Episode #402: Art Sobczak

Art Sobczak’s Smart Calling Process


Art Sobczak

For over 40 years Art Sobczak has specialized in providing proven how-to processes and messaging to help sales pros improve their prospecting and sales using the phone. He has written five books, has delivered over 1500 training programs, hosts The Art of Sales podcast,  and has received the American Association of Inside Sales Professional’s Lifetime Achievement award. Most importantly, he has always been a sales person just like you, and uses everything he writes about and teaches

Our Mission Is To Change The Negative Perception Of Sales People

Our Vision Is A World Where Selling Is A Profession To Be Proud Of

According to Art Sobczak, cold-calling is dead. He has a better way: Smart-calling. A “smart” call is calling people that you know something about and you have customized, tailored, and personalized a message so it’s relevant to them. This leads to a better chance of engaging with them and moving them to a conversation. 

Smart-calling is still relevant. It sets you apart from digital messages, which are often ignored. When a good call comes in, it’s refreshing. Art shares how to follow his smart-calling process in this episode of Sales Reinvented!

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:02] Why Art believes that “Cold” calling is dead
  • [4:23] The art and science of smart calling
  • [5:24] How Art prepares for a smart calling sessions
  • [7:58] The Smart Calling process
  • [11:48] How to keep a smart call engaging 
  • [14:15] Tools and technology to leverage
  • [16:46] Art’s top smart-calling dos and don’ts
  • [21:35] The difference between objections and resistance

How Art prepares for a smart calling session

You have to start smart-calling in the right frame of mind: one that is focused on others. Art likes to use an acronym, WIT, short for “What interests them?” The other one is “INAM.” It’s not about me. He crafts his messaging with those two positions in mind.

Art prefers to leverage social engineering for research. It involves calling the organization where your prospect resides and asking questions to gather sales intelligence. You’ll gather basic information about the decision-maker (name, title, when they’re available). 

If you talk to someone who works with that person, you can ask more qualitative questions to give you intel to use in your opening to create interest. 

The Smart Calling process

Too many salespeople want to be given a magic phrase or easy button. But there’s no one thing you can say that will create interest. Art follows a template on his calls: 

  1. Introduce yourself and your organization. 
  2. Connect with them about something. Use the intelligence you’ve gathered to set yourself apart, which creates a pattern interrupt. This keeps their defenses from rising. 
  3. Then say why you’re calling. Share the benefit or value for them. 

You could say, “We specialize in working with podcast hosts who want to grow their downloads without having to do the promotions themselves or invest in ads. We show them how to increase that number by as much as 40% in a month. In fact, we’ve done that for four other shows in the sales space.” 

At the end, instead of asking for time on their calendar, Art will ask them to stay on the phone for a few more minutes: “Can I ask you a couple of questions to see if it would be worthwhile to have a conversation?” 

To keep them engaged, you need to ask questions that lead them to talk about their pain points. A script should be used like an actor uses a script—not like a telemarketer. A script is nothing more than a collection of words that are planned to elicit the response you’re looking for. You should script everything but it should never sound like it. 

Art’s top smart-calling dos and don’ts

Art’s smart-calling dos and don’ts are sure to help you increase your success rate: 

  • Do your research. Know something about the people you’re calling. It’s rude to take someone’s time without making your messaging relevant. 
  • Craft your messaging following a proven process. Practice so that your message sounds natural and conversational. 
  • Do quality work in the right way. Don’t be afraid to make the calls. 
  • Don’t call what happens to you a rejection. If you get a no, it’s not a rejection—you found out why they weren’t interested and left the door open for a future contact. It gave you an idea to try on future calls. It’s actually a win. 
  • Don’t apologize or lower your status when you’re making a phone call. Would Elon Musk or Jeff Besos apologize for making a phone call? No! People want to buy from people that they perceive as being an expert at what they do (and at an equal status to them).
  • Don’t create objections in the first 10–15 seconds of a phone call. If you don’t offer something of potential value, someone has no reason to spend more time on the phone with you. 

The difference between objections and resistance

Salespeople who prospect often hear “Hey, I’m good” or “I’m not interested.” That’s not a real rejection. Why? Because you’ve given them nothing substantive to object to. It’s a resistant reflex response when people realize it’s a sales call. Don’t argue with them. Instead, keep them talking.

Say something like, “Not a problem, most of my clients are already using something else.” Then you say, “Let me ask you, what are you doing about…?” You acknowledge what they said and then ask a question to get them talking. Most people will answer your question. 

