of losing a job.

Personally, I would look elsewhere for employment and seek an attorney's advice. If this is big enough you may have a class action suit. That may get them to reimburse you what you lost in commission.

Of course, there may be extenuating circumstances that I am not aware of but given this information--I would sue! The threat alone may compel management to settle with you. - by John Voris
Well I should clarify a bit here because I don't think what's going on at my company is a violation of any labor laws, maybe I am wrong.

Basically, I am a what I guess you would call a General Sales Representative for my company and I have a geographic territory. In this territory I can sell basically three products. Of these three products there are two that account for about 95% of my quota.

Like any sales job I have to do traditional tasks such as cold calling and networking to get leads but historically some of our leads would always come from customers calling into the home office wanting to purchase one of these products or going to the corporate web site and pulling up their local field rep.

Over the past few years a few things have happened. First, the home office now has Inside Sales Reps that specialize in each one of the products we sell. Secondly, these reps just don't take in coming orders but they aggressively telemarket within our territories and a new development, as of last year, is that we don't get credit for any sales that come in via the internet or over the phone.

I don't think this is illegal because I would think a company can structure sales territories anyway they see fit but it certainly kills moral in the field and makes it very confusing for customers. When I am getting into email battles with reps in the in the home office over accounts we "share" this probably is not good.

The bottom line here is that my company is clearly trying to get rid of field reps, because we do make quite a bit more, and ultimately push everything inside but instead of doing this in a more up front fashion they are raising our quotas in the field the same but taking more and more turf away from us. I believe this is a pretty common phenomenon in corporate America. - by kenpo1980

I don't think this is illegal because I would think a company can structure sales territories anyway they see fit but it certainly kills moral in the field and makes it very confusing for customers. When I am getting into email battles with reps in the in the home office over accounts we "share" this probably is not good.

The bottom line here is that my company is clearly trying to get rid of field reps, because we do make quite a bit more, and ultimately push everything inside but instead of doing this in a more up front fashion they are raising our quotas in the field the same but taking more and more turf away from us. I believe this is a pretty common phenomenon in corporate America.
You are certainly correct that a company can structure territory anyway they want. My point is when you do the work and someone else enters the picture and takes 50% of what you have earned--that can be construed as a labor violation under certain jurisdictions and circumstances.

Realtors traditionally share commission but there is an assumed equity of contribution leading to the close.

Now, I would not suggest that legal prosecution is the way to go--it was just a thought. I don't know the whole picture.

As with all companies, who generates the most corporate profit stays regardless of being field reps or telemarketers. - by John Voris
Try generating inquiries initiated by prospects. That's the best option. (E.g., Internet marketing based on search.)

Engineering a call from the prospect (e.g., articles in local media or trade journals, or addressing a rotary meeting) is a good idea.

An option may be to send prospecting letters first and calling on only those who respond.

A flier that is different and catches the eye is an option too.

If calling over phone is no issue in your place, do it.

Last resort is cold call, as it wastes your time substantially.

Ganesan. - by ezynes
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