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Selling to Anyone Over the Phone
By Renee P. Walkup Sandra McKee
AMACOMCopyright © 2011 Renee P. Walkup
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSetting Up for Success
PHONE SALES CHALLENGE – Linda, who was recently moved inside after calling on medical offices as a drug rep, tells us: "I know I should be calling more, but I just can't make myself get on the phone."
Linda probably can't get going because she's tired of being a loser. Perhaps that's harsh but, come on, does anybody hate making money? She has likely fallen into some lame patterns that take her nowhere, such as these openings, which don't engage the customer:
* "How are you?" * "I wanted to tell you about our company's offerings." * "I'm glad I caught you because we have some specials that I wanted to share with you."
You can blame the economy, the competition, or your company's marketing department. But the reality is this: There are people out there making money selling over the phone and you need to be one of them.
Apply New Tactics for New Times
Whether you have always been in phone sales or have recently been pulled in from the road to cut company expenses, it's time to retrain. Competition is brutal, the country's finances have been on a roller-coaster ride, and customers are more stressed in general. Whatever tricks you've used that have worked in the past may very well be your worst enemy today. If you're already a seasoned phone rep, it could be your compelling voice, your energy level, or your sense of humor. If you've been in personal contact selling, it might be your killer smile, your uncanny ability to read faces or body language, or your laptop full of data.
Do these statements seem odd? Are you asking yourself, "Who doesn't like a killer smile? A sense of humor? What's wrong with these authors?" Read on.
THROW OUT THE OLD
It's a new phone selling environment, so many of the old ways, even your favorites, probably need to be retired to make way for more effective approaches. Here are a few that you will want to send to the recycle bin.
Seduction. You use charisma, compliments, and maybe even a little on-the-phone flirtation to form a quickly intimate connection. Come on, you know you've done this. Don't be embarrassed. Whole books are written to teach people seduction tactics and you just do it naturally. It doesn't matter if it's a business deal, a better rate at the hotel, or a date for the evening, you are a master at getting what you want—given willingly—as long as the client is susceptible to a smooth line.
Databank. Employing this approach, you push long lists of product features through the phone lines in order to cover the customer in information. When enough positive features about your product—followed by some dirt thrown on the competition—have overwhelmed (some would say "battered") your customer, he or she quickly says "yes." Unfortunately, luck has to play a big part. Either the client hears something early on that strikes a chord, or all the excess talk results in you talking yourself out of a sale.
Big Dog. Using this psychological tactic, you make it clear that you are a force to be reckoned with, with agreement the customer's only option. Your resounding voice booms into the customer's ear, overpowering the weak-willed. This works enough of the time to keep you using it; it just doesn't work on everyone, though, and it generally only works when the customer has no immediate escape route. Businesspeople hear enough of this from used car ads on the radio. They certainly don't want to be harangued over their phone as well. Hangups are too easy.
Infusion. Your enthusiasm and passion can go a long way toward infusing a customer with eagerness for your product. If you generate energy at a high enough level, you can almost compel the buyer to vibrate with you on the other end of the phone. Even if you are naturally a hyper personality or are genuinely excited about your company's products, that high level of fervor is impossible to maintain all day every day. The limitation is that you are generally effective only on "good" days. In addition, you run the risk of quickly exhausting the customer who's having a bad day, resulting again in (you guessed it) a hang-up.
Glad Hand. Your "never met a stranger I didn't like" approach ensures that clients will look forward to your phone "visits" (note the use of that particular word). You love engaging new prospects, getting to know them, and learning what they're into. You're generally a good listener and probably have made some personal phone friends of your customers along the way. When all things are equal, you get the business because they feel they know you. The kick in the gut comes when the voice on the phone says, "You know I like you, Keith, but the other company had more of what we needed. I'm real sorry. Next time I'll try to throw some business your way." People like their friends, but they buy from those who can solve their problems.
BRING IN THE NEW
As you can see from the examples above, most of the "wins" occurred only when the particular customer situation matched your sales style. None of these approaches on their own is effective over time, and rarely do they translate immediately into success on the phone. Strategic phone selling tactics can dramatically increase your close rate and you won't even have to leave your office.
