Thursday, July 06, 2006

Giving Good Phone – Tips for salespeople to make better connections

Giving good phone is a rant I’ve had regarding business-to-business sales calls. It is a client-based observation (more specifically a prospect-based observation). I meant to post this a while ago when my first correspondent vignette (aptly titled ClientCast #1) was “aired” on Across the Sound episode #39. (Can we still call it “aired”?)

Why do I feel I am able to comment on this issue? Well, a) I worked in senior management in a call centre and ran fairly large sales & customer service teams, b) I’ve logged many a cold-call myself previously in a business development capacity and, c) I receive about 6-10 cold calls per week. Most of them are just plain awful.

With that in mind, here are the tips I provided on Across the Sound that salespeople should ask themselves if they are doing each time they pick up the phone:

1) Ask for the time. Don’t assume that because a prospect answered that they have time to listen to your pitch. Ask if you caught them at a good time. If not, when would be best to call back.
2) Short voice mails only, the shorter the better. As in less than thirty-seconds kinda short. Work on the elevator pitch and save the details for when you connect.
3) Explain how you got the number. Business card exchange at tradeshow? From a list? Referral from someone inside the company, or a friend / colleague? It is a smart icebreaker.
4) Ask questions. Uncover potential opportunities by asking questions and listening. You are having a conversation. It is not a monologue.
5) Don’t get mad at the prospect if the opportunity is not there.

Now, prospects need advice too. Let me be the first to admit that I am not the perfect audience for a pitch at all times. I try to be nice and return calls, but sometimes I am too busy or plain distracted. So, here are a few tips I hope make sense for those of us receiving calls:

1) Be courteous. Selling is a tough gig. Rudeness begets rudeness…it is a vicious cycle.
2) Be honest. Don’t say "call me back later" if you don’t intend to take the call. Don’t waste another person’s time.
3) Provide feedback about the pitch if it rubs you the wrong way (take this one with a note of caution as not everyone knows how to be constructive without being destructive)
4) Provide quality referrals – don’t pass off a call to someone unless they are the right person.

For all of the above points, do the Zig, not the Zag. (My sincere apologies about that corny one, but I had to work Zig Ziglar into this post somehow.) His old school stuff is still good schooling.

Check out Across the Sound by author and marketing pundit Joseph Jaffe - voted Best Marketing Podcast by MarketingSherpa - Readers Choice Award. My next ClientCast should “air” this weekend.

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