On Aug 27th the WSJ published a great little article –“Bosses Say Pick Up the Phone”. It highlighted the dangers of our younger generation failing to use the landline phone especially in a sales role. The Millennials obsession with the smartphone has created a generation of texters, online chatters, tweeters, even emailers but heaven forbid they use a landline! So I’ve pulled together some powerful tips to emphasize the benefits of that quaint little desktop device as part of your sales strategy.
Prepare for the call: Always remember that every sales call is really a meeting. Preparation is everything. What’s the objective of the call? What are your big agenda items? What’s the ideal outcome? If you have to leave a voicemail, what’s your script?
Elements of the discussion: Set out clearly the objective of the call and ask: does that seem reasonable? Always clarify a key comment made by the other side. Your prospect says, this is urgent. You say and urgent means what to you? So often we rush past answers, almost jumping onto our next question instead of acknowledging the significance of the answer. The unusual or surprising answer always deserves a follow up question to understand someone’s position.
The Cold Call: Prospecting is dead. Inbound marketing is king. Marketing campaigns generate all the leads I can handle. I don’t need to call out. Really? Don’t believe it. Of course marketing content has taken center stage given the technology and speed of search engines. Prospects are a research rich bunch these days. However in all aspects of business there is a large part of the population that is suffering symptoms that could be remedied with your intervention. Missionary work can’t rely on search engines! Note that for every job opening they say that 9 out of 10 viable candidates are not looking. The same with prospects in any industry. They don’t know what they don’t know.
The Warm Call: Assuming you are working a live deal, the use of email can stretch out timeframes and lead to failure. A call is far more efficient. Pipelines need to be crushed not left to linger. At an early stage with a positive prospect you are really trying to establish three ballpark issues: Can I help this person on a technical front, do they have any money and is this project a high priority. Unless you can establish that quickly it shouldn’t be lingering in your pipeline. Using a phone to find this out is the best technique. You can’t hear the emotional intonation in an email when the prospect tells you – yes it’s a priority. You can’t answer straight back on an email, why is it a priority?
Diagnostic selling requires a voice with tone: If you really believe that you are defined by the questions you ask (and you should) than the really big questions need to be said with poise, with gravity and with meaning. Try doing that in an email. Example: John let me ask you, how will you really measure the success of this project and therefore what do the outcomes need to be from our solution? The pauses and emphasis that a well-trained voice can bring to the party on a voice call are a country mile away from a typed script in an email or text.
Voicemail techniques: We need to accept the fact that a lot of calls will get pushed to voicemails. A voicemail needs to be laconic but not rude. Slow your voice down but don’t use too many words. Leaving your name and number are basic but you need to give a reason why the recipient should call you back. Good Example: John the proposal I sent you has changed, we need to talk. Bad Example: I was calling to check in where the deal was. Could you call me back?
Using email to double tag: Always send an email after your voicemail. Confirm you have left the voicemail and why. Emails are checked far more often than voicemails.
The danger of rude emails: Emails are a great way for summarizing, explaining, sharing information. But be careful delivering a controversial or blunt message. It sits on the page forever. Much better to deliver the message on the phone.
The less you say the more senior you sound: I hear far too many words being used on calls. I hear answers given to questions never asked. You need to practice shorter sentences and forcing responses. It needs to be a dialogue.
The number of desktop phones shipped to businesses grew by 4.5% in 2012 from the previous year (source WSJ, IDC). Humans need to hear and be heard. Our voices are all unique. Secret of Life is a great song with great lyrics but they’re so much better when you hear James Taylor singing them.