In last month’s newsletter we gave you some hints and tips to improve your telephone cold calling. Now this month we’re going to focus on what to do when you actually get through to the decision maker to maximize your chances of getting that appointment.
1. In the previous article on cold calling we said you should always make sure you are clear about the objective of your call before you make it. This is also the case when you are contacting the decision maker for an appointment. Your objective is to agree a date and time to meet with them so make sure you are fully prepared to be able to do that.
2. Be well prepared but don’t ever read from a script. You need to be and sound professional, knowledgeable and, above all, to be yourself. The tone of your voice is especially important. Change your tone of voice based upon the importance of what you are telling someone. “Lean” on important words or phrases and change your tone of voice when you ask someone a question.
3. When you get through to the contact you’ve been given briefly introduce yourself and your company, explain why you are calling them and confirm that they are the person you need to speak with. If you’ve been given the wrong information and they’re not the right contact apologize and ask them who you should speak with. And then before hanging up ask them what they do as they may also be another useful contact for you.
4. If they are the right contact ask them an open question. For example, “Who do you usually buy your toner cartridges from?” Then shut up and wait for them to answer. Don’t worry if there’s an embarrassing silence – just wait for them to talk first. Ask your questions but then try to talk less than them. You have one mouth and two ears – that should tell you something! When they are speaking express patience – however keen you are to get your points across, if you interrupt it appears as if you are not listening (even if you really are).
5. Always ask genuine questions – “devil’s advocate” questions can sound like statements or criticisms in disguise. Genuine questions are requests for information that clarify thoughts and/or feelings. Listen with empathy, not sympathy, giving feedback with “OK”, “I see” or “Uh huh”. And remember, effective listening is reflective listening – paraphrase what they have said by rewording what has been said to you in your own words.
6. Don’t lose sight of your objective, which is to get an appointment, so don’t spend too long on the phone. Your contact will be busy and you do not want to annoy them. So, once you have introduced yourself, confirmed you’re talking to the right person, confirmed they do buy the type of product you are selling and found out who they currently buy from then that’s it. Ask for the appointment! Thank them for the information they’ve given you and say you’d like to meet them to find out more about their company and their buying patterns and explain the benefits your company can bring them. Then, without pausing and letting them answer, suggest a date and time. In response they can agree, suggest an alternative date or raise an objection.
7. Objections are not bad news! – They show that someone is interested. However, it’s really important that you are prepared to deal with some of the common objections you’ll encounter, for example:
“I’m happy with my current supplier” – Tell them you’re pleased to hear that their current supplier is clearly doing a good job but you’d still like to meet up with them as you may have something different you can offer them.
“I’m not interested in changing suppliers right now” – say you understand but would still rather meet with them now so when they are thinking about changing they’ll be able to make an informed choice because they’ll already know about your company, its service levels and product offers.
“I’m too busy to see meet with anyone right now” – be pleased they are busy and empathise “I know what you mean – I’m really busy too”. Suggest you meet next month and, as before, offer them a date and time. Make sure you’ve got their email address and tell them you’ll email them to confirm the meeting and will contact them again nearer the time to check it’s still OK for them.
8. What if they still refuse to commit to a meeting? If you’ve tried to handle the objection but cannot get a commitment then back off at this point. Make sure you thank them for their time and suggest meeting up in the future for an informal chat over a coffee. Then email them with details of your company and your offer and make a diary note to follow up.
9. Dealing with people who just don’t want to talk to you – If someone refuses to talk with you, puts the phone down on you or is just plain rude never get upset and don’t take it personally. You may have caught them at a bad time. In this case move on, think positively and call the next contact on your list – chances are you’ll make an appointment!
10. When cold calling don’t become despondent and don’t give up! It often takes at least six calls to get an appointment so don’t give up before you have to. Remember that, although your objective is to get an appointment, every time you speak to a decision maker you have the opportunity to collect valuable information about them, their company, their buying patterns etc. As long as you record all the information you collect you’ll be building a valuable database to prospect for future business.
Director, Pro-actions Sussex
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