For thousands of graphic communications direct salespeople, much of prospecting and managing the sales process is done over the phone. If it is not, then it should be. Though the use of emails and social media is very helpful, the impact and speed of a direct person’s conversation on the phone cannot be replaced.
If a direct salesperson is not using the phone, they are not generating new prospects. There is no way around it. Though many telemarketers are formally trained in how to manage a phone conversation, it is rare to find direct printing salespeople who are. Like anything else in sales, there is a process and skill associated with phone prospecting that needs to be developed and coached.
It is scary how many print customers we speak to receive endless emails and social media solicitations but do not receive a follow up phone call by their salesperson. Social media and email lacks emotional connection. If the overall objective is to increase sales by gaining face to face meetings, then phone prospecting cannot be beat.
A Good Prospecting Call
Recently I received a prospecting call from a salesperson representing a printing specialty company. Like most other buyers, I rarely answer my phone from unknown callers. In this case, however, the company calling was listed on my incoming screen. I was curious and picked up the phone. Having trained and coached many salespeople on how to prospect on the phone, I wanted to hear their approach and pitch.
This person was sensational. The salesperson incorporated telemarketing principles of great phone prospecting in a polite and conversational way. This quickly got my attention and interest. It reminded me that like most outstanding selling traits, phone prospecting requires skill and confidence.
Whether calling someone you know, or cold, here are some good practices to make the job easier and more productive:
Smile When You Speak
The confidence and tone of your voice should reflect enthusiasm. If you are not sure, ask someone to listen to you while you are speaking on the phone. Though the person at the other end of the conversation can’t see you, it is important to use the same pace and conversational style that you normally use, including hand gestures.
Don’t Tell or Sell
Negotiating a deal on the phone for complex printing rarely works. Use the phone to engage customers in a conversation to determine the level of interest, close for the next logical step or gaining a face to face meeting. Trying to sell or talking too much on the phone makes it difficult to understand the customer’s buying signals and reactions.
Know What You Are Going To Say
Just as in a face to face conversation, developing and using good open ended questions will ensure consistency from call to call. Making strong and interesting statements will create curiosity and will encourage the conversation to continue. If things are not working, it is easy enough to change and adjust.
Let the Other Person Speak
One test of whether a prospecting call is effective is the amount of time the customer talks. Getting the customer into a conversation is the key. We recently had the opportunity to listen to salespeople making calls, and the chief barrier to success was not involving the customer in a conversation.
Keep your Attitude Up
It is not always easy, but showing passion for what is being sold will give the customer a sense of commitment. There are some days where it is a struggle, but over time, a good pace and a sense of optimism develops with success. A customer can sense enthusiasm and a positive attitude. Phone prospecting is not a numbers game. It is a conversation and qualifying process.
Tell it Straight
Explain clearly and succinctly why you are calling in a manner that makes it easy for the customers to understand why you are calling them. All organizations need printing. Giving a customer a good idea or sharing relevant information saves both the salesperson and prospect precious time. Manipulative and phony sales tactics will not work in our industry.
Ask a Question
Based on our research, those salespeople who ask a question very early in the call have the highest success rates for gaining appointments. Questions like, ”How are you using print in your marketing campaigns?” “How are you integrating customer data into your direct mail programs?” will increase the curiosity of the customer,
Closing is Key
There are two objectives of any call. One is to qualify the account to determine if they are even worthwhile to pursue, or to successfully close for something. Simply asking for an appointment once it is determined that there is a basis for doing business is a simple, but often overlooked step in the sales process. And finally, let the other person hang up first. Many times a person will think they have ended the call when they have not actually disconnected. You might be surprised with what you hear from the other end.
For many salespeople, it is difficult to get started and block out time for prospecting over the phone. Most are more comfortable to be in front of customers in person and reacting to nonverbal signals. Great salespeople get over this. There is no way around it; using the telephone consistently is an essential element in building sales and keeping your pipeline full.
Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com) is a consulting and training company. They work with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness. Joe can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joerickardIS. This article was published in the June Edition of Printing News.