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The impressions you make during the first ten seconds can make or break following-up a lead on the phone. Plan your approach by asking yourself these questions.

Did I introduce myself first? By announcing yourself right away, you give yourself and your company an air or confidence and authenticity. "My name is John Adams, from the Acme Store. We talked a week ago about home computers."

Does the prospect sound distracted, rushed or annoyed? Don't come across as inconsiderate; acknowledge the importance of their time. "You sound very busy."

What do I know about the prospect that I can use to start off the conversation? Mention only the information that is relevant to the product or service you are calling about. "I hear that you are getting a promotion." "I noticed that your business has enjoyed a really good month."

What do we have in common? Do a little research before calling to find out the prospect's business interests. "I was reading an article about...and I noticed your name was mentioned.

What does this prospect have in common with my clients? If possible, mention a few successful clients that the prospect might know by name. "We've been working with Client X who is very satisfied with our results. We'd like to have the same amount of satisfaction with you."

Why am I calling? Mention an event or sale that is coming up--something that gives you a substantial reason for calling. "We have a new location opening planned for next week." "I know you're looking for a home computer. A new line will be coming in soon, and we thought you'd like to be one of the first people to see the latest in technology."

Are there other contacts to mention? Make sure you've cleared it with the contacts before you start name dropping. "Your name came up in a conversation recently with..." "Mr. Jones asked me to call you. He thinks we may be able to help you save money."

Is this prospect interested in talking a little? If you've made it to this point, it's a good indication that the prospect is interested in what you're saying. Still before you go on any further, it's important to ask: "This should only take a few minutes. Is this a good time?"

Like everything is life, it's not always possible to follow things in an orderly fashion. Don't try to make your call conform to fit each aspect mentioned above; you'll only sound like you're reading from a cue card. Instead, make sure you have all of the information on hand and your general direction of conversation laid out, so when the situation arises, you won't be left out in the cold.

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