Whatever you consider your strength, it could be turning you into a "one-trick pony." Not the cute little ones that everyone loves, but the kind of salesperson who can only get customers through a natural rapport. In these challenging times, you need to get all the customers, not just the ones that you click with naturally.
To do this, you are going to have to use that extra-sharp brain that made you successful in the first place, but you will be using it to apply new tactics that will close sales with any customers. There's only so far you can go trying to dazzle busy, stressed-out customers with your wit or charm. Did you know that in the movie Hidalgo, six different horses were used to perform the different actions the scenes required? Each horse did only one trick well.
You're not a horse! It's time for you to move from one-trick pony to morph master, able to size up a customer situation and whip out a tactic perfectly matched to that customer. If you can't make the customers believe that you and your product are credible solutions to their problems, then you become just another stressor in their already stressful day. But when you hit that sweet spot, that balance between listening to and engaging the customer, you can almost smell the money.
Move to Phone Selling Success
Outside salespeople may be reluctant to move away from the security of their surefire, face-to-face winning ways. But the reality is that the cost of travel is increasing—even just across town—and there is a pressing need to generate more dollars out of every minute of sales time. More and more salespeople will be moved inside to the phone, and you will probably be among them (if you're not there already).
Does phone selling scare you?
Very few people who are in sales for a living have not had to address the fear of what might happen if he or she "chokes" during a performance (sales call). Even the most experienced longtime professionals have days where calling, especially prospecting, is stressful. But when you have a plan that is likely to result in success, you look forward to the call experience, and your stress is reduced.
Think of it this way. If you have good skills in basketball, don't you welcome the chance to demonstrate them in a game? When you raise your skill level and learn to manage all types of calls, a call then becomes another opportunity to be successful. This chapter is about developing a solid phone strategy.
Imagine that your goals are in place and you are confident, motivated, and prepared for success. Now read on to learn how you can start each of your sales days with success, instead of just coffee!
Begin Your Prep Work
It's wise to do all your preparatory work the day or evening before your call day. If you wait to plan after you have begun your workday, you've already fallen behind! Preparation saves time and maximizes your opportunities for a successful day of contacts and closes. To plan ahead, you need to:
* Organize your work space. * Set your call goals. * Prioritize your call times.
ORGANIZE YOUR WORK SPACE
An important piece of prep work that many salespeople forget is the preparation of the work space. In addition to paper pileups, computer tools are constantly notifying us of messages and work that must be done. Turn off your email message beeper and other audible tools that create distractions. Remember: Your customer is the most important person on the planet during your call. That person is where your focus must be.
SET YOUR CALL GOALS
Start with a plan for contacting three times more customers than you think is humanly possible. If your expectations are that you should make thirty contacts a day, then plan on ninety calls. At least 75 percent of those calls are going to result in your leaving a voice mail message, which generally takes no more than thirty seconds. These will be strategic communications left for decision makers on their phone message systems—important but not time-consuming. Know in advance exactly what message you are going to leave. Some may find it helpful to write it out and rehearse it until it sounds relaxed and natural. In one hour, with good planning, you should easily get in thirty outbound call messages.
Of course, if you spend five hours of your day actually talking to customers and closing business, no one will ever be concerned that you never reached ninety calls. The key is to ensure that you are making the most productive use of your time as possible. Have enough phone numbers and strategy notes in front of you for an entire call day.
Have strategy notes before you punch in those numbers. Strategy notes allow you to hold all the cards in a phone conversation. When you plan ahead with a specific approach customized for the client you are calling, you are the one in control. If you are making ninety calls a day, you can't possibly remember every strategic detail of every call in your plan. Strategy notes keep you on target and calm—in other words, you never call anyone without being ready to do business. This keeps you from wasting time and costing you and your company money.
PRIORITIZE YOUR CALLS
To get your day off to a good start, begin with an easy call—a friendly, low-stress, positive situation. For example, a good first call might be an upbeat thank-you to a regular customer. Or it could be to a customer who is expecting a returned call regarding an inquiry. This type of call should yield a positive response and get your day started on a positive note.
