Zig Ziglar said, “Selling is the highest paid hard work and the lowest paid easy work there is.”

Some salespeople approach their work with the attitude that showing up is 90% of the job.  While that may be true for some things, it is not the path for a successful sales career. Whether one works from their home office or in an office in a building, sales may be one of the “purest” examples of reward according to effort in the modern economy.  Compensation for sales positions usually correlates the intensity of effort—and the quality of effort—put into the job very directly.

Fortunately, skill and effort are directly correlated to pay in sales, including the cold calling aspect of sales.

There are a variety of subsets under the umbrella of sales-related jobs. One of those is the front end of sales, cold calling with the goal of setting a sales appointment. This is a job that can be done working from home, from a traditional office, directly for a company, or working for a call center with many clients. The concept of “reward according to the effort” in sales is true for either inside or outside sales. This short piece will outline 12 specific steps a salesperson can do as a work from home cold caller to increase efficiency and earn more money.

A “12 Step” Program for Work From Home Cold Calling Appointment Setters

Let’s take a look at a simple example progression chart to help visualize how these twelve steps can incrementally take cold calling from mediocre results to killin’ it like a pro.

The hypothetical table shows how small improvements here and there, before long, translate to noticeable increases in daily performance.  To begin, record your baseline current performance in three main areas: Hours worked per day, dials per hour and average dials per appointment.  Then set the target goals you would like to see on the right side of the worksheet and follow the steps below.


Step 1: Starting and quitting time

Everyone knows how easy it is to arrive in your office, home office or otherwise, at 8:00 AM, but not actually get started until 9:00 or 9:30.  The thing is, the meat and potatoes, money-making work time for cold callers starts when dial time starts. When you get your non-dialing activities knocked out before that noiseless imaginary air horn blows to start dialing, whatever those non-dialing activities mean for you, such as booting up, getting coffee, logging in or tasks such as checking your email, it is possible to be ready to hit the dialing at your self-designated, pre-determined time. The same is true for quitting time.  Most sales positions provide choices about how many dialing hours to put in and the pace at which we work.

Dialing time is limited to the time when decision-makers are available to be reached. Once that time has passed, we can’t get it back. We can consciously choose to optimize available dial time each day.

It is difficult to keep the discipline of your pre-determined start and stop time when working from home. However, the disciplined and diligent reap monetary rewards.

Step 2: Limit interruptions.

Ask friends and family to only call you during dial time if it is really an emergency.  Tell those who “drop-in” to say Hi to do that during your non-dialing hours. Train others around you by asking people for their support, encouragement and understanding. It may not be logical for people who have never worked from home to view working from home as not working; however, it is useful to remember that it is common. Yes, that is an annoying reality; however, there is an education process that needs to occur, and it is up to us to accomplish that task. We can prioritize and control our time and maintain our relationships all at the same time. Most of all, remember that it is not only ok, but it is also healthy to set boundaries and say no.

Train others around you to respect your time and work from home schedule.

Step 3:  Preplan lunch and breaks.

Be wary of the casualness of working from home. If you don’t have a plan for how and when you want to break, you may not be aware of how much money-making time is slipping away. Be vigilant to set planned lunchtime and breaks. It is important to take breaks and allow yourself time to eat, exercise or return phone calls, but also to not let 45 minutes morph into a two-hour lunch.

Step 4: Limit personal phone calls.

Most of us in sales roles love a good chat, but making non-emergency outbound calls can add up quickly and start crunching into dial time. As the chart above shows, dial time is directly correlated to pay.


Step 5: Have a functional, well-equipped home office with positive energy.

If possible, ask the top performers at your company or others about their home office setup with respect to hardware, software, furniture, and positive energy. Some things are obvious such as having fast internet and an up to date computer; however, some things may not be as apparent. We’ve heard many testimonials from people about how their performance improved when they rearranged their workspace. For example, having your back to the door can bring unnecessary stress. The power position is to place your desk so that you can see from the inside and have the best view of the outside. Take inventory of your workspace with new eyes. You may find that investing in a bigger monitor or moving your furniture can help you be more productive.

Step 6:  List selection and management.

The evening before, review your calling list strategy and decide how to prioritize the coming day, taking into account time zones and other practical considerations. Part of list management is to have a system for effectively managing recall dates in your pipeline of previous leg work. Plan your attack by being organized and take advantage of any incentives or promotions that may be available.

Step 7: Efficient note-taking.

Good note-taking is part of good list management. Time is money, and time spent recording notes is time spent not dialing. Develop a shorthand system for note-taking or ask top earners what method they use.

Step 8: Batch your tasks – delay admin chores.

It is useful to think of different types of daily tasks from an assembly line point of view and form habits to batch your tasks. Here are some examples of tasks that can be batched; sending email confirmations, updating worksheets or pay sheets, researching records, or checking voice mail. Not batching tasks takes more total time, and time spent that is not talking, ringing, or dialing translates to less money. Delaying administrative chores so that you can batch tasks can help you gain dialing time.


Step 9: Keep your call introductions short.

There is a certain stride and balance to strike that walks the line between professional and in rapport with your prospect, and coming across too short and abrupt. Streamlining your introductory remarks, or value proposition is important to time efficiency and effectiveness. The number of dials per hour is impacted by every step, every task. If possible, listen to calls of top appointment setters or speak to them about the keywords they use and how they effectively abbreviate their calls. You can make more calls and convert more conversations as a result.

Step 10: Find out what the prospect needs quickly. 

Learn the skill (or art) of finding out what the prospect needs efficiently. Examples of time-consuming pitfalls in this process to avoid are things like spending too much time speaking with non-decision makers, talking instead of listening, not getting to the point, and engaging in too much chit chat.

Step 11:  Ask for the appointment early.

It’s common for salespeople to put off asking for the appointment until they think they are sure to get it; however, that’s not the best practice of top performers. Prospects are generally savvy business people who will give you their time if you are offering a solution for something they need; however, they are busy, and you will lose them quickly if you don’t get to the point.  It is useful to remember that the prospect is simply agreeing to an appointment, not to buy the product or service. The most successful appointment setters ask early for the appointment. Grab the prospect’s attention early and ask for the appointment.

Step 12: End the call smoothly, but quickly.

Once an outcome of the call has been determined, either a positive or negative result, gracefully move forward to your next call. A smooth transition for an appointment result is to review the next steps and confirm information, the button-down step. A smooth transition for a not interested or not qualified call is to thank the person for their time and move on to the next call. We’ve seen plenty of rookies actually talk themselves out of the appointment by staying on the phone instead of going on to the next call.

When you master these twelve steps, you will be working hard at your craft and experiencing greater success. And as Zig Ziglar said, “Sales is the best-paying hard work you are likely to find . . .so work hard, and fast!”




About the Author

Tracie Chancellor, CEO and Founder of TeleReach Corporate, national business to business call center specializing in sales appointment setting and lead generation, based in Houston, Texas. Chancellor is an MBA graduate of the University of Houston with over 20 years hands-on sales and marketing experience, working with privately-held businesses, universities, non-profit organizations, as well as Fortune businesses in the business to business marketing space.