Seven Prospecting Telephone Tips

E-mail replies are showing up in your in-box. They’re in your targeted accounts. Or, you mapped into your target account, found-the-right-person and are working on scheduling your initial meeting. Or you have your hands on a highly scored lead from Marketing and you are trying to follow-up. Are you stalled? Stuck? Blocked? Not advancing the sale?You are not alone.

One of the hardest steps in the top-of-funnel sales process is securing that first meeting.

Luckily math is on your side.

More Meetings = More Opportunities = More Sales

Even with 33 years of practice generating first meetings I still get stuck. When my conversion rates dip, I review, study, rehearse and sharpen phone habits I know work for me.

The 7 phone habits that follow are ones I find most helpful in getting back on track for improving initial meeting conversion rates (I’ve also recorded this if you prefer listening & watching):

Habit #1: Set A Call Objective for Every Call

I use a pre-call planning worksheet and check off primary & secondary call objectives.

Primary call objectives include:

  • building rapport
  • gathering information
  • understanding needs
  • determining fit
  • qualifying

Secondary call objectives include:

  • calling-back (do not leave message)
  • leaving a voice-mail (similar to leaving behind a brochure on somebody’s desk)
  • re-dialing the gatekeeper or receptionist for information gathering
  • calling in-and-around the bullseye (Predictable Prospecting – page 53 – Influencer Map)

Habit #2: Be Mindful of Your Tone

Unlike face-to-face meetings where body language grabs a large portion of success, the tone of your voice accounts for a whopping 75% of your success on the phone.

5 ways you can change your tonality include:

  • smiling when your talk
  • emphasizing certain words
  • speaking clearly, crisply, cleanly
  • changing your talking speed (usually 160-170 words per minute) being mindful of your prospect’s talking speed
  • standing up (there is more power in your voice if you stand)

Try reading a simple paragraph leaning on your elbow with your hand on your cheek. Now read that same paragraph standing up & smiling. Sound different? It should.

Habit #3: Use Positive Language

Below is a snapshot of negative phrases modified to positive phrases. For example, shifting the word “change” to “improve, increase, modify, amend or alter” is proven to consistently work better for calls. Make your own list substituting negative language to positive language. And when you document what happened on your call (call wrap-up), review how the call flowed using a more positive talk track.

Habit #4: Create Winning Openers

My clients continue to practice the foundational practice from Predictable Revenue’s framework – starting conversations via the internal referral. Here are some examples of explicit and implied internal referral openers:

Explicit Referral: “Good morning Jackie. John suggested I give you a call. One of our studies on conversion rate optimization got his attention and he thought you might feel the same way.”
Implied Referral: “Good morning Isabel. I noticed in your Annual Report John Stewart [the CEO] stated increasing your B2B sales pipeline is one of the top initiatives for ABC company in 2017.
Implied Referral: … “I’m calling you especially because I know you’re interested in…”

Habit #5: Craft an Interest Grabbing Statement

Use words like maximize, increase, grow, minimize, reduce, decrease, eliminate, acquire, prevent… in a sentence that reaches in a grabs the prospect by the ear (so-to-speak). Here’s a sentence structure to use for your interest-grabbing statement:

Format: I +[show | give | enable] + [prospect persona role] + [major benefit to the prospect]

Example: I show Directors of Sales Strategy how to leverage people, process & technology to triple their sales qualified opportunities in as little as 6 weeks.

Habit #6: Know What Questions to Ask

Group your questions into these 4 categories:

Pain Questions: Questions that reveal a potential problem, difficulty or dissatisfaction they are experiencing. One your product or service can solve.

Example: What are you trying to do, specifically, to alleviate this problem?

Implication Questions (this is from the SPIN selling model): Of Professsor Rackham’s four question types (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need), Implication questions are the toughest to master, but THE most effective in getting meetings! They are the most powerful of all sales questions because they help the buyer see that his problem is serious enough to justify the hassle of spending time with you and taking that first meeting.

Example: What effect do these problems have on your competitive position? How will this problem affect your people’s productivity?

Direct Questions: Use these when you want to know something specific before you can continue your conversation. You’ll get a short answer, but it shouldn’t be a YES or a NO answer.

Example: What were you hoping I could do for you?

Tie-Down Questions: This is a listening technique where you repeat back to the prospect paraphrasing what you heard, then getting agreement.

Example: You have missed your quota for 3 consecutive quarters, is that correct?

Habit #7: Love Love Love Objections

Make an objection grid that has these three columns:

  • The objection (send me info, not interested, already have a supplier, already solved the problem, who are you, why is yours better, etc…)
  • What to say in response to that objection
  • The next logical question to ask the prospect – hopefully it’s an Implication Question to really unsettle them 🙂

Chet Holmes used to say that building a sales machine means you are primarily in a proactive mode. Phone work for securing meetings is a proactive process as well.

Planning and practicing are key elements for success. As is setting block time to make call after call because you do get better the longer you’re on the phones. Working up to 2-hours of un-interrupted, single-focused, block time is a must if you want to succeed at generating more meetings.

If you plan, practice and execute these habits proactively you will generate more meetings, more sales qualified opportunities and utimately, more sales.