After you decide what your first call of the day will be and the reasoning behind it, you need to prioritize the rest of the day's phone contacts. Here's how:
Priority 1: Scheduled appointments, as well as customers with the most potential to buy (not necessarily those who have bought the most in the past, but those who can give you the most business in the future). Priority 2: Key decision makers who tend to be in their offices at certain times—for example, executives often get to their offices early in the morning before the business chaos begins. Make your Priority 2 calls early. Call at 7:00 or 7:30 in the morning. Businesspeople are fresher, more alert, and less distracted at the start of the day than they are later, when more has occurred. Someone who is difficult to reach or who puts you off in the afternoon may be more accessible in a morning call. Priority 3: Time zone–dictated calls. For example, in the Midwest and South most people leave for lunch between 11:30 and noon. In the Northeast, customers typically go to lunch around 1:00. And of course, people on the West Coast may be strolling back from lunch just when you are wishing you could call it a day. Consider calling a decision maker right before lunch. An alternative is to call during lunch when the assistant is out. Sometimes customers will even answer their own phone while eating a sandwich at their desk. This sort of call needs to be short and efficient, perhaps intended just to schedule another time to talk. You might also want to intentionally catch a decision maker's assistant during the lunch hour. That way, you can spend some time picking her brain. To avoid missing customers at their very best time of the day, consider staggering your workday schedules—begin early some days, work later other days. Sometimes, if you are ahead of their time zone, calling your customers before everyone else gets started reduces your competition.
Also, ignore your colleagues who whine, "My customers don't work on Fridays." This is never true 100 percent of the time. It's just a flimsy excuse not to work on Fridays. For instance, many dentists don't work on Fridays, but mine does. Somebody, somewhere, is working on Friday; you can count on it. For the decision makers who travel a great deal, Fridays are often the only day they are likely to be in the office. Think of calling hard-to-reach customers at a time that is not routine for you, at a time that is not obvious—especially to your competition!
The final step in prioritizing your call time is to commit to beginning calls at a specified time. Be very focused about when your call day begins. If you plan to begin at 8 A.M., then make sure you are pressing buttons on your phone at 8:00. If it's a late-start/late-end day to accommodate different clients' schedules, then close out your eBay summary page by 10:30 in order to be ready to rock by your 11 A.M. start time. Just as schools have bells to signal the start of classes, you need to incorporate some sort of formal transition trigger for the opening of the business day—regardless of what time it is.
Launch Your Call Day
Though you will pace yourself through the day (according to your plan, of course), launching the workday instead of just oozing into it is important for your success to play out.
Make the decision the moment you wake up that you are going to have a profitable day. When you are ready to call, sit tall at your clutter-free desk and tell yourself, "Today I'm going to meet my goals." Be very specific about those goals. "Today I am going to make ninety calls." "Today I am going to close five customers." Your brain's expectations are powerful guides.
If you tell yourself that you will complete all your planned appointments (and believe it!), then your whole focus will be on accomplishment. One note for this mental preparation is to remind yourself that there are no such things as prospects; they're all customers. Now, say aloud, right here, as you read this:
THERE ARE NO PROSPECTS; THEY ARE ALL CUSTOMERS Success with a "prospect" is somewhat iffy, subject to all sorts of conditions. And customers will hear that iffyness in your voice over the phone. Success with a "customer" is a done deal. You've already closed him or her in your mind, so the rest is just working up to that end! Calling prospects creates a "might" or "could" expectation.
Have you ever heard the advice that says, "Don't think, don't try, just do"? Everyone is a customer, a "do," not a "prospect," or a "try." Positive self-talk will convince you that everyone will become your customer as a result of a conversation with you. And since you are on the phone, and not looking the customer in the eye, it will be easy for you to picture him or her saying, "Yes!"
This mindset will make your calls more successful.
Your attitude is good, so you are feeling confident, in control, and ready to close more sales! Then, if you have some disappointing calls later, they are just a drop in the bucket.
Keep in mind that where you place your expectations is critical for achieving what you want. Expecting positive outcomes frees your brain for creative thought and strategizing. Constantly trying to protect yourself from possible negative outcomes can paralyze you. In addition, your customers can feel fear or hesitation over the phone. When they hear a lack of confidence, they have an even greater opportunity to shut you down instead of becoming engaged in conversation.
Excerpted from Selling to Anyone Over the Phone by Renee P. Walkup Sandra McKee Copyright © 2011 by Renee P. Walkup. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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