(Article from an interview with Bill Gibson)
Succeed Magazine – www.succeed.co.za – March 2006
The task of trying to set up sales appointments by telephone is not quite as daunting as having to use public toilets, but it ranks pretty close. The reality is that selling on the telephone is extremely difficult. It takes nerves of steel and requires monumental
patience and perseverance. The whole process is not unlike knocking on a door of a special club that has a sliding shutter late at night and hoping to get in. The most likely event is that the shutter will slide open, a voice will mumble some words from behind this gap in the door, tell you to get lost and slam the shutter closed again. That is unless of course, you have the right password.
If you can remember a few important points about speaking to clients by phone, you do not need to feel as if you are intruding on some clandestine operation. Instead you can phone confident in your ability to sell over the phone.
Acclaimed business trainer Bill Gibson says that when approaching any large telephone list of clients, before anything else, one should get organised. “Clear your desk. Get rid of all the mess around you so that all you have in front of you is the contacts you wish to phone. “If you are using the phone book, directories or lists to make cold calls to set appointments, I suggest you do it in blocks of 20.Make 20 calls, take a break. Make 20 calls, take a break. Don’t leave your chair or the phone until you’ve made 20 calls.” Gibson explains that less than 20 calls does not give yourself enough chances to succeed, while going past this will most likely make you tired and your voice may lose its enthusiasm.
The secret to the telephone approach is to communicate as if you are face to face. “Try to imagine the body language and facial expressions of the person you are speaking to. Sit the way you think they are sitting and approach the interaction as if they were right beside you.”
An important part of your success is to get the client’s name early in the call and quickly ascertain the best way to address them. “There is no school of thought that says calling someone Mr or Mrs is too formal.
Using only the person’s first name may be overly familiar and stepping over the boundary line. A better option is to use the person’s first and last name when you first greet them and then proceed with Mr. or Mrs. and eventually change to the first name if it feels appropriate and respectful.” Once you have established the best way to address a customer, repeat the person’s name a few times in the conversation. This can work wonders. Clients love to hear the music of their own names and it is a great way of grabbing their attention. The trick is obviously not to overdo it otherwise it may come across as irritating and insincere.
Gibson underlines the importance of talking with people, as opposed to talking at them. “Become conscious of what is happening with you on the phone. Do not speak to people in a robotic fashion. Rather be genuine and sincere. People will pick it up.
“A handy trick I have learned is to ask someone if they have a pen handy because I’ve got some important information. Usually when you do this people will instantly pay attention and focus on what you’re saying.” This can remove some of the initial barriers people may have when they realise that you are trying to sell them something.
Building a rapport with your client means being ready for unexpected opportunities to break the ice, says Gibson. “Be quick on your feet. If you call an office and ask to speak to a particular person and while the person is coming to the phone you hear laughter in the background, comment with something like, ‘it sounds like you guys are having a good time… looks like I’m working in the wrong place.’ He might laugh and then you can introduce yourself, but because your statement was in line with the situation a rapport has already been built.” In this regard, the most important part of any phone conversation is to build a trust between yourself and the client.
In an effective sales conversation, 20% of what is said will be devoted to actively selling your product, while 80% to building a relationship.
In the end however, the one attribute that counts the most in getting through to people on the telephone is persistence, persistence and more persistence. The people that are the most effective on the phone never give up. To this Gibson says, “The only reason why a lot of salespeople fail on the phone is because they give up just before they would’ve succeeded.”