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Monday, June 8, 2009

3 Cold Calling Tips To Burn Up Your Phone Sales

Set your cold calls and voicemails on fire by removing these three habitual behaviors.

I spend my days in the office working on machines, websites, blogs, reviewing instructor material, running point on new marketing programs, and making sales cold calls. As this is all done in a call center, I get to try a lot of different things and I get to hear a lot from both sides of the phone.

And some of the things that I’ve heard have been simply amazing.

I often get cold calls and voicemail messages from people following up with me after I’ve downloaded a whitepaper. And after hearing their “cold calling script” or listening to their voicemail message, I ask myself, “Did they really want to use those words?” Did they really decide what kind of experience that I, the recipient, was going to have when they left that particular voicemail? Or were they simply running through their script to hit a call quote and they just didn’t care?

Words have power and their arrangement can help shape an audience’s thought processes.

After spending time on the phones, leaving voicemails, making cold calls and overhearing how other sales people conduct the sales process over the phone, I’ve made some observations regarding the words that they use and I’ve seen the results first hand.

So if you want to heat up your cold calls and leave effective voicemails, here are 3 words and phrases to avoid!

When Making Cold Calls, Remember That It's More Than “Just” A Little Thing

In the movie “The Dark Knight” when the Joker makes his grand entrance into Bruce Wayne’s penthouse and crashes the party, he walks around the room brandishing his shotgun and says:

“You know where Harvey is? You know who he is? You know where I can find Harvey? I need to talk to him about something. Just something, a little… No!”

And I often thought, “Why didn’t anyone tell him? After all, it was just a little thing that he had to see Dent about. Probably something minor.”

[By the way, the gentleman who said, “We aren’t intimidated by thugs!”, the gentleman who reminded the Joker of his father, was Senator Patrick Leahy D-VT making his screen debut!]

It occurred to me that the word "just" somehow manages to sneak into almost every conversation that we conduct. The problem with the word “just” is that it minimizes whatever it’s operating on at the time.

Think about the last cold call that you made or voicemail that you left. When you made that call to prospect Bob after he downloaded that whitepaper, what did you say? “Hi Bob. I’m just calling about the whitepaper that you downloaded.” Or “Hi Bob. I’m just following up on our last email correspondence.”

What you are essentially saying is that you called Bob about an unimportant issue. It’s nothing of any significance.

Typically, when we make cold calls like this, we don’t want to stress out prospect Bob or get him worried when he has 27 other things on his schedule. So we use the word “just” to essentially minimize the impact or our message, making our cold call or voicemail insignificant to everything else that Bob has going on at that point in time.

Will that encourage him to take the call? It might. After all, it is just a little thing.

Will it encourage him to take action on the call or to take you as a serious player? Probably not.

And if you are using the word “just” in your voicemails, you can forget about getting a return call. By using the word “just”, you told prospect Bob that the topic of concern is not worth his time to call you back.

In most cases, using the word “just” has become a habit that we fall back on when we are unsure of where we stand with our prospect. And when we are in unfamiliar territory, we attempt to minimize the impact of our presence and our message as much as possible. “Hi. Don’t fear. It’s just me. I’m not as big as the problems that you currently have so I won’t take up much mental space or too much of your time. In fact, my message is so small in relation to what you have going on, you won’t even know I’m here.”

Now really -- is that the message you want to give your prospects?

As a sales person making cold calls and leaving voicemails, you are calling your prospect with earth shattering information that can have a significant impact on their business. Why else would you even think of call them? You are offering something that stands to significantly affect their business processes.

Build your business case. There is no need to justify it.

Take out the word “just”.

I Would Like To Not Need Permission To Be An Effective Sales Person

At 7:00 AM on Friday mornings in Sunnyvale CA, you can visit a Toastmasters group that caters to managers, sales reps, small business owners and entrepreneurs.

This group of individuals can be ruthless at times. And it was at this club that I learned of the debilitating effect of the phrase “I would like to”.

The first time I stood in front of this group to speak and uttered this phrase, at least 4 of the members shouted out, “Well, just go ahead and do it. Stop wasting our time with wishes.”

This is one of those phrases that puts you in a position of asking for permission from your audience before you begin doing whatever it is that “you would like to do” when most of the time, you should simply do it. It makes no difference if you are addressing a group of 50 people in a small venue or speaking to a client on the phone. You are essentially putting yourself in a very weak position where you can't get things done.

And if you are pleading with your audience, your prospects or your clients, then you haven’t made a solid business case to them, or more importantly, to yourself.

The challenge with “I would like to” is that it’s been drilled into us since we were children. We’ve been taught that phrases like “I would like to” are essential for good manners and getting along with people.

I have nothing against good manners and getting along with people. The problem arises when we habituate the behavior. We make statements like this because it’s been ingrained into us, not because we are choosing to be effective.

The next time you have the urge to say something like, “I would like to schedule an appointment with you to see if this is a good fit”, fight the urge. Instead, say something like, “Something that we typically do is sit down with our new clients to perform an interview and insure that this is a good fit. I have Tuesday at 1:00PM and Wednesday at 2:00 PM currently open. Which one works for you?”

Does this mean that the phrase, “I would like to” is bad? Absolutely not.

There are times when you would want to use it. There are times when you can make your prospect feel more at ease. There are times when you will want to “reset” their frame of mind and this phrase can be an excellent way of making this happen. However, when we turn on the autopilot and use the phrase habitually, then we are not being as effective as we can be when we are connecting with our prospects.

Take command of your presentation, your cold calls and your voicemails. Stop making wishes with “I would like to” and follow Nike's sage advice: Just Do It.

Nobody Cares About What You or I Want

When I went through my instructor training, the master trainer beaned me on my head so many times I couldn’t rub the bumps fast enough before I broke this habit.

Standing in front of an audience and telling them what you want to do is the same as saying, “What you people in the audience want is insignificant in comparison to what I want.”

It’s a put off. They don’t care about what I want.

Now think about the client or prospect that you are cold calling.

Let me repeat: the prospect that YOU are calling. They aren’t calling you… you are calling them. In fact, you are cold calling them!

They have a million things going on and a whole lot on their plate. And then you call into their office out of the blue and somewhere in the conversation, you say, “I want to…

What’s going through their mind? “The nerve of this guy, calling me in the middle of my day, interrupting my workflow with some cockamamie demands. Who care’s what he wants anyway. My profits are sliding, I’m trying to figure out how to make payroll next month, and this guy calls me out of the blue telling me what he wants.”

And you wonder why it’s so hard to get a meeting with your prospects or to get a return call from your voicemails.

When you are making your cold calls, leaving voicemails, or standing in front of an audience delivering a presentation, refrain from saying, “What I want…” because your audience really doesn’t care. What they care about are their problems, their company, and their lives.

And that is where you need to focus your attention, on what they want, not what you want.

Good, Bad or Effective Cold Calling

There are some other gems that I’ve heard used and we’ll outline those on another day. I must reiterate that these words and phrases are not “bad” when we use them in making cold calls or leaving voicemails. However, using them habitually will make us ineffective when we are conducting sales over the phone.

By becoming aware of what you say and how you say it, you can heat up your performance when making sales over the phone and in your face-to-face sales calls.

If you can direct your conversation to what is on their mind and use your words to help shape your prospects’ attention, you will start getting results from your cold calls, your voicemails will get returned, and most importantly, you’ll set your sales on fire.

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