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Your Call to Action May Require More Counselling.

Updated: Sep 30, 2020


One of the very first jobs I had was in a telesales company in central London. It was a terrible job. I hated it. Every day we would cold call defense manufacturers around the world. Some made exciting things like helicopters and jets. Some guns. But most made boots and beds and uniforms and more basic things that armed forces need. We’d call up unsuspecting marketing folks in, say, Brazil and tell them they needed to advertise in our magazine that would be sent to over 2,000 military procurement officers around the world. I got a lot of “no thank yous”. And many more “call me in a few months”.

That’s where I first heard the phrase “Ask For The Sale”. I heard it every day, multiple times a day. Team leaders would shout it at the tops of their voices. Every salesperson worth their salt will tell you to “Ask For The Sale”. Of course you have to ask for the sale. But if you’ve worked in a sales organization or read Zig Ziglar selling techniques or David Ogilvy’s accounts of selling Agas door-to-door you’ll appreciate that it’s not about screaming at a prospect to close the deal right now. A lot of it is about listening. And the same goes for your advertisement’s CTA.

The big question is timing. When do you ask for the sale? At the beginning? After you’ve given your spiel? Or after you’ve heard from the prospect and responded to all their questions and objections?

Having been in marketing now for a long time I’m pretty convinced the answer is at all those stages. Some people may be ready to buy right away. Some need a little cajoling. Most need some persuading. But many more people need to a have deep conversation about it. The higher the ticket item you’re selling the more people need to have that intimate chat.

Cruise Line clients and TV subscription clients alike want to ask for the sale as soon as possible. They generally want to have a strong Call To Action. “Make the CTA bigger”. “Put it in a yellow box”. And they are partly right about all that – for some people that will work. Some people are ready to buy right away.

They also spend a lot of time testing tiny things like “Call Now” versus “Call Today” versus “Call Immediately”. I actively encourage testing, but you have to test big stuff too, not just the little stuff.

While it’s true that if you can get some people on the phone you might be able to ask for the sale and close the deal. But the only people who are going to call are the people who are ready to buy. What of the folks who are almost ready to buy. In studies I’ve seen about “shoppers” across numerous industries only about 30% are ready to buy. That leaves about 70% who are shopping but not quite ready to pull the trigger on a $3,000+ purchase with a one or two year commitment.

What these folks need is counselling. (Not the clients – though a few might – their prospects.)

If you’re shopping, but not quite ready to buy, are you more likely to call the number that says:

Now I’m not saying all that goes in the CTA box. It would never fit and, however hard the copywriter labored, the art director would probably go crazy. But I am saying it needs to be in the ad or commercial. Most of the people who would have called Option A are going to respond to Option B too. But a whole lot more of the people who are on the fence are going to call to Option B than Option A.

You can work on the option B wording, but it can be synthesized to something like: “Call now for a personalized package recommendation and instant quote” (or something along those lines).

The remarkable salesman and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said: “Stop selling. Start helping”.

Without doubt, someone in the organization is going to yell “that’s going to screw with our close rate”. Maybe. But it just may be the overall lift you’re looking for.

Let’s look at the math.

The math here may be a bit simplistic, but you get the idea. You can’t just look at the Response Rate. Or the Close Rate. The success rate for the conversion of the hot leads may be equally important and that’s not shown here.

Of course if your lead management system doesn’t work well then you have a bigger issue to solve first.


Implicit in one of the best CTA of our time is the suggestion of a chat, a quote, not a sale.

> Call now to find out how you could save 15% on car insurance

> 15 Minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance


Experiment and work with the Call Center team to make this work best for your company.

Contact Us

If you want to connect with us at WhiteStripe Inc and discuss the most effective Call to Actions for your business, or any other part of your marketing plan, please go to WhiteStripe.org. We’d be pleased to help.



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