Avoid Bungling Your First Call With A Prospect

Recently I was interviewing Tim, a busy, business development rep, as part of my assessment for a new client.  Tim confided in me that his first calls were not going as well as he had hoped.

Although he had names and titles of people to call, and did his research, he was not able to confidently state why he was calling, how to get people interested in what he was calling about, or navigate to the proper person if his initial contact wasn’t the right person.

Do you feel good about your first calls?

After listening to Tim and the rest of the team, I instantly rallied a training session that inevitably made the entire team three times more productive after one week of dedicated practice.

I’m going to share with you what I taught in that impromptu session so you can immediately put it into practice for your business.

Step 1:  Prepare for call success

Think you can get a key prospect on the phone and just “wing it?” You’re only fooling yourself.  The instant that prospect senses “on-the-fly,” they’ll automatically assume you’re a salesperson and you’re dead in the water.  Therefore, you must prepare.

Put on your detective hat and dig up answers to these three questions:

  1. Why should your prospect change how he does things?
  2. Why change now?
  3. Why choose you?

Know How You Help

Learn how your organization helps clients and translate what you’ve learned into value-added benefits.  What results do clients get after they choose you?  It’s vital you explain your value.

To do this, follow this simple exercise:

For each product or service, create a chart that:

  1. Column 1- describes your product features and
  2. Column 2- addresses at least 5 problems that your product solves

Bonus homework: If you sell to multiple buyers, create a table for each buyer type.  Review it once daily.  Write it out in long hand.  More than once. Continue to absorb until it feels natural.  If I came to your house at 3AM, woke you up from a dead sleep and asked you what your product does for me, your response, although somewhat sleep deprived, should be thought provoking.

Anticipate Objections

Let’s be honest.  You’re going to hear objections.  Perhaps a multitude of them.  But if you prepare common objections with logical rebuttals, you’ve built a toolbox full of ways to overcome them.

Creating a chart with three columns:

  1. Column 1- Create scripts of common objections,
  2. Column 2- List how you resolve them with benefits, and
  3. Column 3- present your rebuttal.

Commit these scripts to memory.

Role Play and Record

It’s time to come together and leverage the power of your team:

  • Build buyer’s language scripts filled with common objections, dialog and questions.
  • Cover the types of first calls you expect to have:
    • Find-the-right-person
    • Gatekeeper
    • Got-the-right-guy – determine fit, begin discovery
    • Reception / front-desk
  • Role play calls.
  • Switch roles – you as you, then you as the prospect.

Record role play calls and review with the team.  Discuss and critique.  Cover the good as well as the not-so-good.

When you’re ready to send the troops back into the fight, record live calls as well.  Play both good and rough calls to the team.  This helps reps spot their own strengths and weaknesses to improve.   Keep recorded calls for training purposes.  It shortens the onboarding process of new reps.

Step 2.  Prospect

It’s time to put the rubber to the road and pick up the phone and dial.  Using the scripts you’ve prepared in the above exercises, keep these concepts in mind:

  1. Treat the call as a warm call, not a cold call

You’ve done your research & perhaps sent relevant material to the prospect already.  You are connecting with someone who may benefit from your conversation.

Keep a light, casual tone.  Similar to how you speak with a personal friend. Smile.  People can actually hear you smile.   This helps with your comfort level.

And remember, many times the first call is used to confirm they are the right person to talk to or asking for a referral if they are not the right person.  Nothing to be tense about.

  • Gatekeepers are our friends

A lot of “gurus” will teach you to be stern with the gatekeeper, command authority, and scare them out of their wits.  Inferring you’re important.  This may work once with the gatekeeper, but after they catch an earload from their boss, it will never happen again.

Besides, gatekeepers are real people.  Treat them like it.  Win their trust by being authentic & genuine. Ask their advice on how they think you should proceed. Make them feel valued.  They will work with you, not against you, if you treat them with respect.

  • Less specificity, more puzzle piecing

Imagine you’re a savvy detective working on a hot case.  Ask questions to piece together the puzzle of mapping the organization, uncovering who you should be talking to.  Be curious.

Lastly, have your clear benefit pitch (why change, why now, why you) ready and waiting in the hopper.  Just in case you’re connected to the decision maker on that first call.  It does happen at times, so always be ready.

Step 3:  Post

No matter if your calls are good or bad, if you’ve learned something new on your call, record it in the CRM.  I like to have clients record meaningful conversations and disposition calls with specific codes that help us better understand the nuances of the pipeline.

Having impeccable, up-to-date prospect information in your CRM is the key to building a predictable and consistent pipeline.

Bonus Insights:  What you learn in your conversations (buyer language, objections, likes, dislikes) can be used as repurposed material for your e-mail messages, nurture content and even phone scripts to build tighter bonds and faster rapport between you and future prospects.

Your Results Will Blow You Away

I’ve seen teams post success rates from a low of 2 – 5% to a high of 87% following the above process.  That is, for every 10 people they talk to, 8.7 of those people either:

  • point them in the right direction,
  • confirm they are the right person, or
  • engage in some level of discovery

because what they heard sounded interesting, was relevant, or they understood enough to route the call appropriately.

Have a question, comment or success in boosting your success rate that you’d like to share with our community?  Leave one below!