Smarten Up Your Prospecting Calls With “Social Engineering”

in Prospecting

One reason that most "cold" calls fail and result in rejection is that sales reps start their pitch the same way to everyone they speaking with, sounding like a talking junk mail piece.

A much better approach, one that stimulates interest, attention, and engagement, and the basis for the Smart Calling system, is to use personalized, customized Smart information in your openings and voice mail, coupled with an on-target value statement.

How? First, there is an entire wealth of information online, found through search engines, social media, and other sites that aggregate information for sales intelligence. The expert on this is Sam Richter, author of "Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling." I encourage youto go to his site, check out the free resources, and get his book. He’ll show you how to get info online that you will not believe.

There are also several great resources that can gather this information for you. One of the best is InsideView.

The other way is by simply talking to people, other than your decision maker. This is called "social engineering."

The term "social engineering" has been most widely used to describe unscrupulous behavior, such as misrepresenting oneself and lying to manipulate someone to provide sensitive information. However, we use it positively and ethically to gather intelligence for our Smart Calls™.

It can be done

-As a separate call before your first call to your prospect; and,

-Every time you call your prospect.

I find this to be the most underutilized tool available to salespeople–and the one that has the greatest possible payoff. All it requires is that you take the time to do it, develop a sense of curiosity, and cultivate some conversational questioning techniques.

Completing all of these steps may indeed grant you a revelation that many of us have had:

People are willing to give you amazing amounts of quality information if you just ask them.

Kevin Mitnick was one of the most notorious computer hackers in the world; and at the time of his arrest in 1995, the most wanted computer criminal in US history. After his release from prison, he wrote the book "The Art of Deception" in which he shares precisely how he pulled off many of his hacking jobs.

Mitnick claims that he compromised computers solely by using passwords and codes that he gained by social engineering; in other words, simply talking to people. Now a speaker and security consultant to corporations, Mitnick points out that the weakest link in any security system is the person holding the information. You just need to ask for it.

The Social Engineering ProcessOf course, we are using social engineering in the positive sense: asking for information from people that will help other people and the organization as a whole. The social engineering process for Smart Calling™ is as follows.

Upon reaching a live voice, you:

1. Identify yourself and your company:

"Hi, I’m Jason Andrews with National Systems."

This immediately shows that you are not hiding anything.

2. Ask for help.

"I hope you can help me out" or

"I need some assistance."

Most people have an innate desire to be helpful to others in some way.

3. Use a Justification Statement. This is the key that will unlock the most useful information. Some examples are:

"I want to be sure that I’m talking to the right person there…"

"I’m going to be speaking with your VP of Sales, and want to be sure that I have accurate information…"

"So that I’m better prepared when I talk to your CIO, I have a few questions you probably could answer…"

4. Ask questions. Of course you want to ask about the basic, factual material for which you might not have information yet. This depends both on what you sell, and the level of person with whom you’re speaking. In general, the higher up you go, the better the quality of information.

The theory behind the success of these Justification Statements I suggest is discussed by Dr. Robert Cialdini– widely considered as one of the foremost experts on persuasion and influence–in his classic book (which I believe should be in every serious salesperson’s library) entitled "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion."

Cialdini cites an experiment conducted by Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer where students let others cut in line in front of them at the copy machine simply because they provided a reason for their request–"because I’m in rush."

Direct mail copywriters also employ this technique, often referring to it as the "Why" or the "Because."

For example, if a business is running a promotion, they know their response will increase if they give the reason for it. For example, "We need to make room for next year’s new models and are clearing out the warehouse, so we are dropping prices to move the current models."

I recommend that you take the time to create your own Justification Statement–your "because" reason–and use it regularly.

Smart Calling™ Exercise
1. Prepare your own script for social engineering using the process above. Be sure you have a justification statement you are comfortable with.

2. Brainstorm for the questions you will ask at all levels of an organization, and write them out. Use social engineering and you will make your prospecting calls much smarter, and successful.


Be Sociable, Share!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Vic Wagner March 21, 2011 at 12:17 pm


Thanks for the tip about Dr. Cialdini book that I will order.

Been following your information since 1999 when I attended your Sales College in Irvine, CA. Of course I purchased your Book, Smart Calling and wrote an endorsement on Amazon.Com. Although one former Sales Manager ordered the book, still few telsales people haven’t. They seem surprised when I suggest continue education in telesales


Blair G September 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Art, thanks so much for this advice. The underlying concept resonates strongly with me, but there’s also something that makes me feel uneasy about it.

To explain: In your book, “Smart Calling,” you give an example of an effective way to open a “smart call”

“…In speaking with your assistant, Suzanne, I understand that you are in the process of evaluating your competitive edge in the employment market…”

I wonder: Couldn’t an approach like that make the call recipient feel as though his assistant (Suzanne) had almost gone behind his back by giving semi-privileged information away to an anonymous salesperson?

(i.e. “Hey, why are you telling random salespeople about our plans?)

And consequently, might that not only predispose the call recipient to feel negatively about the salesperson, but also potentially get Suzanne in trouble with her boss?

Thanks for considering this.


Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: