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Calling The Shots Hit the phone running by preparing your pitch before you dial.

By Julia Miller

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you're a homebased entrepreneur who conducts most of yourselling and marketing by phone, you might want to keep this columnright up there next to the Chinese takeout menu. Even if you thinkyou give good phone, stellar seller Art Sobczak points out that"many folks sell by throwing things against the wall andseeing what sticks"-and we don't mean the receiver or chowmein noodles.

One of the hallmarks of poor preparation for a cold call isnonexistent or inadequate questioning. You lose credibility in thelistener's mind when you ramble foolishly on about whatyou'd like to sell rather than what the listener might beinterested in buying. Usually, the prospect then channels all theirenergy into thinking of reasons why he or she should get you offthe phone. However, you can turn things around by mapping out yourquestions before your call.

Make three columns on a piece of paper. In the left-hand column,write down all your product or service's benefits. Label themiddle column "Needs Filled/Problems Solved," and foreach corresponding benefit, write down what customer need orproblem it satisfies. Label the third column "Questions toAsk." For each need or problem, jot down a question that woulddetermine whether that situation existed. Obviously, you can'tscript out an entire call; there are too many possible ways theconversation could branch. But you can be prepared by brainstormingevery possibility beforehand.

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