In today’s high-tech, high-touch world where you can communicate with people in a variety of ways, it consistently amazes me how communication over the telephone is becoming less and less frequent. A quick phone conversation has been replaced with a quick text or an email. A simple TWEET or Facebook posting often is the way that people are choosing to express updates and information. Last week, while doing a few leadership meetings with CEOs in Ohio, we got onto this topic. Many of the leaders were expressing concern over a lack of courtesy and increase in perceived indifference that are seeming to become the byproduct of NOT having to have a conversation. (It’s easier to blow something/someone off via email or text than to actually have to call them to face the music.) Why, just this morning as I write this, I received news of a local client “bailing” on attending/sending people to a Sales workshop that I actually organized due to his interest/requests of a few months ago. On the other side of that coin, last week I let a job applicant know (via email) that they were “no longer being considered for the position.”
I don’t know if this is going to change. Tomorrow’s buyers have communicated this way for years and the skill sets of using the phone and “in-person” communication/connection/persuasion are fading. I have teenage daughters that have conversations that go on for hours (even days) with their boyfriends via text. I’m sorry…to me…that’s difficult to understand and hard to grasp. Nonetheless, as always, we must prepare to “play cards” with the hands that we are dealt.
On that note, when you are making sales calls outbound today, are you prepared to deal with everything that you may run into? I have had many discussions and training sessions with salespeople getting them prepared to deal with voicemail on the efforts. We highly suggest a very prepared (yes, even scripted) approach to make a significant IMPACT via voicemail. In addition, I have built specific training modules for salespeople teaching them some tips on properly dealing with/working with LIVE gatekeepers. All of this is in your control and needs to be practiced regularly if that is what you have to deal with daily on your outbound calls.
But what if your prospect or customer actually answers? Are you ready for that? Because it is becoming so rare today that someone actually does answer the phone, I find that salespeople get caught off guard and thus, fumble to make that verbal connection. The result is typically a default to 30 seconds of small talk and purposeless drivel that leads to frustration and non-interest on the part of the prospect or customer—NOT YOUR GOAL!!
So, when making outbound calls today, we need to be prepared for anything and everything that could occur. Here is a brief checklist that you need to potentially print out and post by the phone.
1-Gatekeeper (Live person between you and your target) Be prepared to make a connection with person and ask for their assistance. Acknowledge them, ask their name, and thank them for their help. Too many sellers look at the gatekeeper as the enemy when in fact, they often hold the keys to your access to the decision maker. Think about how you can put them on your team. Be memorable vs. sneaky and devious. Think about how many people (salespeople and others) that want access to the same target that you do. The gatekeeper’s job is to screen out the losers, weed through the hacks, and keep the “takers” away. If you sound like them and/or treat the gatekeeper like they do, you will suffer their fate….NO ACCESS. Write down FIVE ways to stand out, add value, ask for assistance, differentiate, and endear yourself to the gatekeeper. Before you can connect beyond the gatekeeper, you need to connect WITH the gatekeeper!
2-Voicemail. It has been estimated today that up to 7.3 out of 10 calls made outbound to customers in a B2B world end up in some sort of voicemail. We MUST learn to deal with voicemail in a more unique and prepared way. Again, this starts with thought and continues with preparation. First off, you need to be clear about the purpose of leaving your voicemail. What is it that you are trying to accomplish by doing so? For most people, the answer is this: “I am trying to get them to call me back!”
If that is the case with you, be prepared to leave a quick, compelling, benefit focused message that is ALL about them and what they get with a clear call to action that you wish for them to contact you back. I also believe that every voicemail should be followed up with an equally quick email that leads with “I just left you a voicemail at your office.”
3-LIVE customer contact. It is a shame of you ever get caught off guard by someone answering the telephone live. If you are fortunate enough (or good enough) to get your prospect to answer the telephone on your attempts to reach them, you need to be extremely prepared to make a quick connection and to set next steps. Any overt small talk or fumbling for words will lead to a quick and painful death. It’s not hard to “brush you off” if you sound like all the others or worse yet, as someone with whom I would choose NOT to do business.
So for any of these circumstances think about:
- The purpose of the call
- The initial “attention grabbing” statement
- The clear call-to-action (next step) that you desire and will suggest
- The memorable impression that you will leave.
Although we may live in a world where our buyers are increasingly communicating with us via the “e-world” we still need to have a plan to connect and make an impact over the phone.