Lisagor: Make it short and sweet

I usually see both sides of an issue — my way and why can't they see my way? But when it comes to making sales calls, there usually is a right and a wrong way. Here are some guidelines based on the many mistakes I've made over the years:

Be prepared and do your homework before requesting a visit.

Assess the buyers' needs, not your wants.

Establish a personal rapport; find common interests.

Remember, a first impression is often lasting.

Uncover their areas of concern — what keeps them up at night?

Make your overview pitch as short as possible.

Watch for body language. If there is no interest, change the subject.

Don't promise what you can't deliver.

Try a trial close — anticipate objections, but don't push.

Follow up or someone else will.

Finally, in the interest of putting government

customers out of their misery, I offer my First Annual Sales Call Quiz for industry and government salespeople. What is the most effective way to work with potential clients? Select "a" or "b" from each of the scenarios and then check below to see how you did.

1a) Hello, Mr. GS-15 Government Contracts Director. I would like to tell you all about my agency's contracting services.

1b) Thank you for taking the time to see me. You recently had 17 programs receive Office of Management and Budget approval, and I am wondering what contracting approach you will be implementing.

2a) Ms. Chief Information Officer, I didn't have time to learn about your agency, but I'd just like to begin by making a 50-slide presentation to explain my company's services.

2b) Ms. CIO, I was hoping I could ask you some questions about your information technology needs based on my research into your agency's mission.

3a) I understand you have been a little unhappy that my company replaced all 10 of our key staff on your contract last month. But, since it's the end of a sales quarter in my company, I was hoping you might have some new jobs for us.

3b) I want to apologize for the lack of coordination regarding our recent staffing changes and discuss with you how we can improve our communications.

4a) I'm afraid we don't do database design. Do you need any Web integration?

4b) I'd be happy to refer you to an excellent database design company. I'll e-mail you that information when I get back to my office.

5a) My five-person company provides a full range

of IT services including systems integration, Web design, network engineering, meeting logistics, lawn mowing, etc.

5b) Thank you for asking. We specialize in Web content management.

Answer key

If you selected all the "b" answers, take the rest of the day off. If you selected all the "a" answers, consider a career change — please! n

Lisagor is program co-chairman for the 2004 E-Gov Program Management Summit. He founded Celerity Works LLC in 1999 to help IT organizations accelerate and manage their business growth. He can be reached at


  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.