Art once called a high-level Senior VP of Sales. After Art gave his opening the VP stopped him and said, “Is this a sales call?” Art said, “I don’t know yet.” The VP laughed and Art said “I don’t want to sell you anything if I don’t think I can help you. The purpose of my call is to ask you a few questions to see if we should have a more in-depth conversation…”

Don’t become flustered by what you hear on a call. Whatever happens, learn from it, so that you don’t have to turn it into a negative experience. When you get off a call that didn’t go the way you wanted it to, find a way to learn from it:

  • What did you like about the call?
  • What would you do differently next time? 

Think about how many possible learning experiences you get over the course of your sales career. 

Connect With Paul Watts


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Learn More About Art Sobczak

What was a pivotal moment or experience in your career that shaped your approach to cold calling, and how did it change your perspective or strategy?

After leaving the comfort of the cushy corporate sales job at AT&T, with NO clients for our new telesales consulting firm, in my early 20’s, my partner at the time and myself needed to drum up business. So, we practiced what we were preaching: Using the phone to prospect and get more business.

At that time, we were using what we were taught at AT&T, combined that with our insight, and short-term experience in corporate sales (where we both crushed it). 

BUT, I quickly realized that just making “cold” calls, where everyone was basically getting the same pitch, while we were calling name after name from directories (this was pre-internet) was not as fruitful as I would have liked.

So, I decided that to make my calls more relevant, I needed to have better information about the companies we were calling on. I spent hours in the library physically going through issues of trade publications for the industries we focused on. I pulled out names, company names, photocopied articles, cross-referenced directories and phone books to get phone numbers… all very labor intensive. Most people today can’t imagine life without the internet. (When someone today complains about not having anyone to call I want to slap them.)

The other strategy I used was actually calling into companies and poking around, talking to anyone I could to gather information. Years later, the term I applied to this was one I borrowed from computer hackers, which is “social engineering.”

Armed with this information I was then able to make my calls more relevant by focusing on things I knew about companies and individuals… expansions, new hires, new contracts being awarded, new products, and more. 

Even though it was MUCH easier to get through to people by phone back in the early 80’s, having better targeting, and a more personalized message really made me stand out.

This all became part of the process we also taught in our training, and ultimately got branded as the Smart Calling™ process, and ultimately put into book form with a major publisher, and it hit Number 1 on Amazon it’s very first day in 2010.

Can you share a specific tactic or approach you’ve used in cold calling Smart Calling™  that significantly increased your success rate? Please provide a brief example or case study.

As mentioned in the previous question, a game-changing strategy for me was implementing a process that helps us collect intelligence from people within the prospect’s company so we can customize and tailor our call to the prospect’s world.

The term “social engineering” is most widely used to describe unscrupulous behavior, such as misrepresenting oneself and lying to manipulate someone to provide sensitive information. However, we use it positively and ethically to gather intelligence for our Smart Calls™. To us, social engineering simply means talking to people other than your prospect in order to gather information which will help you help your prospect. It can be done

-As a separate call before your first call to your prospect; and,

-Every time you call your prospect.

I find this to be the most underutilized –and free– tool available to salespeople – and the one that has the greatest possible payoff. All it requires is that you take the time to do it, develop a sense of curiosity, and cultivate some conversational questioning techniques. Completing all of these steps may help you realize what many of us have: people are willing to give you amazing amounts of quality information if you just ask them.

Kevin Mitnick was one of the most notorious computer hackers in the world; and at the time of his arrest in 1995, the most wanted computer criminal in US history. After his release from prison, he wrote the book entitled The Art of Deception, (another that I highly recommend), in which he shares precisely how he pulled off many of his hacking jobs. Mitnick claims that he compromised computers solely by using passwords and codes that he gained by social engineering; in other words, simply talking to people. Now a speaker and security consultant to corporations, Mitnick points out that the weakest link in any security system is the person holding the information. You just need to ask for it.

