You have a lead. How do you get through to the decision maker or key influencer and make the appointment? No matter how you sourced the lead, it pays to plan the call, not just to have a stab at it.
You have a small time window of opportunity. At the end of the call the customer will either agree to take it further or put the phone down.
Obviously it’s best if you have a name of the person to talk to. If you don’t, ask reception who is in charge of or responsible for, say, sales training. Establish the name of your customer, including his or her first name. Not Mr Davidson, but John Davidson.
If the receptionist on the switchboard says ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m new here’, ask to be put through to the sales department or to customer service. Whatever you sell, they are usually helpful and courteous and will guide you in the right direction.
Once you’re through
If the person asks ‘What’s it regarding?’, make sure your response is a benefit to the prospective purchaser. On most occasions, the PA will take your call. I know I’m not being politically correct here, but there are still more female than male PAs. You must sound interesting to her. Nowadays PA’s are more and more executive assistants. Their job is to screen their busy boss, to keep out inappropriate calls and let in appropriate ones. You have to sell the assistant on why you should be put through. Any seller who thinks the way to get through is to sound important has it badly wrong. Yet you would be amazed how many salespeople sill treat PAs as educationally subnormal irritations to their job. Incredulously, some even put on the ‘Do you know who I am?’ act.
Whenever my PA puts a call through, I invariably ask her, ‘What’s he calling about?’ I value her impressions. The only calls that never get put through are from those who refuse to explain anything to her and insist on talking to me direct. They live in yesterday’s world. It’s my PA’s job to decide who and what are interesting.
Two tips are helpful here:
Make an ally of the PA. Ask for her help in the best way to present your case to her boss. This is always a good idea. Build rapport with everyone, not just the person you want to speak to. It really annoys me when salespeople treat support staff poorly. Be scrupulously polite.
Persist. Call several times, say twice a week for a month. She will finally say to her boss, ‘Oh, you must call Robin Fielder, he must have called eight times. I don’t know what to say to him anymore, do have a word with him’.
- Check you are speaking to the right person. ‘Is that Mr Davidson?’
- Introduce yourself. Include your first name, don’t call yourself Mr/Mrs/Ms. ‘Good morning. Thank you for taking my call. It’s Robin Fielder here from LDL. We are a sales and management training consultancy.’ If you feel so inclined add, ‘This is a new business call, is now a good time to speak?’ Nothing is more annoying than talking with a salesperson who has not make it clear why they are calling.
- Open the conversation with a relevant comment that legitimises and gives a reason for your call. This is often called a ‘peg’.
■ ‘It’s been a long time since we’ve been in contact.’
■ ‘I noticed you have just won a large export order.’
■ ‘We have a mutual friend in Frank Davis who suggested I contact you.’
■ ‘We have recently concluded a training assignment for your Bristol office and the sales manager, Susan Evans, suggested I contact you.’
■ ‘I emailed you recently regarding our new sales programme.’
■ We have been sending you monthly newsletters about how to use learning to build sales. Have you found these useful?’
- Now use your Opening Hot Button Statement (OHBS).
This is a general ‘What’s in it for the customer’ statement designed to spark interest and tempt him with some kind of benefit. It goes without saying that you must be able to prove any claim you make.
‘The reason I’m calling is we have done a lot of work in your industry and we’ve been able to assist a number of other organisations in your market sector to improve their sales revenue by up to 20 per cent using a new approach to sales training. At this stage I don’t know whether we could do something similar for you, but I’d like to arrange a meeting to discuss it. How does that sound?’
In fact it is usually better to ask some initial questions prior to requesting the appointment.
One of our clients is a high street bank. When we first started working with them they were using this telephone approach: ‘Good morning, Mr Prospect, it’s Fred Smith here from the XYZ Bank. The reason I’m calling you is we have just set up a financial planning service and we wondered whether you might like some financial advice on protection and pensions. Would you be interested in having a financial interview with one of our advisers?’ What do you reckon most people said?
‘No, thank you.’
There is no benefit, it sounds flat. It also has some turn-off words like interview and financial planning. They changed it. After an introductory letter to the prospective customer from the branch manager, they rang and said:
‘Good morning, Mr Prospect, it’s Fred Smith here from the XYZ Bank. We have been able to assist a number of customers in a similar situation to yourself by providing them with a free review of their financial requirements. In many cases we were able to help these customers to save some tax. Now I don’t know whether we can do the same for you, but what we would like to do is to arrange a meeting to discuss it. How does that sound?’ Thirty per cent of people said yes. The benefit is clearly the possibility of saving tax.
- Close on the appointment.
Suggest a time, give the customer various choices. You are encouraging the prospective customer to look in his diary. He may well give you a better time if appropriate. Repeat the arrangement
‘Fine, Mr Davidson, I’ll look forward to seeing you at 2.15 on Tuesday 14 March.’
After you have made the appointment, drop the customer an email confirming the arrangement.
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