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The temperature of your prospecting calls is determined by the temperature of the prospects you call.
David Sandler defined four “temperature” classifications of prospects—cold, cool, warm, and hot—based on criteria that suggest their degree of salability. Let’s examine each.
Cold prospects are prospects about which you know very little. Perhaps, nothing more than their names and locations. Technically, and more appropriately, they should be referred to as suspects. For simplicity, we’ll refer to all potential customers as prospects.
Suppose, for example, that you sell office furniture systems and you’ve driven past ABC Technologies Corporation several times. You know nothing about the company. ABC would be considered a “cold” prospect. The large single-story building could be a huge warehouse facility (representing little opportunity to sell office furniture)…or it could be filled with offices (representing a considerable opportunity). If, one day, you decide to stop in and find out what the company does and if they might have a need for your products, that would be considered a “cold” call.
A “cool” prospect is one for which, in addition to name and address, you have some other information about the company or individual. Perhaps you read an article in the business section of the newspaper about ABC’s plans to relocate the warehouse space in their current facility to an off-site location and convert the current warehouse space to offices. That information elevates ABC to a cool prospect. If you decided to call on them, it would be a “cool” call.
Let’s suppose that a current customer has connections with the facilities manager at ABC Technologies Corporation. Your customer tells you about ABC’s pending warehouse relocation plans, supplies the name of the facilities manager, and recommends that you call him. The additional information (the name of the facilities manager) and the referral elevate ABC to a “warm” prospect. And, if you make the call to the facilities manager, it would be a “warm” call.
Sandler reserved the “hot” prospect classification for existing customers. Why classify existing customers as prospects? To remind salespeople that they should be working just as hard to keep their existing customers as they did to secure their business in the first place. He warned, “Your best customer is at the top of your competitors’ prospect lists.” He also suggested that salespeople should always be looking for ways to provide additional value to their customers. A strategy that will not only strengthen the relationships (and keep the competitors at bay), but also open the doors for additional business.