The Social Engineering Process

Of course, we are using social engineering in the positive sense: asking for information from people that will help other people and the organization as a whole. The social engineering process for Smart Calling™ is as follows: upon reaching a live voice, you:

  1. Identify yourself and your company: “Hi, I’m Jason Andrews with National Systems.” This immediately shows that you are not hiding anything.
  2. Ask for help. “I hope you can help me out,”  “I need some assistance,” or something similar. Most people have an innate desire to be helpful to others in some way.
  3. Use a Justification Statement. This is the key that will unlock the most useful information. Some examples are:

“I want to be sure that I’m talking to the right person there…”

“I’m going to be speaking with your VP of Sales, and want to be sure that I have accurate information…”

“So that I’m better prepared when I talk to your CIO, I have a few questions you probably could answer…”

  1. Ask questions. Of course you want to ask about the basic, factual material for which you might not have information yet. This depends both on what you sell, and the level of person with whom you’re speaking. In general, the higher up you go, the better the quality of information. DO NOT limit yourself to basic, factual information.

The theory behind the success of these Justification Statements I suggest is discussed by Dr. Robert Cialdini — widely considered as one of the foremost experts on persuasion and influence — in his classic book (which I believe should be in every serious salesperson’s library): Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. 

Direct mail copywriters also this technique, often referring to it as the “Why” or the “Because.” For example, if a business is running a promotion, they know their response will increase if they give the reason for it. For example, “We need to make room for next year’s new models and are clearing out the warehouse, so we are dropping prices to move the current models.”

I recommend that you take the time to create your own Social Engineering script. I did a podcast episode that walks you through the process: https://theartofsales.com/198-the-secret-that-gets-calls-returned-and-gets-you-in/

Cold calling often comes with its set of challenges and rejections. Can you share a particularly tough challenge you faced while cold calling and how you overcame it?

Again using an example from early in my career when I HAD to bring in new business or my newlywed wife and I couldn’t pay the rent, I had to find a way to not beat myself up over the no’s—and there were plenty of them as I made every mistake in the book (but learned from them.)

In the discussion with Paul I discussed never being rejected, but changing the story we tell ourselves about the experience of what happens on calls. I took that further and proactively made sure I got a WIN on every call. I labeled that the Secondary Objective. This is defined as what, at minimum, can we ATTEMPT on every call. 

We can’t control the outcome of calls. We can hopefully influence them in our favor, and that is always our goal. But what we CAN control is what we say. So, there are things we can always attempt on every call, at minimum, if things don’t go according to plan. Such as asking to leave the door open for a future contact. Perhaps asking for a referral, if appropriate. Maybe just leaving them with a good feeling of you.

This is more for your attitude than anything. Which is critical for success. So, at the end of a day of calling, instead of saying, “I got rejected 20 times,” we can say, “I accomplished my Primary Objective three times (the appointment) and my Secondary on all of the other calls.”

(I also have an entire podcast episode on how to never be rejected again: https://theartofsales.com/233-encore-presentation-of-how-to-never-be-rejected-again/ )

What are the top three tools or resources (e.g., software, books, training programs) you consider essential for someone looking to improve their cold calling skills and outcomes?

I am not shy in recommending my own resources, since those who use them and get results would tell you that is what they would recommend.

  1. The Smart Calling™  book. We don’t sell it (I get mine at Amazon), although after you get the hardcopy, Kindle, or audio version, you can get a free companion course that gives tons of additional audio, video and text tips, scripts, and strategies. Go to http://Smart-Calling.com
  2. The Smart Calling™ fill-in-the blanks template and video training. This is the “easy button” for creating your prospecting and voice mail script. I still recommend the book as it is a deeper dive, but with this you can paint-by-the-numbers and have your own effective messaging within minutes. And it’s free. http://SalesByPhone.com
  3. The Art of Sales podcast library. Most of the episodes focus on one topic, and provides how-to and what-to-say examples on prospecting and sales such as effective openings, voice mail, dealing with resistance, effective questioning, working with assistants, and more. Go to https://theartofsales.com/episodes/ and use the Search box to find what you’d like help with.

How do you foresee the practice of cold calling evolving in the next few years with advancements in technology and changes in buyer behavior? What advice would you give to sales professionals to stay ahead of the curve?

I’ve not historically been an accurate prognosticator. When fast food drive-thru windows were first introduced, I felt that people wouldn’t want to eat in their car. When the first, building-block size “car phones” came out, I said that most people really didn’t need to be that accessible and those mobile phones probably wouldn’t catch on for the general population. (I did think that Internet thing would work, though.). 

Anyway, what I DO know is that in sales, too often, people get distracted by the next shiny object or technology. What has proven to work in all of my years of doing this is… putting the fundamentals into action. Pick a process, pursue mastery, practice, learn… rinse and repeat.

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