Picking Up the Telephone

Article by C.J. HaydenYou can spend hours, days, and weeks of your marketing time attending networking events, looking for places to speak, having lunch, and writing articles. But if you want your efforts to pay off, sooner or later you have to pick up the phone and call someone. It might be a cold call, a warm follow-up, or a really hot lead, but regardless, marketing by phone is a fact of doing business.

The purpose of most marketing calls is twofold: to find out if the person or organization is actually a good prospect for you and, if so, to attempt to make a presentation. A presentation, in this context, is simply the time when find out what your prospects need, tell them what you can do for them, and see if there’s a match. It’s not necessarily made in a formal setting, and may even happen on the phone.

To accomplish your objectives, you will need to ask questions, not just deliver information. When you reach your prospect on the phone, begin with your 10-second introduction; then move immediately into conversation by asking a question. “Do you have a moment to talk about how I can help your company get better results from its training programs?” is a sample opening.

Be ready with two or three questions that will tell you immediately whether the person you are speaking with has a need for your services. Does he or she have a problem that your service solves, or a goal with which you can assist? Is your prospect (or his or her organization) open to hiring someone to help in this area? What capabilities are they looking for?

If you identify that a need is there, ask for a meeting on the spot, or if you normally present by phone, either make an appointment to do so, or do it right then. Don’t back away by offering to send literature first or referring them to your website for more information. You may never get your prospect live on the phone again.

Only if he or she declines to meet with you or to take time for your phone presentation should you offer to send something by mail or email. This is also a polite way to end the conversation if the answers to your qualifying questions indicate this is not a good prospect for you.

It is completely normal to feel apprehensive about calling strangers on the phone. You have no idea how your call is going to be received, and if the person on the other end refuses to speak with you or isn’t interested, it’s hard not to take it personally. You may not even realize that you are afraid of making phone calls, but somehow, mysteriously, a hot lead will sit on your desk day after day and you just won’t get around to picking up the phone.

Try asking yourself, “What is the worst thing that could possibly happen if I made that call?” Would it be hearing, “Don’t bother me,” or “Not interested?” Or would it be worse if the person you called was interested and you got tongue-tied and lost the sale? You know, though, if you don’t place the call, you’ve lost the sale anyway. So how bad could making the call really be?

The fact is that most people are polite in their refusals. They say, “No, thank you,” and hang up. And when someone is interested in what you have to offer, the conversation gets easy pretty quickly; your prospect may actually help you along.

You can help yourself gain confidence if you spend some time preparing for each call. Write out a series of talking points to refer to while you’re on the phone. Include the questions you want to ask, any facts you wish to present, and answers to questions you can predict that the prospect may ask you. Increase your comfort level by role playing some calls with a colleague, friend, or coach.

So what do you think: can you pick up the phone? You’ll never know what you are missing out on unless you make the call.

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