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Winning Customers on the Phone

By: Ciaran J Newman

Ciaran J Newman is a past Chairperson and Fellow of the Irish Institute of Training & Development. He has lectured extensively on the subject of Goal Setting and Behaviour Modification. View their website at: www.arkomax.com

Making unsolicited sales calls to strangers is a frightening thought to many; few do it well.

By learning professional techniques on how to approach a prospective customer on the right basis you will be a jump ahead of the competition. You will tap a virtually limitless source of new business opportunities. These powerful, proven sales techniques will enable you to perform to your best, if you put them to use on a daily basis.


Cold Calls

Most people don’t like receiving cold calls. Remember, first impressions are important. Be clear and concise when introducing yourself  - avoid lengthy explanations such as “Hello this is Bobby Jones of Computers Inc, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of United Inc of New York...” Forget it, your customer will be lost in a maze of words. Just say “Hello this is Bobby Jones of Computers Inc”.

Take some time to think about your introduction to a customer. Are you too talkative, do you make it easy for them to become involved?


Taking the Pressure Off

Many people immediately think to themselves “Oh, no, another sales call – What is this person going to sell me now?” If you are calling a customer at work your call can be seen as an interruption. So, make a statement that takes the rudness out of the interruption, such as, “I would like to take a moment of your time to tell you who we are and what we do. Is this a good time for you?” If it’s not a good time ask when would be a better time. This way, you do not waste your customer’s (or your own) time.

Think about the cold calls you make. Do you try to take the pressure off your prospective customer? Can you think of ways to sound more natural and put the customer at ease?


Why Are You Calling

After you take the pressure off the customer, you should follow with a brief, hard hitting statement that explains why you have called. Supposing you were phoning to tell them about a product or service that is of particular interest to people like them. You might say something like this, “Mr. Smith, if you have a minute or so, I would like to tell you about our payroll software that was designed specifically for the plastics industry” Why are you calling? Think of clear, concise ways to explain your purpose to your customer.


Capture Interest

To answer two of your customer’s questions – “What’s this all about?” and “What’s in it for me?” – make a claim that includes a benefit, financial reward or service. For example, “Mr. Smith, our software was designed to increase your staff’s productivity by 25%, while also decreasing overheads by 15%. Are these figures you would like to achieve?” Asking a question after making a statement will keep their attention focussed on you and your claim. What capivating statements do you make about your products or services? Can you think of a good follow up question?


How People Say What They Feel

Vocal quality is the flip side to body language. It is a window to the emotions. How you say things reveals as much about how you feel as as it does about how you think. Vocal quality comes in three flavours: rhythm, pitch and volume. Like body language, the key is to note the person’s normal way of speaking. We all speak with our own blend of rhythm, pitch and volume. After observing the norm, look for patterns which could give you clues about your customer’s feelings.


Changes in Vocal Quality

You should always verify your hunch about changes in vocal quality by asking questions. There are, however, some generalisations to remember. Upward changes in volume and rhythm usually indicate excitement or enthusiasm. Anger is accompanied by these changes too, but I’ll assume that you would never say anything to make a customer angry. Downward changes in volume and rhythm can indicate boredom and frustration, so be prepared to adjust your call. Increases in pitch indicate that they are getting impatient or annoyed.


How Do You Say What You Feel

When you communicate, you can increase your effectiveness if you pay attention to your own vocal qualities. Professional telephone behaviour takes awareness, practice and control. You can help yourself achieve a strong image on the phone by;
  • Appearing confident if, without shouting, you project your voice in a full, strong manner.
  • Speaking clearly and distinctly, pronouncing words properly.
  • Enthusiasm is one of the greatest assets that a telesales person can possess. Convey your enthusiasm by increasing your pitch and rhythm.
  • Place emphasis and punctuation in your sentences by changing your vocal qualities. Stress importance by slowing down. Pause to let an important point sink in.
  • Become an interesting speaker, by avoiding monotonous speech.

Smile Through the Phone

There are several good reasons to smile, even for customers you deal with over the phone. Calls can be interruptions. When we are interrupted we tend to be irritated and it can be heard in our voices. When you smile the interplay of your facial muscles tends to make you form words higher in your throat. This results in your voice sounding friendlier and more pleasant to your customer.


Communicate  Better and Sell More

The information gathering phase of the telesales call is where you make or break the sale. It’s at this stage that your communication skills come into play. These include questioning and active listening.


Tips for Effective Questioning

Ask permission. In some situations it is understood that you are calling to gather information. At other times, it is appropriate to show respect by asking for permission to ask questions. “I don’t know to what extent our company can be of help, but to find out do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

Start broad then get specific. Broad open-ended questions are a good way to start gathering information. They put the customer at ease because they allow any type of response. “Could you tell me about your business?” – is a good way to start. Listen to what your customer says and what they omit to say – both will suggest areas to explore.


Build on Previous Responses

Any good sales person knows that the most logical source of questions comes from the responses you are given. For example if they say - “I own six flower shops that specialise in large event decorating”, it should be followed by , “You specialise in large events ... Why did you choose that niche?”

Keep questions simple. If you want useful answers, ask useful questions. Convoluted or two part questions are best left to television interviewers. Ask straightforward questions that cover one topic at a time. Use a logical sequence to your questions. Prospects like to know where your questions are headed. If they can’t tell, they may suspect that you are manipulating them. If a question is sensitive, explain its relevance. It makes sense to justify a sensitive question. After all they have a right to know why you are asking for those details.

Focus on desired benefits. Not all people are experts in their field. Many need to be educated, especially about the features and benefits of your products and services. So ask what they hope to achieve, not necessarily how they hope to achieve it. Then you will be able to show how your product or  service will fulfil those needs.


Listening for the Sale

When people listen to each other, they don’t always do a good job. Active listening takes a concentrated effort, but is the only way to truly get on the same wavelength. Concentrate on what  the customer is saying, control the impulse to finish people’s sentences for them. We only remember 24% of what we hear, so take enough notes to help you recall the full content of the conversation later. Listen with a pen, you’ll be surprised what you hear.


And Finally, Keep it Simple

I know you  believe you understand what you think I meant. But I’m not sure whether you realise that what I meant is not what I felt but only what I hoped you might understand.

© Copyright 2006, Ciaran J Newman

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

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