Key Ingredients

In cold-calling and appointment setting, these ingredients may be summarized as: persistence; unwillingness to accept “no”, thorough research, and relentlessness (which is a subset of persistence).

The following anecdote is not specifically related to sales, and yet applying the principles illustrated will yield success in sales and cold-calling.
Some years ago I was the road manager of a blues band. The group traveled all over the country in a Dodge Maxi Van 3500 (one of those extra long jobs). In between tours, I was driving the van around LA and noticed a strange sound that resembled a baby’s rattle. It didn’t seem to affect the way the van drove so I didn’t pay it much mind. At this time the van’s mileage was somewhere in the high 70k range (say 78,500). The band booked a tour and we took off for Colorado and Idaho. As we climbed into the Rockies I noticed that the van, which could easily pull 80 mph up a mountain with a full load, was having trouble going 50. The problem got worse and worse and when we finally limped into Ketchum, Idaho, I took it straight to a mechanic.

The diagnosis was a bad catalytic converter, which the mechanic demonstrated by holding up the just-removed bad part and shaking it around. It sounded like—you guessed it—a baby rattle. Since it was a specialty part (California has special emissions laws) it was $600+ for the part plus another $400+ for the repair. Ouch, but what could I do? By now the mileage was about 80,276

When we got back to LA after the tour, I cracked open the owner’s manual and discovered that the engine and drive train were only under warranty for 50,000 miles but that the catalytic converter and transmission were warranted for 80,000. If you’ve been reading carefully, you’ll remember that when I was driving around LA and hearing that baby-rattle sound, the van was well under that 80k limit.
So I picked up the phone and called Dodge customer service and said the following, “Hi, I’m hoping you can restore my faith in humanity today, here’s what has happened…”, and I told her my story, explaining that I had been hearing the death-rattle of the catalytic converter long before the odometer hit 80,000 but had no idea what the sound was. The customer service rep listened carefully and then asked, “Did you have the repair done at a Dodge dealer?”. I replied that I had not. “In that case, I won’t be able to reimburse you the cost of the repair but I will reimburse you the cost of the part. I get people calling me almost every day trying to hustle me but I know the ring of truth when I hear it and I know that you are being straight”. I faxed her a copy of the repair bill and the receipt for the catalytic converter and a few days later, I had a check for $600+. Accomplished with a single 10-15 minute phone call.

So, what’s the takeaway? First, read carefully—that’s how I knew that I had a case to make. Second, don’t hesitate to ask for what you want. The Dodge rep was not bound by the warranty. She could have said, “Tough pal, you should’ve taken it in to find out what the noise was. It was out of warranty when you broke down, too bad”. But I pled my case and she felt my pain. Her action forever left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling for the Dodge Motor Company, knowing that they went above and beyond the call of duty to make a customer happy.

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