6 ways to have more successful calls with your prospects
By Sandy Schussel
Sandy Schussel, LLC
Call me crazy, but when someone calls to try and sell me something, I usually don't hang up on him. I listen and respond to his inquiry, and then I make suggestions to him on how to improve his approach.
For most professionals, cold calling for new clients is the strategy of last resort. Who wants to call someone up only to be lied to, cursed at or hung up on? Still, many of my clients are in businesses where some cold calling at some point is necessary. And others need to be comfortable on the phone calling referred prospects.
Do people hate to receive calls at home? Do busy managers and executives hate to be bothered by callers trying to convince them to buy their products? The answer to both of these questions is yes … but no — at least, not entirely.
"If I were calling you to tell you that you just inherited a million dollars and I needed to arrange for you to pick up the check, and there wasn’t a lie or a catch," I ask in my workshops, "would you be angry that I interrupted your dinner time?"
"No," my attendees agree.
"If I were calling you at your place of business with a truly low-cost, guaranteed way to make more money, while simultaneously reducing your overall expenses for the future," I ask, "would you be upset that I got past your gatekeeper to reach you?”
"No," they agree again.
"So, then," I ask, "what do you and your prospects actually hate?"
The answer usually comes down to "sounding like a telemarketer" or a “salesperson." There are, of course, successful telemarketers who sound natural and comfortable, but you know the type we're talking about.
They mispronounce your name with no apology and no effort to get it right. They sound like they're reading directly from a script. They come on strong, forcing a big "salesy" smile through the telephone. They try to warm up the call by pausing to say or ask something disingenuous like, "And how are you today?” when you know they don't care about your health or well-being in the slightest. They use salesy language like, "This is an exclusive offer."
If part of your work is making calls to people you don't know, the telemarketer type provides you a great guideline for how not to do it. But here are some suggestions for making a perfectly pleasant call to the ideal client you simply haven’t met yet:
1. Get the name right beforehand, or apologize and fix it. If you can't find out how to pronounce the prospect's name ahead of time, ask immediately if you got it right. Apologize and try again. Continuing to call me "Mr. Skuzzel" won't ever help your cause. 2. Learn the script and put it aside. Scripts themselves are OK. Some of the best actors use them. But you change the channel on a show quickly when the actor sounds like she is reading her lines. Either learn your script so well that you no longer sound like you're reading, even if it’s in front of you, or toss it away and keep only an outline with bullet points of the things you want to make sure to say. It's not a bad idea to keep this near you, but never just read it to your prospect.
3. Forget about the rule that you should sound "up". Coming on too strong — even too positive or bubbly — can be a turnoff. Don't be timid, but start gently and adjust your mood and tone to the person with whom you’re speaking.
4. Don't do AHAYT. For most of us, "And how are you today?" raises an instant red flag that we’re going to be sorry we took this call, so we better just not even say it. Tell them why you’re calling and get to the point right at the outset. Telemarketers use the AHAYT greeting to catch their breaths before jumping into their long scripts — and we “prospects” know it. Another killer is "actually," as in "Actually, the reason I'm calling is…” Just don’t.
5. Stay away from salesy language. Phrases like “one-time, limited offer” and “I’m going to be in your neighborhood” are business killers. You have a much better chance of making a sale or getting an appointment if you avoid trying to make a pitch. Simply describe your products or services and their benefits, and don’t try to clinch a deal with urgent ultimatums.
6. Go for rapport. Make marketing more fun for you and less painful for your prospects by aiming not for the appointment or sale, but to connect with them — maybe even to engage them in conversations. While this may, at first glance, seem like the long way to go about it, I promise that it will be much more effective in the long run.