How To “Have Them At Hello” – Or Shortly After During Your Next Introductory Sales Call
New business. New customers. New accounts. If you run a business, you know that success depends upon a steady stream of prospects for you or your salespeople to meet, convince and convert, and each of those potential relationships starts with a single “first’ contact or meeting.
Today, financial, geographic and scheduling realities have created the necessity for many of those initial conversations to be held over the phone. While that may be the most efficient way to make the meeting happen, it isn’t always best way to achieve the desired results. Part of the reason for that lies squarely on the salesperson. That fact is made very clear in an interesting article I came across recently.
The article, written by Robyn Davis, focuses on the mistakes salespeople make that undermine the introductory sales call, and lessen the chances that it will ultimately deliver dollars or benefits to the business. Today I’d like to turn her tips around a bit, and offer five tips that should improve your batting average, and help you and your salespeople take better advantage of opportunities that are currently being wasted.
5 Ways To Win With Your Next Introductory Sales Call
Establish a Goal for the Sales Call
A phone call just feels informal so it is human nature to many times “fly by the seat of your pants” on a business call. You and the prospect can’t see each other, no one had to travel, and you just don’t have as much invested in it. Therefore, you treat it a bit casually and just figure “if I make enough calls, something will shake loose.”
Bing unprepared is a terrible approach. You get one chance to get off on the right foot with each prospect. You need to treat that first phone call every bit as seriously as if you had planned it for weeks and flown to the meeting. You need a plan for what you want to accomplish during your call.
Do you want that first call to lead to an in-person meeting? Are you hoping to gain information that will help you put together a meaningful proposal? Whatever your goal is, plan and frame your discussion and questions to ensure that you reach it. I’ve always loved that old saying “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” When you dial that phone, have a destination in mind, and bring a map.
Do Your Homework
This one seems obvious, but it’s amazing how many salespeople don’t do it. Before the call, do plenty of research on the company and the individual you will be meeting. You show respect for your prospect and his or her time if you already know all about their company – what it does, how it’s different, and what issues it might be facing at the moment. The person you are meeting will be more likely to believe that you can help if you are able to demonstrate how your product or service will make what he does easier. A more focused, productive meeting is a more valuable and valued one.
Another research hint: it doesn’t hurt to know a personal thing or two about your prospect, either – you’d be surprised at how many relationships started mostly because of kids in the same baseball league, or the same favorite golf course. Or shared enthusiasm for “Game of Thrones”.
Maintain Balance In The Conversation
While normally it is considered a good idea to allow your prospects to do most of the talking, over the phone it’s more important to share those duties. Don’t sit back and multi-task while your prospect is forced to carry the conversation. At the same time, obviously don’t dominate the discussion as if it were all about you.
The best way to achieve this is by being an active listener. Be engaged and focused and help keep the conversation dynamic. Respond to questions and concerns effectively, and ask thought-provoking questions that will spur further discussion and reveal useful information.
Some people think selling requires an aggressive personality. On a phone conversation (or in person, for that matter) it’s easy to go too far. People respond to other people who make them look and feel good about themselves and their accomplishments. That doesn’t mean you have to be patronizing or launch an insincere barrage of compliments. Just be sure to listen and honor your prospect’s viewpoints and expertise.
A famous advertising executive, Bill Bernbach, used to carry a card in his pocket to every client meeting; it read “Maybe he’s right.” Enough said. Listen, and you’re sure to learn something.
Make The Meeting Mutually Beneficial
You have a goal for the introductory call. But remember, your potential customers have to find something in it for them, as well. Make sure that you don’t hang up without giving them a reason to say to themselves “that was worth it.” This means not racing through a script and talking only about how the person on the other end of the phone can help you by buying something.
In short, be helpful. Treat this as a networking opportunity. Perhaps you know people his company would like to talk to, and you can make the introduction. One of the most valuable skills in business today is connecting people. Or maybe you can recommend an interesting business book you read recently, or provide a piece of information or data that might help him.
No More Cold Calls
It can take nerve to start what you hope will be an important relationship over the phone because it’s harder than if you were face to face to make your case, and easier for the prospect to say “no.” But you can give yourself an important head start with the tips above. Do your research and planning, and no call should ever feel “cold” again.
I think this subject will become more and more important as those in-person first meetings become harder and harder to get.