The Mistake New Sales Reps Make When Opening a Sales Call
In our training sessions, our clients regularly ask about ways of opening a sales call. These questions typically take the form of, “I make 100 cold calls a day and nobody’s buying anything. What am I doing wrong?” or “I leave a voicemail message whenever I don’t reach someone. How come no one ever returns my calls?”
The answer to questions like these can be almost anything, from the type of phone they use to the time of day. However, here is how I usually respond to these questions to insure our discussion has the right focus:
Most sales reps run into this challenge when starting their career and they never overcome it. They make the mistake of confusing business communications with casual communications. If you don’t understand how to communicate on a business level, you will fall back on your casual communication techniques, the same kind of techniques you used with their college buddies.
If you find you are not effective when conducting a sales conversation on the phone, look at your communication techniques. You may be using outdated interruption tactics and focusing on what you want, not about what your prospect wants.
Here are 4 tactics to consider when opening a sales call
Sales Call Tactic 1: Stop Using ‘Let Me Tell You Why I Called’
I’ve heard many sales reps open their calls with tired phrases like “Let me tell you why I called” or “How are you today”. Fillers like these are a great way to gain “think time”. They may even work in a face-to-face encounter on occasion. But on the phone, they consume time you don’t have and add nothing meaningful to your conversation.
Conversation starters like “let me tell you why I called” center the conversation around the sales person, not on the prospect or their challenge. You called them at their place of business in the middle of the workday. The purpose of the call is business and you are the problem solver. Jump in and get to the point.
Sales Call Tactic 2: Use Their Name In Moderation
If you want to get someone’s attention, use his or her name. That has been the business communication philosophy for the last century. We do it in our email campaigns, on the phone, and in face-to-face encounters. Not only does this get your prospect’s attention, it’s also a great way of acknowledging the other party’s importance.
However, if you use a person’s name too much, your conversation comes across as scripted and force. Ironically, in an attempt to achieve rapport, your efforts instead come across as contrived. You want to sound conversational, not like you are trying to hit a “name quota” established by a business communication guru. When using your prospect’s name, use it to get their attention, not their ire.
Sales Call Tactic 3: Talk Like Your Prospect
Always consider the background of the people you are connecting with. You don’t want to talk over their head or sound condescending.
When opening a sales call, remember why your prospect agreed to listen to you. They aren’t listening to you because you needed an ego boost. They are listening to you because you promised an enticing solution to their problems. If you approach your prospects trying to impress them with fake inflections, forced enthusiasm, and $2 words, you will come across as insincere.
When talking to your prospect, use this piece of advice I heard Lance Tyson give a group of sales reps selling entertainment suites for one of the national sports franchises:
Sales people that can talk like regular folks and not like they just got out of an MBA program tend to do well.
Sales Call Tactic 4: Use the Trial Close As A Tool, Not A Trap
Most beginning sales reps are looking for a success formula that is easy to implement, universal across all prospects, and achieves a desired outcome. No wonder sales reps envision the trial close as a way of getting their prospects to make small commitments, paving the way to the close.
You don’t need an excess of imagination to ask a prospect a series of questions where you know the answer will be “yes”. For example:
“You want to make more money, don’t you?”
“Don’t we all want to be successful?”
“You want your people to be more effective, don’t you?”
Questions like these are targeted at making the prospect’s head bob up and down in a “yes” motion. As a sales rep, you need to be careful of this line of questioning. Your prospects will be on the lookout for it, and you will lose credibility attempting this kind of manipulation.
Instead, think of the trial close as a way of taking the prospect’s temperature. By using the appropriate questions, you can determine if the prospect is ready to move forward in the sales process or if there are objections that you need to address. When opening a sales call, Use a trial close to get the prospect’s permission to move the conversation to the next stage in the sales process. If they aren’t ready to move forward, then you need to go back and gain credibility and trust before forging ahead.
Use Permission Based Selling Techniques When Opening Your Sale Call
The big paradigm today is how to avoid interruption marketing and use permission based marketing instead. Yet, most of the communication tactics used in opening a sales call are interruption based. We typically get in our prospect’s face, wave our hands up and down and say, “Pay attention to me!”
If you want to get your prospect’s attention or more time with your current clients, avoid trying to interrupt their mindset.
Instead, use methods to gently become a part of their mental landscape. Take a strategic approach to your communication efforts. Use tact and diplomacy to talk about the events, challenges, and outcomes that are of interest to them. Then, when you have their attention, gently move the sale forward, lead them to the appropriate solution, and bring them to the eventual commitment.
Remember, the sales takes place in the mind of your prospect. Selling is an away game.